The rise of the West is the dominant historical development that has shaped our modern world. This largely means European countries and their North American offshoots. The basic historical question is why did Europe with a relatively small population come to dominate the rest of the world. (And within Europe why did a smll country like England become so important.) One author suggests it was the flora, fauna, and matural resorces. There is some validity in this argument, but it is not completely satisfying. Europe is not the only area with such favorable underpinnings. In particular they do not explain why it was not Chima which dominated the world. In particular they do not explain why it was in Europe, especially in England, that the industrial revolution occurred. We believe that it was Europe's unique historical experience that led to free enterprise, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for individual human rights that led to the rise of the West. Esentially the genius of the West was unlocking the innate capabilities of the human mind from traditional cultural, political, and religious contraints. The European historical experience Of particular interest is how the Germanic tribes that overran the Roman Empire did not evolve into the dominant European national and linguistic group. Rather it was England, at first a tiny remote island nation on the western perifery of Europe, that became a decisive factor in European and world affairs. At the eastern extreme of Europe was Russia which developed along very different lines and by the 20th century posed a threat to the essential foundation of Western civilization. Here are the national histories we have compiled on European countries.
The origins of modern Albanians are onscure, but almost certainly developed from the ancient Illyranians. Although conquered by Rome the Illyrians resisted Romanization. And the southern Illyrians or Albanians in their mountaneous land reisted assimilation by the Slavs. The Nyzantines introduced the feudal system which evolved into largely independent principalities that exerted their independence from Byzantium. A series of invadeers occupied Albania. The history of Albanian is a struggle for independence from larger more powerful empires and countries. Albania like much of the Balkans was incororated inro the Ottoman empire. The Ottoman conquest proved especially difficult in Albania. The Ottoman's finally conquered Albania in the 15th centiry. Many Christians Albanians fled west. More than in any other area of the Balkans, however, the Albanians who remained converted to Islam. Albania achieved its independence afyer World war I. The Albanian president declared himself king--King Zog. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini throughout the 1930s tried to seize control of Albania. The President of Albania had himself declared King Zog. He resisted Mussolini's efforts until the Italians actually invaded in 1939. King Zog had to flee Albania in 1939 when the Italians invased. Italian King Victor Emanuel was granted the Albanian crown. After World War II Albania was taken over by the Partisans, but proved to be a renegade in Stalin's Eastern European empire. It becme one of the most reclusive countries in the world and aligned with Communist China. Like the rest of Eastern Europe, a democratic government replaced the Communist Government.
Armenia geographically is more accurately locted in the Middle East or Asia. Culturally it is strongly associated with Europe and thus we believe deserves a link on our European country history page. Armenia is one of the oldest countries in the world with a recorded history streaching back an estimated 3,500 years. The Armenian homeland is the Armenian plateau, central and eastern Anatolia and southwestern Caucasia--the highlands which once dominate the southern lowlands of Syria and Mesopotamia. Early Armenian history is associated primarily with the Hittites and the Urartians and the great civilizaions of Mesopotamia. Later Armenia history is associated with the Persian Empire. Armenia was never conquwered by Alexander, although of course Persia was. With Alexander's defeat of the Persian, Armenia, at least the upper classes were Hellenized. Armenia was briefly independent under king Tigran (Tigranes) the Great (about 90 BC). Armenia became the first state to establish Christianity as an official religion. The Eastern Empire known as the Byzantine Empire sought to control Armenia by underminining the authority of the native nobility and serious weakening Aemenia's social structure. Armenia was less able to resist waves of foreign invaders (Arabs, the Seljuk Turks, the Mongols, various Turkmen tribes) which followed. These waves of foreign invaders grdually changed the ethnic makeup of the Armenian plain and the dillution of the Armenian presence. Finally the Ottomans after finally taking Constantinople (1453) turned eastward an added Armenia to their growing empire.
Austria has had a tumultous history. It began as a small, multi-ethnic Alpine principality and evolved into a major European power. The Austrian Empire came to dominate much of central Europe building a vast multi-ethnic empire governed by a German dynaty. The Hapsburg dynasty came to be the principal source of German emperors and during the Reformation led the Catholic forces trying to supress Protestantism. With Russia they contested control of the Balkans with the Ottoman Turks. Austria confronted both Louis XIV expansion plans. Austria under Empress Maria Theressa had to confront Prussia in the War of the Austrian Sucession. The two countries fought again in the Seven Years War. The three empires (Austria, Prussia, and Russia) conspired in the Polish Prtitions. Austria was the major continental power which initially confronted the French Revolution and Napoleon. After the Napoleonic Wars Austria, layed a major role in the Congress of Vienna which reorganized Europe, attempting to reinstiture the Old Regime. Austria then struggled with Prussia to unify Germany. Prussia prevailed and Austria formed the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Emigrants from the Empire played an important role in diversifying America. The problem ih governing restive ethnic groups eventually led to World War I and the Empire's demise. Austria became a small, mosly German republic, but was eventually annexed by NAZI Germany in the Anschluss. After World War II Austria again became an independent republic which as a result of the Cold War was premised on neutrality.
Belarus is now one of the new countries created with the disolution of the Soviet Union (1992). Of course the history of Belarus is as old as that of neigboring countries. Only it has been ruled by the surrounding countries. It was for many years ruled by the Poles and Lituanian-Polish Commnwealth. As Russian power expanded east, Belarus became part of the Tsarist Empire. Belarus existed for several years as part of the Tsarist Empire and became increasingly Russified. World War I led to the Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War. The Bolshevicks attempted to regain lost Tsarist territory. This led to the Polish-Soviet War (1919-21). Belarus was split. Eastern Belarus became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union and western Belarus became part of Poland. The Soviets in alliance with the NAZIs invaded and dismembered Poland (1939). In the process Belarus was united under Soviet control and the NKVD began targeting Poles and various groups seen as anti-Soviet. The NAZIs invaded the Soviet Union and quickly occupied Belarus (1941). The Germans targeted much of the population for destruction under Generalplan Ost. The NAZIs treated Belarus savagely. Euinsatzgruppen killed most of the large Jewish population. Occupation authorities severely suppressed the others. The Germans seized large numbrs of people for forced labor in the Reich or murdered as part of anti-partisan campaigns. The Red Army drove the Germans out with Operation Bagration (1944). Belarus with the disolution of the Soviet Union achieved its independence (1992). It has, however, with a largely Russified population retained close political and economic ties with Russia, more so than any other former Soviet Republic most of which have moved to disassociate themselves from the Russians.
Caesar described the Belgae as "the bravest of all the Gauls" ("horum omnium fortissimi sunt belgae"). His Legions conquered them (54 BC).
The Roman province of flourished. The two provinces include what would be come known as the Low Lands or Low Countries. The medieval history of the Low Lands in genral was complicated, but led to the development of an independent spirit which caused the Dutch to resist first Spanish and then French rule. Here they were assisted by both geography and the interests of the English in preventing a continental power from dominating the area. The Lowlands were inherited by the Hapsburghs which after the Protestanr Reformation set up a struggle between the indepent-minded Low Landers and the Hapsburgs leading the Counter Reformation. The Dutch (United Provinces) in the north managed to maintain their independence in the North, but the Spanish prevailed in the south which is why the Flemish are predominately Catholic. French Revolutionary armies conquered the province (1794). Austria formally ceded it to France (1797). After the Napoleonic Wars the Congress of Vienna combined it with the United Provinces to form the Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815). The province revolted from Dutch rule and formed modern Belgium with a German monarchy (1830). The Kingdom combined Dutch speaking Flanders with French speaking Walonia. The independence and neutrality of the Kingdom was guaranteed by Britain. The Belgians were responsible for one of the most reprehensible activities during the "Scramble for Africa". Belgium was a bi-lingual country and during the 19th century the Flemish struggle for language rights. After the unifcation of Germany, Begium found itself between two hostile countries--France and Germany. The German war plan entiled attacking France through Germany. King Albert I complained, "Belgium is a country not a road". The German invasion brought Britain into World War I and ultimately was a major cause in Germany's defeat. The heroic Belgian resistance and suffering under German occupation helped turn American public opinion against Germany. Germany invaded Belgium again in World war II. Belgium after D-Day was liberated by the Allies, but was the scene of the Horific Battle of the Bulge. Belgium participated in the movement toward European unification. Conflict between the Waloons and Flemish continue.
Bosnia is today a small Balkan state with a very complicated history. After the fall of Rome, Slav tribes moved into the Balans and several Slave kingdoms developed. Historians disagree as to political developments during the medieval era. Some claim that for a tome there was an independent Bosnian kingdom. Other historins mintain that Bosnia like Croatia was from an early pont a fiefdom of Hungary. The Hungaria influence introduced a degree of diversity among the most Orthodox Slavs. Bosnia thuis developed a tolerance for religioys diversity tht was unusual in Europe. This may have been a factor in the reltive success of the Ottomons in covering some of the population to Islam. Except for Albania, few Slavs, Croats, Bulgarians, Romanians converted to Islam. At the end of Ottoman rule, as aresult Nosnia was perhaps the most ethnically and religious diverse corner of Europe. The Serbs when they achieved independence saw Bosnia as rightfully theirs and were oytraged when the province was awarded to Austria-Hungary (1878). Bosnia was split on the issue. Orthodox Slavs favored Serbia while Croats and Muslims were more willing to accept Austria rule which was more open to diversity than Serbia. Serbian terrorism sparked World War I (1914). World War II turned Bonia into a killing field with horific acticons conducted by the Crotrian Ustace, Muslim SS units, and the Communist Partisans. Titio supressed the ethnic tension, but with the break up of Yugoslavia, Milosivich turned Bosnia into a killing fiekd again. The killing did not end until NATO intervened.
