The World War and What was Behind It by Louis P. Benezet

Produced by Distributed Proofreaders THE WORLD WAR AND WHAT WAS BEHIND IT or THE STORY OF THE MAP OF EUROPE By L. P. BENEZET SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, EVANSVILLE, INDIANA PREFACE This little volume is the result of the interest shown by pupils, teachers, and the
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  • 1918
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[Illustration: The Peace Palace at the Hague]


This little volume is the result of the interest shown by pupils, teachers, and the general public in a series of talks on the causes of the great European war which were given by the author in the fall of 1914. The audiences were widely different in character. They included pupils of the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, students in high school and normal school, teachers in the public schools, an association of business men, and a convention of boards of education. In every case, the same sentiment was voiced: “If there were only some book which would give us these facts in simple language and illustrate them by maps and charts as you have done!” After searching the market for a book of this sort without success, the author determined to put the subject of his talks into manuscript form. It has been his aim to write in a style which is well within the comprehension of the children in the upper grades and yet is not too juvenile for adult readers. The book deals with the remarkable sequence of events in Europe which made the great war inevitable. Facts are revealed which, so far as the author knows, have not been published in any history to date; facts which had the strongest possible bearing on the outbreak of the war. The average American, whether child or adult, has little conception of conditions in Europe. In America all races mix. The children of the Polish Jew mingle with those of the Sicilian, and in the second generations both peoples have become Americans. Bohemians intermarry with Irish, Scotch with Norwegians. In Europe, on the other hand, Czech and Teuton, Bulgar and Serb may live side by side for centuries without mixing or losing their distinct racial characteristics. In order that the American reader may understand the complicated problem of European peace, a study of races and languages is given in the text, showing the relationship of Slav, Celt, Latin, and Teuton, and the various sub-divisions of these peoples. A knowledge of these facts is very essential to any understanding of the situation in Europe. The author has pointed out the fact that political boundaries are largely king-made, and that they have seldom been drawn with regard to the natural division of Europe by nationalities, or to the wishes of the mass of the population.

The chapter, entitled “Europe as it Should Be,” with its accompanying map, shows the boundaries of the various nations as they would look if the bulk of the people of each nationality were included in a single political division. In many places, it is, of course, impossible to draw sharp lines. Greek shades off into Bulgar on one side and into Skipetar and Serb on the other. Prague, the capital of the Czechs, is one-third German in its population. There are large islands of Germans and Magyars in the midst of the Roumanians of Transylvania. These are a few examples out of many which could be cited. However, the general aim of the chapter has been to divide the continent into nations, in each of which the leading race would vastly predominate in population.

It is hoped that the study of this little work will not only throw light upon the causes of war in general, but will also reveal its cruelty and its needlessness. It is shown that the history of Europe from the time of the great invasions by the Germanic tribes has been a continuous story of government without the consent of the governed.

A preventive for wars, such as statesmen and philanthropists in many countries have urged, is outlined in the closing chapter. It would seem as though after this terrible demonstration of the results of armed peace, the governments of the world would be ready to listen to some plan which would forever forbid the possibility of another war. Just as individuals in the majority of civilized countries discovered, a hundred years ago, that it was no longer necessary for them to carry weapons in order to insure their right to live and to enjoy protection, so nations may learn at last that peace and security are preferable to the fruits of brigandage and aggression. The colonies of America, after years of jealousy and small differences, followed by a tremendous war, at last learned this lesson. In the same way the states of Europe will have to learn it. The stumbling blocks in the way are the remains of feudal government in Europe and the ignorance and short-sightedness of the common people in many countries. Ignorance is rapidly waning with the advance of education, and we trust that feudalism will not long survive its last terrible crime, the world war of 1914.

Now that the United States has become a belligerent, it is very essential that our people understand the events that led up to our participation in the war. So many of our citizens are of a peace-loving nature, we are so far removed from the militarism of continental Europe, and the whole war seems so needless and so profitless to those who have not studied carefully its causes, that there is danger of a want of harmony with the program of the government if all are not taught the simple truth of the matter. There is no quicker channel through which to reach all the people than the public schools. With this in mind, two entire chapters and part of a third are devoted to demonstrating why no other course was open to this country than to accept the war which was forced upon her.

