Happy Holidays 2018!

Mr. Finney at his holiday hearth!

Here’s to a happy holiday season to all my blog readers and a restful winter break to those of you finishing your fall term.  May the last days and nights of 2018 be filled with good cheer!

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

To sign up for tutoring, please visit my website at torinfinney.com.

Field Trips

Getting out of the classroom and learning about history in other places is invaluable to your overall understanding of whatever period you are studying.  I still remember vividly my visits to Fort Sumter, Colonial Williamsburg, Monticello, Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Gettysburg as a kid back East, as well as numerous tours of the fantastic Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C.  Whether you go with your family or with your class, field trips are a great addition to your historical education.

In April of 2000, some colleagues and I led a group of 10 adults and 20 students on an educational tour of Ireland.  When I taught 7th grade world history in Bakersfield, we took a large group of students to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, and for many years I was part of a high school Digital Arts and Humanities program that included a visit to the Japanese American National Museum.  All of these experiences provided real time exposure to people, places, and things that reinforced what my students were learning in class. 

Start with places near you.  Local museums and historical sites are within easy access and can help you make sense of past people and events.  Ask your parents or guardians if they would be willing to take you places on your school breaks (after you catch up on rest and assignments, of course).  Look up the places that interest you and plan your visits in conjunction with what you are studying in class.

The National Park Service has a great website and includes many preserved important sites from American history.  The California State Park system maintains several outstanding attractions as well.    Many historical sites have rangers, docents, and tour guides who are extremely knowledgeable and will answer any questions you may have (and some you haven’t thought of yet). 

Some even dress in historical costume and portray a character in first person.  This is especially true at period homes, battlefields, and military installations.  For many years I participated in battle and camp reenactments as a Harper’s Weekly correspondent at Fort Tejon State Historic Park off Interstate 5 in Grapevine Canyon near Lebec, California.  Those experiences were as rewarding for me as a presenter as they were for my audiences.  I offered extra credit to my students at the time if they attended and wrote a review of what they saw and learned.  I also presented at other living history events around the state and in a restored 19th century town in Pennsylvania.

Local government buildings, military bases, and restored homes of prominent citizens in your community are all great resources.  Many international tour companies offer packages for school groups traveling abroad.  Take advantage of field trip opportunities at your school and guest historians who may be speaking at local venues.  Don’t forget to bring your phone to capitalize on the unique photo ops. 

Get out there.  An entire new world of historical adventure awaits you.

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

To sign up for tutoring, please visit my website at torinfinney.com.

The Perfect Essay

Is there such a thing?  The simple answer is no.  Expository writing is by nature a subjective exercise, and therefore vulnerable to criticism.  But can there be your best essay, i.e., an articulate expression of understanding and harmony between you and your subject?  Naturally, yes.

As this blog concerns writing in the social sciences, the first step is to distinguish between that and the kinds of written assignments you might have in your other classes.  The social sciences include subjects like history, government, economics, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and what we used to call “civics” back in my day.  Civics usually involved learning the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and how to exercise those rights responsibly, e.g., casting a ballot on election day, serving your community, paying taxes, and the like.  In these subjects, you will not usually be writing poetry (unless you are composing a patriotic hymn in your civics class), prose fiction, or analyzing the literary style or plot of one of the great novels.

You may, however, be asked to write on the historical context in which that novel is set.  For that, you will need to start with source documents.  If I were writing an essay on why my German-born great-great-grandfather decided in 1861 to enlist in the Union Army and fight for President Lincoln, for example, I might begin with photographs or extant letters written by him or his friends and relatives during the period.  If available, I would order his veteran’s pension records from the National Archives.  I followed this same procedure when I was compiling my genealogy scrapbook in the 1990s.  Start with primary source material.  But if primary sources cannot be found (which often happens in genealogical research), then good secondary sources can be used to establish historical context.

I would research German immigration to Ohio in the first half of the nineteenth century and see what moved his parents to leave their ancestral home near Stuttgart and cross the Atlantic to face an uncertain future in a new land.  I would look at letters written by prominent German American leaders at the time, most of whom supported the Lincoln administration’s dual objectives of first preserving the Union and later emancipating the slaves.  I would look at the regimental history of my ancestor’s unit and the surnames on the company rosters to see how many Germans were there.  I would look at what Southerners at the time thought of German immigrants and why so many Germans living in Texas, Missouri and other largely Confederate areas remained staunch Unionists throughout the Civil War.

Establishing context is the first important step in crafting the best historical essay.  This type of writing may be structured similarly to an essay for your English class, in that you have an introductory paragraph stating your thesis and outlining your three main supportive points, followed by body paragraphs developing those points and a fifth paragraph wrapping up the essay with a conclusion.  But social science writing goes a step further.  Historical writing in particular is, by nature, interpretive.  As the writer, you are more advocate than artist.  What you are doing is something called polemic.  Think of yourself as the attorney presenting your case to judge and jury.  You build your case, gather your evidence and witness testimony, assess the possible arguments presented by the opposing side, shore up your alliances, and enter the fray.

Tom Paine’s Common Sense (1776) is the perfect example.  This is one of the most famous historical essays in American history.  Paine was an Englishman who abandoned his mother country because America offered him new political and economic freedom to pursue the life of his choice.  When the thirteen colonies rose up in revolt, he offered the American people a compelling argument.  Here is his main thesis:  America, you don’t need a king.  Quoting liberally from the Bible and other primary sources which were valued by his potential audience at the time, he launched into a persuasive diatribe against the idea of monarchy and reminded the colonists that they had been presented with an historic opportunity to create a government by, of, and for the people.  Common Sense was a best seller and boosted enlistment in the Continental Army.  Tom Paine was the cheerleader of the American Revolution.

During my twenty years in the classroom, I assigned a lot of essays.  Some were three paragraph summary prompts attached to the back of unit tests.  Others were opinion pieces submitted as part of a Socratic seminar packet.  Most of my units also included DBQ (Document Based Question) essays, once exclusive to Advanced Placement classes but disseminated into college preparatory courses with the advent of the Common Core Standards.  All of these writing assignments had several things in common:  do your research, gather your evidence, craft your argument, present your thesis, develop your points, cite your sources, connect to historical cycles and patterns.  These requirements were uniform for my World History, American History, Government, and Economics classes.  I even used them when I taught world religions and church history at a private school. 