The Bulgars invaded and soon dominated the Balkans in the 7th century. They accepted Christianity under Tsar Boris I in the 9th cetury. Tsar Simeon greatly expanded Bulgarian territory in the 10th century. The Christian kindoms in Bulgaria and the rest of the Balkans were conquered by the Ottomon Turks in the 14th and 15th centuries. The modern Bulgarian state originated with the defeat of Ottoman Turk forces by the Russian Army and Bulgarian volunteers in 1878-79. The great powers intervened to prevent the creation of a strong Bulgarian state under the influence of the Russians. Instead a Bulgarian state was created which was nominally left under the jurisdiction of the Ottomans and two other liberated areas were returned to the Ottomans. Still some of Bulgaria was libetated and a Bularian nation created. The Bulgarian royal dynasty was restablished in the 19th century after the decline of Ottomon rule. A member of the German royal family was selected for the Bulgarian monarchy. German families were chosen despite the fact that Bulagria was in large part created by the Russian Tsars in their wars with the Ottoman Turks. Bulagria participated in the Balkan Wars and then the two World Wars. Despites it ties with Russua, Bulgaria participated in the two world wars, both times as a Germany ally. During the Cold War, Bulgaria was a slavish Soviet satellite.
Croatia is now an independent country. This has not been the case for most of the country's history. The country is located in the Balkans. Croatia was at times within the Roman Empire. After the fall of Rome, Crotia was setlled by Slavs (7th century). We have done some work on medieval Croatia. The Croats became Roman Catholic (9th century). There was for a brief period an independent kingdom. For most of Croatia's subsequent history is associated with Hungary. There was a personal union between Hungary amd the king of Hungary also became the king of Croatia. There were exceptions to the Hungarian connection such as during the Turkish (1526-1699) and the much briefer French (1809-13) invasions and the Austrian annexation (1849-68). Even though Croatia had a Hungarian monarchy, there was a local aristocracy and diet (parliamet). The Hungarian monarchy is a misnomer. The last actual Hungarian king was killed defending the country from the Turks. The crown was inherited by the Hapsburgs so in fact it became an Austrian monarchy. With the creation of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy (1867), the Hapsburg Austrian emperor was separately crowned as a Hungarian king. After World War I, Croatia was united with Serbia and other southern Serbs to form Yugoslavia. The union was unstable because of Croat resistance to Serb domination. The NAZIs allowed the creation of a Croat puppet state after invading Yugoslavia (1941). Tito reunited the country (1945) and although a Croat supressed nationalist agitation. Croatia suceeded from Yugoslavia (1991), resulting in one of several wars connected with the breakup of Yugoslavia.
Cyprus is an important eastern Mediterranean island. It was for years a part of the Ottoman Empire. Britain assumed administration of the island from the Ottomans (1878), subsequently annexing it (1914) after the Ottomans entered World War I on Germany’s side. After the War under the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), Turkey relinquished all rights to Cyprus. Cyprus became a Crown Colony (1925). During World War II, Cypriot volunteers served in the British forces. Hopes for self-determination by the Cypriot people however, were denied by the British, who considered the island strategically vital. A national liberation struggle began against Colonial rule and for the union of Cyprus with Greece (1955). The struugle lasted until 1959. Independence from the U.K. was approved with constitutional guarantees by the Greek Cypriot majority to the Turkish Cypriot minority (1960). A Greek-sponsored attempt ito seize the government (1974) was met by military intervention from Turkey, which soon controlled almost 40 percent of the island. The Turkish-held area declared itself the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" (1983), but it is recognized only by Turkey. UN-led talks on the status of Cyprus resumed in December 1999 to prepare the ground for meaningful negotiations leading to a comprehensive settlement.
Czech istory has been dominasted by its relationship wineignoring countries (Austria, Germsny, and Hungary) and with the neigboring Slovajka, another Slavic people. The history of the Czech Republic is somewhat complicated because of the many different political changes over time. The existence of an independent Czech state is a relatively recent political phenomenon. It began with the Czech-Slovak state after World War I--Czechoslovakia. The history of the Czech people goes back much further. The Czechs while a realitively small population have played a rle at the center stage of history. The were early converts to Lutherenism during the Reformation. It was in the 20th century, however, that the Czechs were at the center stage of history. They were Hitler's first foreign target (1938). The Czechs later attempted to soften the face of Communism, but were brutally supressed by the Soviets (1968).
Denmark is the smallest and most southerly of the Scandinavian nations. Denmark controls the Skagerrak and Kattegat which separate the North Sea from the Baltic, a very strategic location which has played a major role in its history. Scandinavia was occupied by the northern Germanic tribes, largely unknown to the Romans. They thus appear in written histories later than the Western and Eastern tribes. The northern tribes first enter history with the Anglo-Saxon invasions of Britain. The Angles, Saxons, and Jutes came from the Jutland Peninsula and the area ar the south of the Peninsula. The tribes again enter history with the Viking raids that began on northern England and eventually enveloped much of Europe. The great paradox of Danish history is that this democratic and peaceful country was once the terror of Europe. During the 9th century the name Denmark (Danmark: "border district of the Danes") was first used. The Vikings pillaged large coastal areas of England, Scotland, Ireland, and France. Soon their focus shifted from raiding to settlement. The Danes succeed in conquerung England. They also conqured large areas of the Baltic litoral. Denmark eventually ruled over much of Scandinavia as well as Iceland. Danish rule and their common Germanic origins means that Scandinvia has developed a common Nordic culture. Denmark located next to Germany was exposed to encroachment from the south. And ultimtely the country was unable to compete with its much larger southern nation. Denmark's last major role in European history was the support to the Protestant princes of Germany during the Reformation and the Thirty Years War. The shape of modern Denmark was formed at the Congress of Vienna. As Denmark had sided with Napoleon, Norway was given to Sweden and Pomerania to Prussia. Major contitutional reforms in the 19th century converted Demark into a parlimentary democracy. The country remained neutral in World War I (1914-18) and after the War began to build the modern welfare system (1933). The country attempted to remaun neutral in World war II, but was invaded and occupied by NAZI Germany (1940). It was liberated by the British at the end of tthe War (1945).
England's written history began with the Roman invasion of Celtic Britain. The country's history is a fascinating saga of Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and Normans. Throughh all that tumault the major threads of Western covilization bloosomed. Democracy as we know it began to develop with the Viking invasions. It developed in large measure out of the conflict between the monarchy abd nobility with the middle class and Protestant reformation playing a major role. One of the key questions in history is why the Industrial Revolution occurred first in England. There are a variety of factors which played a role, such as the ready supply of iron and coal. But iron and coal occurred close together in many other countries. The unique factor which set Britain apart was its developing democracy and the relative liberty of its people to persue ideas and economic interests. The modern free enterprise system emerged in Britain. There surely were other factors such as the Royal Navy and developing empire, but free minds able to persue economic interests protected by law were key factors which caused this major step in human history occurring in England. England evolved into Britain with the Act of Union. It was Britain that transferred its values and law to North America and the comparison to Hispanic South America is striking. Although Britain and America fought two wars, the ties of culture and values created a Anglo-American alliance never firmalized by treaty that fought three major struggles in the 20th century against authoritarian/totalitarian powers (Imperial Germany, the Axis, and totalitarian Communusm) that had very different values and view of the human spirit.
Estonia was unknown to the ancient world. The Baltic was a rough neigborhood in the mid-Middle ages as the Estonians were exposed to Viking raids. The country enters into the written record as Christian Europe begins tom spread east. Estonia was a part of historic Livonia and ruled by the Livonia knights (13th century). Sweden acquired Estonia (1561). Russia under Peter the Great conquered the area (1710). Under Russian rule Germans as a result of the Livonian Knights formed the ruling class. As a result of the World War and the Russian Revolution, Estonia achieved its independence from Russia (1918). A formal treaty was signed with the Bloshevicks (1920). A democratic republic ruled the country. President Konstantin Päts began authoriative rule (1934). After the start of World War II, Stalin began to move against the Baltic republics. He first demanded bases (1939) and then invaded all three countries and annexed them to the Soviet Union (1940). The NAZIs occupied the Baltics as part of the invasion of the Soviet Union. The Soviets rettok the Baltics (1944). For four decadeds the Baltics languased within the Soviet Empire, but was relatively prosperous. For most of its history, Estonia has played a small role in European history. This changed dramatically late in the the 20th century. It was in Estonia that the first overt opposition within the Sigiet Union appeard leading to the unraveling of the country. Today Estonia is both democratic and prosperous with afree enterprise economy. A sharp contrast to the path that President Putin has chosen for Russia.
