Showing posts with label europe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label europe. Show all posts

Hungarian Revolt (1956 )

In 1956, Hungary was a nation of 9 million. Allied to Germany during World War II, it was occupied by Soviet troops in 1944–45. Hungarian Communists began the process that by the late 1940s would give them control over the government.
Hungarian Revolt (1956)

By that time, Hungary’s government had undergone changes that ensured that the leadership strictly followed directives from the Soviet Union. The first Communist leader, from 1949 to the early 1950s, was the hard-liner Laszlo Rajk. He, in turn, was replaced on Moscow’s orders by an equally harsh leader, Mátyás Rákosi.

While the imposition of Communist rule in Hungary was particularly repressive, it was applied with force throughout Eastern Europe into the early 1950s. At that time, a series of events took place that indicated restrictions from the Soviet Union and internal restrictions might be loosening. The first event was the death of Stalin in 1953.

A slight thaw and liberalization followed in both the Soviet Union and the satellite states. There were changes in the internal policies in the East European states. Hard-liners died mysteriously, and in countries where rebellions against the Soviets had been put down, there seemed to be a certain degree of liberalization.

Closer to home, there seemed to be a change in Hungary’s direction. Rákosi was pushed aside and a moderate, Imre Nagy, was brought in to take his place. Nagy left this position in 1955 and his predecessor, Rákosi, returned. In July 1956 Nikita Khrushchev suggested to Rákosi that he should visit Moscow. Nagy was back in, but left the government after a very short while. This is when the troubles began.

On October 23, 1956, students demanded that Nagy return to the government. The students were fired on by the police, and on the following day martial law was declared. Soviet troops in Hungary put down the increasing number of riots and demonstrations. The violence escalated until October 28, when Nagy returned to the government, a cease-fire was signed, and the Soviet troops withdrew from Budapest.

In the next week Nagy and the newly formed government began making changes that alarmed not only hard-line Hungarian Communists but the leadership in Moscow as well. Political prisoners were released and the one-party system was ended.

Most serious, however, was the statement made that Hungary would begin withdrawing from the WarSaw Pact. Khrushchev ordered the Soviet army to commence Operation Whirlwind, a strong military response to the rebellion.

Soviet tank in Budapest

Whirlwind commenced on November 4 and lasted until November 12. It was a Soviet-only operation, as the 120,000-man Hungarian army was not trusted politically. Most of the fighting took place in the streets of Budapest.

There was a political movement as well. János Kádár arrived in Budapest on November 7. He was a long-time Communist operative with a history of being in and out of power.

When the revolt began, Kádár left Budapest and went to the Soviets, formally asking them to intervene in ending the disorder. Coming from a member of the Hungarian government, this request reinforced the impression of the legitimacy of the Soviet intervention.

In the end, the Soviet army saw 700 men killed and approximately 1,500 wounded. Three thousand Hungarians died, most in Budapest. Many thousands of Hungarians left the country, first to Austria, where refugee camps were set up, and then later to the United States, Canada, France, and Britain.

Political Order

As the Soviet Army put an end to the rebellion, Kádár, assisted by the Soviet ambassador Yuri Andropov, restored political order. Nagy was taken by the Soviets and executed in 1958. Kádár’s rule was, at first, characterized by harshness and reprisals against anyone who participated.

In the following years, however, Kádár liberalized the regime, instituting what Khrushchev and others contemptuously referred to as “Goulash Communism.” Kádár did not look for loyalty so much as conformity.

Hungary, in relation with other members of the Warsaw Pact in the 1960s–1980s, was very liberal. By 1989 it had the most advanced economy in eastern Europe. Authors did not have to submit their works to a censor prior to publication, but those who crossed the unstated line could still find themselves in trouble.

The United States government, which many considered to have instigated the rebellion through Radio Free Europe broadcasts, had decided that the potential for a nuclear war outweighed the benefits of assisting the Hungarians. From 1956 on, American diplomatic talk of rolling back communism was replaced with the phrase “containment.”

Although Khrushchev succeeded in reestablishing the Communist government, his indecisiveness and actions prior to the rebellion damaged his credibility. It took the prodding of many within the Soviet government to make him act, and the fact that he had had to fly to Yugoslavia to get Marshal Tito’s approval before intervening led many to question his leadership. In 1957 an attempt was made to replace him, which failed. His continued problems in foreign policy, however, finally led to his ouster in 1964.

By 1989 there were significant changes. In April the Hungarian government tore down the barbed wire fences on its frontier with Austria. In June that same year, 200,000 Hungarians attended the reburial of Imre Nagy from a common grave to a place of honor.

Europe and the Printing Press

Before 1450, books were produced by scribes who laboriously copied an existing book by hand. Between 1455 and 1500, the printing press, containing movable type using manufactured paper, revolutionized book production.
Europe and the Printing Press

By 1500, hundreds of printing presses throughout Europe had produced more than 6 million books, roughly equivalent to the total number of books produced in the prior 15 centuries.

This revolution was begun by an ordinary man named Johann Gutenberg (c. 1400–1468). Gutenberg had a printing shop in Mainz, Germany. Though often called the “inventor of movable type,” Gutenberg did not invent any of the major parts of the printing process but took the concepts and engineered a solution that touched off a rapid growth in printing.

Prior to the printing press, books were made at great expense by hand. Only kings, universities, large churches, or monasteries could afford the price of a book. The rising merchant class and lower nobility created a demand for a more economical book.

The components of the printing process had recently become available. Paper production had begun in Italy, taking rag stock, mixing it into pulp, then pressing it in a felt press. Paper cost about one-sixth the price of vellum (calf- or sheepskin). The printing press was already in existence for block prints of artwork, or other hand-crafted printing.

Oil-based ink that would work well for transfer to paper was in existence. The concept of movable type (individual letters or characters that could be put into a holder) had been invented by the Chinese centuries before and had slowly made its way over to Europe.

The genius of Gutenberg was in the careful perfection of a printing system. Gutenberg adapted a press to hold a form containing metal pieces. He manufactured more than 300 different symbols including capital letters, lowercase letters, numerals, large block letters, and ligatures (two or more letters attached together). He perfected the ink to work on paper stock acquired from Italy (an oil-based ink that would not smear, nor bleed through the paper).

He devised a system of rolling the ink onto the type form and finally printing it onto paper. Each page would be individually prepared by a skilled typesetter, and then many copies of that page would be printed by the press operator.

Gutenberg first produced some small works (a Latin grammar), but then with business partners Johann Fust and Peter Schöffer providing funding, Gutenberg undertook to produce a copy of the Bible in Latin beginning in 1450. By 1454 or 1455, the first edition was complete.

The Gutenberg Bible uses a typeface that appears hand-printed, since it was produced to compete with hand-printed bibles (at a much lower cost). The Bible would then be decorated (beginning letters colored by hand), and other annotations (or rubrications) added.

Books printed with this new printing press were enormously popular. By 1458, there were several other printers in Germany and Switzerland. By 1475, hundreds of printers with their printing presses were producing editions of books throughout Europe. By 1500, more than 40,000 editions of various works had been produced by printing presses.

While advancements were made to speed up the process of producing and ordering the movable type, the fundamentals of the printing press did not change till the 20th century with the advent of electromechanical printing and finally computer-based printing.

Martin Luther first nailed his Ninety-five Theses on the castle church in Wittenberg in 1517, 60 years after the invention of the printing press process by Gutenberg. Luther intended to raise an academic debate among the region’s theologians.

