Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Western Rulers

          Throughout Western History there have been many rulers who have shaped the way curtain states are run. Some rulers, such as James I of England, Louis XIV of France, Frederick William (elector of Brandenburg), William III of Orange state-holder of the Netherlands, and Peter the Great of Russia actually formed these states. Without these people, Western History as we know it might have turned out completely different.
            James I came to throne in England, having already been king in Scotland for 36 years. He tried to create a full governmental union, but he failed. He attempted to summon Parliament several times, once to create a “great Contract” that would require Parliament to pay a regular income to help meet government costs, his way of trying to settle royal finances. But this too failed, mostly because he felt a false security in this, believing he can spend as much as he’d like.  He decided to make money by selling government offices and positions, taking it to extremes by not actually selling it to someone who can run the office, but merely someone who can afford it. James was a man of great ideas but he was just too lazy to carry them out.
            Louis XIV was different than James I in that he wanted to rule alone, with no help from anyone. His rule became known as absolutism. He stabilized France during his reign and it became the ideal culture. Some refer to him as the ideal king because he done what many kings tried to do for centuries, making French cultures the best in the world.
            Frederick Williams adopted Louis’ absolutist idea during his reign, even though he didn’t like the French court. Williams restored Hohenzollern after being destroyed during the Thirty Years’ war. This led to the foundation of a Prussian monarchy. His son succeeded him, continuing his reign the way he started it.
            William III of Orange was first highly recognized when he stopped Louis XIV’s troops from invading the Dutch Republic. This began a lifelong rivalry between the two. He became the Dutch ruler and was soon asked by a group of suspicious Protestants to invade England in an attempt to take down James II. James fled and little blood was shed. William was then offered the throne by parliament, along with his wife Mary. They passed a “Bill of Rights” that gave Parliament shared power over the army and taxes. During this time constitutionalism overtook absolutism.
            Peter the Great continued to use absolutism as he brought Russia to great power. He was very good at raising his army and created an army of 200,000 men. He was very disliked but his power scared people from defying him. He built St. Petersburg to show that Russia was opening to the west. He wanted it to be viewed as the break from Russia’s past but regardless of how hard he tried, after his death his succession didn’t continue.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Colonization of the Americas

         The Europeans colonized the American continents in 1492. It is said that Christopher Columbus founded America during a Spanish expedition that started out sailing to India for trade, though many people were in and out of America long before he showed up. Europeans couldn’t help their curiosity and soon a new age began, the Age of Discovery, and colonization began. Spain, England, France, and Germans all sent explorers to this mystery land. It didn’t take long for them to have control over the entire western hemisphere.  Spanish Conquistadors, whom were given the right to conquer the new world, attacked and soon defeated large Indian colonies, like the Incas and the Aztecs.
            As the contact between the Old World and the New World grew, the Columbian Exchange, or the Grand Exchange, began. This was a transfer of plants, animals, foods, slaves, culture, and even disease between the eastern and the western hemisphere. The significance this made in the western civilization was huge. Not only did this New World provide tobacco, potatoes, cotton, and corn, for Europe, but this exchange also brought foreign disease, like smallpox, influenza, syphilis, and malaria, to the Americas, which began killing off the Natives. Europeans had to bring in African slaves soon after because their native slaves were all dying. This exchange changed all civilizations.
            America soon became the land of the supposed riches. The Jamestown colony was established in the hope that the land would provide them with gold. They eventually realized there was nothing there but that didn’t stop other explorers from looking for the wealth. The only thing really established from all of this was the first permanent settlements of the modern day.
            After everything had settled down, people began escaping to the new world for religious freedom. Disagreements and tension in Europe grew as they began drifting away from their Orthodox ways. The freedom of a new land was tantalizing to these settlers and with the help of charters they were allowed to settle and live the way they saw best fit. This was the real beginning of the New World.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hildegard of Bingen and Francis of Assissi

             Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) and Francis of Assissi (1182-1226) influenced religion in the Western civilization and very different ways. They were both catholic, Hildegard being part of the Roman sector and Francis part of the Italian sector. Neither of them followed the path they were expected to take which is the reason their influence was so strong.
            Hildegard was sent to a German convent to receive schooling at a young age. There she also took her vows to become a nun, eventually becoming the Abbess, superior, of the convent. She is significant because during her time she was the only woman allowed to preach. Because of what was later diagnosed as migraines, Hildegard began having visions at a young age. As she got older she proclaimed that they were a gift from God allowing her to see the full story of creation and redemption. As of May of 2012, Hildegard was recognized as a Saint by Pope Benedict XVI and then in October of 2012 she was named a Doctor of the Universal Church. As can be seen, she is influential even today.
            St. Francis is the founder of the great Orthodox movement, the Franciscans. He was expected to follow his father’s path in cloth trade but decided to go his own way and became a mendicant. He gave up his fortune because he had a vision of the Lord which led him to dedicate his life to the service of humanity. He strived to follow the model of Christ by only accepting hospitality (no money), walking without shoes, wearing a simple tunic, and refusing to be sheltered. By doing this he received the stigmata, marks on the hands and feet resembling the wounds Christ received while on the cross. His followers, the Brothers and Sisters of St. Francis, continued his preaching, setting up groups from Italy to England. He influenced the way the natural world was treated during the 13th century, which is why he is named the Saint Patron of animals and the ecology.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Islamic and Byzantine Empires

     Both the Islamic and Byzantine Empires influenced Western Civilization, but they did it in different ways. These two territories were enemies in that they both wanted the same land. Islam was the conqueror in this in that it easily defeated Byzantine because the Empire was weak from being in so many wars. While Islamic territories grew and took over land from Spain to India, Byzantine territories were being attacked and concurred by other groups. Both of these Empires believed in one god, so when Islam took the cities in the Middle East from Byzantine those from the Byzantine Empire who decided to stay was allowed to continue practicing their Christian and Jewish religions by paying a special tax. The Byzantine Empire even adopted the Islamic practice of not having icons, images of holy people, after having realized the Arabs were having more success than they were. They believed this would make them successful as well.
     The Islamic Arabs became heirs of Rome by adopting the Mediterranean styles while embarking on military conquests throughout the Middle East. Byzantium tried to stay with the political institutions of Rome, the Emperor even keeping the name of Roman Emperor, but as it lost territory and elite it lost this characteristic. Its cities, laws and parts of religion all changed. It was now its own political entity on the border of the Islamic Empire. Religion and politics became closer, almost becoming one, during this time period. Byzantine had an emperor who was a religious force over the destruction of icons. Islamic Empires had caliph who succeeded Muhammad. Despite the differences between these two leaders, they both believed they were agents of God. This common view between the two groups would eventually affect the entire Roman world, changing it in the way it is run politically.  

Monday, September 3, 2012

Great Thinkers of the Greek World

  Philosophy was a huge controversy in the ancient Greek culture. It was always debated on who was "right" and who was "wrong" when it came to matters of politics, ethics, etc. Some of the greatest philosophers during this time period were Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato. When Socrates began questioning and criticizing Athens' new democratic governmental system he made many enemies. Despite the fact that he was executed for this beliefs, had he not done this we may not have the system of ethics we do today nor would we have the works of Plato, a student of Socrates teachings. Even though Socrates never wrote down his work himself, Plato knew it would be important to write it all down, so we can thank him for being able to read the incredible works of this brilliant person.
  After Socrates' death Plato gave up politics and began traveling and teaching philosophy himself. He created the Academy, one of the first institutes of higher learning. His works have had a huge influence on European history as had the works of his student, Aristotle. Aristotle was the successor of Plato, well known for his zoological and marine observations. Even though no one would listen to his observations during his time, they were eventually looked into and were proven true, such as dolphins and whales being mammals. He eventually created his own school, the Lyceum. His work in naturalism was influenced by both Socrates and Plato.
  With Socrates belief in critical thinking, Plato's theory of forms, and Aristotle's rules of logic, the world we live in today has been tremendously influenced by these great thinkers. Although they were criticized during their days, they would be happy to see what they have done for us today.