World History Topic 8 Summary: The French Revolution and Napoleon

King Louis XVI of France decided to support the American Revolution in order to regain some of the prestige lost by his grandfather in the Treaty of Paris of 1763.  American victory vindicated his purpose but struck a fatal blow at the royal treasury.  Years of financial mismanagement and poor harvests put a tremendous strain on the French economy.  The dysfunctional Estates-General of the ancien regime endowed the clergy and nobility with colossal wealth and power but left the remaining 98% of the population disenfranchised with enormous tax burdens and boiling resentment.

Louis attempted to ameliorate the situation by convening the Estates-General for the first time in nearly two centuries.  The popularly elected Third Estate included a brilliant young lawyer from Arras named Maximilien Robespierre.  The king’s effort at reform proved ineffective, however, when the elite First and Second Estate sacked his competent finance minister Jacques Necker and then locked the Third Estate out of the chambers.  The excluded delegates then took the famous “Tennis Court Oath,” promising to reconvene with a new constitution and democratic government.

Word of Necker’s ousting caused popular anger to boil over into the streets.  A large mob stormed the notorious Bastille prison in Paris on July 14, killed the guards and their commandant, and seized the gunpowder stores.  On August 26 the new National Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, drafted by Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette, both heroes of the American Revolution.

Frustration over continued poverty and bread shortages drove a large crowd of women to march on Versailles in October.  Their rage was directed in particular against Queen Marie Antoinette, who had become a symbol of the excesses of the Bourbon court.  Only the king’s direct intervention saved the queen’s life.  Louis and his family and ministers were compelled to leave Versailles and move to Paris.

The lilies of the Bourbons were replaced with the revolutionary tricolor.  Citizen became the new form of address in the streets of Paris.  Louis agreed to submit to the National Assembly as a constitutional monarch, but a failed attempt to escape to his wife’s native Austria in 1791 enraged the delegates and resulted in his imprisonment and charges of treason.  When Austria and Prussia threatened to rescue him and take Paris, hordes of angry revolutionaries slaughtered hundreds of prisoners from the former First and Second Estates.  Louis was condemned and beheaded at the guillotine in January 1793.  His queen followed him to the scaffold in October.

Robespierre now took over the National Convention and declared war against “enemies of the people,” sending thousands to the guillotine in a protracted “Reign of Terror.”  The radical journalist Marat fed the flames of fear until his assassination by a woman from the provinces.  Monarchist rebellions in the countryside were brutally crushed.  Church lands were seized and priests forced to take an oath to the Revolution.  Streets were renamed and the calendar changed to abolish religious holidays.  Only Robespierre’s execution in July 1794 gave respite to the exhausted nation.

Out of the ashes of the Terror rose a new charismatic and ambitious leader.  Napoleon Bonaparte was a brilliant young artillery officer from Corsica who had achieved distinction by retaking Toulon from an invading British fleet in 1793.  Two years later he repelled royalist forces from Paris and was promoted to general.  In 1797 he invaded Italy and crushed Austrian forces there, and in 1798 he sailed to Egypt and destroyed the Mamelukes at the Battle of the Pyramids.  When British Admiral Nelson decimated the French fleet waiting to take the French army home, Napoleon responded by invading Palestine and Syria.  In 1799 he returned to Paris and seized control of the government in a bold coup d’etat.

As First Consul, Napoleon instituted many notable reforms, including an expansion of public education and infrastructure and new codification of civil laws and the tax code.  After crowning himself Emperor in December 1804, he looked eastward to expand his power across Europe.  Proclaiming himself the representative of French revolutionary ideals, he defeated the armies of Austria, Prussia, and Russia in a series of brilliant campaigns.  The destruction of his fleet by Nelson at Trafalgar in October 1805 was offset by his spectacular victory at Austerlitz in December.  By 1807 he signed a peace treaty with the Russian czar and made moves to control trade across Europe.

His power began to crumble when conquest of Spain led to a brutal guerrilla war and Russia reneged on its agreement to support his trade policies.  Napoleon retaliated by invading Russia in 1812 with a gigantic army of more than 600,000 men and took Moscow.  The tide turned with stubborn Russian resistance at Borodino and scorched earth tactics which exhausted the French forces.  The early onset of winter forced Napoleon to retreat.  Russian cossacks and frostbite took their toll.  Less than a tenth of his beloved Grande Armee returned alive to France.

Now his enemies moved in for the kill.  Pushing him back to Paris, they compelled Napoleon to abdicate in April 1814.  His exile to the island of Elba in the Mediterranean was short-lived, and he managed to escape and return in triumph in Paris.  There he replaced the restored Bourbon monarch Louis XVIII and made plans to reassemble his army.  An Allied force commanded by the Duke of Wellington met him at Waterloo in Belgium in June 1815 and drove him from the field with Prussian reinforcements.

This time his enemies took no chances.  Napoleon was exiled to the remote island of St. Helena in the south Atlantic, where he died in May 1821 at the age of 51.  France was returned to the Bourbons and the other monarchies restored to power under the terms of the 1814 Congress of Vienna.  The conservative forces of the old regimes made every effort to erase Napoleon Bonaparte from history.

But the ideals of the French Revolution managed to survive the betrayal of the Terror and the dictatorship of Napoleon, inspiring new generations of Europeans to fight for democratic reform.  Throughout the opening decades of the 19th century, industrialization and urbanization would lead to demands for greater representation.  The age of absolute monarchy was gone forever.


  1. Why did the French Revolution follow such a different course from its American counterpart?  Where did Robespierre and the other revolutionary leaders go wrong?
  2. Why is Napoleon Bonaparte still admired throughout France and much of the world?  What were the positive and negative consequences of his rule?
  3. Why were the ideals of the French Revolution able to survive the turbulence of the Napoleonic wars?