In the preparation of this little work, the author has received many helpful suggestions from co-workers. His thanks are especially due to Professor A. G. Terry of Northwestern University and Professor A. H. Sanford of the Wisconsin State Normal School at La Crosse, who were kind enough to read through and correct the manuscript before its final revision. The author is especially indebted to the Committee on Public Information at Washington, D. C., for furnishing to him authoritative data on many phases of the war. Acknowledgment is also made to Row, Peterson and Company for kind permission to use illustrations from History Stories of Other Lands; also to the International Film Service, Inc., of New York City for the use of many valuable copyright illustrations of scenes relating to the great war.


Evansville, Indiana,
January 2, 1918


List of Maps
List of Illustrations

1. The Great War
2. Rome and the Barbarian Tribes
3. From Chiefs to Kings
4. Master and Man
5. A Babel of Tongues
6. “The Terrible Turk”
7. The Rise of Modern Nations
8. The Fall of Two Kingdoms
9. The Little Man from the Common People 10. A King-Made Map and Its Trail of Wrongs 11. Italy a Nation at Last
12. The Man of Blood and Iron
13. The Balance of Power
14. The “Entente Cordiale”
15. The Sowing of the Dragon’s Teeth 16. Who Profits?
17. The Spark that Exploded the Magazine 18. Why England Came In
19. Diplomacy and Kingly Ambition
20. Back to the Balkans
21. The War under the Sea
22. Another Crown Topples
23. The United States at War–Why?
24. Europe As It Should Be
25. The Cost of It All
26. What Germany Must Learn

Pronouncing Glossary


1. Distribution of Peoples According to Relationship 2. Distribution of Languages
3. Southeastern Europe in 600 B.C. 4. Southeastern Europe 975 A.D.
5. Southeastern Europe 1690
6. The Empire of Charlemagne
7. Europe in 1540
8. The Growth of Brandenburg-Prussia 1400-1806 9. Italy in 525
10. Italy in 650
11. Italy in 1175
12. Europe in 1796
13. Europe in 1810
14. Europe in 1815
15. Italy Made One Nation–1914–
16. Formation of the German Empire
17. Southeastern and Central Europe 1796 18. Losses of Turkey During the Nineteenth Century 19. Turkey As the Balkan Allies Planned to Divide It 20. Changes Resulting from Balkan Wars 1912-1913 21. The Two Routes from Germany into France 22. The Roumanian Campaign as the Allies Wished It 23. The Roumanian Campaign as It Turned Out 24. Europe as It Should Be


1. The Peace Palace at the Hague
2. Fleeing from Their Homes, Around which a Battle is Raging 3. A Drill Ground in Modern Europe
4. The Forum of Rome as It Was 1600 Years Ago 5. The Last Combat of the Gladiators
6. Germans Going into Battle
7. A Hun Warrior
8. Gaius Julius Caesar
9. A Prankish Chief
10. Movable Huts of Early Germans
11. Goths on the March
12. Franks Crossing the Rhine
13. Men of Normandy Landing in England 14. Alexander Defeating the Persians
15. A Knight in Armor
16. A Norman Castle in England
17. A Vassal Doing Homage to His Lord 18. William the Conqueror
19. A Typical Bulgarian Family
20. Mohammed II Before Constantinople 21. A Scene in Salonika
22. Louis XIV
23. John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough 24. The Great Elector of Brandenburg
25. Frederick the Great
26. Catharine II
27. Courtier of Time of Louis XIV
28. The Taking of the Bastille
29. The Palace of Versailles
30. The Reign of Terror
31. The First Singing of “The Marseillaise” 32. Charles the Fifth
33. The Emperor Napoleon in 1814
34. The Retreat from Moscow
35. Napoleon at Waterloo
36. The Congress of Vienna
37. Prince Metternich
38. The First Meeting of Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel 39. Bismarck
40. An Attack on a Convoy in the Franco-Prussian War 41. The Proclamation at Versailles of William I as Emperor of Germany
42. Peter the Great
43. Entrance to the Mosque of St. Sophia 44. The Congress of Berlin
45. An Arab Sheik and His Staff
46. A Scene in Constantinople
47. Durazzo
48. A Modern Dreadnaught
49. Submarine
50. A Fort Ruined by the Big German Guns 51. Russian Peasants Fleeing Before the German Army 52. A Bomb-proof Trench in the Western War Front 53. Venizelos
54. The Deutschland in Chesapeake Bay 55. Crowd in Petrograd During the Revolution 56. Revolutionary Soldiers in the Duma
57. Kerensky Reviewing Russian Troops 58. Flight from a Torpedoed Liner
59. President Wilson Reading the War Message 60. American Grain Set on Fire by German Agents 61. Polish Children
62. The Price of War
63. Rendered Homeless by War
64. Charles XII of Sweden