The Finns appear for the first time in a written history when Tacitus mentions Fenni in his Germania. It is unclear, however, if the reference was actually to what is now modern Finland. An early Scandinavian documents mentions a "land of the Finns". Trading and raiding contacts between Sweden and what is now Finland was considerable during the pre-Christian times. There does not appear to hve been any major Scandinavian settlement. Christianity began to gain a foothold (11th century). Soon afterwards Finland became part of the Swedish realm. Finland was ruled by the Swedes for over 600 years. Russia acquired Finland during the Napoleonic Wars (1809). Finland obtained its independance after the Russian Revolution. The Soviet Union after signing the Non-Agression Pact with the NAZIs attacked Poland (September 1939) and then after demanding bases from the Baltic countries, attacked Finland in the Winter War. They suffered sizeable losses, but eventually prevailed, extracting substantial concessions from the Finns (1940). To regain the lst land, the Finns fought as co-belgerants with the NAZIs after Htler invaded the Soviet Union (June 1941). The failure of the NAZIs to defeat the Soviets eventually forced the Finns to seek terms from the Soviets. The Finns managed to maintain their independence and persued neutral policies during the Cold war. The Finns have joined the European Union.
Modern France was in ancient times Gaul (Gallia), the primary Celtic land after the Celts were driven west by the Germanic tribes. Gaul was conquered by Ceasar's Legions in one of the great and brutal military capaigns of history. With the fall of Roman power, the Germanic tribes flooded across the Rhine. In the struggle with the Romans Visagoths, and Huns, the Franks emerged as the dominant power (5th century). Modern France takes its name from the Franks. Francia is the Latin term for "country of the Franks". Pepin founded the Carlogian dynaty which under Charlanegne include much of western and central Europe (9th century). Many of the modern European states developed from the break up of the Carlogian Empire after the death of Charlemagne. France emerged as one of those countries at about the time that the Viking raids began. The country thus was formed by the Celtic, Roman, Frankish, and Viking peoples. France developed with a weak monsarchy because of the resistance of the nobility to cental authority. This left France open to attack from the Vikings and English. Frances played a mixed role in the Reformation. This changed after the Fronde when Louis XIV established a centralized absolute monarchy. His efforts to expand France's borders to the Rhine brought a series of Wars. France competed with England Spain for control of overseas empires (India and North America). The French lost most of that empire in the overseas conflicts associated with the Seven Years War. French resentment was a factor in their support of the American colonies. The cost was a factor leading to the French Revolution, a major turning point in European history. The Revolution inspired some of the great ideals of the Western spirit, but unlike the American Reolution degenerated into the Great Terror. The Napoleonic Wars convulsed Europe in a series of wars until Napoleon's defeat (1815). The Congress of Vienna attempted to restablish the Ancien Regime. Afterwards France again began to build an overseas empire and the Industrial Revolution began to transform France. The restored Bourbon monarchy was finally replaced during the Revolution of 1848 with the Second Republic and Louis Napoleon's Second Empire. It was during his reign that Italy unified and after the disastrous Fraco-Prussian War that Germany unified. The loss of Alsace-Loraine created an embitered France seeking revenge. Louis Napoleon was replaced by the Third Republic. Kaiser Wilhem's disastrous diplomacy allowed France to negotiate a treaty with Russia and gradualy improve relations with Britain. Thus when World War I broke out France had allies. In the end France was saved by American intervention as it was again in World War II. After the War, France fought two colonial wars, but still lost its empire. It also persued a new relationship with German and European integration. France under DeGualle proved a divisive member of the Western alliance resisting Soviet expansion duruing the Cold War.
Georgia is located along the western border of Asia. It is mostly located nort of the Caucus Moubtains. Georgia was known in antiquity as both Colchis and Iberia. The independent kingdom rose with a capital at Mtskhet (4th century BC). The Persians Sassanidae dynasty ruled ruled Georgia (3rd and 4th centuries AD). The Georgian Church is one of the oldest Eastern Orthodoc churches. This was followed by a long period of control by the Armenian Bagratid dynasty with various interuptions due to foreign invasions (6th-15th centuries). There was a great floweing of Geoirgian culture under Queen Thamar (12th-13th centuries). The Kingdom was devestated by Mongol armies (13th centuries). The Mongol conquest began (1230). Armenia and Georgia were the first Christoian kingdoms invaded by the Mongols. The Mongols created the Vilayet of Gurjistan. This was made up of Georgia and the entire southern Caucasus. They ruled indirectly, through the Georgian monarchy confirmed by the Great Khan.
Georgia came under pressure from more powerful Muslim neighbors who oiverwealmed Armenia. The expanding Ottoman Empire was a major threat. Georgia accepted Tsarist Russian protection and overlordshiop (18th century). Russia and Georgia shared the Orthodox faith. The last Georgia king abdicated (1801). The Georgians was firced to cedee terrutory to the Ottoman Empire (1803 and 1829). Georgia tried to form an independent republic in the closing phase of World War I (1917). After the Bolshevik victory in the Russian Civil War, the Soviet Government exerted its authority (1921). Georgia spent most of the 20th century as a republic of the Soviet Union. It achieved its indewpendence with the disolution of the Soviet Union (1992). Georgia's relationship with Russia has been stormy with many Russians believing they have a right to interfere in Georgian affairs.
Caesar conquered Gaul (1st century BC), but was assasinated before he could expand Rome east accross the Rhine in force. Augustus' attempt was stopped by the Germanic tribes in the Turtonberg Forest (9 AD). Thus Germany east and west of the Rhine developed differently. This cultural divided lasted until World War II. The Germanic Tribes overwealmed the Western Empire (5th century). Only in Britain, however, did they displace the local population. Germany during the Dark Ages dominated Europe. They became the ruling class throughout the West. Ironically Germany did not overwealm Europe culturally. It might have been thought that given the size ad power of Germany that German would become the dominant European language. Ironically it was English that would emerge as the lengua-franca of Europe ad much of the word. This was because a conflict between the pope and emperor made it impossible to a centalized German state to devlop, unlike other European states. In addition, Germany was in the center of Europe and thus surrounded by hostile neighbors, restructing its expansion. Germany's medieval hitory is complicated. German nationalism was a factor in the Reformation. But it was not until the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars that Germans nationalism grew. The Revolution also inspired a demand for unifiction. After Napoleon's defeat, the fight for the soul of Germany began. The 1848 Revolutions had the prospect of a liberal, democratic German state. But the Russian Army helped put down the liberals. The question then became whether Prussia or Austria would unite Germany. This question was answered by Prussian miitary force. And the Prussian militaristic, authoritative model became Germany's united future. State involvement in industrial development helped make Germany in the early 20th century the dominant European power. Germany's cutural and scietific achievements were impressive. German leders embarked on two disastrous attempts to dominate Europe militarily. They were stopped in large measure by
dominate Europe, the second fueld by a toxic mixture of nationalism and racial hatred, were stopped by British and American military intervention. This was the same Anglo-American alliance that later in the 20th century would ironically save Germany from Soviet domination. America not only saved Germany from totalitrian communist dictatorship, but promoted the development of Germany into a democratic country, fully integrated as a peaceful member of Europen society.
Greece is a small country at the tip of the Balkn Peninsula. These remarkable people may have had a greater impact on human history than any other prople. Greek history begins with the appearance of primitive Greeks tribes known as the Pelasgian (10,000-3,000 BC). They populated Thrace, Argos, Crete, and Halkidiki. e know little about them, but they are mentioned in the accounts of Homer, Herodotus, and Thucydides.
The Golden age of Greece centered in Athens brought us great treasures of art, architecture, and literature (500-300 BC). Greece's most stunning achievement was philosophy. For the first time in recorded history, men began to discuss the basic question of who man is and the nature of esistence rather than just accepting religious kant. While the glorues f Athens are best remembered, ironically Sparta provided a template for modern totalitarianism. Alexander the Great was a Macedonian, but spread Greek ideas or Helenism beyond the narrow confines of Greece itself. Christianity developed in the Helenistic-influenced Roman world. The Greeks inspired the Romans which like Greece was a civilization that came to be based on slavery. The Byzantines carried the classical tradition through the Medieval erra where it played a critical role in the Renaissance. The Byzantines also laid the foundations for Orthodox Christianity. The Ottoman Turks finally captured Constantinople (1453). Greece for four centuries was ruled by the Ottomans. One of the results of the French Revolution was the stiring of nationalist sentiment in the Balkans. The Greek ReVOlt was the beginning of the creation of an independent Greece, although it required the intervention of the Great Powers.
