This Week in History

Martyrdom in California:

November 4, 1775

This text comes from our high school text, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. Please visit our webpage to peruse sample chapters of our book. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.

Don Pedro Fages

In California as in Florida and other Spanish colonies, questions of jurisdiction sparked tensions between the friars and the royal governors. Fray Junípero clashed with the second governor, Pedro Fages, over the question of who commanded the soldiers at the missions. Every mission had four soldiers to guard it; and in some of the missions, soldiers were becoming a problem. Having left their wives behind in Mexico, the soldiers went after Indian women. The soldiers could be cruel. Once some soldiers hanged and mutilated a band of Indians for stealing horses.

Fray Don Antonio María Bucareli y Ursua

When Fages ignored his complaints, Fray Junípero decided to appeal to Mexico City. He undertook the long journey by sea to the capital in 1773 and there met with the viceroy, Fray Don Antonio María Bucareli y Ursua, a member of the lay Order of St. John of Jerusalem (the Knights of Malta). The viceroy listened sympathetically to Serra and asked him to write down his recommendations for California. Bucareli adopted almost all of Fray Junípero’s recommendations in the regulations for California he promulgated shortly after Serra’s return in 1774. (more…)



This Week in History

The Blackshirts March on Rome:

October 27, 1922

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. See sample chapters, here. For ordering information on Light to the Nations II and our other texts, please click here.

King Vittorio Emanuele III

The end of the Great War proved a disappointment to Italian nationalists. Though Italy had gained those parts of “unredeemed Italy” she had demanded in the Treaty of London, the nationalists had wanted even more lands. The nationalists had hoped the war would make Italy a great power in the eastern Mediterranean; but, instead, the war’s end brought only hardship. The cost of food, rent, and other necessities of life had risen greatly. Many soldiers returning from the war were without jobs. King Vittorio Emanuele III’s prime minister and the Chamber of Deputies seemed incapable of solving the country’s problems. Having lost trust in the Liberal parties that had been running the country, large numbers of discharged soldiers and workers turned to the socialists, who thus won a great many seats in the Chamber of Deputies in the election of November 1919.

But the Italian socialists were not content with winning elections. Both Bolsheviks (with encouragement and aid from Moscow) and anarchists began urging revolution. The Bolsheviks called for a general strike and urged workers to establish a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” And, even before the August 1919 elections, the countryside responded. Jobless, former soldiers seized land; tenant peasant farmers refused to pay rent to landlords; and rural laborers demanded an eight-hour workday. Harvests were destroyed, cattle were slaughtered, and men were murdered. It looked as if Italy might well become the world’s second Bolshevik republic. (more…)



This Week in History

Moscow Routs Napoleon: October 19, 1812 

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. See sample chapters, here. For ordering information on Light to the Nations II and our other texts, please click here.

Napoleon with General Lauriston, one of the commanders in the Grand Armée in the invasion of Moscow, by the Russian artist, Vasily Vereshchagin (1842-1904)

Unlike other cities he had conquered, Moscow sent no delegation of citizens to greet Napoleon. No crowds of common folk waited to hail him as a deliverer, as had happened in other places. Napoleon met no one, for scarcely anyone was left in the city. After receiving the news that Kutuzov would not defend Moscow, her people— about 200,000 of them, the rich and poor, the high placed and the lowly—had gathered what they could of their possessions and fled. It was an empty, silent city into which Napoleon made his triumphant entry on September 16, 1812.

That day, the emperor of the French took up his quarters in the Kremlin, the ancient abode of the tsar of the Russians. From its windows, he could look out on the strangely beautiful city, so different from any other city in Europe. It was a city of wooden tenements and elaborate palaces, of “modern” 18th-century structures alongside fanciful churches that seemed like visions of fairyland. It was the legendary capital of that strange oriental land, Russia, and it now belonged to Napoleon I, Emperor of the French!

But, that night of September 16, Napoleon’s wonder and pride turned to foreboding and dismay. From those same Kremlin windows he now saw flames arising in different sectors of the city. Soon he learned that these were not isolated fires; as night gave way to day, it became clear that fire was rapidly laying waste to the wooden structures of the poor as well as the stately palaces of the rich.

All of Moscow was burning. (more…)



This Week in History

Columbus Thinks He Has Reached the Indies: October 12, 1492

This text comes from our high school text, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. Please visit our webpage to peruse sample chapters of our book. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.

“The Virgin of Navigators,” a mid-16th century painting by Alejo Fernández, commemorating the discovery of America

With a crew of 90 men and boys and a fleet of three small ships, or caravels, Columbus set sail from Palos harbor on August 3, 1492. The largest of his ships, the Santa María, served as the flagship. The other two caravels, the Pinta and the Niña, were piloted by the brothers Pinzón — Martín Alonso and Vicente Yáñez.

Columbus set off for the Indies laden with proud titles and wide powers. In confirming his expedition, the Catholic Monarchs agreed to Columbus’ demands, naming him Admiral of the Ocean Sea, viceroy and governor general over all the islands and parts of the mainland he should discover. These titles meant that Columbus was, under the monarchs, sole ruler of these lands. Isabel and Fernando also granted Columbus the privilege of keeping a tenth of all the wealth found in the lands he discovered.

The sea crossing, though not difficult on the outward voyage, was yet a novelty to the sailors. In those days, most sailing ships hugged the coasts, rarely venturing out onto the open sea. The sailors did not fear sailing off the end of the world, for they knew that the earth is a sphere; but they did not know how far west land actually lay and, they were worried that, so far out at sea, they would find no wind to blow them back again to Spain. To assuage their fear that they were sailing too far from Spain, Columbus kept two log books. In one (for himself) he marked down what he thought was the actual distance they had sailed each day; in another (for the sailors), he jotted a shorter distance. (more…)



This Week in History

The Women’s March on Versailles: October 5, 1789

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. See sample chapters, here. For ordering information on Light to the Nations II and our other texts, please click here.

A satirical print of King Louis XVI, dressed as a revolutionary but secretly planning to overthrow the revolution

Though he hesitated at first, King Louis XVI at last signed the Declaration, for he had little choice. In approving a document that made the people, not the king, the supreme authority in France, Louis XVI was simply recognizing what had come to pass – a reality he was powerless to change and that would be dangerous for him to resist.

But even though the king signed the Declaration, in his heart he opposed it. Louis XVI was not a tyrant. He was not greedy for power. He truly wanted to better the lives of his people. Yet Louis believed that as king of France, he had been given authority from God, and no one could take that from him. He had agreed to the limits placed on his authority because he felt he must, to keep his throne. But in doing so, he saw himself as giving in to force. He thus did not think he was bound to keep to the agreements he had made, if he were once again free.

Those immediately surrounding him encouraged the king’s secret opposition to the revolution—especially Queen Marie Antoinette. The queen believed firmly in the absolute authority of kings—she was, after all, the daughter of Maria Theresia and sister to the reigning Holy Roman Emperor, Josef II. In the years before the revolution, the queen had gained a good deal of influence over her husband. This was unfortunate, for Marie Antoinette was unpopular with the French people – and, more importantly, she was not a wise adviser. (more…)