The Great War

The call from Europe.–Friend against friend.–Why?–Death and devastation.–No private quarrel.–Ordered by government.–What makes government?–The influence of the past.–Four causes of war.

Among the bricklayers at work on a building which was being erected in a great American city during the summer of 1914 were two men who had not yet become citizens of the United States. Born abroad, they still owed allegiance, one to the Emperor of Austria, the other to the Czar of Russia.

Meeting in a new country, and using a new language which gave them a chance to understand each other, they had become well acquainted. They were members of the same labor union, and had worked side by side on several different jobs. In the course of time, a firm friendship had sprung up between them. Suddenly, on the same day, each was notified to call at the office of the agent of his government in the city. Next morning the Russian came to his boss to explain that he must quit work, that he had been called home to fight for the “Little Father” of the Russians. He found his chum, the Austrian, there ahead of him, telling that he had to go, for the Russians had declared war on Austria and the good Kaiser,[1] Franz Josef, had need of all his young men.

[1] In the German language, the title Kaiser means Emperor.

The two chums stared at each other in sorrow and dismay. The pitiless arm of the god of war had reached across the broad Atlantic, plucking them back from peace and security. With weapons put into their hands they would be ordered to kill each other on sight.

A last hand-clasp, a sorrowful “Good luck to you,” and they parted.

Why was this necessary? What was this irresistible force, strong enough to separate the two friends and drag them back five thousand miles for the purpose of killing each other? To answer these two questions is the purpose of this little volume.

Beginning with the summer of 1914, Europe and parts of Asia and Africa were torn and racked with the most tremendous war that the world has ever seen. Millions of men were killed. Other millions were maimed, blinded, or disfigured for life. Still other millions were herded into prison camps or forced to work like convict laborers. Millions of homes were filled with grief. Millions of women were forced to do hard work which before the war had been considered beyond their power. Millions of children were left fatherless. What had been the richest and most productive farming land in Europe was made a barren waste. Thousands of villages and towns were utterly destroyed and their inhabitants were forced to flee, the aged, the sick, and the infants alike.

In many cases, as victorious armies swept through Poland and Serbia, the wretched inhabitants fled before them, literally starving, because all food had been seized for the use of fighting men. Dreadful diseases, which cannot exist where people have the chance to bathe and keep themselves clean, once more appeared, sweeping away hundreds of thousands of victims. The strongest, healthiest, bravest men of a dozen different nations were shot down by the millions or left to drag out a miserable existence, sick or crippled for life. Silent were the wheels in many factories which once turned out the comforts and luxuries of civilization. There were no men to make toys for the children, or to work for mankind’s happiness. The only mills and factories which were running full time were those that turned out the tools of destruction and shot and shell for the guns. Nations poured out one hundred fifty million dollars a day for the purpose of killing off the best men in Europe. Had the world gone mad? What was the reason for it all?

[Illustration: Fleeing from their Homes, around which a Battle is Raging.]