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World History Topic 7 Summary: Colonial Wars

Competition between the European powers for overseas empire inevitably led to armed conflict, as did the attempts by those powers to subjugate the native populations of the lands they conquered.  Spanish galleons laden with gold and silver were attacked by English and French privateers in the Caribbean in the 17th and 18th centuries, as were Dutch spice ships in the West Indies.  The Aztec of Mexico, the Maya of Central America, and the Inca and Guarani of South America were all subdued by disease, lead, and steel carried by Spanish conquistadores.  Algonquin and Iroquois tribes of North America were decimated or dislodged by English and French settlers.

France and England fought four wars over possession of North America, culminating in the conquest of Canada in the French and Indian War and the Treaty of Paris of 1763.  Huron, Shawnee, Micmac, Abenaki, and Ottawa warriors fought alongside Canadian militia and the white coats of French regular troops to protect their lands.  Mohawk joined the overwhelming numbers of redcoats and American provincial militia to achieve British victory.

During the American Revolution, those same tribes allied themselves with Britain to defeat the Americans.  American victory led to more native displacement.  By the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1803, most independent tribes had been pushed west of the Mississippi.  A hundred years later all had been driven onto reservations.  Their children were taken from them and enrolled in English language schools in Pennsylvania where expression of native language and custom was punished.  Many of the tribes of British Canada suffered the same fate.

After the loss of the American colonies, the British turned their attention eastward toward Asia, where France had been defeated in the Seven Years War.  Three wars were fought in China to safeguard the lucrative opium trade, using British East India Company sepoys.  Britain acquired Hong Kong in 1842 and began expanding Asian trade routes.  The Russian threat to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean was neutralized in the Crimean War of 1854-1856.

In 1857 a bloody rebellion in northern India set many native veterans of the Opium Wars against their Company masters.  The immediate issue was a rumor that the new Enfield rifled musket cartridge was greased with animal fat in violation of Muslim and Hindu religious restrictions.  Tensions had been building for years, however, over British attitudes toward Indian beliefs and custom.  The “Indian Mutiny” was brutally crushed, but one of its consequences was the dissolution of the East India Company and direct control of India from London.  While Christian missionaries continued to proselytize, Queen Victoria proclaimed a new policy of religious toleration.

By the time the Suez Canal was completed by France in 1869 and facilitated faster travel to India, British rule there was complete.  Colonial officials built railways and telegraph stations and started rugby and polo clubs in segregated cantonments.  British missionaries taught English and the Bible to native children.  The best of those students, including a young Mohandas Gandhi, were sent to England for higher education but denied the higher civil service positions when they returned home.

The Maoris of New Zealand and the aborigines of Australia were defeated and their lands taken over for ranching, fishing, and mining operations.  Fiji and other independent Pacific islands joined the British empire in exchange for trade and protection.  Hawaiians killed the famous explorer Captain Cook, but subsequent British ships joined French and American vessels in a commercial invasion of the islands.  In southeast Asia, the native peoples of Malaya, Burma, Borneo, Indonesia and the Philippines seethed under the weight of British, Dutch, and Spanish control.

In Africa, all the major European powers vied for colonies during the second half of the 19th century.  Native resistance was stubborn and formidable.  Malagasy and Berber tribesmen fought the French in the northwest and southeast.  Ashanti, Xhosa, Matabele, and Zulu warriors fought British regular and colonial forces.  The Herero and Namaqua resisted the Germans.  Spectacular native victories like the slaughter of Lord Chelmsford’s redcoats by the Zulu impi at Isandhlwana in 1879 and the Mahdist seizure of Khartoum in 1885 were rare.  In the end, the Maxim machine gun and modern European rifles proved too much for shield and spear.

But military victory alone could not win hearts and minds.  After British victory over the Boers in South Africa in 1902, the powers of Europe worked harder and harder to retain control over their colonies.  The First World War set them against one another and shuffled the balance of power.  Allied victory in World War II crushed fascism but also strengthened native independence movements across the globe.  The once mighty British empire that took three centuries to build now fell apart in less than three decades.

The rise of Communist Russia and China after the war gave many native revolutionary movements hope as well as supply.  The new “proxy wars” that broke out across the “Third World” took their greatest toll, however, in native lives.  The financial costs of the Cold War eventually weakened the superpowers and gave new opportunity to local political leaders in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.  Charismatic figures such as Gandhi, Mandela, Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh seized the moment.  From Vietnam to Cuba to Angola to India, the struggle for independence continued forward with renewed vigor in the second half of the 20th century.


  1. Why was there so much division among native leaders in responding to European invasion and conquest?  How were the Europeans able to set those leaders against one another?
  2. What modern attitudes in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East toward the wealthier nations of Europe, Canada, Australia and the United States can be traced back to the period of the colonial wars?
  3. Is there still a form of colonialism operating in the world today?  If so, what?

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Independent Study

Here is a drawing I did for an independent study special history project I completed in my sophomore year of high school in Virginia in 1976.  It was the bicentennial year of American independence, and there was a lot of attention in the media on historical commemorations and activities, especially around the colonial period.  I had some room in my course schedule and wanted to do something meaningful in that auspicious year.  With the support of my parents and school counselor, I won faculty approval to complete a simulation board game on the French and Indian War.  I also managed to get a faculty advisor from the history department at the local college where my father was teaching at the time.

I spent an entire semester researching the period, beginning with Francis Parkman’s Montcalm and Wolfe, the sixth in his classic seven-volume history entitled France and England in North America (1884).  As a sixth grader, I had been enthralled with the 1971 BBC miniseries of The Last of the Mohicans, which aired on PBS in 1972 when I was living in Memphis.  I treasured my hardcover copy of the novel by James Fenimore Cooper with its compelling illustrations by N. C. Wyeth.  My independent study advisors at the high school and the college recommended other great books such as Guns at the Forks by Walter O’Meara.