Instead he ignited a storm of controversy that swept Europe in the rapid communication of his theses through the printing press. Within weeks of his posting the Ninety-five Theses, printers in Wittenberg and other places were selling copies as a short pamphlet, distributing it throughout Germany and even other countries in western Europe.

Luther was a prolific and popular writer. Just over a year later in 1519, he received a note from a printer Basel named Johannes Froben: “We sent six hundred copies of your collected works which I published to France and Spain.

They are sold in Paris, read and appreciated at the Sorbonne. The book dealer Clavus of Pavia took a sizable number to Italy to sell them everywhere in the cities. I have sent copies also to England and Babant and have only ten copies left in the storeroom. I have never had such good luck with a book.”

Many of Luther’s shorter works were published as pamphlets, easily accessible to merchants, lesser nobility, and others who could read. The printing press enabled the rapid spread of Reformation.

The advent of the printing press produced other societal changes. With books more accessible, the system of instruction at the university level changed. Prior to the printing press, a professor would read from a single book (often the only copy at the university) and the students would take notes.

With the printing press, great works by authors of past eras were published more broadly, bringing the Renaissance abad to full fruition. The work of scientists such as Copernicus and Isaac Newton were published, bringing both debate and further development to science.

It also increased the desire of those in power to control what was published in their country or church. The first Index of Forbidden Books was published by King Henry VIII of England in 1526, and the Catholic Church’s Index of Prohibited (or Forbidden) Books was published in 1559 and revised constantly thereafter.

Francisco Pizarro

Ranking with Hernán Cortés as one of the most ruthless and effective of all the Spanish conquistadores, Francisco Pizarro was the principal force behind the conquest of Peru and subjugation of the Inca Empire in the 1530s.
Francisco Pizarro

Along with his brother Gonzalo and half brother Hernándo, Francisco successfully suppressed a rebellion launched by his erstwhile partner in conquest Diego de Almagro in 1537–38, only to have disgruntled Almagrists acting under the nominal authority of Almagro’s mestizo son, Almagro the Younger, slay him in his palace in Lima on July 26, 1541.

An illiterate swineherd as a youth and the illegitimate son of a minor nobleman, Francisco Pizarro was born in Trujillo, Estremadura, Spain, around 1476. He arrived in the Americas in 1510 and participated in the expedition across Panama led by Vasco Núñez de Balboa that led to the European discovery of the Pacific Ocean in 1513. After the first two exploratory expeditions along the Peruvian coast, in 1528, Pizarro returned to Spain to seek the Crown’s sanction (capitulación) for an expedition of conquest.

He received it, along with the title of governor and captain-general of Peru, to the dismay of Almagro, who received a much less exalted title. One of his most memorable and consequential acts was in July 1533 when he decided to execute the Inca Atahualpa in Cajamarca to the chagrin of King Charles V, provoking an outcry among Spaniards.

He is also credited with founding numerous towns, including the colony’s capital city along the coast, Ciudad de los Reyes (City of the Kings, founded on January 6, 1535), which by the late 1500s had become known as Lima, a corruption of its indigenous name; Cuzco (1534); the coastal city of Trujillo (1535); and San Juan de la Frontera, later known as Huamanga (1539).

He was also responsible for allotting Indians in encomienda and repartimiento to reward his followers and supporters, a tactic he also used to buy off potential adversaries, including members of the Inca royal family such as Manco Inca’s half brother Pallu, to whom he granted a repartimiento of more than 5,000 Indians in 1539.

This was the same year that the Crown granted him the title of marquis and his own coat of arms, which depicted a chained Atahualpa reaching into two chests laden with treasure.

His most consequential political error, in the judgment of many scholars, was to sow the seeds of the Almagrist war by his own extreme greed and his niggardly allotments to Almagro, whose supporters slew him in 1541.

His many descendants ranked among the richest and most powerful members of Peru’s colonial society. An imposing statue of the legendary conquistador astride his steed can be found in the town of his birth, facing the palace built by his brother Hernándo.

Spanish Colonization of the Philippines

The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands in Southeast Asia. It contains a great deal of diversity in ethnicity and social organization. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, there were very few credible accounts of life on the archipelago and, consequently, what is known about precolonial Philippines depends on postcolonization sources. Prior to Spanish rule, the Philippines consisted of small-scale communities with little connection to any larger state.
Spanish Colonization of the Philippines

Junks had been traveling to the islands from China for centuries and some islands and ports had roles in the international spice trade. The southern islands of the Philippines had become partly Islamized since the 15th century from Brunei to Mindanao and the Sulu islands.

Both Spain and Portugal had become active in the Southeast Asian region by the late 15th century, attracted by the valuable spice trade, access to the markets of China, and the possibility of converting souls to Christianity.

Relations between Spain and Portugal were regulated by the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, which divided lands outside Europe between the two powers. This division was further regulated by the Treaty of Saragossa in 1529, which fixed the exact line in the Pacific at 17 degrees east of the Moluccas Islands.

A Spanish explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, arrived a Cebu (part of the chain that became the Philippines) across the Pacific from the Western Hemisphere in 1521. In 1565, the first permanent Spanish settlement was established on Cebu. Manila was established in 1571; it became the capital of Spanish-ruled Philippines.

The spread of Spanish influence occurred quickly and peaceably, since there were few large communities able to resist the superior technology and organization, except for the Islamized states in the south, especially Mindanao. None of the desired spices were found in the Philippines.

The colonization was, consequently, of only limited success from the Spanish perspective and the local cultural heritage partly replaced by European Christianity and agriculture and other economic activities were reorganized and surplus was exported to Spain. Spanish appointed governors replaced the indigenous rulers.

Local exports to Spain, however, were very secondary to Chinese-made goods that Chinese merchants took to Manila, as they had been doing since the end of the first millennium c.e.

These goods, primarily silk textiles, tea, and porcelain, were in great demand in Europe, with the result that Manila became the gathering place of Spanish galleons that would sail in convoy annually to ports on the Pacific coast in southern Mexico, whence they would be carried across the isthmus by Mexican porters to Veracruz, a port in the Gulf of Mexico, and loaded onto ships for transport across the Atlantic to Spain. Thus the Philippines were more important to Spain as a gathering place for goods made in China and secondarily from Japan than for its own products.

As a result of Spanish rule until the end of the 19th century, the Philippines is the only Asian country with a majority Catholic population.

Philip II - Spanish Monarch

Despite the fact that Philip II was the ruler of the Spanish Empire when its influence in the world was at its peak, his record as a monarch was not entirely successful. The birth of Philip on May 21, 1527, in the city of Valladolid was a welcome joy to his parents, Charles V and Isabella of Portugal.
Philip II - Spanish Monarch

His parents had a significant impact on his upbringing as his father taught him at an early age how to govern the realm, while his mother’s piety played a large part in Philip’s life. Although Philip was a very devout individual, his interest in the occult was evident in his collection of hundreds of books on this subject.

In the 16th century, Spain was one of the most powerful countries in Europe. Charles V ruled over a sizable empire as he controlled Spain, Sardinia, Naples, Sicily, the Netherlands, land in central Europe, and colonies situated in the Caribbean and South and North America.

Control of this large territory was difficult to manage, and when Charles V stepped down as the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1558, he chose two people to rule the Habsburg lands—his brother Ferdinand and his son Philip.

Philip received the largest bulk of the empire, as he acquired Spain, the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean and North and South America, Sardinia, Naples, and the Netherlands, in comparison to Ferdinand, who acquired Habsburg territories in central Europe.

Philip acquired the kingdom of Portugal and its colonies following the death of the Portuguese King Manuel I in 1580 because Manuel failed to produce a male heir. Philip inherited this kingdom because his mother was one of Manuel’s daughters.