Just like in your language arts classes, you have to find your voice.  Creating your personal take on a topic takes what the real estate business calls due diligence.  Before you buy a house, you need to look at similar homes in the area, the history of pricing and ownership of the home you want, property taxes and schools in the neighborhood, the current state of the home as determined by a qualified home inspector, and many other factors.  This takes time.  Sometimes an essay is assigned plenty of time in advance and allows you a week or more to put it together.  Just as often, though, you will only have a limited number of minutes to complete the essay in class.  The more time you have put into understanding the unit you are studying and writing about that unit ahead of time, the better you will do under pressure.

Find your voice.  Take copious notes.  Write many drafts, even if the teacher does not require it.  Read what others have written on the same subject (but avoid plagiarism).  Have others read what you write before you turn it in for a grade.  The more you read, the better you will write.  With the right effort and discipline, you can be the Tom Paine of your generation.     

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

To sign up for tutoring, please visit my website at torinfinney.com.

History vs. Hollywood

For many years, I included full-length feature films as part of my history curriculum.  Some of my all time favorites were Cy Endfield’s Zulu (1964), Gandhi (1982) and Cry Freedom (1987) by Richard Attenborough, and Thirteen Days (2000), directed by Roger Donaldson and based on Robert F. Kennedy’s memoir of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.  Others that I still enjoy at home include Glory (1989) by Edward Zwick, Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves (1990), and Michael Mann’s 1992 version of The Last of the Mohicans, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawkeye.  His performances as Bill the Butcher in Martin Scorcese’s Gangs of New York (2002) and the lead role in Steven Spielberg’s 2012 biopic Lincoln were equally riveting.

Movies set in historical periods can be instructive, but at some point I decided to stop using them altogether in class.  My reasons?  For one, they used up too much classroom time, particularly the Attenborough epics.  Some of them included content that was irrelevant to teaching the state content standards.  But the main reason I withdrew them from my history lessons is that feature films (unless in the context of an actual film class) are art.  They are entertainment.  But they are not history.  Many are based on works of historical fiction, and most carry a disclaimer in the credits dissociating the film from actual historical personages or events.

Hollywood is a business.  As such, they are as profit-driven as any other commercial enterprise.  While some directors and studios make intentional efforts to honor pivotal figures or events in history (recent films on Harvey Milk, Martin Luther King, and Cesar Chavez come to mind), the main goal is to sell theater tickets or online subscriptions.  This is not necessarily an example of callous avarice; quite the opposite.  But in the end, if no one pays to see the movie, then it will be next to impossible to raise enough money to make another one.

So if the context of a story is historical, the details of that context will be presented to enhance the plot of the movie.  An accurate portrayal of historical events takes a secondary role.  Mel Gibson’s Braveheart (1995), for example, is an immensely entertaining film.  Historically, though, it has a lot of holes.  Graphic violence and witty 20th century dialogue aside, Randall Wallace’s screenplay highlights the role of William Wallace in achieving Scottish independence at the expense of Robert the Bruce, who most agree was the more successful hero of the real story. 

To take another personal favorite, Glory (which I actually feel is one of the better American Civil War movies) focuses on Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who enthusiastically takes command of the all-black 54th Massachusetts at the urging of his staunch abolitionist parents.  The real Shaw was much more reluctant and took some convincing before he accepted the commission from Governor Andrew (he was also a blond, unlike the dark-haired Matthew Broderick who portrayed him in the film).  Despite outstanding performances by Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman, both of whom portray fictitious former slaves, the 54th Massachusetts was a regiment of mostly free men recruited from across the northern states and Canada.

Frederick Douglass himself spoke at recruitment rallies and convinced his own sons to enlist.  And the film does not even mention the real hero of the Battle of Fort Wagner, Sergeant William Carney.  Carney charged up the parapet next to Colonel Shaw and later saved the colors despite sustaining numerous life threatening wounds.  For his valor, he became the first African American soldier in U.S. history to win the Congressional Medal of Honor, although he had to wait decades before Congress overcame their racial prejudice enough to award it to him.

I am by no means discouraging you from watching historical feature filmsOn the contrary; they are great entertainment and do have some educational value.  I always enjoy watching them and highly recommend them.  But if you want to learn about history through film, stick with documentaries.  Producing documentary films is also a business, to be sure, but they are usually funded through non-profit corporations and include archival footage and interviews with professional historians and actual participants.  Compared to feature films, they are much closer to the real thing.

Many agree that the films of Ken Burns are the gold standard.  His award-winning series on The Civil War (1990) transformed the nature of documentary film making and remains the most viewed program in PBS history.  I have used portions of it in class, as well as parts of his equally outstanding films Brooklyn Bridge (1981), Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery (1997), Prohibition (2011), The Dust Bowl (2012), The War (his 2007 series on America in World War II), and The Vietnam War (2017).  His landmark multi-episode films on baseball, jazz, and the national parks are likewise captivating.

PBS has aired many more excellent programs that I have also used in class over the years.  I used the first and last episode of the impressive 1997 six-part series on Liberty!  The American Revolution in the first unit of my U.S. history class.  The American Experience series is uniformly outstanding, as are the American Masters documentaries on famous artists and the recent Independent Lens films. The PBS website has additional resources on all their films that can help you in your research on a particular topic.  Most of these programs can also be viewed free of charge online (download the PBS phone app) for a short time after their premiere on television.

The History Channel has good programs as well, particularly those produced during the 1990s (Modern Marvels and Civil War Journal were among my favorites).  In 1999, they broadcast what I think is the best overall series on modern American history:  the fifteen episodes of The Century: America’s Time, hosted by former ABC news anchorman Peter Jennings.  You can find it now for viewing on YouTube or for purchase on Amazon.  Each deals with a different decade of the 20th century and includes interviews with people who lived through them.  I wrote study guides to accompany each episode and used it at both the high school and community college levels as a framework upon which to structure my U.S. history course for the entire year. 

The BBC and other British channels have also produced exemplary film series.  The World at War (1973) has 26 episodes narrated by Laurence Olivier and remains one of the best programs on the Second World War.  The Channel 4 series on The First World War (2003), based on the book by Hew Strachan and narrated and produced by Jonathan Lewis, is another wonderful resource for world history.