By the end of the semester, I had constructed an elaborate playing board of multiple panels depicting the theater of operations of the war from the Great Lakes and the Ohio Country to New England and the Atlantic seaboard.  Handmade pieces represented units of French, British, and Native American soldiers, and a detailed players’ manual outlined the rules of the game.  I included original drawings of several uniforms of the period (see above and below) and even created handmade cardboard boxes to store all the pieces.  I titled my board game The Fall of New France and test played it with my younger brother.  The entire game took more than 24 hours to play every game turn, each of which represented a month of the war from George Washington’s skirmish at Great Meadows in 1754 to Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1763.

This was one of the most memorable experiences of my career as a student.  The value of independent study projects is immeasurable.  You can focus on the subjects that truly interest you and create special projects that really show what you can do.  Interdisciplinary projects that combine what you are learning in multiple classes can be particularly rewarding.

As a classroom teacher, I participated for eight years as the social science member of a special Digital Arts and Humanities team.  Our students took historical topics from my class and combined them with the period novels they were studying in their English class, then created amazing projects in their Digital Arts class.  One was a documentary film about 19th century immigration to America.  Another was an interactive website about the Roaring Twenties.  Our class visited the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles as part of our World War II unit, in which the students created an animated story of a Japanese American teenager confined in one of the internment camps.  Another program at the same school combined math and physics with sculpture and metal design.  These classes made school more engaging and gave students endless possibilities for creativity.

Independent study can also help with your regular classwork in your core classes.  This is especially true if you find the environment of the traditional classroom with 35 to 40 students and one teacher distracting.  Whether you are struggling with math, science, history, or language arts, you can get more done if you have a dedicated time and place set aside to complete your work with the help of a tutor or dedicated faculty advisor.  The more time and attention you devote to a task or assignment, the more pleased you and your teacher will be with your work.

Ask your school counselor about independent study opportunities on your campus.  Check with your teachers about alternative assignments or extra credit opportunities they may offer.  There is more than one way to complete your academic requirements for graduation and college admission.  Explore your options.  Make good memories for yourself at school.  Give yourself the chance to excel in what you do best.


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World History Topic 6 Summary: The Enlightenment

The scientific inquiry and theological debate that characterized the Renaissance and Reformation periods laid the groundwork for a broader exploration of new ideas on government, religion, science, and the human condition in the 18th century.  This became known as the Age of Enlightenment, as it cast all previously held notions of God, man, and nature under the light of intense and critical scrutiny.  No institution was taken for granted and no doctrine left unchallenged.  The increase of literacy across Europe guaranteed that broad discussion and disagreement would replace blind obedience among all social classes.  Ideas that once were punished as heresy would now form the foundation of new societies.

This was most evident in the critical examination of church doctrine and practice.  English philosopher John Locke and his German counterpart Immanuel Kant advocated an historical redaction of Scripture and a personal faith based on reason.  Science and religion would no longer be seen as mutually exclusive, but rather complementary spheres of revelation.  Descartes in France and Spinoza in the Netherlands reinforced this belief with their challenge to church authority and faith in the power of doubt and skepticism.  French deists Voltaire and Rousseau questioned the very notion of an active supreme being and supported a new civil order rooted in natural law.

The separation of church and state became a popular tenet of Enlightenment philosophy and later made its way into the United States Constitution, as did the idea of separation of powers articulated in the writings of Montesquieu.  English philosopher Thomas Hobbes posed the notion of a social contract between sovereign and people in his 1651 treatise Leviathan.  The later writings of Locke and Rousseau developed this further.  Kings did not sit on their thrones by divine right but rather by the consent of the governed.  The bold arguments of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and the American Declaration of Independence in 1776 were inspired by this revolutionary challenge to medieval thinking.

That same year saw the publication of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, now seen as the blueprint of the modern free market economy.  Smith’s native Scotland produced many key figures of the Enlightenment, including the philosopher David Hume and scientists James Anderson and James Hutton.  The emphasis on scientific discovery inspired a new wave of exploration and the cataloguing and dissemination of more detailed study.  Private museums, libraries, and collections expanded and led to more public depositories of information.  Schools and academies broadened their curricula and their enrollment.  Diderot’s 1751 Encyclopedia was widely published and distributed and made entries on every conceivable subject available to an increasingly literate public.

Many European monarchs embraced the new learning as “enlightened despots,” most notably Frederick II of Prussia and Catherine II of Russia.  Frederick hosted Voltaire for two years and Catherine corresponded regularly with him and collected his writings.  In Britain, King George III saw himself as a supporter of the Enlightenment in spite of his failure to retain the allegiance of the American revolutionary leaders inspired by those ideas.  Benjamin Franklin was friends with Voltaire and Thomas Jefferson was inspired by the ideas of Locke on personal liberty.  When the French revolutionaries called for a constitutional monarchy in 1789, Jefferson helped Lafayette draft the Declaration of the Rights of Man during his time as American Minister in Paris.

The French Revolution drew inspiration from same Enlightenment ideas that fueled the American struggle for independence and the precepts of its Constitution.  The enormous debts incurred by the French court to finance the American Revolution, however, combined with class resentments and a series of failed harvests to create a perfect firestorm of protest.  The violence and anarchy that followed the storming of the Bastille in Paris in 1789 ran roughshod over the lofty ideals of the revolutionaries and revealed the limitations of intellectual reform in the desperate context of hunger, famine, and injustice.

