US History/European History
The peoples of Europe have had a tremendous impact on the development of the United States throughout the course of U.S. history. Europeans "discovered" and colonized the North American continent and, even after they lost political control over its territory, their influence has predominated due to a common language, social ideals, and culture. Therefore, when endeavoring to understand the history of the United States, it is helpful to briefly describe their European origin.
Greece and Rome
The first significant civilizations of Europe formed in the second millennium BC. By 800 BC, the Greek city-states began to gain dominance over European civilization. By about 500 BC, the state of Athens had created a democracy, but one that differs from today's democracies in certain respects. The city-states of Greece became provinces of the Roman Empire in 27 BC.
Meanwhile, the city of Rome was founded (traditionally in the year 753 BC). Slowly, Rome grew and built its empire, which at various points included most of present-day Britain (a large part of Scotland never belonged to the empire), France (then known as Gaul), Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Iraq, Palestine (including the territory claimed today by the modern state of Israel), Northern Arabia, Egypt, the Balkans, and the entire north coast of Africa.
By 180 AD, the Roman Empire began to disintegrate. The Emperors were overthrown and anarchy resulted. But Diocletian (243 - 316) reinstated the Empire by 284. The Empire was restored and continued to regain territory until 395, when the Empire was so large that it had to be divided into two parts, each with a separate ruler. The Eastern Empire survived until 1453, but the Western Empire fell quickly. In 476, Germanic tribes rebelled against Rome and deposed the Western Roman Emperor, resulting in a long period of decline known as the "Dark Ages."
The Roman Empire to the Holy Roman Empire
After Rome's fall c.476, the remnants of the Western Roman Empire fell into the hands of several of Germanic tribes, such as the Visigoths, Anglo-Saxons, Vandals, and Franks. Among these, the Franks quickly rose to prominence.
Charlemagne (742 - 814), the King of the Franks, took power over great portions of Europe. He eventually took control of Rome, reestablishing the Western Roman Empire, which became known as the Holy Roman Empire due to its close association with the Roman Catholic Church. But "Holy Roman Empire" was a misnomer, famously neither Holy, Roman, or an Empire, because the Empire was actually a confederation of what was formerly known as Gaul with the early German states. Also, it was not exactly an Empire. Though the Emperor held great power, he could not control the Church, even in his own domain. This allowed the popes of the Church to exert great influence both in religious and political matters.
At the end of the eleventh century, prompted by Pope Urban II and calls for aid from the crumbling Eastern Roman Empire, some European kings and great nobles launched a century and a half of Crusades of hordes of Christians, first to reconquer, and then to hold, part of the Kingdom of Jerusalem from the Saracens (Arabs). The Crusaders ultimately failed in the face of powerful, resurgent, Muslim forces, but were recurrent disturbers of the Arab Empire. The Arabs were repeatedly torn by internal dynastic struggles such as Abbasides versus Fatimids, Shi'a versus Sunni, and numerous wars with the Turks (who succeeded them), Persians, and Mongols. The wars between Christian and Muslim empires lasted intermittently from the seventh century until World War I, and, to a degree, continue to the present in the Balkans, East Africa, Caucasus, East Indies, and Middle East.
Viking Exploration of North America
In the eighth century, pushed from their homes in Scandinavia by war and population expansion, Norsemen, or Vikings, began settling parts of the Faeroe, Shetland, and Orkney Islands in the North Atlantic. Since the Vikings were expanding they were entering parts of England, and would terrorize the towns they encountered. The liked to play a game called "catch the Baby". After the Vikings conquered a town, the helpless little infants were rounded up, then tossed in the air. The object of the "game" was to catch the baby on the point of a spear. Then they began exploration of the west, moving first to Iceland in approximately 874 and, later, led by Erik the Red, to Greenland. Leif Erikson, son of Erik the Red, and other members of the family began exploration of the North American coast in 986. There was at least one camp founded by Vikings in the latter region, now named Newfoundland, and in the 1960's archaeologists discovered Viking remains at L'Anse aux Meadows dating back to about 1000 AD. For whatever reason, the Viking settlement of Newfoundland failed, perhaps because of violent encounters with native peoples and, by the thirteenth century, Iceland and Greenland had also entered a period of decline, resulting from the "Little Ice Age" and bringing the Viking exploration of the west to a standstill. Expansion of Scandinavian traders and warriors into Russia, France, Italy, the British Isles, and Sicily had a profound effect on politics and the ruling classes of Europe.