The Hungarian nation is defined by the Carpatheian Basin. The history of Hungary more than any other European country is associated ethnically with central Asian nomadic tribes and these nomadic tribes have been attracted by the rich grasslands of the Carpatheian Basin. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Carpatheian Basin wasa center for both the Huns and Avars. The ancient history of Hungary has had almost no impact on modern Hungary because of the arrival of the Maygayars who conquered the Carpethian Basin (700 AD). The language with all its cultural connotations is unrelated to any other important European language, only Finland and Estonia. The Magyars were another fierce raiding people, but were brought in to the European mainstream by King Stwphen. Sandwiched between the Slavonic peoples to the east and the Germanic peoples to the west, this accomodation with Christian Europe was a major factor in Hungary's survival as a destinct nation. Hungary is almost unique in Europe. It is a small counbtry in central Europe that has survived for nearly a 1,000 years-despite repeated defeat in war and failed revolutions. The survival of Hungary over that period is a matter of considerable histotrical interst. One historian suggests that it was Hungary's capacity to assimilate individuals from neighboring countries. Prominent Hungarians are of Croat, German, lovak, Serb, and Romanian origins. In addition, Hungarians have immigrated t other countries, especially in the 20th cenury and played a major role in atomic physics, compuers, and Hollywood among other areas. [Lendval] The country was devestated by the Mongols. Much of the nobility was wiped out by the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Mohács (1526). Even so, the Hungarians played a major in prevebnting Ottoman pemetration deeper into Europe. The Hungarian crown passed to the Hapsburgs. Hungary was thus for enturies associated with the Haosburgs and Austria. The country emerged from Workd War as an independent nation for the first time in 400 years, but a mich reduced side. The inte-war era saw the rise of Fascism and association with Germany in World War II. Defeat in the War led to the imposition of a Stalinist Communist dictatorship. The Hungarian Revolution (1956) opened the eyes of many Western Europeans as to the true nature of Soviet Communism.
The Romans described the remote Island of Thule. Irish Monks are reported to have visited Iceland during the early medieval period, The history of Ireland, howevers, begins with the arrival of the Vikings who first populated the island (9th century). .
Christianity was peacefully adopted by the Icelanders (1000). The decesion was taken at Alþingi, which met for 2 weeks every summer, with a large proportion of the population participating. Greenland was discovered and colonized by Icelanders under the leadership of Eirik the Red. His som Lief led the first Europeans to set foot on the American continent (1262-64). In Ireland itself, internal feuds, tatamount to civil war, led to the King of Norway acquiring the island as part of his domains (1271).
Norway and Denmark formed the Kalmar Union (1397), which in effect transferred Iceland to the Danish monarchy.
This ended the "Golden Age" of Iceland's independence. The Danish kings instituted the Reformation (1551). This replaced papal control with Danish control which involved confiscation of great wealth. The Icelandic economy was severly damaged when the Danes replaces the Hansa and English trade with a Danish trade monopoly. An absolute monarchy was established (1662). This effectively transferred government authority to Copenhagen. The Danish Crown benefuitted financially, but the Icelandic economy suffered. The Little Ice Age cooling affected Icelanding agriculture (16th and 17th centuries). Most icelanders believe that the 18th century was aow point of Icelandic hitory. The Alþingi was dissolved and the old diocese replaced by one bishop residing in Reykjavík. The Danish government finally began to shift their policies in Iceland. The trade monopoly was modified (1783). All subjects of the Danish monarchy were given the right to trade in Iceland. The Alþingi was reinstituted as a consultative assembly (1843). The trade monopoly was abolished entirely (1854). Iceland celebrated the millenium of the first settlement (1874). The Danes used this to grant Iceland a constitution and control of its own finances. The Damish crown granted home rule (1904) and finally sovereignty (1918). The country remained united with Denmark under the Danish crown. After World War II broike out and Germany invaded Denmark, the British occupied Iceland (1940). American troops arrived to relieve the British (1941).
Iceland proclaimed a republic (1944).
Ireland is one of the smallest countries in Europe. Despite its size, Ireland has played an important role in world history. The Irish was one of the few Celtic peoples not overwealmed by Rome. It was after the fall of Rome Christinized. And thus it was also one of the few corners of Western Europe not overwelmed by the barbaric German invasions of Western Europe after the fall of Rome. Thus Christian Ireland was one of the rare centers of learning during the Dark Ages and helped to preserve the precious classical and early Christian heritage. Much of Ireland's history during the 2nd Millenium was associated with England, becaues of the English conquest that began with the Normans. The history of the English Supremecy is a long and brutal one which left the disenfranchised Irish people, who clung to their Catholocusm, largely landless peasanys eeking out a precarious existence. The modern population has never recovered from the Potato Famine and the disasterous English respmse to it. This caused not only a collapse of the population, but an Irish diaspora throughout the world. Thus one of Europe's smallest countries became one of the main ethnic groups in America. The Potato Famine changed the dynamic of this relationship with England and convinced many Irish people that the English had no right to rule. Despite Ireland's eventual separation from Britain, the English as in other areas they ruled left aprescious heritage of law, democracy, and free markets.
Italy is a country that has been at the center of Western civilization. Italy is central for several reasons. It was the continuation of classical Greek civilzation and helped transmit it throughout Western Europe. Rome was not as innovative as classical Greece, but it effectively preserved and transmitted classical Greek thought. Rome's own main unique contribution to Western civilization was secular law. As imperfectly administered as it was, the legal tradition guaranteeing rights to the individual which even the state cannot violate, was perhaps Rome's greatest achievement. It stands to day as one of the central pillars of Western civilization. It is ironic that the origin of the Western legal tradition was a war-like state based upon conquest and slavery. Italy's importance is not limited to ancient Rome. It was medieval Italy that reintroduced classical thinking to the West through the Renaisance which played such a central role in the development of the Western tradition. Some of the great treasures of Western civilization come down to us from the Italian Renaissance which of course sparked a Renaissance throughout Western Europe. The Western Christianity and Islam share many of the same traditions. Where they diverge stems from the fact that Islamic culture did not experience the Renaissance. After the Renaissance, the focus of European history shifts north, in part because the Catholic Counter Reformation prevented the Reformation from entering Italy.
Lettish tribes first appeared along the Blatic during the 10th century AD. The Letts came under foreign rule in the mid-12th century. From that time the Letts were dominated by Germans, Poles, and Russians as well as a brief period of Swedish control. The German Teutonic Knights controlled the Letts (1158-1562). The Germans Christinaized the Letts and introduced Feudalism, making the Letts serfs in German estates. Latvia at the time was divided into two states (Livonia and Courland). The Poles and Lithuanians defeated the Teutinic Knights (1562) beginning an era of Polish control (1562-1795) interupted only by a short period of Swedish control. As a result of the Polish Partitions, Russian obtained control of at first Livinia (1795) and subsequently Courland as well which lasted until the Russian Revolution (1917). Latvia obtained its independence in the turmoil resulting form World War I and the Russian Revolution (1918). After two decades of independence, Lativia was invaded forst by the Soviet Union (1940) and subsequently NAZI Germany (1941). The Red Army droved out the NAZIs (1945) and Latvia was for over four decades administered as a Soviet Republic. With the disolution of the Soviet Union (1991), Latvia again achieved its independence.
Lithuania was a medieval grand duchy ( -1385), a grand principality of Poland (1385-1795), a part of the Russian Empire (1795-1918), an independent republic (1918-40), a republic of the Soviet Union (1940-1991), and finally an independent republic again (1991- ). Linguistic work suggests that the Lithuanians may have first appeared on the basin of the upper Dnipper River. Archeological work suggests that the Lituanians arrived in the baltic about 2500 BC. The first known historical reference to Baltic peoples is by the Roman historian Tacitus in his work Germania (1st century AD). The first specific mention of Lithuanians occurs in a medieval Prussian manuscript--the Quedlinburg Chronicle (1009). Medieval lords in Prussia and Russia began to pressure the Baltics. A loose federation of Lituanian tribes emerged as a defensive measure. The Lithuanians more effectively resisted the Teutonic Knights than other Baltic tribes (13th century). The Teutonic knights were attempting to Christanize the Baltic tribes and to seize their land making them feudal vassals. Mindaugas forged a loose federation of the still largely pagan Lithuanian tribes (1251). He was crowned king, the only Lithuanian ever to achieve that status. Mindaugas defeated the Teutinic Knights in a major battle (1260). The Jagellons, a dynasty of Lithuanian grand dukes forged an enormous empire streaching from the Black Sea to the Baltic. The Empire was begun by Gediminas ( -1340) and expanded by his sons, Olgierd ( -1377) and Keitutas. Olgierd's son Jagello assasinated his uncle and became the reigning duke. Jagello married Polish Queen Jadwiga and accepted Roman Catholocism (1386). Gramd Duke Witold (Vytautas the Great) revolted against the Jagello (1390). He created a huge state by conquest one of the largest states in Europe (1400). The Lithuanians gained a crushing military victory against the Teutonic Knights at the Battle of Tannenberg (1410). Casimir IV, Jangello's son, negotiated an alliance with lithuania. Alexander I who succeeded as Polish king in 1501 gave the two countries a single ruler. It was agreed at Lublin to have an elected king and a common legislature (1569). It was at this time that Poland becan to experience increasing military pressure Grand Dukes of Moscow--the predecessors of the Tsars. Poland's inability to compete with powerful neighbors resulted in partition (1772, 1793, and 1795). Most of Lithuania became a part of the Russian Empire with small part going to Prussia as well. During and after the Napoleonic Wars there were nationalist insurrections (1812, 1831, 1863, and 1905). The German Army achieved major victories on the Eastern Front during World War I and occupied Lithiania. In the disorders following World War I and the Russian Revolution, Lithuania declared independence (February 1918), but was forced to engage the Germans, Poles, and Russians (Bolsheviks). The Poles captured and held Vilnus. A League of Nations plebecite confirmed Polish possession of Vilnus, but Lithuania did not drop its claim. Relations with Poland were not established until 1938. Even before World War II, NAZI Germany seized Memel with its large German population. The Soviets seized the country in 1940 as invisioned under the NAZI-Soviet Non-aggression Pact. The Soviets arrested large numbers of Lithuanians and deported whole families. When the NAZIs invaded the Soviet Union (June 1941), many Lithuanians greeted them as liberators and supported the NAZI war effort. Some Lithuanians joined the German military. When the Soviets retook Lithuania (1944) those that collaborated or were suspected of collaborating with the NAZIs were dealt with harshly. Estimates suggest that 10 percent of the Lithuanian people were arrested or deported. The Soviets also promoted Russian emmigration to Lithuania. The Soviet seizure of Lithuania and the other Baltic states was never recognized by the United States and other Western European countries. Lithuania finally achieved its indepoendence again withbthe dissolution of the Soviet Union (1991).