Philip spent much of his life trying to attain unity and protect his empire rather than extend his absolute rule over the areas he controlled. The empire was too large for Philip to attain absolute rule as is evidenced by the fact that his control of the empire was ineffective outside Madrid.

Despite the division of Habsburg possessions in Europe, Philip was still left with a significant area of territory to govern and had the potential to add further territories to Habsburg possessions. Philip married Mary I of England in 1554; the marriage could have brought England into the possession of the Habsburg family but failed to produce a child.

The accession of Elizabeth I to the throne of England in 1558 changed the dynamics of Spanish-English relations. Elizabeth was a Protestant, who supported the Dutch in their fight for independence against the Spanish and endorsed English piracy against Spanish ships.

Philip sent a powerful naval armada to remove the “heretic” Elizabeth from power, but English ships were able to destroy a number of ships, while dangerous weather forced a number of others to crash into rocks off the coast of Scotland and Ireland.

This defeat was a massive blow for the Spanish fleet as at least 70 of the 130 ships that participated in the invasion were destroyed. This massive blow to the Spanish navy forced Philip to give up his plans of removing Elizabeth from power.

Philip spent a great deal of time trying to secure Habsburg possessions in Italy against the encroachments of France by signing the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis in 1559. After securing Italy, Philip was able to concentrate more on the threat that the Ottoman Empire posed to the western Mediterranean and to southern Spain. From 1559 to 1577, the Spanish navy was engaged in frequent fighting against the Ottoman navy.

The southern coast of Spain was vulnerable against Ottoman naval incursions as a result of the weakness of the Spanish navy in that region and a rebellion initiated by the Moriscos, who were Christian Moors, over taxation. The naval war between the two empires climaxed in 1571 at the Battle of Lepanto, where the Spanish navy decisively defeated the Ottomans, ending the Ottoman threat to southern Spain.

Religion and Politics

It is difficult to assess the degree in which religion played a role in Philip’s foreign policy, and historians have been debating this question for years. Religion was a major focus in the life of Philip II as is evidenced by the fact that he undertook many administrative reforms in the church in Spain by creating an archdiocese at Burgos, creating seven dioceses, and cutting off over 300 monastic houses in Spain from their religious orders in Europe, giving the Spanish government more influence in their affairs.

Philip attempted to create a fair political and judicial administration in order to win the hearts of his loyal subjects and the fear of criminals. He intervened in the judicial and government systems as little as possible, and only when he believed that injustices were committed against his people.

Philip even put class distinctions aside as he punished the aristocracy when he believed they violated the law. This is not to suggest that Philip II was without prejudices; he attempted, after all, to expel the Jewish population from Lombardy.

Philip endured many tragic events in his personal life, including the death of his wives, Maria of Portugal, Mary I, Elizabeth of Valois, and Anne of Austria. Philip was also forced to live with the death of his son Don Carlos.

The relationship between Philip and Don Carlos was characterized by incessant friction, and it is possible that Don Carlos supported Dutch leaders who were becoming dissatisfied with Spanish rule. Philip imprisoned his son in 1568, and he died six months later, possibly on the orders of Philip. Philip was not always eager to marry, but diplomatic ties and the need for an heir to the throne prompted the king to take four wives.

This need for a male heir became acute following Don Carlos’s death. The duduk perkara concerning a male heir was solved as Anne gave birth to a boy, Philip III, on April 14, 1578, who became the king of Spain following his father’s death in 1598.

Philip was not a popular monarch among his people. He preferred to spend most of his day alone and avoided the public as much as possible. Despite the fact that Philip ruled over a large empire, his military was too weak to defend much of it, and his administration too ineffective to rule it.

Historians have critiqued the rule of Philip II, with varying conclusions. Some point to his securing of the western Mediterranean from Turkish incursions and unification of Portugal and Spain as major achievements while others look to his foreign and domestic policies to show that Spain was weak at the time of his death.

Epidemics and famine led to a decline in population while declining trade and a weakening industrial and agricultural base crippled the empire as the Castilian peasants were forced to pay over a third of their income in taxes to the government.

Peter I the Great - Czar of Russia

The rise to power of Peter the Great was fraught with death and uncertainty, but his reign as czar greatly strengthened Russia in regard to its acquisition of territory in the Baltic and Black Sea regions, and the modernization of Russian society. Czar Alexei (1645–76) and his wife, Natalia Naryshkin, did not believe their son Peter would drastically change the course of Russian history when he was born on May 30, 1672.
 Peter I the Great - Czar of Russia

The death of Czar Feodor III (1676–82) created a persoalan for the continuation of the Romanov dynasty in Russia since Fedor left no heirs; the debate developed concerning Ivan or Peter as successor.

Ivan was Fedor’s brother, but Ivan, who was 16 years old, was mentally and physically handicapped. Peter was the half brother of Ivan and had the support of many of the boyars and the patriarch Joachim, since this healthy 10-year-old offered stability to the Russian throne.

The Zemsky Sobor, an assembly of boyars, was assembled and voiced its support for Peter, but Sophia, Feodor’s sister, refused to allow Peter to be crowned as czar and attempted to incite the Streltsi, a regiment of guardsmen, to turn against Peter. On May 15, 1682, the Streltsi, upon hearing rumors that Ivan and a number of boyars were murdered, rebelled and stormed the Kremlin.

The Streltsi swore their loyalty to the Romanov family after Ivan Naryshkin and Doctor Van Gaden were brutally murdered. These two individuals were killed because the Streltsi believed they played a role in the presumed death of Ivan.

Following these murders, the Streltsi decided that Ivan and Peter would corule Russia, with Ivan acting as the senior czar and Sophia as the regent over both czars. The double coronation ceremony was held on May 26, 1682.

Sophia’s control over the Russian government quickly deteriorated with mounting tension between Sophia and Peter as Peter tried to assert his authority over her. In August 1689, Sophia called up some of the palace guards to protect her from a suspected attack from supporters of Peter.

This intensified the situation, because a number of people loyal to Peter believed that these guards were called up to attack him. Peter fled for refuge to the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, where he rallied a sizable force. Sophia, fearful of Peter’s increasing strength and of her declining support, capitulated.

Peter’s mother, Natalia, was selected to replace Sophia as the regent of the czars, but her regency was short, as she died in 1694. Ivan died shortly later in 1695, leaving Peter as the czar of Russia, and in a position to pursue his own policies.

Military Might

Peter’s first interests were against the Crimean Turks, as Peter was anxious to acquire access to the Black Sea so that Russia could trade with Europe throughout the whole year. The battle against the Turks at Azov in 1695 was a failure despite the fact that Peter assembled an army of approximately 31,000 men to attack Azov, and another 120,000 men to fight near the Dnieper River.

The reason for the failure was that the Turks could still ship supplies to Azov via water transport. Peter decided to correct this oversight in his strategy and collected money from monasteries and boyars to build a Russian naval fleet. The second attempt to take Azov in June 1696 with an army of 80,000 soldiers and a fleet was successful.

With the campaign against the Turks a success, Peter decided to focus his attention toward the West. In 1697, Peter and an entourage of 250 Russians toured Europe to examine Western knowledge and technology. Peter was impressed with the wealth Holland was able to acquire through its trading access and commercial fleet.

This wealth left such an impression on Peter that he was determined to emulate this success by constructing his own commercial fleet. He wanted to give Russia a window to the West via trade and to acquire more European technology to strengthen Russia.

Peter also wanted to import Western culture to Russia; he forced the nobles to shave their beards, changed the Russian calendar to conform to the European calendar, and made the Russian New Year conform to the European New Year.