The Great Famine and Black Death
The poor harvest led to famines in the years 1315-1317 and in 1321. Farmers could not support the growing population. Along with farmer's losing their crops, in the year 1318 their sheep and cattle began to die because of disease. Genoese ships brought the bubonic plague to Europe in 1347. The bubonic form of the disease was transmitted by rats and the pneumonic form was transmitted by people. Rats are very common for spreading disease. They can feed on trash and sewage and carry several diseases that can be spread from city to city. There were three strands of the disease bubonic, pneumonic and septicemic. The bubonic form attacked bubos, which are lymph nodes found in areas such as the armpit, groin and neck. The lymph nodes would become extremely swollen and black. A person might have a chance to survive if the bubos were sliced and then drained. It was said that when the bubos were cut open it would produce a horrendous smell. Considering that these people were not the most hygienic people (cities were unsanitary) it must have been horrible. Pneumonic would attack the lungs. When the disease did travel to the lungs if that person was to cough or sneeze the disease would travel through the air. Easily spreading the disease. The last form of disease was septicemic, which was known to be the most deadly form of the disease. Septicemic would attack the blood and would kill the person infected with it within hours. The plague not only killed families, but it also distanced them as well. No longer would family members keep in touch, for fear of contracting the disease themselves. There was also a big change for religion. Many people began to have their doubts about the church and the King. Since most people in that time period looked up to these people and yet they were not helping. Many people began to realize that ministers who were supposed to be sacred were just as vulnerable to the plague as anyone else. “Filth and uncleanliness reigned supreme and as a consequence plague and pestilence scourged Europe” The Plague spread most quickly in towns and cities, because of the extreme population density . The Black Plague highlighted the dangers of urban living, including increased pollution from cramped homes and human waste produced by expanding populations. The towns and cities grew too fast and could not keep up with sanitation. Sanitation was a serious problem, and was one of the main causes or the only cause for the Black Plague. Europe was a perfect place for the Back Plague. It was a breeding ground for a disease to live. Europe was in disarray, the poor were becoming poorer while the rich reaped the benefits. Which left people with very little money. With less money people would live in closer proximity to each other. Also with less money and the famines the years before people’s immune systems were very weak. Since there was such a high population in the cities and towns in the 1300’s they became very overcrowded. In just one square mile there are reports of there being 50,000 people. There was no room for cleanliness in these times. Raw sewage was being thrown into the streets while people were walking below. A person would whistle three times before actually dumping the sewage and trash out onto the streets. In this time period there really was no such thing as hygiene. Maybe once or twice a year would people receive a bath in order to clean themselves. Even the rich would go several weeks without bathing. With people in such tight quarters the disease would be easily passed from one person to the next. And since these towns were so overcrowded disease would spread very quickly. Large families were a great place for the disease to thrive and take hold. There was no stopping the disease once it infected a victim’s body. And there was little chance of survival. Although the plague was being spread by rats many people believed that it was being spread by dogs and cats. So instead of keeping probably the best natural enemy of rats, people killed cats and dogs in hopes of killing the disease. Along with blaming cats and dogs many people blamed Jewish people for the plague. Killing thousands of them. About one third of Europe's population was killed by the plague. Although that is a large amount of people, it also brought about new beginnings for Europe. With less people crowed in the cities, there was more room from them to prosper again. Sanitation become more of a concern for them. Cities knew the mistakes that they had made concerning sanitation. There began laws of sanitation. In London there people hired to keep the streets clean, and people to oversee them to make sure they were actually doing their work. The idea of quarantine was also started during the Black Plague. People realized who was sick and placed them by themselves in order to stop the spread of the disease. The disease thinned the population for the benefit of Europe. Since the plague did not care if the victim was rich or poor, it would kill everyone. Giving Europeans the chance to finally move up in society. Never before was there such a great opportunity like this. Servants were able to leave their masters and no longer be tied down. A middle class began to emerge. The plague was a horrible part of history, but its aftermath far outweighed the bad. There was less famine because of the large decrease in people, people were able to move up in society and there were more jobs to be had.
- See also: European History
Despite the Christian losses of the Crusades, the soldiers who participated had realized one major fact: Eastern civilization was far more advanced than its Western counterpart. Its technology and culture outstripped feudal life west of the Byzantine Empire. With this in mind, Europeans began to import these concepts into their own native lands. Thus, it was not long before the continent began to enter a period of revival.
Roman and Greek art and culture were rediscovered during a period called the Renaissance. The Renaissance started in the Italian city-states and spread throughout most of Europe. The Italian city of Florence was the birthplace of this intellectual movement.
Although Western Christians failed to conquer the Holy Land, they were able to use their newly found experience and knowledge of the Mediterranean, a region whose technology was at a time superior to that of western Europe. Chinese technology such as gunpowder, silk, and printing filtered in from traders, adventurers, and scholars. In the Mediterranean, Europeans encountered writings of the ancient world that had been lost in Europe, and acquired a taste for new foods and flavors.