Macedonia is a small mountainous country with small basins of agricultural land. The Vardar is the largest and most important river. Macedonia entered history with King Philip and Alexander the Great. Alexander as king of Macedonia. He conquered/united the Greeks to defeat the Persians. Alexander's huge empire did not survive his death. Macedonia survived for some time as am independent kingdom. The Greeks today claim Macedonia as part of Greek history. Rome defeated Macedonia (148 AD), ending the country's independence for nearly two millenia. Macedonia became a Roman province. With the division of the Roman Empire (395 AD), Macedonia becme part of the Eastern or Byzantine Empire. Byzantine control, however, was intermittent. The Byzantines were assaulted by the Huns and other Barbarian tribes. During the early-medieval era, Bulgar and Slavic tribes moved into the Balkans. This lends some credence to the Greek idea that ancunt Macedonia is more attributable to Greek history than modern Slavic Madeconia. The Ottoman Empire defeaed the Serbs at the Maritsa River, extending their control over southern Serbia and Macedonia (1371). The Ottoman Empire thus dominated what is now Macedoia for five centuries. The population in the Balkans became highly dispersed during the long period of Ottoman cntrol. There were no clear territirial or demographic borders for the various Christiann kingdoms which rose in the 19th century. This led to a series of wars. Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia in particular fought several wars to control Macedonia which had both mineral wealth and strategic military corridors south into Greece. The Russo-Turkish War and resulting Treaty of San Stefano (1878) ended most of the Ottoman presence in the Balkans. The largest part of Macedonia went to to Bulgaria. Bulgaria lost much of its Macedonian territory, however, when it was defeated by the Greeks and Serbs in the Second Balkan War (1913). Most of Macedonia was annexed by Serbia and the remainder was divided between Greece and Bulgaria. After World War I, most of Macedonia became part of Yugoslavia which was constructed around Serbia from the southern area of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The NAZIs during World War II Germans assigned most of Macedonia to Bulgaria which it had forced to join the Axis. Most of Macedonia's Jewish population was murdered in the Holocast. Macedonia becane a stringhold for the Communist partisans and after the War, Yugoslavia was reconstituted under Communist rule. Macedonia suceeded from Yugoslvia (1991) without the wars that affected oher regions of the country. Macedonia today is a small landlocked Balkan state north of Greece which represents the territory of the western half of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia, but with an ethniclly different people..
Malta is a pinpoint in the Meditrarranean. Its location has, however, rendred it a pinpoint of great stategic importance m being placed at the crossroads between the eastern and westerm Mediterranean as well as Europe and Asia. Thus Malta has been a valuable strategic base since people began to conduct maritime commerce in the wider Meditwrranean. A little-known civilization built megalithic temples (3rd millennium BC). The Phoenicians founded a colony on Malta. They were followed by nearby Carthaginians and during the Pi\unic Wars, the Romans. St Paul was shipwrecked off Malta (60 AD). This was the beginning of Chritiamity on the island. Malta after the fall of Rome came under the control of the Byzantines who were a naval power. The Arab outburst from Arabia swept over North Africa (8th century). The Governor of Muslim Sicily seized Malta (870). The Normans as part of the Crusades reconquered Sicily and Malta became Christian once again (1090). Norman rule resulted in the expansion of trade and commerce as well as a flowering of the arts and sciences as Malta was reoriented toward Europe, especially Sicily (12th century). The end of the Hautville dynasty (1194), resulted in considerable confusion and struggles over vthe control of Malta. There were intervals of prosperity and distreassing chaos. Malta became caught up in the wider Mediterranean and religious struggles. The dynasties struggling to control Malta included: Hohenstaufers (especially Frederick II), the Angevins, the Aragonnese, the Venetians, the Genoese, the Papacy, and the kings of France. There was also the Arabs and Ottomans who added a religious dimension to the various struggles. Malta, together with Sicily, became part of the Hapsburg empire (16th century). of Charles V granted Malta to the Knights of St John (1530). Malta became a bulwark against the Ottomans, restricting the Ottoman Navy to bthe eastern Mediterranean. The Knights held out against an overwealming Ottoman force beseiging the Island (1565). Napoleon briefly held Malta (1797-99). A British-backed rebellion forced him to withdraw and Malta became a key British redoubt in the Mediterranean which combined with Gibraltar enabled the British to exert a powerful naval presence in the Mediterraneam. It was visited by the American squadron batteling the Barbary pirates. The building of the Suez Canal (1869) made Malta even more important. One of the most heroic chapters in Malta's history was defense of the island aganist the onslaught of the Luftwaffe and Italian Air Force in World War II (1940-42). Malta became the most heavily bombed place on earth. The entire Island was awarded the George Cross. The Maltese voted in a referendum for full integration with Britain (1956), an action supported by the Maltese Labor Party (MLP) under Dom Mintoff. Talks on integration, however, failed. Attitudes in Malta shifted as the major political parties began to support independence.
Montenegro is a small Balkan republic whose history has been stroingly asffected by its mountaeous terraine and Adriatic coast. Its history is strongly associated with Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Albania. Montenegro like the Balkans in general were a part of the Roman Empire. The Roman influence was substantial and the Italin Peninsula was only a short distance across the Adriatic. With the division if the Empire (4th century AD) and fall of Rome (5th century), the Balkans came under the control of the Eastern Empire or Byzantium. This was contested by various grouos including the Huns and Bulgars. The mountainous terraine and coast helped the local people achieve autonomy within the Byzantine Empire. The first state in what s modern Montenegro was Duklja which emerged as a Byzantine vassal state (9th century). The ruleing dynasty was the he Vojislavljevics. King Vojislav having ruled for 25 years defeated a Byzantine Army near Bar (1042). This meant that Duklja was now independent. Under King Vojislav's son, King Mihailo (1046-81), and his son King Bodin (1081-1101), Duklja was independent and prosoerous. At this time the kingdom bega to be called Zeta. It was annexed by Raska. Beginning with the Crnojevic dynasty, Zeta was commonly called Crna Gora. Venice by this time had emnerged as an Adriastic power. Thus the Venitian (Italian) version became common--Monte Verde. Serbia and Monte Verde were defeated by the Ottomass at Kosovo Polje (14th century). Montenegro was on the perifery of the Ottoman Empire and because of the mountaneous terrine, difficult to control. Montenegro was a constant irritant to the Ottoman sultans.
Montenegro gained its independent from the Ottoman Empire after the Russo-Turkish War (1878). It sided with Serbia in Worlkd War I and was occupied by the Central Powers (1915). After the War in joined with the other southern Slavs in what became Yugosavia. When the NAZIs during World war II invaded Yugoslavia (1941), Nontenegro was occupied by the Italias and then the Germans (1943). The Communist partisans seized power at the end of the War (1945). Nontenrgro was not involved in the Balkan wars (1990s), but voted by referendum to sever ties with Serbia and become independent (2006).