Such a context was more conducive to maintaining despotism than it was to producing democracy.  Such would be the fate of France as the 18th century gave way to the 19th.  The old monarchies of Europe would not give up power easily.  While the United States embarked on its experiment in political freedom and individual liberty, the ideas of the Enlightenment would continue to fight for survival in a Europe ravaged by division and war.


  1. Many see the United States as a nation created by the Enlightenment.  Do most Americans still see themselves this way?  Explain.
  2. Based on your opinion and experience, does the educational system in this country encourage critical thinking?  If so, in what ways?  If not, why not?
  3. Which current political, religious, and economic ideas still need to be challenged?

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World History Topic 5 Summary: Rise of the British Empire

British overseas expansion began when John Cabot sailed westward under the English flag in 1497 in search of India.  Like Columbus five years earlier, he came upon an entirely new shore.  Cabot called his discovery Newfoundland, but the first English colony was not established in America until a century later, when Walter Raleigh founded the ill-fated Roanoke experiment in what is now North Carolina.  The first permanent settlement was Jamestown in Virginia, named after first Stuart king of England.  James I also oversaw the establishment of English-speaking colonies in the Caribbean and in northern Ireland, where the native Catholic gentry were defeated and driven off their lands.

The British competed for supremacy with Spain, France, and the Netherlands in both the West and East Indies.  Conflict erupted continually over the slave and spice trades and the effort to set up mining operations and sugar, coffee, and tobacco plantations.  James’s son Charles I bolstered British settlement along the Atlantic seaboard, and by 1640 permanent colonies were in place in New England as well as Virginia.  Maryland was founded as a haven for English Catholics and its port of Annapolis soon became a major receiving point for shiploads of African slaves.

Charles II continued his father’s work after the Restoration, adding Pennsylvania, New Jersey, the Carolinas, and the Hudson Bay Company in Canada to his dominions.  New Amsterdam was taken from the Dutch in 1664 and renamed New York.  Delaware was acquired from Sweden, and King George II granted the corporate charter for the thirteenth colony of Georgia in 1732.  Sugar and tobacco plantations worked by African slaves prospered in the southern colonies and Caribbean islands but left a legacy of cruel brutality and racial resentment.

Charles II also funded the Royal African Company on the Gold Coast, where trading posts facilitated traffic in gold, ivory, and slaves.  In Asia, the East India Company chartered by Elizabeth I in 1600 emerged as a serious competitor to the Dutch, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.  From their bases in Madras, Surat, Bombay, and Calcutta, the Company brokered alliances with local Indian rulers and played on internal disorder within the failing Mughal Empire.  With a growing monopoly in commodities such as salt, tea, silk, spices, and especially opium, the Company gradually eclipsed its rivals and became a power unto itself in Asia, employing a formidable army of native Indian sepoys to enforce its will.

The Seven Years’ War with France ended in the British acquisition of Canada, but the consequent tax burden on the American colonists drove them to revolt.  King George III was unable to quash the rebel forces after they secured alliance with France and Spain in 1777.  Independence was granted to the United States in 1783 and British imperial ambitions turned elsewhere.

The voyages of Captain James Cook added much of Polynesia to the maps of the Royal Society and opened Australia and New Zealand to British conquest and settlement.  First used as a penal colony, Australia yielded vast natural resources and tracts of land that proved irresistible to British investment and economic development.  Local aboriginal resistance was quickly crushed and large fishing, mining, and farming enterprises established and nurtured.

Allied victory in the Napoleonic Wars left Britain with even more overseas possessions, including Malta in the Mediterranean, Guyana and Trinidad in the Caribbean, and the Cape Colony in South Africa.  The abolition of the slave trade and the introduction of the telegraph and steam ships brought the empire into the modern industrial age.  Singapore, Ceylon, Burma, Malaya, and Sarawak were added to Britain’s southeast Asian domains.  This gave the East India Company the foothold it needed to move into China and dominate the opium trade.  Chinese attempts to stop these incursions prompted military intervention and ended with the acquisition of Hong Kong in 1842.

By 1850, the British flag flew over Australia and New Zealand, all of Canada, most of India, much of southeast Asia, the west and southern coasts of Africa, and multiple islands in the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Caribbean.  The Royal Navy commanded the seven seas.  English language, custom, technology, and government were spread across the world.  The old rivals of Spain, Portugal, France, and the Netherlands had been subdued and sidelined.  The young Queen Victoria presided over a quarter of the globe.

But all was not well.  Imperial Russia was growing in strength and looked to expand its influence in the Far East, central Asia, and the Black Sea.  Behind its veneer of formidable infrastructure, the vast distances and delays in communication stretched thin the reach of authorities in London.  And across the empire, British settlers, missionaries, soldiers, and colonial officials created separate and exclusive cantonments for themselves which created resentment among local native populations.  In the closing decades of the 19th century, resentment would lead to revolt.


  1. Where do you see evidence of British cultural influence in the world today?  What are some positive and negative consequences of imperial expansion?
  2. Why were the British able to surpass their rivals in their quest for empire?  Who are the superpowers of today’s world, and how are they different from the British in their methods and influence?
  3. How has the internet changed the balance of power in the world today?  Have global giants such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook taken the place of the historic empires?

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World History Topic 4 Summary: Baroque and Georgian Periods

Midway through the 17th century, England and France stood as the dominant powers in Europe.  Bourbon King Louis XIV exercised absolute rule as the “Sun King” from his elaborately designed Palace of Versailles south of Paris.  In London, Stuart King James I’s eldest son Charles was beheaded by an enraged Parliament after his attempt at absolute monarchy resulted in bloody civil war.  He was replaced by a “Commonwealth” under the draconian leadership of Parliamentary General Oliver Cromwell, who banned plays, parades, and holidays in an effort to create a Puritan heaven on earth.  By 1660, Cromwell and his son were dead and Charles II had returned from exile in France to reclaim the throne of his father.  This “Restoration” period returned both the Stuart dynasty and royal patronage of the arts.