In fact, the historian Paul Bushkovitch has credited Peter with introducing modern culture and political thought to Russia. Peter was also able to create a stronger state by making the Eastern Orthodox Church subservient to the Russian government.

The money Peter seized from monasteries and the reformed tax system helped Peter to build an academy to improve the education system in Russia. Peter was also able to bring order to the Russian social hierarchy by formulating the Table of Ranks in 1722, which determined an individual’s status in Russian society.

Moving West

Instead of pursuing Russian expansion to the south against the Turks, as previous Russian foreign policy dictated, Peter moved west, initiating hostilities against Sweden. The Great Northern War against Sweden dominated much of Peter’s reign.

In order to defeat the Swedish, Peter built a large army based on the same model as his Preobrazhenskii regiment, which had Western-style uniforms, training, and promotion through the ranks based on merit instead of birth. Poland sent a declaration of war to the Swedish government in January 1700, and Denmark quickly followed suit.

These two countries gave Peter allies in a war against Sweden, initiated when the Russian government declared war against the Swedish government on August 20, 1700. Unfortunately for Peter, the Danes sued for peace on August 20, 1700, leaving Russia and Poland to fight against the Swedish empire without this valuable ally.

As this alliance between Poland and Russia developed, Charles XII of Sweden reviewed his plans to protect his empire. Unfortunately, he was not able to recognize the major threat to his country’s boundaries. The Swedish strategy during the Great Northern War consisted of concentrating the main bulk of their forces against the Polish armies while Charles relied upon a token force to limit the Russian advance in the east.

It is true that the Swedes quickly attacked and defeated a Russian force at Narva on November 30, 1700. At this battle, a small Swedish force of 10,000 soldiers was able to overwhelm a Russian force of 40,000 men and seize the battlefield.

Despite this victory, the Swedes did not follow up their attack with further pressure against the Russians. The Swedish strategists preferred to concentrate their war effort against the Poles. It took the Swedes eight years to launch their second invasion into Russian territory.

Following his victory at Narva, Charles maintained a Swedish force of 15,000 men to protect his Baltic possessions. This force proved to be inadequate in the defense of the eastern portion of his empire against the armies of Peter. In January of 1702, Peter gained some momentum with his victory over the Swedes at Errestfer.

This battle had major consequences for the Swedish war effort since its army lost 3,350 soldiers. This Swedish defeat was compounded by another Swedish rout half a year later. This defeat cost the Swedish army a significant number of soldiers and provided the stimulus Peter needed in order to expand into the Baltic area.

Peter was able to strengthen Kronstadt after the capture of the fortresses of Nyenskans and Nöteborg. Peter was determined to hold on to his acquisitions in the Baltic region and give Russia closer ties with the rest of Europe by founding St. Petersburg in 1703, which became the future capital of Russia.

It is important to note that the Russian armies acquired more than territorial gains from this Baltic campaign. Through these military victories, the Russians were able to acquire more experience and confidence, as well as increase the size of their army.

When Charles XII finally turned his attention toward the Russian front, Peter had already established himself on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. The eight-year gap between the two Swedish invasions of Russian territory provided Peter with a reprieve in which he could strengthen his armies.

The number of cavalry regiments increased from two in 1700 to 34 regiments at the time of Charles’s return. As Charles advanced through the Ukraine, Peter was obliged to follow a scorched earth policy in order to stall for time and demoralize the invading Swedes.

Vicious methods were employed to deprive the Swedes of anything of use as the town of Dorpat was destroyed after the inhabitants were forcibly moved eastward and Russians were forbidden to provide Swedish troops with provisions.

Swedish Defeat

On May 11, 1709, the Swedish army unknowingly began a siege that would lead to the capitulation of the Swedish government 12 years later. The Poltava battle accurately foreshadowed the decline of Swedish power in the affairs of the Baltic as this battle cost the Swedish army 9,700 soldiers. This is a significant number of men compared to the 4,545 casualties the Russian army endured.

The consequences of this battle were further devastating to the Swedes. On July 1, 1709, fully 20,000 Swedes surrendered to the Russian armies at the town of Perovolochina. The Russians were unable to capture their royal opponent as Charles XII, who abandoned a significant portion of his army, fled south to the Ottoman Empire.

Poltava is recognized by scholars as a battle that not only changed the course of the Northern War, but completely altered the balance of power in northeastern Europe. It must be noted the governments of Western Europe were anticipating not only the destruction of the Russian army, but the further expansion of Swedish influence into eastern Europe.

The consequences of the Battle of Poltava ended any hope of imposing Swedish influence on the Russians. Not only did the Swedes lose a substantial portion of their army, but the old alliance against them was strengthened.

In this respect, Peter shifted from a passive role during the first alliance into a more active role. Peter, who encountered Augustus on the Vistula River, agreed to help his former comrade reclaim his throne since he was deposed following the Swedish victory over the Poles at Kliszow in 1702.

Peter attempted to make the Polish throne more secure to the family of Augustus by making the Polish monarchy a hereditary position. This illustrates the massive degree of power Peter now possessed in the internal affairs of the Polish government. The Danes, already allied to Augustus, wished to restore the old balance of power in northern Europe.

Invasion of Finland

Peter was able to use his gains in the Baltic to their fullest potential as he launched an invasion of Finland in order to strengthen his position at the upcoming peace negotiations with the Swedish government. The Russians won a remarkable victory against the Swedish at Storkyro in March 1714.

This land victory was followed by a Russian naval triumph over the Swedish navy at Gangut. In 1718, the Swedish government faced another threatening situation: Charles XII died during a battle in Norway. Ulrika, Charles’s sister, faced increasing pressure resulting from Peter’s invasions of the Swedish heartland.

The Russians were also enlarging the size of their Baltic fleet at an alarming pace. These threats compelled the Swedish government to end the war against the Russians. The Russians were able to gain a significant degree of power in the Baltic region from the Treaty of Nystadt.

The agreement between these two powers allowed the Russians to take possession of several islands, the territories of Livonia, Estonia, Ingermanland, and a section of Karelia. The Russians were given significant influence in Baltic affairs since they kept the fortress of Viborg.

More important, the Russian czar was regarded as an imperial monarch by the Prussians and the Dutch. Even the Swedes and other western Europeans eventually acknowledged this title.

Peter’s death on January 28, 1725, brought uncertainty to the succession of a new ruler for two reasons. Peter did not have a male heir to succeed him, and he failed to nominate his successor before he died. Peter’s only son and heir to the throne, Alexei, died on June 26, 1718, as a result of the torture inflicted on him for his rebellious attitudes.

Alexei was an outspoken critic of Peter’s reforms and feared the wrath of his father, resulting in his flight to Austria in 1716. Despite the fact that he was plotting against his father, Alexei was eventually persuaded to return to Russia and was imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress, where he later died. His wife, Catherine, was nominated to succeed Peter since she had the support of a number of Peter’s advisers and the Imperial Guard.

Peasants’ War

The Peasants’ War in Germany was a series of conflicts among the various princes in Germany and those who worked under them during a time of both economic and religious change in Germany. The best known and documented conflict surrounds Thomas Müntzer and the revolt in the region of Thuringia in Germany.
Peasants’ War

The early 1500s was a time of many changes in Germany. In general, the economy was good, and the peasant farmers were able to provide for themselves and their families reasonably well. There was little central authority in Germany, and each region was ruled by a prince, who had varying amounts of authority and power.

This power was tested in small rebellions by the peasants and townspeople, often with negotiated settlements rather than wholesale slaughter as a result. Peasants were the lowest members of society and had few rights.