YouTube and other internet sites offer a myriad of great programs.  I just finished watching four years of The Great War channel, which chronicled the events of World War I every week exactly a century after they occurred.  It was produced by Mediakraft and hosted by YouTube history personality Indy Neidell, who has since moved on to a new series on World War II.  Discerning viewership is required on social media sites like YouTube, of course, as they are also many amateur programs of poor quality and questionable scholarship.  It might take some time to find the good stuff, but at least it is all at your fingertips, and most documentary programming on YouTube can be accessed for free.

I am a huge movie fan, particularly historical movies, and I certainly encourage you to watch them.  But remember that feature films are part of the visual arts, and movie studios are business enterprises.  Even documentaries have their directorial and editorial slant.  Do your research, compare your sources, and enjoy watching.

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

To sign up for tutoring, please visit my website at torinfinney.com.

World History Topic 18 Summary: War on Terror

The end of the Cold War in 1991 dismantled Soviet power in Europe and across the world but allowed new conflicts to arise in its place.  Ethnic tensions building for years in places like Yugoslavia and Rwanda boiled over into genocidal civil wars.  China and Vietnam remained Communist behind the “Bamboo Curtain” but began to relax their economic structures under international pressure.  North Korea and Cuba withdrew more into hardline isolation.  And in the forbidding deserts and mountains of the Middle East, extremist groups took advantage of the superpower vacuum and new digital technology to upgrade their centuries-old antipathy toward the West.

The global distribution of arms and supplies during the decades of the Cold War era set the stage for this new danger.  The Iranian Revolution of 1979 empowered the radical government of Ayatollah Khomeini and led to the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran when President Jimmy Carter allowed the ousted Shah to take refuge in the United States.  52 Americans were then held hostage there for 444 days while the Carter administration tried desperately to get them released.  The failure to do so led to the election of Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980 and a more aggressive approach toward Iran.  Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was armed with U.S. weaponry to engage in a prolonged border war with Iran that lasted for eight years and killed up to a million people.

During this same period, the Soviet war in Afghanistan led to the influx of thousands of jihadi or “holy warriors” from across the Arab world, intent on driving out the invader from sacred Muslim soil.  The U.S. and others began supplying clandestine military aid to these groups, which became collectively known as mujahedin.  Alliances were formed with groups labeled “terrorist” by the Reagan administration in order to combat Communism.  These strange bedfellows would later come back to haunt the United States.

One of them was Osama bin Laden, son of a Saudi construction billionaire.  Bin Laden became involved in the mujahedin struggle in Afghanistan and used his considerable inheritance to form a paramilitary organization called Al-Qaeda in the late 1980s.  Deeply anti-Semitic, he was outraged by American support of Israel and supported the large scale street protests of the Palestinian intifada as well as Muslim extremist groups in Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon.  While his Al-Qaeda fighters continued to wage war against Soviet forces in Afghanistan, he also began looking for opportunities to strike American targets as part of his worldwide campaign to “defend Islam.”

This hatred toward the United States was exacerbated by the Persian Gulf War of 1991.  When Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein invaded nearby Kuwait in August 1990 and defied United Nations demands to withdraw, President George H. W. Bush led an international coalition in a brief but intensive bombardment and land invasion to drive him out.  Afterwards, American and other coalition forces were allowed to remain in Saudi Arabia near Muslim holy sites.  Bin Laden publicly criticized the Saudi government and was banished and later stripped of his citizenship.  He then relocated his operations to Sudan and declared war on the United States.

In February 1993 a truck bomb exploded in the basement parking garage of the World Trade Center in New York City.  Six were killed and hundreds injured in the attempt to knock down this symbol of American economic power.  While it was unclear whether Osama bin Laden ordered the attack, the planners had received training in his Al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan.  During the remainder of the 1990s, Al-Qaeda funded assassination attempts against pro-western leaders throughout the Middle East and aided Muslim fighters in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Albania during the Balkan Wars.  In 1996 Sudan expelled Al-Qaeda and bin Laden returned to Afghanistan, where he took refuge with the extremist Taliban regime which had recently taken power there.

The deadly bomb attack on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 that killed 200 and injured thousands finally prompted a direct U.S. military response.  President Bill Clinton ordered air strikes against Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, from which bin Laden and his top lieutenants narrowly escaped.  He retaliated with an October 2000 suicide bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in the port of Aden in Yemen which killed 17 American sailors.  Plans were then underway to make a more direct attack on American soil.

This came on the morning of September 11, 2001, when three teams of Al-Qaeda operatives hijacked jumbo jetliners and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., killing themselves and nearly 3,000 innocent people.  A fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania when the passengers fought back and sacrificed themselves to thwart the terrorists.  9-11 was the deadliest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor.  The horrifying scenes of the fiery buildings and carnage were replayed on the news and aroused the people of America and the free world to compassion for the victims and outrage toward the perpetrators.

President George W. Bush led a galvanized nation into a new “War on Terror” against Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and any regime which harbored them.  An international coalition was mobilized to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan and capture or kill Osama bin Laden.  Operation Enduring Freedom was followed by Operation Iraqi Freedom two years later when Saddam Hussein continued to defy United Nations weapons inspectors and ignore the terms of the 1991 ceasefire after his expulsion from Kuwait.  Saddam was soon captured by American forces and turned over to the new Iraqi authorities, who put him on trial for crimes against his own people and executed him in 2006.

The War on Terror proved to be much more prolonged and complicated than the traditional wars of the past.  The Patriot Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 2001 to combat terrorism through internet surveillance backfired when citizens groups protested its invasion of privacy.  Al-Qaeda began targeting U.S. allies, setting off bombs on subways in London and Madrid.  Bin Laden escaped into the mountains of Afghanistan and was later given refuge by sympathetic elements in neighboring Pakistan.

Iraq descended into years of bloody civil war when Shia Muslims long oppressed under Saddam Hussein’s largely Sunni Ba’ath Party took control of a new government and began exacting revenge.  Sunnis retaliated in kind.  Thousands of Iraqis fled the country.  Al-Qaeda slipped into the growing chaos and directed attacks on coalition forces and international organizations working to restore order.