The medieval history of the Netherlands and Low Lands in genral was complicated, but led to the development of an independent spirit which caused the Dutch to resist first Spanish and then French rule. Here they were assisted by both geography and the interests of the English in preventing a continental power from dominating the area. In the 20th century not only the English, but the Americans and Canadians played a role in insuring the independence of the country. The location of the Netherlnds at the mouth of the Rhine River and close to England and the expansion of the European economy during the late-Medieval period made the Low Lands an important trading center (12th-14th century). This lead to the emergence of a wealthy merchant class. The merchants began to challenge the power of the nobility and achieved a substantial degree of autonomy. The Netherlands became a center of relative freedom and tolerance. It was also an early convert to Protestatism after Martin Luther launched the Protestant Reformation (1519). The Lowlands passed from the control of the dukes of Bourgogne into the hands of the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (early 16th century). Charles was the most powerful monarch in Europe with land streaching from Gemany to Spain. Charles and his sucessors were less willing to honor the concessions made to the merchants by the dukes of Bourgogne and determined to supress Protesantism. Charles granted control of Spain and the Netherlands to his son, Philip II (1555) who set out to establish Spanish absolutism in the Lowlands and to extinguish Protetantism. This led to the Dutch War of Independence and the creation of the mdern Netherlands as we know it (1568-1648). The Netherlands became a major trading nation and established an overseas empire. The Dutch Republic was gradally overshadowed by the expanding power of Britain and France. Discension between conservatives and democratic reformers weakened the Dutch Republic. It ws overwealmed by the French and eventually ansorbed by Napoleon's French Empire. The Congress of Vienna restored an independent Netherlands, under the House of Orange. At first the new monarchy included Belgium, but the Belgiums revolted and became an independent country (1830). The Dutch monarchy developed into a constitutional monarchy. They remained neutral in World War I (1914-18), but were invaded and occupied by the NAZIs in World War II (1939-45). The NAZIs succeeded in killing most Dutch Jews. The post-War era was focused on efforts to rebuild the country which was heavily damaged by the War. The Dutch attempted to restablish their colonial rule in the Dutch East Indies, but failed to do so and the colony became independent as Indonesia (1949). The Dutch were a strong supporter of European integration. A series of coalition governments have ruled the country: Roman Catholic People's Party and the Labor Party (1973-77) and the Christian Democratic Party (1977-94). The Labor Party took control again (1994). The experienced anoter occurnce of serious flooding (1995). Rivers throughout northwestern Europe overflowed and the Netherlands which extensive areas below sealevel was especually affected. The Dutch today are seen as one of the most democratic and tolerant nations in the world. That tolerance has permitted many Muslims seeking reguge and economic opportunity to seek refuge in the country, some of whom do not share the Duch commitment to tolerance and free speech.
Norway has an extremely colorful history. Norway was populated by the northern Germanic tribes that were unknown to the ancients. These people entered into written history as the Vikings as a result of their attacks on Britain. The Vikings exhibited a brutality that was striking in a not very gentle era. Ironically, the Vikings played an important role in the development of European democracy. Norway has had some destinctive monarchs in the medevil era. As a result of union with Denmark in the 13th century, however, there was for about 500 years no separate Norwegian monarch. Norway despite its long history, is a relatively young European nations in constitutional terms and the monarchy one of the newest. The current monarchy only dates to 1905 when Norway withdrew from the union with Sweden. The first Norwegian monarch in modern times was King Haakon VII who was elected in 1905 and served through the turbulant era of the first half of the 20th century. Norway adopting the Swedish approach, remained neutral in World War I and hoped to do the same when World War II brike out. Germany invaded and occupied the country. After the War, Norway reversed in neutrality policy and joined NATO. The country began building awlfare state in the inter-wars period and this process continued after World War II.
Geography has played a major role in shapeing Poland. The country's location on the northern European plain has left it open to invasion fro both east and west. And that plain has left the country without easily defenseable frontiers which also left its borders clearly defined. Poland was in the early Medieval period a land without central control, racked by warring tribes. Prince Mieszko I was baptised in 966. Mieszko and Roman Catholic Christianity provided stability and cohesion for the first time. Poland had by the 17th century had become the largest state in Europe. It played a major role in stopping the expansion of the Ottoman Empire into Europe, helping to save Vienna. An elected kingship and the power of the nobility significantly impaired the development of a strong national state. Despite important reforms in the late 18th century, Poland was partioned between Austria, Prussia, and Russia and the Polish monarchy ended. Napoleon was aided by Polish nationalists in his campaigns against Austria and Prussia, but his devestating defeat in Russia, ended any hope of a restored Polish monarchy as the peace was dictated by the very powers that had partioned Poland. Poland did not reappear until after World War I destroyed the three great European empires (Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Russia). It was Poland that first stood up to Hitler and the NAZIs and payed a terrible price. Poland after World War II had to endure a Stalinist dictatorship. While absorbed into the Soviet Eastern European empire, Poland proved to be a very troublesome acquisition. And with the advent of Solidarity, it was in Poland that the Soviet empire began to unravel.
Portugal is one of the two modern countries that has emerged from the many small kingdoms that appeared on the Iberian Peninsula after the fall of the Roman Empire and the Germanic invasions. The situation was further complicated by the Morrish invasions of the 8th century and the 600 year war between and among Moorish and Christian kingdoms which did not end until the fall of Grenada in 1492. Portugal in fact was born from this struggle to reconquer Iberia from the Moors and the first Portuguese king was the son of a French nobel. Portugal in the 15th century burst on the European stage as the country leading the great European voyages of discovery. Here Prince Henry the Navigator was a leading figure in making Portugal a leader in maritime technology. This allowed Portugal to acquire great wealth through trade and an create an expansive empire. The corosive impact of the Inquisition on thought and discourse including the expulsion of the Jews caused a long period of decline during rich Portugal became a European backwater and one of the pporest countries in Europe.
The Romanian nation has a fascinating history streaching back to ancient times. The medievel era is particularly interesting. Romanians played an important role in impeding the Ottomon movement beyond the Balkans. There are some striking characters in Romanian history, including Count Dracula and Nicolae Ceausescu. The Ottoman era resulted in the mixing of people throughout the Balkans. When new nations were formed in the 19th and early 20th century, there were as a result countless territorial disputes. Romania was thus caught up in disputes with neigboring countries. Romania fought with the Allies in World war I. It attempted to negotiate regional security arrangments. The country was, however, left isolated after the British and French abndoned Czechoslovakia at Munich. Hitler who was fixated on Romanian oil forced Romania to join the Axis and participated in the disaterous campaign against the Soviet Union in World War II. The Soviet Union had seizec large areas of the country and the Romanians were an important part of the German-dominated force that invaded the Soviet Union. The Soviets destroyed much of the Romanian Army at Stalongrad and in the Crimea. The Red Army seized the country at the end of World war II. It was forced to become a Soviet satellite. Stalinist secret policies arrested Romanians in large numbers, many of whom were executed. The disasterous Soviet-economic policies, especially those of Ceausescu drove Romania into national poverty from which now democratic Romania is just now beginning to recover.
On first glance the history of Russia and America could not be more different. The history of Russia is dominated by dictatorial, often ruthless leaders (Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great. Lennin, and Stalin). America's great historical figures are those who promoted democracy and human rights (Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Linclon, and Roosevelt). Russia has been dominated by the Orthodox Church and Communist Pary. Americans have been able to chose from a multiplicity of religions and participate in a free political system. Yet in another regard the American and Russian historical experience was similar. Both Russia and America were located on the perifery of Europe. Unlike countries like Germany and France who were surrounded with competing states. Russia in the 17th-18th century was relatively free to expand east, acquiring Siberia with its vast resources. America after its Revolutionary War (18th century) was relatively free to expand west. As a result, both countries by the 19th century were vast continental powers with large populations and an abundance of resources. The historian has to ask the question as to why the two countries have developed so differently in the 20th century. The primary difference is that American democracy unleashed the inherent capabilities and talants of its people. Tsarist/Communist controls and constraints limited the ability of the Russian people to develop the full talents of the human mind.
The British isles has over time time been populated by many different people. It has never until modern times been populated by by a single united people. Many different people have inhabited the northern part of Britain. The Romans called the northern area Caladonia and after failing to subdue the fierce norther tribes built Hadrians Wall to keep them out of their prosperous new province. Scotland in the modrn sence did not emerge until the Roman departure from Britain. It was an almallgum of native Picrs, Irish, Cektic Britons fleeing north from the Anglo-Saxon invaders, and others. Much of the rest of Scottish history is the struggle to remain independent from the more powerful English kingdom to the south. The Anglo -Saxons were unable to get a foothold north of Northumbria. This changed with the Advent of the Normans. Edward I conquered Wales and seem posed to quickly conquer Scotland. William Wallace made it a much more difficult proposition. Robert the Bruce firmly established Scottish indepedence. Scotland was swept by the Reformation. Scotland was joined in a personal union in the person of King James I. Scotland played a major role in launching the English Civil War. The personal union in the person of the monarchy was followed by the Act of Unionn under Queen Anne. Scotland played an important role in the Industrial Revolution. The final Highland effort to break with England was the Jacobin rising of 1745 led by Bobby Prince Charlry--the Stuart pretender. This led to the Higland enclosures and immigration, especially to America. While the Scotts failed to break away from England, the backwoods Scott-Irish played a major role in the American success during the Revolutionary War.