In the fifteenth century, the Mediterranean was a vigorous trading area. Europe used this water highway to import goods of many sorts. Grains and salts for preserving fish, Chinese silks, Indian cotton, precious stones, and above all, spices. Yes, Europe obsessed over these new spices. New spices meant new drugs, new cosmetics, dyes, perfumes, even glue and sugar. Peppers, cinnamon, cloves and other condiments used for flavoring and preserving food, proved a welcome addition to the bland diets of Europe.
The Rise of Portugal
Italy dominated trade. Genoa and Venice in particular ballooned into massive trading cities, and Italy used its monopoly to raise the price of goods, which would have been expensive in any case, because they were often brought overland from Asia to ports on the eastern Mediterranean. The mad prices, in turn, increased the desire of purchasers to find other suppliers, and of potential suppliers to find a better and cheaper route to Asia.
Portugal was just one of many potential suppliers, and its location was well positioned to extend its influence into the Atlantic and down, south and east, to Africa. Prince Henry, son of King John I (r. 1385 – 1433), led the way of exploring new routes to the east and, in 1415, supported Portugal's capture of Ceuta in Muslim North Africa. He also sponsored voyages that pushed even farther down the West African coast, all the way south to Sierra Leone by the time of his death in 1460.
Under Portugal's King John II, who ruled from 1481 to 1495, Bartolomeu Dias finally sailed around the southernmost point of Africa to the Cape of Good Hope (1487-88). Then, in 1497-99, Vasco da Gama of Portugal, sailed up the east coast of Africa to India.
Africa supplied Portugal with many profitable by-products. The Portuguese colonized and settled many islands in the Atlantic, such as the Madeira, Cape Verde, The Azores, and Sao Tome. These islands supplied them with sugar, and gave them territorial control of the Atlantic. West Africa was even more promising, not only unearthing a valuable trade route to India, but also providing the Portuguese with ivory, fur, oils, black pepper, gold dust, and a supply of “black gold” -- i.e., dark skinned slaves who were used as domestic servants, artisans, and market or transportation workers in Lisbon. Later, they were used as laborers on sugar plantations in the Atlantic.
The Hundred Years' War
The war was between the years of 1337 to 1453. The war began when an English King claimed that France should be part of England. The dynastic politics between the English and French crowns. Economic factors also fueled the Hundred Years' War. The French and English governments manipulated public opinion to gain support for the war. Also, the Hundred Years' War created opportunities for wealth and advancement for the knights of both countries. The Chivalric code had reached a peak during this period. For the most part the war was fought in France and the Low Countries. The early stages of the war marked by English victories. Until a young peasant girl from Lorriene, France named Joan of Arc played a significant role in the ultimate French victory. Joan of Arc was born when the church and the state were at a disarray. Joan had a dream that God came to her and told her told her how to defeat the English. She claimed that God told that Prince Price Charles of France needed to be crowned in order for France to claim victory or the English. After gaining the new French king support of the populace and several key victories, Joan was sold to the English for treason and as an appeasement.
The New World
In Europe, the doctrines of the powerful Roman Catholic Church were timidly questioned by scientists such as Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 - 1543) and Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642), who suggested by way of careful observation that the earth revolved around the sun, which is also known as the heliocentric model. At the time, the church supported the Ptolemaic planetary system, which placed Earth at the center of the universe.
Many Europeans dreamed of exploration. One, the Italian Christopher Columbus 1451 - 1506), born Christofo Colombo, decided to sail around the globe to reach India by way of the Atlantic, rather than to travel overland through Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.
Contrary to popular myth, it was largely accepted in Europe during Columbus' time that the world was round, which was also central to either the prevailing Copernican or Ptolemaic models of the solar system. In fact, sailors feared sailing west due to the unknown distance and uncharted winds of the West Atlantic, not because they feared sailing off the "edge of the world." Columbus' inspiration for exploring westward was his 30 percent underestimation of the circumference of the earth.
First, Columbus needed to fund his voyage. He approached King John II of Portugal (1455 - 1495) for aid, but the King's Council of Scientific Advisers rejected Columbus' proposals mostly on financial grounds, but also because of his lack of academic knowledge. After all, Columbus didn't know where he was going when he set out, didn't know where he was when he got there, and didn't know where he had been when he got back. Columbus then looked to Portugal's rival on the seas, Spain. King Ferdinand V of Aragon (1452 - 1516), and his wife Queen Isabella of Castile (1451 - 1504), rejected Columbus's plan in 1491. The Spanish rulers felt that Columbus demanded too many benefits and powers in the lands he was proposing to explore, including a percentage of the riches found in these lands, as well as certain titles such as Viceroy and Admiral. But after much negotiation, Columbus received the support of the Queen and funding to sail in April 1492. In that same year, the last Muslims were forced out of Granada by the Christian army. With the reunification of Spain complete, attention and funding became available for exploration to form the basis for the Age of Exploration and the Spanish Empire of the Americas.
