This Week in History

Triumph of a New Napoleon:

January 14, 1852

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. See other posts on the 1848 revolution in France.

Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte in 1852

The revolutions of 1848–1849 ended in disappointment for Liberals and nationalists. Everywhere—in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, and Italy—the forces of the old political order had triumphed. Republicans and radicals had been dispersed. The cause of Liberalism, it appeared, had again gone down in defeat.

But the defeat of Liberalism was only an appearance. The ancient regime had triumphed in most places, but its victory could not last. In the coming years, rulers would find it necessary to at least pretend they supported such Liberal reforms as equality, parliaments, constitutions, and even democracy. Some rulers would grant reforms out of fear, but others would eagerly support them; for, rulers came to realize, the surest way to gain and keep power was winning the support of the masses of the people. (more…)

This Week in History

The Conquest of Los Angeles:

January 8, 1847

The following comes from the first book in our NEW series of fourth-grade books — A Journey Across America. These books focus on the history of the various regions of the United States. We have titles available for California (from which this excerpt comes), the Northeast region, and the Great Lakes states. Upcoming titles will tell the stories of the Southwest, the Great Plains states, the Southeast, and the Pacific Northwest and Mountain states.  For sample chapters of our available titles and ordering information, please visit our website.

Commodore Stockton

Commodore Stockton was determined to retake Los Angeles, but he did not go there immediately; instead, he sailed to San Diego. Once in San Diego, Stockton learned that a U.S. Army officer, General Stephen W. Kearny, had come to California. Kearny had set out for California in late June from Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. On the way, he conquered New Mexico without fighting any battles. From Santa Fé in New Mexico, he set out for California with 300 men. Hearing along the way that Stockton had conquered California, Kearny sent many of these men back to Santa Fe. He continued on to California with only about 120 men.

            When Stockton learned that Kearny was not far from San Diego, he sent Gillespie and about 50 men to him. Gillespie informed Kearny that a force of Californios under Andrés Pico (Pío Pico’s brother) was camping in San Pasqual valley, only about six miles away. Though his troops were exhausted, Kearny decided to attack the Californios the very next day.

            In the early morning of December 6, 1846, Kearny’s force climbed over a ridge into San Pasqual valley. Below them they could see fires burning in the Californios’ camp. It was a very cold morning. The Californios had learned that the Americans were near and had saddled their horses to prepare for battle. (more…)

This Week in History

The Cristero Revolt Begins:

January 1, 1927

This text comes from our book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. To peruse sample chapters of our books, please  go hereFor ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.

President Alvaro Obregón

While Obregón, fearing to jeopardize his power, had been wary of pushing revolutionary social reforms, Calles was more resolute. In the four years he held the presidency, Calles distributed eight million acres to 1,500 villages and established agricultural banks to provide loans for the new farmers. Calles more firmly allied himself with labor than had Obregón. The new president promoted public hygiene and improved sanitation. He instituted irrigation projects to put more land into cultivation. He continued Vasconcelos’ education policies, building more schools in rural areas. Calles — at least at first — seemed genuinely committed to social reform along the lines envisioned by the Constitution of 1917; but it was not long before the basic corruption of his regime undid his would-be radicalism.

Calles ruled as an absolute dictator. He worked to concentrate power in his own hands and was ruthless to those who opposed him. Those who dared oppose him were usually executed, or they “committed suicide” in prison. Calles’ dictatorship was more bitter and relentless than Don Porfirio’s had been. (more…)

This Week in History

Coronation of a Reluctant Emperor, December 25, 800

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations I: The History of Christian Civilization. To peruses sample chapters of our books, go hereFor ordering information on Light to the Nations I and our other texts, please click here.

The “Arm Reliquary,” kept in the treasury of the cathedral built by Charles the Great and the site of his tomb in Aachen. The reliquary contains the ulna and radius bones of Charles’ right arm. King Louis XI of France commissioned the reliquary in 1481.

[Charlemagne] was more than a conqueror; he was a great organizer and reformer. He divided his realm into counties, each with a comes (Latin for companion), or “count,” to rule it. To keep an eye on his subordinates, the king himself throughout his life made trips to all parts of his realm, arriving with little or no warning. He also sent out emissaries, called missi dominici, to travel a regular circuit and report to him on the state of his provinces and the needs of his subjects. These royal legates, who traveled in pairs—one a count, the other a bishop—were appointed for a year’s duty over a certain number of counties. Complaints against a local count or his administrators were brought before the emissaries, and they would send the complaints up to the king.

Among the reports brought back to Charles by his missi dominici were letters from provincial bishops. Because Charles saw how badly these letters were written, he began to fear that his clergy did not have enough Latin to understand the Scriptures. He thus established schools in every monastery and cathedral for the perfect teaching of the Latin tongue. The English scholar, Alcuin, who headed the school in Charles’s palace, called the “palace school,” was commanded to staff and oversee these many schools. Scholars from the British monasteries were brought over to Charles’s kingdom to train new teachers. Thus Charles brought the Anglo-Saxon renaissance of learning to the continent. (more…)

This Week in History

Congress Votes for Prohibition: December 18, 1917

This text comes from our book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America (now available in hard cover). To peruses sample chapters of our books, go hereFor ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.

Bill Sunday, preaching, 1908

Folks in Norfolk, Virginia had gathered to witness an unusual funeral on January 16, 1920. The flamboyant evangelist, Billy Sunday, commended to hell one John Barleycorn, the “body” drawn off from a cheering crowd in a 20-foot horse drawn coffin. This was a large coffin made for one whom Billy Sunday thought a big enemy — perhaps man’s biggest enemy. “Good-bye, John,” cried Sunday. “You were God’s worst enemy. You were Hell’s best friend . . . the reign of terror is over.”

John Barleycorn was, of course, no man. He was a symbol of the “demon liquor” — “barley” and “corn” being the two crops from which whiskey is distilled. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution and the Volstead Act that enforced it had done Barleycorn to death — and temperance crusaders, like Billy Sunday, rejoiced in his damnation. (more…)