Generally they worked mines or farmed land and raised livestock belonging to a prince or nobleman, could not marry without permission, did not own any land, and were taxed heavily. At much the same level were plebeians, or commoners, townsmen who worked for craftsmen or merchants at subsistence levels or were unemployed.

Various religious movements were also having influence on the peasants. Since the time of the bubonic plague with all of the attendant death, there was a rising expectation of the end times prophesied in the book of Revelation in the Bible.

Throughout the previous century, small movements and figures rose, prophesying that Christ’s return was imminent. A very different religious movement, the Reformation, began in 1517 in Wittenberg, Germany, when the young monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the castle church door.

In his early writings, Luther spoke moderately to both prince and peasant, but many peasants took encouragement from his challenge to the centralized authority of the Roman Catholic Church, advocating a strong role for the local congregation. Their hope was that the local town or trade association would also be strengthened, especially over against the princes.

At the same time, the Reformation heightened the end-time expectations. In 1522, Luther himself had to come out of hiding at Wartburg at great personal risk to deal with the three Zwickau prophets: Thomas Dreschel, Mark Thomas Stübner, and Nicolas Storch.

The three men were agitating the citizens of Wittenberg with their Anabaptist leanings and prophetic visions. Luther succeeded in having them sent out of the city, but that would not be the last time he would have to deal with them.

Conflict between peasant and prince was not unusual. In the early 1520s, there were riots of peasants and other classes in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. Causes were many—for example, in the summer of 1524 revolt broke out in Stühlingen in southern Germany over the countess’s command to gather snail shells on which to wind her yarn.

But the major spark that set off significant battles came in 1524 when Thomas Müntzer returned from Zwickau and Bohemia and began his preaching in the Thuringian city of Allstedt in central Germany.

Müntzer, a former Roman Catholic priest who had wrestled with his faith, had become Lutheran soon after the Reformation began in 1517. In 1520, he ended up in Zwickau and there met Niklas Storch, a weaver with apocalyptic expectations of Christ’s imminent return. Persuaded by Storch’s convictions, Müntzer soon became the preacher in a church attended by many of Storch’s coworkers.

Storch had been proclaiming that the end times were near, that the righteous would soon begin to rise up against the unrighteous (seen as those in authority) and commence the last days prophesied in the book of Revelation.

Müntzer, as a priest and educated man, was able to fill out Storch’s theme. While popular with the masses, such preaching caused the leading townspeople to clamp down on the church, ending with a revolt of the plebeian weavers and others, and Müntzer and Storch’s ejection from the city in 1521.

While Storch, Stübner, and Dreschel went to Wittenberg, Müntzer went on to nearby Prague until he was also expelled from the city. After two years of wandering and preaching, he ended up in Allstedt and there became a popular preacher amongst the peasants and others.

Müntzer’s preaching began to alarm those in authority. In July 1524, Duke John, a prince of Saxony, traveled to Allstedt and ordered Müntzer to preach a sermon. Müntzer, eager to have the opportunity to persuade a prince, thundered against the evil and ungodly, saying, “So don’t let them live any longer the evildoers who turn us away from God.

For a godless man has no right to live if he hinders the godly.” When Luther heard of this, he wrote an attack against Müntzer addressed to the princes. Müntzer responded with two tracts addressed to the people, the latter of which was called The most amply called-for defense answer to the unspiritual soft-living flesh at Wittenberg.

This was a clear call to social revolution and prepared the way for what was to come. The patient Duke John summoned Müntzer to Weimar, telling him to cease his preaching and not leave Allstedt. Müntzer’s response was to leave Allstedt, eventually ending up in the nearby city of Mühlhausen.

In Mühlhausen, a man named Heinrich Pfeiffer had been agitating the poorer citizens to take control of the city. Joined by Müntzer and eventually Storch, the agitation increased to a fever pitch. In March 1525, Müntzer began proclaiming that the new league of peasants should march out to war against the godless.

In response, bands of peasants began sacking convents and monasteries, but there was no organized effort until May 1525, when the peasants had organized themselves into an army of approximately 8,000. By that time, at the request of Duke John, a nearby prince, Philip of Hesse, had arrived with a small army to deal with the problems in Thuringia.

Müntzer marched out to aid the peasants with a band of 300 men and on May 15, the army of Philip of Hesse attacked and quickly routed the peasant army, eventually killing nearly 5,000 of the peasants. For his part in it, Müntzer was tortured and beheaded along with Pfeiffer (Storch escaped but was soon captured and killed).

This was not the end of the Peasants’ War. There were no other battles so significant, but it is estimated that some 100,000 peasants and plebeians were killed in the next several years as the various revolts were put down by the princes. The religious overtones were significant in the Peasants’ War.

They were not the principal cause, but rather the match that ignited the fires of the war. The peasants and plebeians were caught in a time of significant transition. As noted earlier, the peasant class was actually rising in economic stature but was still living in significant poverty in comparison to the middle and upper classes of Germany.

The Reformation gave a broader vision for the equality of the people before God, but it was only the more radical elements that proclaimed a classless society. Luther, himself an advocate of the common people, still perceived the various occupations as God-given and did not advocate a classless society.

In the simpulan analysis, the Peasants’ War was one of many such struggles that are endemic to a society in transition. There is a certain irony that the princes who were most moderate toward their people ended up having to put down more ruthlessly the uprising, but the very moderate stance they took encouraged the hope of those promoting revolution.

Juan de Oñate - Spanish Explorer

Juan de Oñate - Spanish Explorer
Juan de Oñate - Spanish Explorer
On April 20, 1598, Spanish captain-general Don Juan de Oñate approached the Rio Grande, then known as the Río del Norte, the River of the North. Oñate led an expedition that represented the first determined attempt by Spain to colonize the region explored by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado more than 50 years before, in 1540–42.

Oñate led a large expedition consisting of more than 100 families, almost 300 single men, numerous wagons, and 7,000 cattle. An advance detachment was led by Oñate’s nephew, Captain Vicente de Zaldívar. Unlike many other explorers who were peninsulares, those who were born in Spain, Oñate himself was a criollo, a Spaniard born in the New World.

Oñate was born to Cristóbal de Oñate and Catalina de Salazar in about 1550. He made an important marriage, which certainly aided his rise to power and influence. His wife was a descendant of both the conquistador Hernán Cortés and the Aztec emperor Moctezuma II. Oñate and his wife had a son and a daughter together.

On September 21, 1595, Oñate was awarded a contract by King Philip II of Spain to explore the region north to the Rio Grande and settle what became New Mexico, but numerous delays forced his departure to be held back until 1598. The cost of the expedition was entirely Oñate’s, with the king’s receiving a percentage of the wealth expected to be generated by the new colony.

So on April 30, 1598, Oñate in a formal ceremony took possession of the region in the name of King Philip II. The most important part of Oñate’s expedition was the military contingent, probably led by Capitan Zaldívar, since he held the position of sergeant-major of the Oñate forces.

The main weapon of the Spanish soldiers was the matchlock musket. Crossbows like the ones used by the Spanish in Cortés’s conquest of Mexico in 1519–21 were still in use by the Spanish but were apparently left behind in Mexico City when Oñate embarked on his march north.

However, in the heat of Mexico and the Southwest United States, many Spaniards wore cotton padded armor adopted from the Aztecs (Mexica), which gave good protection against the arrows the hostile Indians used against them. Curiously enough, Spanish troops carried heart-shaped shields called adargas well into the 18th century. Sidearms were long Spanish rapiers and for the cavalry, a pair of matchlock pistols.