The war became extremely unpopular as American casualties mounted and led in part to the defeat of Bush successor John McCain in the Presidential election of 2008.  Democrat Barack Obama became the nation’s first African American President and vowed to withdraw from Iraq and focus on the hunt for Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.  He supported an intensive CIA search which led to the discovery of Osama bin Laden’s secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  Obama then ordered the special forces raid that killed bin Laden on May 2, 2011.

But the hydra of terror soon sprouted new heads.  The chaos of civil war in Syria following the massive “Arab Spring” demonstrations of 2011 allowed scattered elements of Al-Qaeda and former Iraqi soldiers to form the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  ISIS drove Iraqi army forces out of northern Iraq and began seizing oil reserves to fund their campaign in Syria.  Local religious minorities were killed or displaced.  When Obama and other coalition leaders ordered air strikes on ISIS targets, western journalists and diplomats were captured and publicly executed on social media.  Thousands of Syrian refugees filled European ports and cities, where continued ISIS attacks inflamed anti-Muslim prejudice.

Terrorism had clearly replaced Communism as the principal threat to free expression and government throughout the world.  The digital age empowered both the terrorists’ recruitment and organization efforts as well as the fight to stop them.  Public criticism of government policy increased with the rise of other forms of terrorist attacks such as school shootings and hate crimes.  The 21st century would face the challenge of containing these new threats as much as the 20th did with the “Red Menace.”  The new Millennial generation would be left with the task of making sense of their increasingly connected but more complex and dangerous world.


  1. Pakistani writer Malala Yousafzai, who survived a Taliban shooting in 2012 to become the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, once said that “With guns you can kill terrorists, with education you can kill terrorism.”  What does this mean for the new century?
  2. How did the Middle East become the flashpoint of this particular kind of war?
  3. Is federal legislation like the 2001 Patriot Act effective in combating terrorism?  Why or why not?

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

To sign up for tutoring, please visit my website at torinfinney.com.

World History Topic 17 Summary: Refugees and Immigration

Human history has been characterized by movement and displacement from the beginning.  Ancient peoples wandered in search of water, game, and rich soil for farming.  Others were forced off their lands by war, famine, pestilence, drought, and natural disaster.  In modern times, unemployment and persecution drove many to seek a better life elsewhere. In the increasingly interdependent and digital world of the 21st century, historically distinctive nations have been transformed into complex, multicultural societies by changing demographics.

These changes were often fraught with difficulty.  The United States was built by immigrants in search of freedom and fortune and celebrated that legacy in its founding documents.  But there has also been a virulent strain of anti-immigrant sentiment accompanying each influx of newcomers.  Irish fleeing famine and destitution were met in New York and Boston by anti-Catholic riots and signs that read “No Irish Need Apply.”  The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Immigration Act of 1924 were both written by Congress to target specific ethnic groups.  In recent years, undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America have been scapegoated as the cause of economic and political problems.

The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo added the more than 80,000 Mexicans living in the Southwest to the U.S. population.  Prejudice and legal swindling ensured that these new Americans did not enjoy the same civil rights or standard of living that characterized most of their Anglo neighbors.  Subsequent political turmoil in Mexico and economic crises in the United States brought thousands more north of the border.  They were met with mixed reception.  Immigration laws were vague and allowed unscrupulous employers to take advantage of Mexican labor.

Throughout American history, refugees fleeing governments hostile to the United States were granted political asylum; those from “friendly” regimes were arrested and deported.  Thirteen million immigrants were processed through the government station at Ellis Island in New York between 1892 and 1954.  Another million came through Angel Island in San Francisco from 1910 to 1940.  Most found low-paying jobs under arduous working conditions.

Those who completed the time-consuming process of becoming U.S. citizens were protected under federal minimum wage laws after 1938, but many still suffered from discrimination and were identified by their country of origin rather than their country of choice.  Others were prevented from owning land, exercising the franchise, or enrolling their children in public schools.  Immigrants were rarely elected to public office for generations.  Those without the benefits of citizenship were left to the capricious nature of competitive markets or political expediency.

Modern imperialism and war changed the nature of the world’s great cities.  By the 20th century, New York and Chicago had more Irish than Dublin and more Poles than Warsaw.  London boasted large communities from British colonies in Africa, India, and the Caribbean.  Parisian neighborhoods included Algerians, Vietnamese, Senegalese, and Cambodians.  The collapse of the Russian, German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires at the end of the First World War created new nations drawn along largely ethnic lines.  This was not always a smooth process.  Arabs, Kurds, and Jews became part of a new Iraq, and Croats, Serbs, Macedonians, Albanians, and Bosnians clashed in a new Yugoslavia.

The Second World War killed sixty million people and displaced many times more.  Entire populations were wiped out or permanently dislodged from centuries-old historic communities.  The half of Europe’s Jewish population that survived the Nazi death camps faced difficult decisions about where to go next.  Many chose to emigrate to the ancestral homeland of Palestine, where they were met with hostility by local Arabs.  The British washed their hands of their mandate there and the United States quickly recognized the new State of Israel.  Decades of hatred and violence followed as Arabs and Jews struggled to share a common land.

Political unrest in the Caribbean drove thousands of Cubans, Dominicans, and Haitians to the United States.  The bloodshed of the Cold War in Central America brought thousands more Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans.  Poverty in the Philippines and repression in China swelled the populations of Honolulu, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in the 1980s.  Civil war in Syria a quarter century later overfilled ships trying to carry thousands of refugees to European ports.  Many drowned at sea and thousands more languished in makeshift camps as EU nations debated their fate.

By the end of the 20th century, many nations that had once exported so many of their people began to shift their economic paradigm, including Ireland, Italy, and China.  The once homogeneous populations of northern Europe and Australia became increasingly diverse.  Economic revival in “emerging nations” such as Brazil and India created new opportunities for both native and foreign workers.  While governments of “developed nations” continued to debate immigration policy, the talent and initiative brought into those nations by immigrants and refugees added to their development.


  1. What would an effective immigration policy look like?  What changes could the government make to balance economic needs with human rights?
  2. Should refugees from war and persecution be treated differently under the law than other immigrants?  How?
  3. How do you explain anti-immigrant hostility in a nation like the United States that prides itself on its immigrant heritage?

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

To sign up for tutoring, please visit my website at torinfinney.com.