Charles’s brother James II succeeded him in 1685.  James’s appointment of Catholic advisors and generals and his second marriage to an Italian princess alarmed the Protestant Parliament and revived fears of his father’s autocratic rule.  When the queen gave birth to a Catholic son in 1688, James was deposed and replaced with his daughter Mary and her husband, the Dutch Prince William of Orange.  William was a hero of the wars against Louis XIV and now landed in England with a large Dutch army.

His arrival in London was lauded by Parliament as a bloodless “Glorious Revolution” and a triumph of the Protestant faith.  William and Mary signed an English Bill of Rights protecting civil liberties and agreed to share power with Parliament as part of a new constitutional monarchy.  When James landed in Ireland with a French army in an attempt to reclaim his throne, William defeated him and his native Irish allies at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.  Conflict between Protestant “Orange” unionists and Catholic “Green” nationalists continued for more than 300 years.

In fashion, painting, sculpture, and architecture, this period became known as Baroque and was characterized by elaborate ornate detail and design.  This was particularly evident in the Catholic countries of France, Spain, Portugal, and the Italian states.  By contrast, the Protestant lands of Britain, the Netherlands, Geneva, Scandinavia, and the northern German states adopted a more austere neoclassical style.

Great music emerged from this period as well, most notably the compositions of Vivaldi, Albinoni, Bach, Handel, Telemann, and Purcell.  Imported goods and new immigrant groups from around the world enriched the cultural mix of European capitals.  The popularity of silk, spice, porcelain, and tea from Asia and coffee, tobacco, chocolate, and sugar from America bore witness to an increasingly global marketplace.

King William III of England outlived Queen Mary II and was succeeded by her sister Anne in 1702.  Five years later the Parliaments of Scotland and England were joined in the Act of Union and became the United Kingdom.  When Queen Anne died without an heir in 1714, Parliament replaced her with the German Protestant Elector of Hanover, who was crowned King George I in spite of his scant knowledge of the English language.

Those Scots and English who supported the exiled Stuarts were outraged that this foreigner was handed the throne over the man they saw as their rightful sovereign.  The Catholic son of James II was now living in Rome under the Pope’s protection as the lawful King James III of Great Britain and Ireland, but was derided by the London court as “the Old Pretender.”  Armed attempts to return him to Scotland with Spanish and French aid ended in failure in 1715 and 1719.  These “Jacobite” adherents of the Stuarts renewed their efforts after George II succeeded his father in 1727.

In a bold gamble, James’s son Charles (the “Young Pretender”) landed in western Scotland in August 1745 and gathered several powerful Highland clans to his father’s banner.  This Stuart army briefly seized Edinburgh and invaded northern England.  In April 1746, exhausted and divided by squabbling in their high command, the Jacobites were crushed by government forces under the Duke of Cumberland at Culloden Moor near Inverness.  Prince Charles’s subsequent escape to France and Cumberland’s harsh treatment of the Highland clans ensured the survival of the Hanoverian line and forever enshrined “Bonnie Prince Charlie” in Scottish legend.

On the continent, the “Sun King” finally died in 1715 after 72 years on the Bourbon throne and was succeeded by his 5-year-old grandson Louis XV.  His long reign was peppered with costly wars against Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Great Britain over territory and dynastic successions.  Most of these ended in French defeat, most dramatically in the Seven Years’ War of 1756-1763, in which France lost Canada and Louisiana as well as colonies in India and the Caribbean.  Prussia emerged victorious under the leadership of the soldier-king Frederick II “the Great.”  Empress Maria Theresa of Austria lost part of her empire and Catherine of Russia expanded hers.

King George II of Great Britain was succeeded in 1760 by his son, the first Hanoverian monarch born on British soil.  George III ruled for sixty years, during which time Britain gained Canada but lost the thirteen Atlantic coast colonies, recognized as the United States of America in the 1783 Treaty of Paris.  At home, the Georgian period included a flowering of new architectural styles as well as the writings of Shelley, Coleridge, Blake, Keats, Burns, and Byron, and the paintings of Reynolds, Gainsborough, and Hogarth.  By the end of the 18th century, the British Empire stretched to the ends of the earth.


  1. The costly wars of the Baroque and Georgian periods coincide historically with the period of European intellectual history now known as the Enlightenment.  Why do think this is so?
  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a constitutional monarchy?
  3. What evidence of Baroque and Georgian architectural and artistic styles do you see in today’s society?

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World History Topic 3 Summary: Renaissance and Reformation

European economic development expanded during the centuries of the Crusades, fed by bolstered Mediterranean maritime trade and the development of textiles and advancing agricultural techniques.  This in turn led to the growth of modern banking, dominated by the Medici family of Florence beginning in the early 15th century.  Lending money at interest and investing in land and business ventures at home and abroad swelled the power of this formidable dynasty.  After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 brought scores of Greek scholars with their Latin archives to Italy, the Medici consolidated their influence in the region through patronage of the arts.

This took the form of a revival of the art, architecture, history, political philosophy, and scientific inquiry of classical Greece and Rome.  This “Renaissance” of the old traditions inspired artistic masterpieces by Michelangelo, Donatello, and Leonardo da Vinci, the domes of Florence and Rome by Brunelleschi, the political writings of Machiavelli, and groundbreaking mathematical treatises by Copernicus and Galileo.  The generous support of the Medici, the Doge of Venice, and other wealthy men allowed this flowering of creativity and construction to continue for more than a century, transforming the physical and cultural landscape of southern Europe.