Coronado had experienced some fierce fighting with the Pueblo Indian tribes of the Rio Grande valley, and Oñate was fully conscious that his entrance could be marked by combat with the native inhabitants.

Therefore, he followed strict military discipline throughout his expedition. After they reached the North Pass on the River (El Paso del Norte), they faced a trip of some 60 miles through a region so arid and hot that ever after the Spanish would call it El Jornado del Muerte (Route of Death).

Once among the Pueblo Indians Oñate used the feast of Saint John the Baptist on June 24 to stage a sham battle with the intention of intimidating them with his Spanish cavalry and infantry.

New Mexico Established

Apparently, Oñate’s show of force worked, because on July 28, without interference, he established New Mexico’s first capital at the pueblo of San Juan de los Caballeros of the Tewa tribe, which he named in honor of the men who had ridden north with Coronado years before.

Ultimately Oñate began the construction of San Gabriel as a more permanent capital, perhaps feeling uneasy about the dangers of a surprise attack at night if he remained in the Tewa village.

Although Christianization of the Indians was always noted as a reason for Spanish expeditions, the vast treasures that Cortés had found in Mexico and Francisco Pizarro in Peru guaranteed that the search for gold and silver would always be a paramount reason for any expedition, and Oñate’s was no different.

He was determined, however, to keep all exploration and mineral discovery under his own personal control and carried out severe punishments against those who disregarded his orders. With the nearest Spanish forces hundreds of miles to the south, such strict discipline would be the only thing that would keep such an expedition together and safe while surrounded by potentially hostile Indians.

Oñate’s grim emphasis on discipline soon proved to have been justified. In December, Juan de Zaldívar, Vicente’s brother, and some soldiers accepted the hospitality of Chief Zutucapan at the pueblo of Acoma. Once they were settled in their quarters, Zutucapan sprang a trap, and Zaldivar and some 10 Spanish were slaughtered.

In January 1599, Oñate sent Vicente on a punitive expedition against Acoma, his infantry and cavalry supported now by two pieces of Spanish artillery known as culverins. When the Acomans refused to submit, Zaldivar attacked. Although he was heavily outnumbered, his artillery slaughtered the Acomans. Captives were taken before Oñate, whose punishment was severe.

With the danger from hostile Indians behind him, Oñate spent more time in an illusory search for gold and silver mines. In December 1600, he embarked on a long expedition.

His search for riches took his attention from the settlement of the colony and many people who were disillusioned with his rule returned to Mexico, then called New Spain. Although his search for gold and silver proved fruitless, he became the first Spaniard since Coronado to explore as far north as Kansas to the settlement that Coronado knew as Quivera.

At some point, his love of exploration eclipsed his lust for gold. Even as disgruntled former colonists were spreading rumors of vice and brutality against him, Oñate undertook a tamat journey of exploration as far as the Gulf of California.

Although ordered back by the new king, Philip III, in 1607 to face charges, Oñate remained until Sante Fe was built. When in 1608 a new governor was sent to replace Oñate, he finally returned to Mexico City.

Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton was born in 1642 at Woolsthorpe, near Grantham, Lincolnshire, England, three months after his father, yeoman farmer Isaac, died. Newton’s mother, Hannah Ayscough, married the Reverend Barnabas Smith and left Newton with his grandparents at age three.

He grew up to hate his stepfather and never psychologically recovered from his mother’s abandonment. By the time Smith died in 1653, Newton’s personality had been forged; he became distrustful, hesitant in dealing with others, and emotionally unstable; these would be lifelong traits.

Newton attended day school in the nearby village and the Kings’s Grammar School at Grantham. He worked on his mother’s farm at age 14 but returned to school in 1660 to prepare for entrance to Trinity College at Cambridge University in 1661.

His mother refused to pay his tuition so Newton served as a subsizar, who performed a variety of jobs for fellow students. Newton did not distinguish himself at Cambridge, but he privately studied and mastered the esteemed works of René Descartes and Euclid.

Newton attended day school in the nearby village and the Kings’s Grammar School at Grantham. He worked on his mother’s farm at age 14 but returned to school in 1660 to prepare for entrance to Trinity College at Cambridge University in 1661. His mother refused to pay his tuition so Newton served as a subsizar, who performed a variety of jobs for fellow students.

Newton did not distinguish himself at Cambridge, but he privately studied and mastered the esteemed works of René Descartes and Euclid. Dr. Isaac Barrow, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, became his mentor and brought out Newton’s genius.

Avoiding the Plague

Newton returned to his mother’s farm to avoid the plague rampant in Cambridge from 1665 to 1666. Without access to his books, Newton discovered differential calculus, which he called “direct and inverse method of fluxions,” and expansions into infinite series.

He used common arithmetical elements to make them universals. Newton also queried the nature of gravity but realized his experiments required more work and left the persoalan until 1685.

Upon his return to Cambridge in 1667, Newton was shown the work of Nikolaus Mercator (1620–87), who had recently published Logarithmotechnia. This contained some of the methods Newton had used while experimenting on the farm. Newton showed Barrow his own ideas, and this work was published as De analysi per aequationes numero terminorum inifitas in 1711.

After painstaking experiments in 1668, Newton discovered the spectrum, which he deduced was white light made up of colored lights when exposed to a transparent medium. This idea led Newton to perfect a reflecting telescope in 1668; it was six inches long and could magnify 30 times. Prior to Newton’s telescope, only refracting telescopes were used.

Barrow resigned from Cambridge, and Newton obtained the Lucasian Chair in 1669 at age 27 after he earned a master’s degree. He presented lectures on optics that were not published until 1728. By this time, Newton’s work was noticed by such scientific luminaries as Robert Hooke, Christiaan Huygens, James Gregory, and Sir Christoper Wren among others.

Newton became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1671. Controversy erupted over claims by Hooke, who was a powerhouse at the Royal Society, that he was first to invent the “pocket tube” (telescope) in 1664. Gregory the Scot claimed he had discovered calculus. Newton removed himself from the controversy and only published his work Opticks in 1704 after Hooke died.

Newton suffered a mental breakdown in 1675; it took him four years to recover. He then found mathematical proof of planetary ellipses around the Sun. Hooke had also realized these laws but failed to prove them. Edmund Halley (1656–1742), the astronomer and mathematician, met with Newton in 1684.

Halley urged him to publish his findings and financed the book entitled Philosphiae naturalis principia mathematica, better known as Principia, which included his three laws of motion. The third book of Principia appeared in 1687 and turned the natural sciences upside down.

Newton’s theories were taught at Edinburgh by his disciple David Gregory and Cartesian theory was dropped at Cambridge and Oxford; the French would not accede to Newton’s theories until 50 years later. Newton grew tired of life at Cambridge, so he embarked on a career of public service in 1687.

He became a member of Parliament for Cambridge University in 1689. He had another nervous breakdown in 1696. Upon recovering, Newton accepted the job of warden of the Mint in London. He was promoted to master in 1699 and revised Britain’s coinage.

Newton was reelected to Parliament in 1701 but soon lost interest in the position. He became president of the Royal Society in 1703, a position to which he was reelected for 25 years. He was a tyrannical and autocratic president who had favorites and made life torturous for those who dared to disagree with him. Queen Anne knighted him in 1705.


Newton was engaged in two major scientific controversies. The first was from 1705 to 1712 with Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed (1646–1719), whose notes Newton conspired to publish against Flamsteed’s wishes. The second was from 1704 to 1724 with Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646–1726), a German mathematician.