Serbia was a medevial Christian kingdom until conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century after the battle of Kosovo Polje. Serbia remerged in the 19th century, first during the Napoleonic Wars, but after being again suppressed by the Ottomans, again later in the 19th century. Several other Balkan states rmerged as Ottoman power receeded. he lack of defined boundaries and mixed populations created a unstable situation and several wars, both with the Ottomans and other Balkan states. Serbian nationalism was the spark that set off World War I. After the War, Serbia became the nucleus for Yugoslavia
At the dawn of recorded history, Slovakia like much of western and central Europe was inhabited by the Celts. They were suplanted by waves of barbarians from the east, first the Germans and than the Slavs. Modern Slovakians trace their origins to these Slavs. The first real state was founded by a Samo, a Frankish merchant (mid-7th century). The powerful Moravia Empire included much of modern Slovakia (9th century).
The first Christian missionaries were Orthodox (Cyril and Methodius) introduced the Cyrillic alphabet, created to
write Slavic languages. Evetually the Roman Catholic church dominated the area. Another wastern people, the Magyars (Hungarians) began to move into Slovakia which became part of their territory late-9th century). This was the beginning of Hungarian control of Slovakia, a phenomenon that continued into the 20th century. The Mongols (often called Tartsars in Slovakia) invaded Hungary (13th cettunry). A weakened Hungary was less able to cotrol Slovakia. Slovaks were ablle to develop contacts with the neigboring Czechs in Bohemisa, a people with a closely relasted language. Czechs fleeing from the Hussite religious wars in Bohemia moved east (15th century).
The Ottomons defeated the Hungarian Army at Mohacs (1526). The Hungarian dynasty also perished. Hungary was divided into three parts. Royal Hungary (including Slovakia) was inherited by the Hapsburg dynasty. Bratislava became the Hapsburg Hungarian capital. The Hapsburgs drove the Ottomans out of Hungary (late-17th century). At this time the Hungarian capital was moved to Budapest. Slovakia remained firmly Catholic during te Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation. The Church became a strong influence in Slovakia. Hapsburg Emperors particulsarly Josef II (1765–1790) promoted policies designed to germanify the Austrian Empire (late 18th century). The Fremnch Revolution contributed to nationalist sentiment. The result was the stmulation of Hungarian nationalist sentiment and in turn Slovak national self-consciousness. World War I and the weakening of the Austro-Hungarian Empire provided the opportunity to join with the Czechs to finally achieve an independent state. Czechoslovakia became the only dempcracy to emerge from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Most Slovaks appear to have supported Czechoslovakia, but Slovak nationalists dominated by Jozef Tiso's People's Party advocated independence.
Slovak separatists were a major concern in Czechoslvak politics. Hitler demanded the Sudetenland from Czechoslavakia (1938). When Hitler invaded Czechosdlovakia (1939), the Slovakjs encouraged by the NAZIs declared indepndence. Poland and Hungary seized parts of Slovakia. What was left of Slovakia became a NAZI puppet state under President Tiso who cooperated in the Holocaustand supported the NAZI war effort. After World War II, Czechoslovakia was reunited. Most of the country was liberated by the Red Army. The security forces were thus controlled by the Soviets who engineered a Communist coup (1948). This was followed by Stalinisdt purges and hardline policies. Gradually reformist seized control of the Czech Communist Party in the Prague Sprng. The Soviet Union supressed the movement, but along with the rest of Eastern Europe, the Communists were ousted (1989). Slovak separtists engineered a break with the Czechs (1992).
Slovenia is today an independent country and part of the European Union. This is a very recent development. Except for a brief period after the fall of Rome, Slovenia has been a part of one of several large empires. Although a Slavic peoplke, the Slovenes have beem strongly associated with Germany, various German empires--especially the Austrian Empire, since the fall of ome. After the disollutionof the Astro-Hungarian Empire, Slovenia was incorporated in the new Kingdom of Yugoslavia, or land of the southern Slavs. Slovenia was the one Yugoslav republic able to separate from Serb dominated Yugoslavia without a bloody war.
Modern Spain is the product of a fascinating mosaic of an amazingly diverse series of peoples over several millenia. The Iberian peninsula was settled by humans in the neolithic era. The Atapuerca site in northern Spain has been dated to about 800,000 years ago. Modern man arrived approximately 35,000 BC. Some of the most important examples of early human art have been found in Spain. The first people known to history were the Iberians (4000 BC). Next came the Celts who settled in the north. he Iberian Peninsula had a thriving bronze age civilization. The most impressive was the Tartessian civilization centered on Seville (1000-500 BC). Phoenician maritime traders established trade-based colonies along both the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts (1100 BC). Their most important colony was Cadiz. Phocaean Greeks also traded along the Mediterranean coast. Phoenicia was conquered by the Assyrians. Carthage established as a Phoencian colony became the dominant force on the Iberian Peninsula. Rome seized Iberia from Carthage in the Punic Wars. Rome ruled Iberia for six centuries. Roman rule was the foundation for both the Spanish language and the country's culture. The Germanic Visigoths seized Iberia after the fall of Rome (5th century AD). Visigoths kingdoms ruled until the Moorish invasion (711 AD). They conquered almost all of Iberia and even crossed the Pyrannes and attempted to conquer France. The Moors ruled large areas of Spain for several centuries creating the cultural jewel of Dark Ages Europe--al Andaluse. Moorish Spain was noted for its vibrant culture and, learning, and toleration. Gradually the Christian kindoms drove south as part of the Reconquista.Isabel and Ferdinand seized Granada, the lst Moorish lingdom (1492). In that same year to create a pure Catholic Spain, the Catholic monarchs expelled the Jews and Moors. they also used the Inquisition to purify Spain of foreign inluuences. Christopher Columbus in the same year Granad fell without realising it discovered the Americas. Vast quantities of bullion from the Americas poured into Spain making it a European superpower. The wealth, however, was used in a series of wars associated with the Counter Reformation. The Inquisition stifeled thought an inovation. Spain declined to a European backwater.
The Hapsburgs were replaced by the French Bourbons (18th century). The country was devestated by the Peninsular Cammpaigns of the Napoleonic Wars. It also lost most of its colonies. Spain became increasingly polarized between conservatives and liberals forces. The liberals backed by workers grew in importance in the cities while the conservatives dominated rural Spain. Spain became politically unstable, experiencing coups d'etat and constant changes of government. The dictatrship of Primo de Rivierra failed (1930). King Alfonso XIII was forced to flee the country and a Reoublic was declared (1931). The Republic instituted fundamental social reform. The conservative reaction resulted in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). El Caudillo Francisco Franco sympathized with the Axis during WorldWar II, but did not participate in the Holocaust. Spain because of its sympathy with the Axis was isolated by the Allies after the War. The country was, however, important to the Western Allies during the Cold War and allowed to join NATO.
Spaniards often sought jobs abroad. This and the development of the tourist industry helped to spark the Spanish economy. Franco death open the possibility of reform and joining Europe (1975). Given Spain's turbulent history, the accession of King Juan Carlos and the country's to a modern democratic state were surprisingly traquil.
The eastern half of the Scandinavian Peninsula during Roman times was inhabited by two great Germanic tribes, the Suiones or Swedes in the north (Svealand) and the Gothones or Goths in the south (Gothia). These tribes, although united in religious belief were generalyy at war with each other.
Previous to the 10th century, details od Swedeish history or obscure. Not until about 980, are historians sure about the names of Swdish kings. Frankish misionaries in the 9th century began teaching christianity which slowly became established. Olaf Skutkonug ruling from 993-1024 was the first Swedish to become a Christian. One of Sweden's most powerful monarchs was Eric IX ruling from 1150-60. He became the ptron saint of Sweden. Eric invaded Finland, forcing Christianity upon the conquered population. Eric was killed in an attack by Denmark, initiating an extended series of wars between the two countries. The power of the nobility grew in the 14th and 15th century as fedualism became the dominate force in the country as the power of the monarchy wained. A historic painting shows the wife of King Magnus Ericson, Queen Blanka, with her son Crown Prince Eric. The nobility deposed King Albert in 1388 and offered the crown to Margaret, Queen of Denmark and Norway. The Union of Kalmar united the crowns of the three Scandinavian kingdoms in 1397. The union endured for more than a centurry, but was characterized by constantvtension between the Danes and Swedes. King Christian II invaded Sweden in 1520 to enforce his authority. His brutal methods, including the execultion of Stockhom nobels, caused a rebelion led by Gustavus Vasa in 1521 who became Gustavus I of an independent Swedish Kingdom. Gustavus I became an hereditary monarch and severly limited the power of the nobility. Luthernism was established as the state religion. Parts of Estonia requested protection frpm Sweden. After a war with Poland, Sweden acquired all of Estonia. Gustavus Adolphus, generally considered the greatest Swedish king, suceeded to the throne in 1611. He expanded Swedish territory during wars with Russia and Poland. His intervention in Germany helped to ensure the victory of protestant forces during the Thirty Years War. Charles X-XII achieved spectacular military successes, but Swedish military power was finally broken by Peter the Great of Russia at the Battle of Poltava in the Great Northern War. Sweden was in fact a small country and did not have the capacity to compete with a huge state like Russia. Charles XI had also tried to strike at fundamental Swedish political standards and impose an absolutist regime. As in most other European countries, the 16th and 17th centuries in Sweden were characterized by the emergence of an increasingly efficient and centralized administration.