World History Topic 16 Summary: Globalization and Outsourcing

Trade within and beyond national borders has been integral to economic growth and development since the beginning of recorded history.  The great empires of the ancient world were built on the cargo holds of their merchant ships and overland caravans.  Alexander III of Macedon became Alexander “the Great” because of opening trade routes to central Asia as much as he was for his military victories there.  In the streets of ancient Rome, languages and goods were exchanged from Europe to Africa to the Middle East.  From Zheng He to Mansa Musa to Marco Polo to Christopher Columbus, those who opened new worlds for commercial development brought power and influence to the crowns and cultures they represented.

Columbus’s first landing in the Caribbean in October of 1492 inaugurated centuries of trans-Atlantic traffic and trade which became known as the Columbian Exchange.  European technology, textiles, produce and livestock were introduced into the western hemisphere, as well as deadly diseases like smallpox and measles.  American foods such as corn, potatoes, pumpkins, and avocados changed the nature of European cuisine, and American plants such as cacao and tobacco became staples in European cafes.  Sugar and coffee were transplanted to the soil of the new world and developed into global cash crops.

The British Empire brought economic and cultural globalization to new heights and depths as the spread of English language and successful colonies across the world was accompanied by brutal military conquest and racist ideology.  The scientific evolutionary theories of Victorian anthropologist Charles Darwin were adapted by later writers to justify unbridled capitalism and imperialism.  Prince Albert hosted the first international trade fair in London in 1851 to celebrate the growth of global trade through the power of technology.  The clipper ship, steam engine, power loom, and telegraph played their part as much as rifled muskets and cannon.

By the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the rival empires had established permanent trade routes across six continents.  The alliances that led to war also led to immigration and urbanization.  The armies that fought one another over the next three decades were comprised of men from across the globe, and Allied victory in 1918 and 1945 gave impetus to nationalistic movements which sought economic self-determination through trade and development.  Merchant ships were targeted during the wars because of their vital role in the growth of modern markets.  The League of Nations may have failed to prevent war, but totalitarianism failed in its attempt to restrict free trade.

After the end of the Second World War, international agreements and organizations were formed to ensure the survival and growth of globalization.  The United Nations, the World Bank, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) sought to protect and nurture free economies across the globe; the rival alliances of NATO and the Warsaw Pact were about economic development as much as they were about the competing political ideologies of the Cold War.

Multinational corporations set the pace of globalization in the modern era, beginning with the British and Dutch East India Companies in the 17th century.  International banking, led by powerful names like Medici and Rothschild, provided the backbone of international trade and finance.  Brands such as Royal Dutch Shell, Standard Oil, Ford Motor Company, and United Fruit set profound historical change in motion.  Their immense power prompted resentment and protest as their technological and organizational efficiency also raised global standards of living.

The collapse of the “Iron Curtain” in 1991 opened a new chapter in globalization.  Russia now went from a deadly adversary to a major trading partner in the growth of global capitalism, particularly in the oil and gas industries.  The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) united the large economies of Canada, Mexico, and the United States in an arrangement that offered new and cheaper products to the people of all three countries.  Its critics charged that it also inhibited local business growth and sacrificed environmental security and sustainable development for the sake of corporate profit.

“Outsourcing” of western jobs to the cheaper labor markets of Africa, Latin America, and southern Asia produced inexpensive goods and burgeoning profits but raised questions about exploitation of host countries.  Negligent management of environmental sustainability and working conditions in Indonesia, India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines attracted negative attention to powerful brands like Ford, Apple, Nike, and Walmart.  Many of the same issues that plagued early industrial development in Britain and the United States now reappeared in these new markets.  The challenge of balancing development with justice continued into the 21st century.

Cultural globalization spread exponentially through the internet at the end of the 20th century.  “E-commerce” began replacing traditional “brick and mortar” stores and email and social media broke down cultural and language barriers.  Online trading transformed the nature of stock and commodity markets across the world.  International currencies fluctuated as more and more players entered the game.

The formation of the European Union in 1958 led to 28 member states over the next sixty years.  The Euro replaced national currencies and allowed for greater travel and economic opportunity across borders once blocked by historic antipathies.  Despite the shock of the 2008 financial crisis and a resurgence of anti-global nationalist political movements, the EU lifted millions out of poverty and transformed the economies of its member countries.  Italy and Spain became global leaders and Germany and France were now among the top five nations on earth.

The Chinese economy emerged from its retarded development under Mao Zedong to a global giant rivaling the economic power of the United States after successive Communist Party leaders encouraged capitalism while continuing to restrict democracy.  The purchase of American securities and hosting of American multinational companies during the boom economy of the 1990s and 2000s placed China in a position of global power.  Many corporations relocated their major operations to China to take advantage of cheap labor and relaxed regulation.

As globalization became the norm, the historic nature of national cultural and economic identities changed irrevocably.  The younger generation of “Millennials” born at the end of the 20th century would lead the way in creating a new global community of shared values, tastes, and aspirations.  The business models they created as they came of age would set the pace and character of globalization.


  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing jobs?  Who benefits the most and the least from this practice?
  2. What is the relationship between capitalism and democracy?  Must a free market be sustained by a free population?  Explain.
  3. What would be the positive and negative consequences of a worldwide currency along the model of the Euro?  Would such a change be possible?

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

To sign up for tutoring, please visit my website at torinfinney.com.

World History Topic 15 Summary: Modern Independence Movements

The subject peoples of European colonies and possessions in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East looked for the opportunity to achieve self-determination long before the two world wars gave it to them.  After failing by force of arms to dislodge the imperialist powers during the period of the colonial wars, many natives enlisted to defend those same empires when war broke out in Europe in 1914.  Allied victory over the Central Powers four years later only served to replace one master with another in the lands of the former Ottoman and German empires.  Arabs and Kurds were now under British and French control, as were the tribes of Cameroon, Namibia, and East Africa.

But Allied victory also emboldened independence movements among the colonial peoples who had helped to achieve it.  The most prominent of their leaders was a young barrister named Mohandas K. Gandhi.  Born in India and educated at University College and the Inner Temple in London, he moved to South Africa in 1893 to defend the rights of Indian workers there.  Despite harsh racial discrimination suffered at the hands of local whites, Gandhi organized a medical unit in Natal during the Boer War to show his loyalty to the empire.  When the Transvaal government passed a law in 1906 requiring all Indians and Chinese to register for what amounted to segregation, Gandhi began organizing nonviolent marches and civil disobedience campaigns to fight for the civil rights of all imperial subjects.