Leibniz claimed he had discovered calculus before Newton. It has been proved that Newton discoverd calculus first but did not publish it, while Leibniz did. Leibniz and Johann Bernoulli (1667–1748), who mastered calculus, sent Newton problems they believed no one could solve in months, yet he solved them within hours.

As Newton aged, he spent time rewriting his notes. He had written over 1 million words on fourth- and fifth-century c.e. church history and on the Bible that were never published. His focus was to date biblical events using his mathematical calculations. Newton died in London on March 31, 1727, after suffering through numerous infirmities and various illnesses. He received a magnificent funeral and is buried in Westminster Abbey, London.

New Netherland

New Netherland
New Netherland

This Dutch colonial outpost existed along the Hudson River from 1609 to 1664. A relatively small and ineffectual colony, it was known for its trade and diversity. It was eventually captured by the English and became the colony of New York.

Following its independence from Spain in the 1570s, the Netherlands began constructing a worldwide empire due in large part to its powerful navy and savvy traders. In one of the country’s first colonial ventures, Dutch merchants in 1609 financed Henry Hudson to explore North America and Hudson discovered the river that bears his name.

In 1614, the Dutch established their first permanent settlement at Fort Nassau, later relocated and renamed Fort Orange (present-day Albany). This northerly settlement never grew very large and existed primarily to trade with Iroquois Indians for furs.

In 1625, the Dutch West India Company established New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island to control access to the Hudson River. This southerly settlement soon attracted a variety of settlers to farm.

New Netherland was beset by a series of problems for most of its history. Relations with Native Americans were generally poor. Fort Orange was largely dependent on the Iroquois for its survival, while colonists in the south drove Algonquians from their lands and fought four wars in 20 years with them.

Of more pressing concern, however, were the colony’s mismanagement and ineffective leadership. The colony never produced a profit for its investors, while its most effective governor was the autocratic Peter Stuyvesant (1647–64), who barred the colonists from participating in their own governance.

Because of these problems, New Netherland had trouble attracting colonists. The Dutch West India Company did offer patroonships, large land grants with manorial rights, to anyone who took 50 settlers to the colony. However, Kiliaen Van Rensselaer was the only person to take up the company’s offer seriously.

Lacking Dutch settlers, New Netherland opened its borders to dissenters from New England including Anne Hutchinson as well as emigrants from Belgium, France, Scandinavia, and Germany and African slaves. As one visitor noted of New Amsterdam: “There were men of eighteen different languages.” Very quickly the Dutch became a minority in their own colony.

Ethnic diversity invited religious differences and although Stuyvesant attempted to privilege the Dutch Reformed Church, the company insisted upon a policy of religious toleration. Puritans, Quakers, and Lutherans were common in New Netherland, and Jews received greater religious freedom than anywhere else in America.

Ultimately, New Netherland suffered the most from foreign competition. A Swedish colony on the Delaware River proved a distraction to the Dutch and, in 1655, Stuyvesant engineered a military takeover of New Sweden. However, Dutch hegemony proved short-lived as in 1664 an English fleet under the command of Richard Nicolls arrived off New Amsterdam.

Although Stuyvesant attempted to mount a defense of his colony, “a general discontent and unwillingness to assist in defending the place became manifest among the people.” On August 27, Stuyvesant surrendered New Netherland to Nicolls, who granted the colonists generous terms, including the preservation of their property rights, inheritance laws, and religious liberty.

Revolt Against Spanish Rule in the Netherlands

Revolt Against Spanish Rule in the Netherlands
Revolt Against Spanish Rule in the Netherlands

The revolt of the Netherlands, often known as the Dutch Revolt, or the Eighty Years’ War, started in 1568 and was only finally resolved by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. It began with 17 provinces in the Netherlands rising up against the rule by the Spanish royal family, the Habsburgs.

The reasons for the revolt were three-fold. The transformation of Spain under the Habsburgs, from a European power to a major world empire with extensive colonies in the Americas led to involvement in numerous wars, and the taxes imposed on the Netherlands to help pay for these wars were greatly resented.

Many of the towns and cities in the Netherlands also resented Habsburg moves to centralize the administration of the region. By the 1560s, Protestantism had become popular in parts of the Netherlands, with the Habsburgs being keen to restore Roman Catholicism.

When friction started between Antoine Perrenot de Granvelle, the French statesman whom Philip II of Spain appointed to the Netherlands, and the many burghers in the Netherlands, it rapidly led to religious tensions. In August 1566, a small Catholic church was stormed and images of Catholic saints were destroyed.

It was quickly followed by similar moves elsewhere, and Philip II responded by sending in soldiers. When some of his opponents were executed, a rebellion broke out, with William of Orange, an influential Protestant politician, becoming its figurehead. The Battle of Rheindalen, on April 23, 1568, marked the start of the revolt.

Initially the Spanish were able to crush the rebellion, but when the rebels launched a naval assault in 1572 and captured the town of Brielle (Brill), the Protestants quickly rallied to support the rebels. Soon the northern provinces of the Netherlands were effectively independent of Spanish rule, and when Spanish soldiers tried to reimpose Imperial rule, the fighting escalated.

There were some who wanted the younger brother of the French king—Hercule François, duke of Anjou—to become the new king of the Netherlands, but this idea fell through after two years, as did one to make Elizabeth I of England the queen of the Netherlands.

The ruthless manner in which the Spanish commander, the duke of Alba, tried to retake the Netherlands led to an intense hatred of the Spanish. The action that earned the duke his reputation came after a sevenmonth siege of the city of Haarlem.

In July 1573, Alba’s victorious soldiers massacred the entire garrison. In October 1575, the Spanish slaughtered many people in Antwerp, the largest city in the region, and large numbers of its inhabitants fled.

In 1585, Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, brought 6,000 English soldiers to fight alongside the Dutch rebels. Two years later, the English withdrew, but not before many important English, including Sir Walter Raleigh, had fought against the Spanish. As the stakes rose, the Spanish gathered together their armada for a naval attack on England in 1588, but this failed.

In the following year, Maurice of Orange, the son of William of Orange, took the offensive and captured Breda in 1590. By this time, the north of the Netherlands was enjoying effective independence, with fighting continuing until 1609.

It was during the mid-1590s that the Englishman Guy Fawkes fought on the Spanish side, gaining some experience in the use of explosives, which resulted in his recruitment for the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. From 1609 to 1621 there was a 12-year truce, with fighting starting again in 1622 and merging with the Thirty Years’ War, which ended in 1648.

Edict of Nantes

Edict of Nantes
Edict of Nantes

The Edict of Nantes was the royal decree of Henry IV that ended the French Wars of Religion in 1598.

In 1562 the massacre of a Huguenot congregation in Vassy, carried out by Francis, duke of Guise, triggered the French Wars of Religion. The Catholic noble houses led by the duke, a religious fanatic, escalated the nationwide violence against the so-called Huguenot (Calvinist) heresy. In response, the Huguenots, with Henry of Navarre as their leader, retaliated by devastating Catholic communities under their control.

The ongoing religious conflict was complicated by political struggles within the royal court. After the death of Henry II in 1559, his three sons, Francis II, Charles IX, and Henry III, would successively wear the crown.

Their mediocre political and military skills left a vacuum at the heart of royal authority, which enabled the House of Guise to make a move. Queen Catherine de Médicis, their mother and a Machiavellian stateswoman, was determined to defend the hereditary rights of her three sons and preserve the Crown for her family.

After three major military confrontations and two failures to sustain negotiated peace in the 1560s, the two sides reached the third peace at St. Germain in 1570, which offered more favorable deals to the Huguenots.