Efforts to explore beyond the European frontiers began in the courts of the Iberian peninsula.  Spain and Portugal led the way overseas, followed by the Dutch, French, and English.  The expulsion of the Moors from Spain in 1492 coincided with the first successful European crossing of the Atlantic and discovery of the western hemisphere.  The “Columbian exchange” which followed began an integration of American and European culture, music, language, cuisine, and tradition that continues to this day.  Portuguese exploration of the African coast and trade routes to India opened up the southeast Asian spice trade and new competition for commercial empires.

The Dutch East India Company issued publicly-traded stock to support its burgeoning enterprise in Asia and made the Netherlands a new economic power.  Overseas exploration to Asia and Africa brought new and exotic raw materials and ideas to Europe, which in turn produced a heightened demand for finished goods.  Dutch, French, and English explorers mapped the North American coastline and jockeyed for position with Spain in the Caribbean.  The 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas brokered by the Pope separated Spanish South America from Portuguese Brazil.

In the continuing renaissance of ideas, the Dutch priest and scholar Erasmus challenged medieval church doctrine and called for a new translation of the ancient Greek New Testament.  His writings helped to inspire the German theologian Martin Luther to post 95 theses for public discussion on the church door in Wittenberg, Saxony on All Saints’ Eve in 1517.  Luther protested many tenets of church authority and practice which he saw as contradictory to the precepts of Scripture.  These included the sale of papal indulgences to finance the new Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, a practice which bred resentment in the northern German states.

Luther was accused of heresy and excommunicated in 1520 after refusing to recant.  Only the intervention of disaffected German princes saved him from the grisly fate of Bohemian reformer Jan Hus, burned at the stake in Konstanz a century earlier.  Elector Frederick of Saxony managed to obtain a safe conduct pass for the outlawed priest at the 1521 Diet of Worms and then spirit him away to hiding in the Wartburg Castle, where Luther translated the Bible into German.  The newly developed printing press permitted this vernacular version and Luther’s other theological writings to enjoy broad public consumption throughout the German states.  The Augsburg Confession of 1530 insured that the people of those states could embrace this new “Protestant” faith if their rulers did so.

The rest of the Holy Roman Empire and the Italian states remained Catholic, as did Spain and Portugal.  In France, King Henry IV signed the Edict of Nantes in 1598, which allowed for the Protestant Huguenot minority to worship as they pleased among the Catholic majority.  The Scandinavian and Baltic princes also adopted Lutheran theological doctrines and practices, and Geneva and the Dutch Republic accepted the more stringent teachings of French reformer John Calvin.  The Mennonites and Quakers emerged as pacifist sects in Germany and England.  The Swiss cantons divided along religious lines and soon went to war with one another.  Protestant leader Ulrich Zwingli called for radical reform and was killed in battle near Zurich in 1531.

In England, King Henry VIII failed in his attempt to obtain a papal annulment of his marriage to the Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon.  Defying the Pope, he divorced her anyway and married Anne Boleyn, one of his former queen’s ladies in waiting, and declared himself head of a new Protestant Anglican Church in 1534.  Church lands were confiscated and the Catholic mass banned.  The old faith endured in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands, but Calvinism was adopted in lowland Scotland by the followers of John Knox.  His Presbyterian Kirk opposed both the Roman and Anglican rites.  More than a century of religious conflict would pass before the Act of Toleration permitted Protestant freedom of worship.  British Catholics would not see their civil rights restored until the 19th century.

Henry’s daughter Elizabeth ruled England as a Protestant queen until her death without issue in 1603, after which the crown was offered to Henry’s great-nephew, the Protestant James VI of Scotland.  Elizabeth sponsored the seminal literary works of Shakespeare and James authorized a common English language Bible.  Spain’s attempt to conquer England ended with the destruction of the Spanish Armada in 1588.  Years of warfare continued between the Catholic Hapsburgs and Protestant Dutch in the low countries, and between rival Catholic and Protestant princes in the German states until the Peace of Westphalia suspended the slaughter in 1648.

Religious conflict drove thousands from persecuted minorities to the new colonies in America, including the English Puritans and Quakers and the French Huguenots.  Rome sponsored a Counter-Reformation that strengthened new religious orders such as the Jesuits, and doctrinal divisions created even more Protestant sects.  Greeks and Slavs remained under the separate Eastern Orthodox tradition.  European Jews and Muslims unwilling to convert were faced with the harsh choice of persecution or exile.  By 1650, both the Protestant and the Catholic courts of Europe had amassed great wealth and power and looked toward the expansion of their global empires.


  1. How did the Renaissance lead to the Reformation?  What kind of Renaissance is needed today?
  2. Why do you think today’s Millennial generation participates less in organized religion than did their predecessors?
  3. Why do you think the authors of the U.S. Constitution included freedom of religion in the First Amendment, and why does this continue to cause so much legal conflict in American society?

Copyright (c) 2018 Torin Finney.  All rights reserved.

To sign up for tutoring, please visit my website at


World History Topic 2 Summary: Medieval Europe

By the year 500 of the common era, western Europe had returned to an overgrown wilderness of warring tribes.  Only the stone roads, aqueducts, bridges and churches bore witness to the structural legacy of Rome.  From the Visigoths and Vandals in the south to the Gauls and Saxons of central Europe to the northern bands of Celts and Norsemen, the scattered pieces of the empire were left in the hands of those it had once conquered.  Only remnants of language, law, and literacy lingered.  Local chieftains and warlords competed for power and plunder.

From the ashes of the old order arose a new empire of faith.  The Pope presided over a growing network of local parishes, monasteries, convents, schools, and cathedrals from London in the north to Rome in the south.  Missionaries were sent out over the worn Roman roads, spreading the message of salvation through Christ in exchange for loyalty to his representative on earth.  The church steadily acquired more and more land.  Canon law dictated justice and property rights.  Rival chiefs were pitted against each other.  The miter, chasuble, and crozier gradually held sway over helmet, armor and sword.