This prominence garnered an invitation for him return home to India in 1915 and assist the Indian National Congress in their efforts to achieve home rule.  The war was raging in Europe and Gandhi still proclaimed allegiance to the British crown.  His position changed after popular protest against the draconian Rowlatt Act of 1919 led to the Amritsar Massacre in the Punjab, in which British troops shot over a thousand unarmed men, women, and children.  Gandhi began organizing a campaign of “non-cooperation” which included mass marches, work stoppages, and boycotts of British goods.  His 1930 Salt March to the sea landed him in yet another British prison cell but catapulted his name to the front page of newspapers across the world.

Talks with the British government were inconclusive, but the movement for Indian independence continued to grow, bolstered by Britain’s agreement to the principle of self-determination in the Atlantic Charter of 1941.  Winston Churchill opposed Indian independence but was replaced as Prime Minister by the more liberal Clement Atlee in 1945.  The enormous costs of the war and Gandhi’s persistent Quit India campaign finally led to Indian independence in 1947, but at the cost of a national partition between Hindus and Muslims and Gandhi’s own life at the hand of a Hindu assassin.  Conflict between independent India and Pakistan would continue well into the 21st century.

Elsewhere across the world, Britain and other imperial powers continued to withdraw from their colonial possessions after Allied victory in World War II.  This withdrawal was contingent, however, on the guarantee that Communist movements would not replace them in the new context of the Cold War.  By Churchill’s death in 1965, independence had been granted to most of Britain’s former colonies in Africa and southeast Asia, but not without a bloody series of military interventions to contain Communist insurgency.  Political control from colonial offices in Europe was replaced by the economic power of multinational corporations seeking to retain their holdings in the volatile “Third World.”

French unwillingness to grant Vietnamese independence in 1945 led to thirty years of war with Ho Chi Minh’s nationalist forces.  Mao Zedong’s Communist victory in China in 1949 prolonged the Cold War in Asia and helped North Vietnam finally overcome the South in 1975.  The division of Korea was established in a 1953 armistice after three years of fighting between Chinese-backed North and U.S.-backed South.  The British were allowed by China to complete their 99-year lease of Hong Kong in 1997.

An independent Republic was declared in Indonesia with the surrender of the Japanese in 1945, but political chaos and attacks on Europeans led to Dutch and British military intervention and four years of fighting.  The Netherlands did not officially recognize Indonesia until 2005.  The Philippines were granted their independence by the United States in 1946 after the tremendous sacrifice of Filipino soldiers fighting for the American flag in World War II.  The United States still retained a strong military and economic presence in this strategically positioned archipelago.

In Africa, the French left Madagascar and their colonies in the north and west.  Algerian independence was only achieved after a bloody war in which thousands were killed and President Charles DeGaulle earned the enmity of many conservative French.  The Portuguese recognized independent Mozambique and Angola, but the latter descended into years of civil war fueled by military aid from Cuba, South Africa, and the United States.  The Italian colony of Libya became an independent kingdom until Muammar Gaddafi seized power in 1969 and ruled as a dictator for more than forty years.

British East Africa became Kenya in 1963 after a bloody rebellion by the Mau Mau.  Nigeria was recognized in 1960 but erupted into violence in the Biafra War of 1967.  The white minority in Rhodesia declared independence from Britain in 1965 but was soon at war with black rebels in a destructive “Bush War” that lasted fifteen years.  Robert Mugabe of the largely black ZANU faction became Prime Minister of the new Zimbabwe in 1980.  The young reformer Patrice Lumumba became Prime Minister of an independent Congo in 1960 until his assassination in a CIA-sponsored coup the following year.  His rule was replaced by more than three decades of poverty and brutality under the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

The Afrikaner National Party took control of the Union of South Africa in 1948 and instituted a system of racial segregation called apartheid which lasted for almost half a century.  Black attorney Nelson Mandela emerged as a leader of the anti-apartheid movement and was imprisoned on Robben Island for decades, where he became an international symbol of resistance.  Student leader Steve Biko emerged as a voice for “Black Consciousness” and was beaten to death by police in 1977.  The regime’s racist brutality made it the pariah of the world and inspired a global campaign to divest from South African businesses.  International pressure finally led to Mandela’s release in 1990.  He was elected South Africa’s first black President four years later.

By the end of the 20th century, both the rival empires and the paroxysms of the Cold War had passed into history.  Some nations remained members of a British Commonwealth with symbolic governors appointed by the crown but still in charge of their own affairs.  The United Nations emerged from World War II as the arbiter of international disputes and advocate for human rights.  In the former colonies of Africa and Asia, independence brought its own troubles such as poverty and corruption, drug and human trafficking, and ethnic strife.  Deadly disease epidemics, political upheaval, and economic crisis brought periodic intervention from former imperial masters.  The struggle to achieve full self-determination walked hand in hand with economic and digital globalization into the new millennium.


  1. What other mass movements of the 20th century were inspired by the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi?
  2. Why was the struggle for independence so difficult in Africa and Asia, even after the departure of the imperial powers?
  3. Why is western cultural influence still popular among the young people of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East?  How can those nations retain their own cultural and economic identities in a changing world?

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

To sign up for tutoring, please visit my website at torinfinney.com.

World History Topic 14 Summary: The Cold War

From the radioactive ash heaps of Hiroshima and Nagasaki arose a new kind of world war in 1945.  The United States was now the sole nuclear superpower, but Stalin’s Soviet Union still occupied eastern Europe and parts of northern Asia.  The Red Army remained in the ruins of Berlin, terrorizing the civilian population through rape, plunder, and armed checkpoints.  In the former Japanese possessions of Korea, eastern China, and Indochina, Communist cadres strengthened their forces with Soviet arms and supplies and filled their ranks with new recruits from the starving and demoralized masses.