In 1913 Germans traveled in Russia and Englishmen traveled in Germany freely and safely. Germans were glad to trade with intercourse Russians, and happy to have Englishmen spend their money in Germany. France and Austria exchanged goods and their inhabitants traveled within each other’s boundaries. A Frenchman might go anywhere through Germany and be welcomed. There was nothing to make the average German hate the average Englishman or Belgian. The citizen of Austria and the citizen of Russia could meet and find plenty of ground for friendship.

We cannot explain this war, then, on the grounds of race hatred. One can imagine that two men living side by side and seeing each other every day might have trouble and grow to hate each other, but in this great war soldiers were shooting down other soldiers whom they had never seen before, with whom they had never exchanged a word, and it would not profit them if they killed a whole army of their opponents. In many cases, the soldiers did not see the men whom they were killing. An officer with a telescope watched where the shells from the cannon were falling and telephoned to the captain in charge to change the aim a trifle for his next shots. The men put in the projectile, closed and fired the gun. Once in a while, a shell from the invisible enemy, two, three, or four miles away, fell among them, killing and wounding. When a regiment of Austrians were ordered to charge the Russian trenches, they shot and bayoneted the Russians because they were told to do so by their officers, and the Russian soldiers shot the Austrians because their captains so ordered them. The officers on each side were only obeying orders received from their generals. The generals were only obeying orders from the government.

In the end, then, we come back to the governments, and we wonder what has caused these nations to fly at each other’s throats. The question arises as to what makes up a government or why a government has the right to rule its people.

In the United States, the government officials are simply the servants of the people. Practically every man in our country, unless he is a citizen of some foreign nation, has a right to vote, and in many of the states women, too, have a voice in the government. We, the people of the United States, can choose our own lawmakers, can instruct them how to vote and, in some states, can vote out of existence any law that they the people have made which we do not like. In all states, we can show our disapproval of what our law-makers have done by voting against them at the next election. Such is the government of a republic, a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” as Abraham Lincoln called it. In the leading British colonies, the people rule. Australian citizens voted against forcing men to serve in the army. The result was very close and the vote of the women helped to decide it. Canada, on the contrary, voted to compel her men to go. How is it in Europe? Have the people of Germany or Austria the right to vote on war? Were they consulted before their governments called them to arms and sent them to fight each other? It is plain that in order to understand what this war is about, we must look into the story of how the different governments of Europe came to be and learn why their peoples obey them so unquestioningly.

We must remember that government by the people is a very new thing. One hundred and thirty years ago, even in the United States only about one-fourth of the men had the right to vote. These were citizens of property and wealth. They did not think a poor man was worth considering. In England, a country which allows its people more voice in the government than almost any other nation in Europe, it is only within the last thirty years that all men could vote. There are some European countries, like Turkey, where the people have practically no power at all and others, like Austria, where they have very little voice in how they shall be governed.

For over a thousand years, the men of Europe have obeyed without thinking when their lords and kings have ordered them to pick up their weapons and go to war. In many instances they have known nothing of the causes of the conflict or of what they were fighting for. A famous English writer has written a poem which illustrates how little the average citizen has ever known concerning the cause of war, and shows the difference between the way in which war was looked upon by the men of old and the way in which one should regard it. The poem runs as follows:


It was a summer evening,
Old Kaspar’s work was done,
And he before his cottage door
Was sitting in the sun,
And by him sported on the green
His little grandchild Wilhelmine.

She saw her brother Peterkin
Roll something large and round,
Which he beside the rivulet
In playing there had found,
He came to ask what he had found
That was so large and smooth and round.

Old Kaspar took it from the boy,
Who stood expectant by;
And then the old man shook his head, And, with a natural sigh–
“‘Tis some poor fellow’s skull,” said he, “Who fell in the great victory.

“I find them in the garden,
For there’s many hereabout;
And often when I go to plow,
The plowshare turns them out!
For many a thousand men,” said he,
“Were slain in the great victory.”

“Now tell us what ’twas all about,”
Young Peterkin he cries;
And little Wilhelmine looks up
With wonder-waiting eyes–
“Now tell us all about the war,
And what they fought each other for.”