Much of the learning of Rome had been lost, but dedicated monks and scribes kept literacy alive by creating libraries and transcribing stories.  Some of these took elaborately crafted form, such as Ireland’s illuminated Book of Kells.  Christianity was brought to the British isles during the Roman period and took on its own monastic-based structure.  In the years prior to the Viking raids of the ninth century, Irish and English monks traveled across Europe as treasured tutors and advisors.  The British priest Alcuin of York served as scholar and teacher to the great Frankish King Charlemagne, who united most of Europe and was crowned the first Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III in the year 800.  Thomas Aquinas explored the philosophical dimensions of faith and codified Catholic theology.

Later popes looked eastward in a quest to protect Christian faith and commerce.  Moorish expansion into Europe was stopped at Tours in 732 and held at bay in Spain.  Despite the Great Schism of 1054 that separated the Roman church from Constantinople, by 1095 Pope Urban II called for a crusade against Islam when the Byzantine capital came under threat.  This inaugurated four centuries of warfare in Syria and Palestine which killed hundreds of thousands and culminated in the fall of Constantinople in 1453.  By this time, however, generations of religious conflict had also increased trade and urbanization in the Mediterranean region.  The seeds of modern European states were planted.

Notable events included the Norman invasion of England in 1066, which brought the feudal system to Britain and led to the development of the English language.  Conflict over the nature of feudal power created the Magna Carta of 1215, laying the foundations of legal and property rights that would lead in later centuries to British constitutional law.  An outbreak of plague brought from Asia killed up to half of Europe’s population in the “Black Death” of the mid-14th century.  Fear and ignorance led to terror and persecution, resulting in large scale pogroms against Jews and attacks on women accused of “witchcraft.”  The “Dark Ages” descended into their darkest nadir.

By 1400, agricultural development was entering a new phase in Europe and literacy and scientific research were on the rise.  The rival courts were looking to expand trade and influence eastward into Asia and south down the African coast.  The writings of Dante and Chaucer and the travels of Marco Polo stimulated popular imagination.  In the east, the Muslim Umayyad Caliphate evolved into the Ottoman Empire after the fall of Constantinople, spreading Islam and trade throughout the Middle East.  The revived Justinian Code of Byzantium was incorporated by the Roman Catholic Church and formed the foundation of modern law.

The arranged marriage between England and France continued to produce trade and war among rival heirs to their respective thrones.  The German states prospered and competed with one another.  Great Slavic kingdoms arose in the east, most notably in Russia.  And in Italy, a revival of classical ideas would lead to cultural rebirth across the continent.


  1. Where do you see the consequences of the Crusades in today’s world?
  2. What should be the relationship between religion and politics?
  3. Some have called the Magna Carta of 1215 the “birth certificate of democracy.”  Do you agree?

Copyright (c) 2018 Torin Finney.  All rights reserved.

To sign up for tutoring, please visit my website at

World History Topic 1 Summary: Ancient Civilizations

The earliest human remains were found in what is now north Africa and date back 300,000 years.  Archaeological evidence found there and elsewhere around the world indicate that ancient tribal communities formed around sources of water and game.  Hunting and gathering characterized these societies, some of which developed matriarchal clan structures and fertility based religious beliefs.  From northern and eastern Australia to New Guinea, Brazil, Canada, France, and Africa’s Great Rift Valley, nascent human civilizations struggled, gathered and grew.

The rich basins of the Nile, Tigris, and Euphrates Rivers of the Middle East formed a “fertile crescent” that gave birth to the earliest developed agricultural communities around 10,000 years ago.  Farming allowed for specialization of labor and the cultivation of grain crops and domesticated livestock.  From these roots arose the great civilizations of Egypt, Assyria, Israel, Babylon, and Persia, which boasted the first large scale towns and cities with metallurgy, written language and codified laws.  Similar conditions in the Indus and Yellow River valleys gave birth to the complex cultures of India and China.  The Aztec, Maya, and Inca empires dominated the early development of the western hemisphere.

In Europe, the city-states of Greece operated a flourishing Mediterranean trade and experimented with the earliest forms of democratic government.  The experiments of Pythagoras, Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Euclid, Heraclitus, and others laid the foundations for modern philosophy and critical reasoning.  The Macedonian warrior king Alexander spread Greek language and culture across much of the known world through military conquest and the development of enduring trade routes.  By 300 B.C.E., most of the modern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions had been significantly Hellenized.

The Greek era was succeeded by the Roman, beginning with the emergence of Etruscan tribal culture on the Italian Peninsula in the fifth century B.C.E.  This led to the early Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire, which connected everything from Britain in the north to Egypt and Palestine in the south to Asia Minor in the east and Spain in the west.  All were united under common laws, government and language, as well as paved roads and postal routes and an elaborate civil infrastructure of canals, aqueducts and public buildings.  The Latin language formed the foundations of modern Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Romanian.

Out of the Roman period emerged the three great western religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  Ancient Hebrew culture dated back thousands of years and produced the moral codes of the Torah and Talmud with their emphasis on equality before the law and the rights to life and property.  From these roots came the Christian faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the promised deliverer of the poor, broken, and disenfranchised.  The faith of the prophet Muhammad in the power and benevolence of Allah united the Arab tribes in devotion to prayer, obedience, and service.