Berlin became the flashpoint of a new series of confrontations between the Americans and Russians.  Stalin blockaded the highway to free West Berlin in 1947 when the British, American, and French sectors of occupied Germany issued the deutschmark as the new German currency to be used throughout the city.  U.S. President Harry Truman airlifted supplies and diffused the crisis, but eastern Germany became its own separate, Communist state under Soviet control when the Allies formed a new democratic country in West Germany, the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany).  The division between east and west was solidified in 1961 when the Soviets built a formidable wall isolating West Berlin.  Hundreds died over the next three decades trying to escape to freedom.

Communist forces under Mao Zedong defeated the Nationalist army under Chiang Kai-Shek and drove them to exile in Taiwan in 1949.  The following year Mao supported a North Korean invasion of the South.  Three years of brutal fighting in often frozen conditions led to an uneasy armistice which endures to this day.  In Vietnam, Communist leader Ho Chi Minh attacked occupying French forces when his efforts to unite the Vietnamese under one government failed.  French soldiers were defeated at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.  As in Korea, Communist north was then pitted against democratic south.  The U.S. began pouring military and economic aid into South Vietnam to support the right-wing regime of Ngo Dinh Diem.

In eastern Europe, Stalin successfully tested an atomic bomb in 1949 and formed the Warsaw Pact to oppose the western North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  Soviet tanks crushed attempts at democratic reform in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia.  The United States broadcast anti-Communist radio programs and conducted espionage operations, but did not intervene directly out of fear of a nuclear confrontation with Moscow.  At home, the lines were hardened.  Russian dissidents were sent to the gulags of Siberia, even after Stalin died in 1953 and was succeeded by the more moderate Nikita Khrushchev.  In America, McCarthyism created an atmosphere of anti-Communist paranoia.

Both superpowers spent billions on the race to amass the largest arsenals and send the biggest and best missiles into space.  Math and science programs were heavily funded to produce more engineers for military contracts.  The American CIA and Russian KGB worked tirelessly in the shadows to outmaneuver one another, particularly in the “Third World” of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  Both dictators and elected leaders rose and fell as pawns of the great powers, from Trujillo, Diem, Somoza and Pinochet on the right to Allende, Lumumba, Ortega, and Mugabe on the left.  Thousands of innocent civilians were caught in the crossfire of these so-called “low intensity conflicts.”

In Cuba, Communist rebels under Fidel Castro overthrew the government of Fulgencio Batista and defied the United States.  A failed CIA-sponsored invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 led to the introduction of Soviet nuclear missiles pointed at American cities.  President John F. Kennedy brokered a compromise that removed the missiles but weakened his political position at home and may have led in part to his untimely death in 1963.  Castro himself survived numerous assassination attempts and remained in power, sparring with ten successive U.S. Presidents until his death in 2016.

Vietnam spun out of control and consumed the terms of eight American Presidents.  Kennedy’s plans to withdraw U.S. forces ended with his murder, and Lyndon Johnson’s optimistic assessment of the escalating conflict was shattered by the surprise Communist Tet Offensive in 1968.  Only by historic visits to Moscow and Beijing was President Richard Nixon able to begin the process of disengagement.  The Communist seizure of Saigon in 1975 finally ended the demoralizing war that killed 58,000 Americans and ten times that many Vietnamese.

Communism held on in nearby Laos and descended into hideous massacres in Cambodia under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.  Brutal civil wars broke out in Africa and Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s.  75,000 were killed in El Salvador alone, including the popular Archbishop Oscar Romero.  Filipino opposition leader Benigno Aquino was murdered in 1983 and his widow elected President three years later after gigantic demonstrations against dictator Ferdinand Marcos filled the streets of Manila.  A Communist movement in neighboring Indonesia was mercilessly crushed.  More than 500,000 died there.

Soviet leader Khrushchev was deposed in 1964 and succeeded by Leonid Brezhnev, who entered into Strategic Arms Limitations Talks with Presidents Ford and Carter but also began a costly invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.  He was succeeded in 1982 by two elderly successors, who exacerbated tensions with conservative U.S. President Ronald Reagan and inspired thousands to take to the streets of Europe and America in a “No Nukes” campaign.

Mikhail Gorbachev became the Soviet leader in 1985 and immediately embarked on a course of reform and disarmament.  His policies of glasnost (“openness”) that released political prisoners and perestroika (“restructuring”) that opened the Soviet economy to private enterprise put the wheels of change in motion.  Gorbachev initiated peace talks with Reagan and withdrew Soviet forces from Afghanistan.  When large scale protests spread across eastern Europe in the late 1980s, he did not intervene.  The Berlin Wall was dismantled by jubilant crowds in November 1989 and what Churchill had called the “Iron Curtain” fell.  Germany was reunified the next year and the Soviet Union collapsed after 74 tumultuous years into a new Commonwealth of Independent States.

The “Bamboo Curtain,” however, remained in place in Asia.  China, Vietnam, North Korea, and Laos were still controlled by repressive Communist regimes.  Mao Zedong called for a “Cultural Revolution” that methodically destroyed centuries of traditional Chinese art and learning as well as western influences until his death in 1976.  Large demonstrations for democracy led by students in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square were brutally stamped out in June 1989.

By the close of the 20th century, the Chinese and Vietnamese economies were showing signs of reform, but totalitarian governments remained in place in North Korea and Cuba.  Russia had embraced capitalism with all its prosperity and inequities and used the internet to advance its political and business agenda worldwide.  The United States entered the new millennium as an aging superpower facing new cultural and economic rivals.


  1. Could the Cold War have been avoided?  If so, how?
  2. How do the former countries of the “Third World” in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East see the United States today?  Which of these attitudes can be traced to the Cold War years?
  3. Who will be the superpowers of the 21st century, and why?

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

To sign up for tutoring, please visit my website at torinfinney.com.

World History Topic 13 Summary: Rise of Totalitarianism and World War II

The First World War ended with an armistice rather than a surrender.  The punitive conditions of the Treaty of Versailles bred bitter resentment in Germany and exacerbated political extremism there.  Millions had died in the war and four empires disintegrated into smaller nation states.  All were beset with ethnic and religious strife and under the economic control of the victorious Allied powers.  Communists cried for revolution in the streets of Germany and France, prompting right wing groups such as the German Freikorps to oppose them.  In Italy, Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Party seized control of the government and began a rigorous program of nationalistic infrastructure renewal and suppression of leftist political dissent.