Despite the failure of the Crusades, militant Western Christianity persisted in Spain in an effort known as the Reconquista (the "reconquest"), which purged the land of Muslims who had arrived there in 711. By the fifteenth century, the Muslims were confined to the kingdom of Granada, which bordered the Mediterranean Sea in the southern side of the Iberian Peninsula. Granada finally fell in 1492 to the Spanish Christians, ending the reconquista.
Elsewhere in Europe, the Pope's powers continued to grow, and in protest to the Roman Catholic Church, several Protestant churches were founded in Germany and France under reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin. In England, King Henry VIII founded the Anglican Church. This division of Western Christianity caused much religious strife, and religious minorities were persecuted throughout Europe. This persecution created large amounts of people looking for a better life. Many of these people set out to create new homes in the Americas. One of the most notable of these groups were the Pilgrims.
Judaism During the Time Period
There's been a lot of hostility towards Jews for quite some time, and to be able to discuss things that happened in history that appear in these sections, some events need to be discussed to understand where the hostility stems from. During the Middles Ages (7th-15th centuries) the Christians blamed the Jews for Jesus Christ’s death. In the 13th century, England was the first country to expel Jewish people for what many though they did, kill Jesus. Later, France kicked the Jews out of their country as the English had done. Later during the 15th century, Spain and Portugal grew hostility towards Jews. A lot of the hostility from others countries came from the fact that Jews believed in things different from Christians and Muslims. Jews were, for a majority of the time, forced to pay expensive taxes, wear special clothing to be more noticed (negatively), and were even segregated in horrible living conditions such as ghettos (Charing pg. 18-23). Charing, Douglas. Judaism. New York, NY: DK Pub., 2003. Print.
During the Middle Ages Western society and education were heavily shaped by Christianity, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. The Church operated monastery schools at the elementary level. Schools in monasteries and cathedrals offered secondary education. Much of the teaching in these schools was directed at learning Latin, the old Roman language used by the church in its ceremonies and teachings. The church provided some limited opportunities for the education of women in religious communities or convents. Convents had libraries and schools to help prepare nuns to follow the religious rules of their communities. Merchant and craft guilds also maintained some schools that provided basic education and training in specific crafts. Knights received training in military tactics and the code of chivalry.
As in the Greek and Roman eras, only a minority of people went to school during the medieval period. Schools were attended primarily by persons planning to enter religious life such as priests, monks, or nuns. The vast majority of people were serfs who served as agricultural workers on the estates of feudal lords. The serfs, who did not attend school, were generally illiterate.
In the 11th century medieval scholars developed Scholasticism, a philosophical and educational movement that used both human reason and revelations from the Bible Scholasticism, philosophic and theological movement that attempted to use natural human reason, in particular, the philosophy and science of Aristotle, to understand the supernatural content of Christian revelation. It was dominant in the medieval Christian schools and universities of Europe from about the middle of the 11th century to about the middle of the 15th century. The ultimate ideal of the movement was to integrate into an ordered system both the natural wisdom of Greece and Rome and the religious wisdom of Christianity. Formal education was unusual in the Middle Ages, although by the fifteenth century there were schooling options to prepare a child for his future. Some cities such as London had schools that children of both genders attended during the day. Here they learned to read and write a skill that became a prerequisite for acceptance as an apprentice in many Guilds.
A small percentage of peasant children managed to attend school in order to learn how to read and write and understand basic math; this usually took place at a monastery. For this education, their parents had to pay the lord a fine. Noble girls, and on occasion boys were sometimes sent to live in nunneries in order to receive basic schooling. Nuns would teach them to read (and possibly to write) and make sure they knew their prayers. Girls were very likely taught spinning and needlework and other domestic skills to prepare them for marriage. Occasionally such students would become nuns themselves.
- Masoff, Joy and Terry Sirrell. Oh, Yikes!: History’s Grossest, Wackiest Moments. Workman Publishing, 2006.
- Massachusetts Medical Society, New England Surgical Society. Boston medical and surgical journal, Volume 149, Issue 2. 1903
- Jim Ollhoff. A History of Germs, Jim Ollhoff. ABDO, 2009.
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- Gottfried, Robert S. The Black Death: Natural and Human Disaster in Medieval Europe. Simon and Schuster, 1985. 64.
- Rice, Anne. Servants of the Bones. Random House, Inc., 1998.
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- Zahler, Diane. The Black Death. Twenty-First Century Books, 2009. 114.
- Hunter, Susan S. Black death: AIDS in Africa. Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. 115.
- Stanley, Diane. Joan of Arc. Harper/Collins, 2002.
- Gordon, Mary. Joan of Arc: A Life. Penguin, 2008.
- Warner, Marina. Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism. University of California Press, 1999