On August 23, 1572, the Huguenots from all over France gathered in Paris to celebrate the marriage of their leader Henry of Navarre, now a converted Catholic, to Margaret, the queen’s daughter. The reconciliatory event, however, turned into a massacre of the Huguenots by the Catholic faction of the court.

It remains murky whether or not Catherine de Médicis personally conspired in or ordered such a senseless bloodshed. The havoc of St. Bartholomew’s Day, however, killed an entire generation of Huguenot leaders, claimed more than 15,000 innocent lives, and, thereafter, prolonged the Wars of Religion for another two decades.

The turning point of the domestic crisis came with the Wars of Three Henries (1584–89), Henry of Guise versus Henry of Navarre versus Henry III, who had ascended to the Crown in 1574. During the war, Henry of Guise, whose ambition now was to succeed Henry III, conspired with Philip II of Spain, who needed the French support for checking England and suppressing the Netherlands’s Protestant rebellion.

In 1588, Henry of Guise and his Catholic League marched into Paris, besieged Henry III, and pressed him to abdicate the throne. While being still free, Henry III, a pious and militant Catholic, allied with Henry of Navarre, who converted back to the Huguenot faith after the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre.

After the king made his own brother-in-law the heir to the throne, the two Henries marched against Henry of Guise and the Catholic League. Soon, the bodyguards of Henry III assassinated Henry of Guise. Shortly thereafter, the aged queen died and a Dominican monk murdered Henry III. Henry of Navarre, the only survivor, succeeded to the throne of France as Henry IV in 1589.

It took a full decade for the first Bourbon king, Henry IV, to end the religious wars and to reconstruct peace. He solemnly adjured his Huguenot faith again to become a Catholic in 1593. This compelled Pope Clement VIII to grant him absolution in the same year. The peace with Rome enabled him gradually to dissolve the Catholic League in France and pacify Spain overseas.

State Religion

On April 13, 1598, Henry IV promulgated an edict in Nantes, Brittany. It ordained that Catholicism would be restored and reestablished as the religion of the state, and the Catholic Church would preserve its privilege of collecting tithe, observing holidays, and enforcing restrictions regarding marriage. Meanwhile, it permitted Protestants to live in the kingdom without being questioned, annoyed, or compelled to change their faith against their conscience.

Moreover, the edict offered Protestants rights to property, to public offices, to education in a few designated Protestant colleges, to holding their own synod, and to having cases involving breaches of the edict to be adjudicated by special courts composed of half Catholic and half Protestant judges. It further bestowed on Protestants freedom of worship in about 100 fortified towns and cities outside the city of Paris, where they retained right to self-defense for eight years.

The Edict of Nantes appeared unpopular among both the Catholics and the Protestants at the time, but Henry IV had the personal charm and the political strength to implement and enforce it.

While Europe was engulfed by religious wars, the edict defied the existing ideal of universal faith: “one faith, one law, one king” (une f oi,un loi, un roi) and experimented with a policy that was more tolerant than the principle of “as the ruler, so the religion” (cuius regio, eius religio) embodied in the Peace of Augsburg of the Holy Roman Empire in 1555.

Münster Commune

city of Münster
city of Münster

The Münster commune is a bizarre chapter in the history of the Reformation. Lasting slightly over a year beginning in 1534, it involved some revolutionary Anabaptists who took over the city of Münster and instituted a new order while defending against besieging troops.

In 1533, a Lutheran named Bernard Rothmann, a former Roman Catholic priest, succeeded in bringing Lutheran control to the city of Münster, a good-sized city in northwest Germany. Rothmann, who had only been Lutheran since 1531, became more convinced of the Anabaptist beliefs and in May 1533 formally renounced infant baptism.

Later that year, he began preaching in favor of primitive Christianity, interpreted to mean sharing of all goods in common and living a simpler, morally upright life. This caused much controversy with those citizens continuing to hold Lutheran beliefs.

The success of Rothmann drew other Anabaptists flocking to the city, increasing the tension between the merchants and guildsmen in the town and those emigrating from other places in Germany and the Netherlands. In early 1534, Rothmann and nearly 1,400 others were rebaptized in Münster.

Around this same time, there was a heightened expectation by more radical Anabaptists of the end of the world described in the book of Revelation in the Bible. Associated with this were the rise of many so-called apostles and prophets ready to prepare the people for the second coming of Jesus Christ.

In February 1534, Jan Matthys (Matthijs) and Jan Bockelson, immigrants from the Netherlands, ran through the streets of Münster crying for all people to repent of their sins. This caused a mass hysteria, ending in an armed revolt against the town council (still predominately Lutheran).

The town council did not act aggressively, instead continuing to allow the Anabaptists their freedom. Many Lutheran citizens, concerned that the town would revolt, departed. This event, coupled with the continuing stream of immigrants, resulted in the town’s becoming Anabaptist.

On February 27, 1534, armed groups of men, led by Jan Matthys, went through the city, driving out all those not Anabaptist, calling, “Get out, you godless ones and never come back, you enemies of the Father.” By early March, the town was completely Anabaptist, with forcible rebaptizing of all those not already declaring themselves Anabaptist.

Matthys, Bockelson, and Rothmann, along with a leading merchant named Knipperdollinck, took over the control of the city. They declared that all possessions were to be held in common, threatening the wrath of God and public execution against those who withheld possessions from the community. After three days of prayer, Matthys appointed seven deacons to administer these goods.

All of this activity did not escape the notice of the Roman Catholic prince-bishop of Münster. While he did not live in the city and failed to get the support of those in the town in the early days of the conflict, the problems in Münster concerned the other princes enough to allow him to raise funds for troops to besiege the city.

By mid-March 1534, the city was somewhat ineffectively besieged. In early April, Matthys, believing God would give him power over the besiegers, went out with a band of troops, but he and all the troops were killed immediately.

Matthys’s death gave opportunity to Jan Bockelson to strengthen control over the town. Though the son of a tailor, Bockelson was an effective organizer and had, if anything, a more radical approach than Matthys.

In May 1534, Bockelson ran through the town naked and then sat silent for three days. He then prophesied that God had a new plan and organization for the town, with himself as chief apostle and 12 elders.

A morally strict code was at first enforced, but eventually the lack of men in the town (and probably Knipperdollinck’s very attractive daughter) led Bockelson, who was already married, to declare that God had ordained polygamy. Bockelson eventually married 15 wives, and many other men took multiple wives. This caused many problems in a few short months, resulting in an increasingly loose approach to sexual relations.

In August 1534, an attack by the bishop’s forces was effectively fought off by the town militia. Bockelson took the opportunity to declare himself the king of Münster, and the short-lived kingdom began. Bockelson appointed many immigrants as his councilors and had a gold-covered throne placed in the market square.

He thought of himself as a new King David and dressed in magnificent robes and held court with his equally well dressed counselors. At the same time, a reign of terror began for any of those who opposed the king and his counselors.

By January 1535, the blockade of the town was increasingly effective. A time of famine followed, though the king and his court managed to escape it for the most part by requisitioning supplies. In March, the king predicted that the town would be saved by Easter, but when this day passed, he quickly asserted it was a spiritual salvation and continued to proclaim the imminent return of Christ.

Finally in June of 1535, aided by some residents, the forces of the prince-bishop invaded the town, killing Rothmann during the battle. The deposed king and Knipperdollinck were put to death by torture after the king was hung in a cage and then led around the town on a chain.

While a few smaller Anabaptist uprisings occurred after this, most Anabaptists distanced themselves from these more radical uprisings and somewhat in reaction would disavow any kind of military role for their followers in future generations.