Wartime debts remained unpaid as a speculative boom in stocks overtook the American and European economies.  The excesses of the “jazz age” in the United States and Weimar Germany disappeared with the Wall Street Crash of October 1929 and were replaced with hyperinflation, unemployment, and despair.  Out of this crisis arose Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Party, whose colorful propaganda posters and flashy militaristic rallies promised arbeit und brot (work and bread).  Desperate Germans began to believe them and to subscribe to Nazi scapegoating of Communists and Jews.  Hitler emulated Mussolini and began to consolidate his power after he became Chancellor in a narrow victory in January of 1933.

Japanese army officers took control of a Tokyo government weakened by war debts and began an aggressive expansion into China.  Their 1935 bombing of Shanghai and “Rape of Nanking” two years later shocked the world and led to their withdrawal from the League of Nations.  In Spain, fascist rebel forces under General Francisco Franco used military aid from Hitler and Mussolini to take back territory from the democratically elected leftist government.  Joseph Stalin rose to the top of the Soviet Union by systematically sending his political opponents to the gulag or the grave.  Mao Zedong’s Chinese Communist Party escaped into the mountains and waged a long guerrilla war against the ruling Kuomintang as they gathered broad support among the peasantry.

Mussolini attacked Ethiopia and Albania in a bid to rebuild the ancient Roman Empire.  The Japanese continued their war in China and coveted the rich oil reserves of the Dutch East Indies.  Hitler rearmed Germany in violation of the Treaty of Versailles and took back the Rhineland and the Sudetenland over French and British objections.  Next came Austria and the rest of Czechoslovakia.  Jews were stripped of their civil rights.  Political opponents were arrested and imprisoned in labor camps.  When the Nazi blitzkrieg smashed into western Poland in September 1939, Britain and France declared war.  Stalin stood aside and occupied eastern Poland after signing a non-aggression pact with the Germans.

Hitler then turned his armies westward, quickly overwhelming the Low Countries and Scandinavia.  France fell in six weeks and was split in two.  The Balkans crumbled under the Nazi war machine.  Luftwaffe bombers mercilessly strafed British cities and “wolfpacks” of German U-boats preyed on Allied shipping in the Atlantic.  British Prime Minister Winston Churchill rallied his people to fight to the last and convinced U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to send military arms and supplies.

Nazi authorities targeted “undesirables” in all the occupied lands and herded them into concentration camps.  These “enemies of the Reich” included Socialists and liberals, dissident clergy and intellectuals, conscientious objectors, homosexuals, disabled children, Gypsies, Slavs, and millions of European Jews.  The largest Jewish population lay in the Soviet Union, which Hitler attacked without warning in June of 1941.  Russian armies had been weakened by earlier Stalinist purges of the officer corps and were easily swept aside.  Special einsatzgruppen death squads followed the Wehrmacht columns in a path of murder and destruction that reached the very gates of Moscow.

As in World War I, the United States tried to maintain a policy of strict neutrality, but a refusal to sell oil to an increasingly brutal and aggressive Japanese regime led to the surprise attack on the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor in Hawai’i on December 7, 1941.  Japanese forces also took the American bases in the Philippines and followed up with the conquest of British Hong Kong and Singapore, Dutch Borneo and Java, and French Indochina.  Germany and Italy quickly declared war on the United States and formed an Axis with Imperial Japan.

Historic isolationist sentiment in America quickly evaporated and was replaced with a unified resolve.  A sluggish economy struggling from years of depression now revitalized into the greatest industrial giant in world history.  Millions enlisted and reported for military training.  American warships turned back the Japanese at Midway and the Coral Sea and American marines began fighting their way across Guadalcanal and other Pacific islands.  American soldiers and airmen joined the fight against the Axis in north Africa.  In the east, the Soviet Red Army finally stopped the Nazis at Stalingrad and began to push them back.

Allied forces drove the Germans and Italians out of Libya and Tunisia and landed in Sicily and mainland Italy.  Bloody battles at Anzio and Monte Cassino were followed by the liberation of Rome in June of 1944.  That same week, a massive Allied invasion force landed on the French beaches of Normandy and began driving across western Europe.  Hitler’s last attempt to resist at the Battle of the Bulge ended in failure.  By early 1945, British and American troops were moving into Germany from the west and Soviet forces from the east.

Grisly evidence of the depravity of Nazi master race ideology was now discovered at death camps like Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Dachau.  Ten million people had been murdered, including six million Jews.  The horrors of the Holocaust enraged Allied troops and sealed the fate of the once terrifying Third Reich.  Dresden was firebombed and Berlin taken in weeks of street fighting.  After hearing of the capture and execution of Mussolini in Italy, Hitler and many of his top lieutenants chose suicide over surrender.  Germany surrendered unconditionally on May 8, 1945.  Jubilant crowds filled the streets across Europe.

The war in the Pacific dragged on, prolonged by suicidal Japanese resistance.  American troops retook the Philippines and slaughtered the garrisons on Iwo Jima and Okinawa after weeks of grueling combat.  Tokyo was firebombed and the remainder of the Japanese Imperial Navy and Air Force destroyed.  Stalin met with new U.S. President Harry Truman at Potsdam in Germany and agreed to enter the war against Japan.  When Emperor Hirohito’s government ignored a demand for absolute surrender, Truman ordered two new atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Tens of thousands were incinerated in an instant and thousands more killed by burns and radiation.  Japan finally capitulated and signed formal surrender documents aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945.

Surviving Nazi and Japanese leaders were charged with crimes against humanity before an international tribunal.  Japan was occupied by Allied forces and Germany was carved into four pieces.  Millions of refugees wandered homeless and hungry through the ashes and ruins.  Sixty million people were dead, nearly half of them in the Soviet Union alone.  China had lost up to fifteen million to Japanese atrocities.  In those two nations, Communist leaders would promise a new tomorrow without poverty and war.  Faith in those empty promises would inaugurate a new kind of conflict with the West.


  1. How did World War I lead to World War II?
  2. How did totalitarian regimes take control in Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, and the Soviet Union?  Why did those populations cooperate with their dictators?
  3. How did the Second World War change the nature of international conflict resolution?

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

To sign up for tutoring, please visit my website at torinfinney.com.