This Week in History

The English Peasants Rise, for the Last Time: August 29, 1830

The following text comes from our text, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. For ordering information on this and our other texts, please click here.


King William IV in 1830

When King George IV died on June 26, 1830, his 64-year-old brother, the Duke of Clarence, came to the throne as King William IV. Unlike George IV, William IV began his reign as a popular monarch. Disliking pomp and ceremony, he often walked through the streets of London as an ordinary subject would. He chose not to live in Buckingham Palace and for a time contemplated turning it into a barracks for soldiers. William was also a hard and efficient worker. He was a welcome change from George IV.

In parliamentary elections that took place between July and September 1830, the Tories lost seats to the Whigs. The Tories were still in the majority, but Wellington could not get enough support in the House of Commons and so was forced to step down as prime minister. In his place, the king appointed Charles, Earl Grey, as prime minister. Earl Grey was a Whig and a longtime supporter of parliamentary reform.



This Week in History

Return of Vienna’s Emperor:

August 12, 1848

The following is an excerpt from our text, Light to the Nations II:The Making of the Modern World. It continues our series on the 1848 revolutions in Austria. You may read these posts here, here, here, and hereFor information on ordering this or our other texts, please go here.

Emperor Ferdinand I

The revolutionaries in Vienna cheered when they heard of Radetzky’s victories in Lombardy. Why did they cheer? After all, Radetzky’s enemies should have been their friends. Both the Viennese and Lombard revolutionaries were Liberals. Both battled what they thought was tyranny. Yet the Viennese radicals welcomed the news of Radetzky’s victories. Why?

The answer is simple. The Viennese revolutionaries were Liberals, but they were also nationalists. They cheered Radetzky, for he had led German and Austrian arms in triumph over people of a different nation. The success of Liberal ideals meant less to the Viennese insurgents than their nation’s glory.

Such nationalism could be found as well in the German and Hungarian diets. The German and Magyar Liberals wanted liberty and citizen rights for themselves, but not necessarily for other nationalities. Kossuth fought for Magyars but wanted to keep down the Slav minorities in Hungary. This only alienated the Slavs from the cause of Hungarian independence. The Viennese revolutionaries also alienated the Slavs by cheering the news that in June the imperial Austrian army under Alfred, Prince zu Windischgrätz, had crushed the Czech revolution in Prague.


This Week in History

The Holy Roman Empire’s Quiet End: August 6, 1806

The crown of the Holy Roman Empire, in use from the 11th century until the empire’s dissolution in 1806

Napoleon … left the pope alone for a time because, once again, war threatened the French empire. Prussia was growing restless. King Friedrich Wilhelm III had discovered that betraying the Russians and the Austrians had not paid off; Napoleon’s power was growing and was extending into the lands Prussia wished to dominate—the numerous duchies, principalities, and kingdoms of the Holy Roman Empire.

Since his rise to power, Napoleon had seized several German imperial lands. He had made German territories west of the Rhine part of France. He had taken Hanover from King George III of Great Britain. He had made the kingdoms of Württemberg and Bavaria his allies. And, now, in July 1806, he threatened to force most of Germany to acknowledge his overlordship.


This Week in History

Napoleon III’s Waterloo — Sedan: September 2, 1870

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. See sample chapters, here. For ordering information on Light to the Nations II and our other texts, please click here. Read the post for which this story is a continuation.

Emperor Napoleon III

Napoleon III had been assured that the French army was well prepared for war, but this was untrue. The French army was in a deplorable condition, and the attempts to mobilize it were filled with mishaps. The men, moreover, were badly equipped and poorly trained. They were in no condition to meet what had become the most disciplined army in Europe, under the best military commander of the day— General Moltke.

The French placed 200,000 men at the city and fortress of Metz in Lorraine and another 100,000 at Strasbourg, in Alsace. From these two cities (called the gateways to Germany), the French thought they would invade Germany. The Prussians for their part had three armies (together numbering 424,000 men), with which they planned to force their way through the “gateways” of Metz and Strasbourg into France.

The Prussian strategy had been so well planned that the German armies moved with the precision of a machine. By mid August, the Prussians forced the French general, Marshal Patrice de Mac-Mahon, to abandon Strasbourg and withdraw from most of Alsace. On August 18, another Prussian army defeated Marshal Achille François Bazaine at Gravelotte in Lorraine and forced him to take refuge in the fortified town of Metz. Though the French fought bravely through several bloody battles, their lack of preparation brought them defeat after defeat at the hands of the Prussians. (more…)

This Week in History

The Battle of Churubusco:

August 20, 1847

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

General Zachary Taylor

While Taylor rested at Saltillo, and General Scott was planning his strategy for the war, the U.S Navy under Commodores Sloat and Stockton seized, one by one, the coastal pueblos of California. Both Castro and Pico were making plans to resist the invader; but, finding little support among the Californios, both men fled California without firing a shot. For a time it seemed the Californios would acquiesce to the conqueror; but then Archibald Gillespie, whom Stockton had left in command at Los Angeles, proclaimed martial law and imprisoned 20 Angelenos who had spoken out against American rule. Incensed by Gillespie’s high handedness, Californios under Andrés Pico and José Maria Flores rose up against the Americans. Having few arms besides long lances tipped with metal points, the Californios used their superb horsemanship to bloody the noses of the invaders in a few small engage­ments. Further resistance, though, was futile, and in mid-July 1847, Californio leaders signed the Cahuenga Capitulations, surrendering to the United States forces.

The conquest of California, however, was merely a sideshow to what became the main act of the war — General Winfield Scott’s invasion of Mexcio. Scott’s plan of war was a daring one (though some might have called it foolish); he would take Veracruz, and following Cortés’ old invasion route, march across the sultry plains, climb the lofty sierra, and assault Mexico City. Relying as it did on a 350-mile supply line, Scott’s strategy tempted disaster, for the enemy could easily cut off the American supply line. Fortunately for “Old Fuss and Feathers,” the Mexicans were so disunited that they could not muster sufficient numbers at any one time to crush Scott’s small force of 12,000 men. (more…)