Monotheism created the unity necessary for organized economic and political development, but often at the cost of marginalizing the more ecologically based matriarchal tribal structures.  These endured in the more isolated regions of Africa, Australasia, North and South America, and northern Europe.  Hinduism and Buddhism grew in the Indian subcontinent and Confucianism, Taoism, and Shinto traditions flourished in China, Korea, and Japan.  Sun and moon were worshiped in elaborate rituals in the scientifically advanced civilizations of Mexico and Peru.

Internal political rivalries and an overextended trade network gradually ate away at the strength of the Roman empire, which began to unravel in the fourth century of the common era.  Northern European tribes invaded and conquered former Roman provinces and adapted Christian beliefs to their own ancient cosmology.  The empire divided in two, with eastern Byzantium continuing much of the old Roman traditions and laws in their capital of Constantinople.

Rome itself became the center of an organized and aggressive form of institutional Christianity that replaced prefects, tribunes and centurions with bishops, priests and deacons.  The bishop of Rome became known as the Pope and assumed regal powers over land, government and education in the region of the old imperial capital.  The remainder of fallen empire, overwhelmed by the Norse, Celtic, and Teutonic tribal peoples of northern Europe, settled into centuries of internecine warfare and rampant disease and displacement.  The “Dark Ages” had begun.


  1. Archaeologists have found more similarities between ancient tribal cultures than differences, and that technological progress improved standards of living but created rivalry and war.  How do you explain this paradox of modernization?
  2. Where do you see evidence of ancient Greek and Roman cultures in today’s society?
  3. How are the great religions of the world similar?  How are they different?  Has religion been a positive or negative influence on human development?  Explain.

Copyright (c) 2018 Torin Finney.  All rights reserved.

To sign up for tutoring, please visit my website at




US History Topic 20 Summary: Contemporary America in the Digital Age

The internet was born of the technological competition of the Cold War and went public in the early 1990s.  Its far-reaching effects on both culture and commerce were immediate.  The rise of internet shopping sites like Amazon began the inexorable process of replacing brick and mortar stores, including those of large chain brands.  Apple’s iPhone replaced land lines and its iTunes slowly but steadily put record stores out of business.

Apple’s Korean rival Samsung took a large market share of phones and home appliances and Google emerged as the dominant search engine and transformed the nature of education.  Online video streaming phased out the video rental stores so popular in the last years of the 20th century.  Eventually even the great entertainment behemoth of Hollywood was forced to adapt to a new generation of digital moviegoers and challenged by rival film industries in China and India.

Email and instant messaging graduated to popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which created new online communities and connected people across generations and national boundaries.  By the second decade of the new millennium, Facebook alone had more than two billion regular users.  Controversies arose when its commitment to free speech led to its use by revolutionaries and extremist groups, and its advertising and marketing policies were criticized by some as invasions of privacy.

The nature of banking changed as hedge funds and derivatives surpassed traditional bank accounts and fostered an overheated housing market.  The financial crisis of 2008 was the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Unemployment gave way to underemployment and a growing disparity between rich and poor.  The mushrooming national debt was assumed in part by old adversaries like China and Russia.  Outsourcing of jobs overseas destabilized old American companies and led to lower wages and a rise in inexpensive consumer goods.

The internet forever changed the nature of politics in America.  Democrat Barack Obama garnered millions of online “Millennial” supporters in 2008, and eight years later Republican Donald Trump used Twitter to advance his views.  Suspicions that Russian hackers interfered with the 2016 election results led to a federal investigation and fueled fears of a new kind of Cold War.  Wikipedia and personal blogs gave anyone the opportunity to contribute research and opinion to the global community.  Smart phones combined photography, communication, news, financial management, and direction finding in a single handheld device.  The world was suddenly at everyone’s fingertips.

The social consequences of this technological transformation became the object of intense discussion and debate.  The new Millennial generation born in the waning years of the last century and raised on computer literacy was characterized as more tolerant but less ambitious, more informed but less literate than their predecessors.  Others disputed these claims as the misinformed musings of anachronistic thinking, much as the last generation of 19th century America had bemoaned the onset of the electric and radio age.  The young entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley were seen by many as the Edisons, Fords and Rockefellers of a new century.

The unbridled growth of the oil industry in the 20th century led to concerns over political conflict and rising global temperatures in the 21st.  Many blamed big oil for the Middle Eastern conflicts which led to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent years of fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. The “Arab Spring” of 2011 toppled dictators but left power vacuums where terrorist organizations could take hold.  Those same groups made use of the internet to recruit from disenfranchised communities and plan coordinated attacks on the West.  Civil war drove thousands of refugees into European countries already struggling with the challenges of emerging multicultural societies.  American leaders weighed in on different sides of the plight of refugees while our own immigration issues remained unresolved.

“Global warming” caused by pollution became the subject of intense political debate as melting polar ice and rising sea levels threatened wildlife, coastal communities, and water and food supplies worldwide.  Deforestation and desertification in Africa, Asia and Latin America reached alarming proportions.  Many saw increased trade and renewable “green” energy as the indisputable solutions to this crisis, while others dismissed these concerns as threats to job growth and national security.

As the new century unfolded, the changing nature of political conflict and economic growth created new alliances, mergers and even currencies.  The old divisions of the Cold War gave way to new divisions over natural resources and the spread of disease, false information, and cyber crime.  The struggle for civil rights was joined by new groups along multicultural and transgender lines.  It would be left to the new generation of Americans born in this century to make sense of these dramatic developments and their place as representatives of American ideals in a more connected and crowded world community.


  1. What do you think of the issue of “net neutrality?”  Should the internet remain free and unregulated?  Why or why not?
  2. How has the internet changed the nature of American society, both positively and negatively?
  3. What political, economic, and cultural influence does America have in the world today?  What should be our role in the changing world of the 21st century?

Copyright (c) 2018 Torin Finney.  All rights reserved.

To sign up for tutoring, please visit my website at