Julius Caesar conquered the area of modern Switzerland during the Gallic wars and it was incorporated into the Roman Empire. As a Roman province, the area became highly civilized. Mjor cities developed (Basel, Geneva and Zurich) whch were linked to each other and Rome by military roads which also served as commercial arteries. As Roman power declined (5th century), the Legions could no longer maintain the borders on the Rhine. Germanic tribes poured into the Empire. The Germanic tribes invaded Switzerland from boh the west and north. Charlemagne added Switzerland to the Frankish Empire (800 AD). After the disolution of the Frankish Empire, Switzerland became ruled by German emperors who eventually became mostly the Austrian Hapsburghs. The three forest cantons of Uri Schwyz and Unterwalden signed the Eternal Alliance (1291). This was a challenge to Hapsburgh rule. The Hapburghs atte,pted to crush the Swiss revolt, but this proved difficult in the rugged mountaneous territory of Switzerland. The Swiss defeated a Hapsburgh army at
the battle of Morgarten (1315). The cost to the Hapsburghs of persuing the war proved not worth the potential prize. The Swiss thus achieved autonomy within the German Empire as the Swiss Confederation.
Much of German Switzerland converted to Protestantism during the Reformation. The Thirty Years War destroyed large areas of Germany. Swiss indeopendence from the Holy Roman Empire and its neutrality was recognized by the Treaty of Westphalia which ended the War (1648). Switzerland could not maintain its neutrality as Europe was rocked by the French Revolution. The French Republic conquered Switzerland (1798). Swiss independence was reaffirmed by the Congress of Vienna and the Second Peace of Paris (1815). The Great Powers at the Congress of Vienna agreed to permanently recognize Swiss neutrality. The country was affected by the Revolutions of 1848 which swept Europe. In Switzerland, however, there was not a violent Revolution, but rather a new federal constitution was adopted based on the federal principles of the United States Constitution. The Swiss made major amendedments to the constitution (1874). Thecchanges gave the federal government responsibility for defense, trade, and legal matters. Switzeland since the 19th century has gradually developed a prosperous modern economy. The Swiss remained neutral in World War I (1914-18). The League of Nations was based in Geneva. Axis forces surounded Switzerland in World War II (1939-45). There was for a time a danger of a NAZI invasion. Switzeland proved, however, valuable to the NAZI war effort and was not invaded. Switzerlad after the War continued to prosper. It is one of the few European countries that has npt joined the European Union. Today the issue of integrating Muslim imigrants hs become a major issue.
Ulster is a very recent constituent part of the United Kingdom. For most of its history it was just one part of Ireland, the northern counties. Beginning with the Protestant Plantations, the history of Ulster began to diverge from that of the southern colonies. The colonisation effort in northern Ireland was launched during the reign of James I (early 17th century). English and Scottish Protestants were settled on land confiscated from Catholic Irish landowners. Slowly the Protestant population grew and eventually outnumbered the Catholics. The Appretice boys of Derry led the opposition to James II. English policies in Ireland desenfranchised Catholics. This and the Potato Famine in the south (1840s) doomed the political association between Catholic Ireland abd England. The Easter Rebellion in Dublin launched the Irish fight for independence (1916). The Catholic Church was an important part of the Irish struggle for independence. The Irish Free State left the United Kingdom in 1922, but the six northern counties with Protesant majorities voted to remain with Britain. Catholics launched a Civil Rights Movement (1960s). The violent Protestant reaction led to the Troubles (1970s-90s). The Provisional IRA launched a terror campaign aimed at separating Uslster from Britain and uniting it with the Republican south.
The history of the Ukraine has been closely tied to in recent years. The first important Slavic state was Kiev. The Mongols destroyed the Kiev state (13th century). What is now Russian came under Mongol/Tartar domination. The Ukraine came under Lithuanian/Polish domination. With the rise of the Russian Empire, the Tsars expanded their influence into the eastern Ukraine (17th century). The Tsars with the Polish partitions seized most of the Western Ukraine (18th century). This brought a very large area of culturally destincct Catholic Slaves into the largely Orthodox Russian Empire. Gradually Ukranian nationlist sentiment grew. The Germans in World War I hoped to create a puppet regime in the Ukraine. After the German defeat, the Bolshevicks succeeded in brining the Ukraine into the Soviet Union. Stalin targetted the Ukraine because of the considerable nationalist sentiment there. He even engineered the Famine to destroy the independent peasantry (1932-33). As a result, when the NAZIs invaded (1941), they found many Ukranians welcomed them as liberators. Rather than capitalize on this support, the Germans persued policies that made it plain what they planned for the Ukraine. The Ukraine was the site of some of the mostv savage battles of World War II. Today there is a struggle for the Ukraine soul. The eastern Ukraine is largely Russified and acceoting of Soviet-style authoruitarianism. The Western Ukraine is more independent minded, desiring a democratic government with a free-market economy and closer ties with the West.
Wales was finally conquered by the English following a rebellion by Prince Llywelyn who was defeated and killed (1282). His brother David continued the fight, but was captured and beheaded (1283). King Edward I then conferred on his son Edwardn (who was bnorn in Caernarvon) the title of Prince of Wales. It was not until Edward III when in 1343 he invested his son, the Black Prince, Prince of Wales that the title has been assigned to the ekdest son of the reigning monarch.) It took the English until the beginning of the 15th century to completely subdue the country. (A Welsh reader adds, "Whereas Ireland was taken over quite quickly, and Scotland was bribed into joining the union, the Welsh fought for over a century against it.") The impressive Norman castles which surround Wales were put in place to keep the Welsh in check, and to force the Welsh to be involuntary subjects to a foreign crown. The imposing Norman castles encircling Wales seem a momument to the totality of the English onslaught, although the Welsh view them differently. A Welsh reader writes, " In your introduction you state that the Welsh were conquered during the thirteenth century. It was however after a long struggle which lasted over quarter of a millennium. The Normans, however, conquered England within 6 years. Edward I build a chain of massive castles around the North of Wales and bankrupted himself in the process. Far from being "a monument of the totality of the English Conquest" these huge fortresses are seen by many Welsh people as symbols of Welsh resistance." [Richards] The English onslaught was not total. Vast swathes of Wales were under the actual control of Welsh Princes. A national spirit was kept alive by the bards and their songs the English found highly objectionable. were The Principality (north and west Wales, remained largely independent until the Acts of Union. Although it was oppressed by the English Border town, it had its own laws and some historians maintain that 95 of the population spoke only Welsh. Owain Glyndwr organized a revolt after Henry IV seized the English crown. Glyndwr's revolt by 1402 has reached serious proportions and managed to re-captured most of what is today referred to as Wales. The revolt was not suppressed until Glyndwr died about 1415. The Welsh than submitted to Henry IV, many regarding hom as a countryman. Glyndwr's rebellion was the last Welsh natiinal rising. Wales was subjected to the Act of Union of 1536 and 1543. Umder the Act of Union, the people of Wales were accorded all the rights and privliges as English subjects. The Welsh after the English conquest in the 13th century play a limited role in British history as a idenifiable people. It should be rembered, however, that supressing the welsh was an extremely expensive operation--both amassing armies and building casteles. When one considers that the development of democracy in England was largely the result of a monarchy needing money having to make concessions to parliament, in effect ceeding any pretense of absolute authority. One of the reasons the English monarchy needed money was the resistance of the Welsh people.
Yugoslavia was formed after World War out of several countries, principalities and renmaants of the Austro-Hungarain Empire. Almost from the beginning the union of South Slavs proved almost ungovernable. The Croats in particular objected to what they saw as efforts by the Serbs to dominate the country. The Croats even joined with the NAZIs after the World War II German invasion. After the War, Tito held the country together with brute force. After Tito died Milosivich used Serb natioanlism to gain power. This resulted in the disolution of Yugoslavia. When he was unable to hold Slovenia and Croatia in Yugoslavia, Milosivich set our to create a Greater Serbia. He supported Serb para-military groups to seize control of large areas of Bosnia and supress the Kosovars in Kosovo. None of the contending ethnic groups are without blame. Croat forces also carried out attricities against Sebs and Muslims in Bosnia. European countries were unable to deter him. Only the reluctant and tardy threat of Amercan force stoped Milosivich in Bosnia. The actual use of force was needed in Kosovo. In both cases the United Nations was unable to act. Even in Serbinica where the U.N. guaranted the saftey of Bosnians, in the end Dutch U.N. peace keepers were ordered to abandon the Muslims to the Serbs. Finally when the U.N. failed to act, the United States acted through NATO. About 0.2 million people are believed to have been killed.
Navigate the Childrn in History Website:
[Return to the Main national history page]
[Return to the Main history page]
[Introduction] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Climatology] [Clothing] [Disease and Health] [Economics] [Geography] [History] [Human Nature] [Law]
[Nationalism] [Presidents] [Religion] [Royalty] [Science] [Social Class] [Royalty]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]