“It was the English,” Kaspar cried,
“Who put the French to rout;
But what they fought each other for I could not well make out;
But everybody said,” quoth he,
“That ’twas a famous victory.

“My father lived at Blenheim then,
Yon little stream hard by;
They burnt his dwelling to the ground, And he was forced to fly;
So with his wife and child he fled, Nor had he where to rest his head.

“They say it was a shocking sight
After the field was won–
For many thousand bodies here
Lay rotting in the sun;
But things like that, you know, must be After a famous victory.

“Great praise the Duke of Marlborough won, And our good Prince Eugene.”
“Why,’twas a very wicked thing!”
Said little Wilhelmine.
“Nay, nay, my little girl,” quoth he, “It was a famous victory.

“And everybody praised the duke
Who this great fight did win.”
“But what good came of it at last?” Quoth little Peterkin.
“Why, that I cannot tell,” said he; “But ’twas a famous victory.”

–Robert Southey.

Old Kaspar, who has been used to such things all his life, cannot feel the wickedness and horror Of the battle. The children, on the other hand, have a different idea of war. They are not satisfied until they know what it was all about and what good came of it, and they feel that “it was a very wicked thing.” If the men in the armies had stopped to ask the reason why they were killing each other and had refused to fight until they knew the truth, the history of the world would have been very different.

One reason why we still have wars is that men refuse to think for themselves, because it is so much easier to let their dead ancestors think for them and to keep up customs which should have been changed ages ago. People in Europe have lived in the midst of wars or preparation for wars all their lives. There never has been a time when Europe was not either a battlefield or a great drill-ground for armies.

There was a time, long ago, when any man might kill another in Europe and not be punished for his deed. It was not thought wrong to take human life. Today it is not considered wrong to kill, provided a man is ordered to do so by his general or his king. When two kings go to war, each claiming his quarrel to be a just one, wholesale murder is done, and each side is made by its government to think itself very virtuous and wholly justified in its killing. It should be the great aim of everyone today to help to bring about lasting peace among all the nations.

[Illustration: A Drill Ground in Modern Europe.]

In order to know how to do this, we must study the causes of the wars of the past. We shall find, as we do so, that almost all wars can be traced to one of four causes: (1) the instinct among barbarous tribes to fight with and plunder their neighbors; (2) the ambition of kings to enlarge their kingdoms; (3) the desire of the traders of one nation to increase their commerce at the expense of some other nation; (4) a people’s wish to be free from the control of some other country and to become a nation by itself. Of the four reasons, only the last furnishes a just cause for war, and this cause has been brought about only when kings have sent their armies out, and forced into their kingdoms other peoples who wished to govern themselves.

Questions for Review

1. Why must foreigners in the United States return to their native lands when summoned by their governments? 2. How is it that war helps to breed diseases? 3. Is race hatred a cause of war or a result of it? 4. Whom do we mean by the government in the United States? 5. Who controls the government in Russia? 6. Who in England?
7. Who in Germany?
8. Who in France?
9. In Southey’s poem, how does the children’s idea of the battle differ from that of their grandfather? Why? 10. Are people less likely to protest against war if their forefathers have fought many wars?
11. What have been the four main causes of war?


Rome and the Barbarian Tribes

New governments in Europe.–Earliest times.–How civilization began.–The rise of Rome.–Roman civilization.–Roman cruelty.–The German tribes.–The Slavic tribes.–The Celtic tribes.–The Huns and Moors.–The great Germanic invasions of the Roman world.

To search for the causes of the great war which began in Europe in 1914, we must go far back into history. It should be remembered that many of the governments of today have not lived as long as that of our own country. This is, perhaps, a new thought to some of us, who rather think that, as America is a new country, it is the baby among the great nations. But, one hundred and thirty years ago, when the United States was being formed, there was no nation called Italy; the peninsula which we now know by that name was cut up among nine or ten little governments. There was no nation known as Germany; the land which is in the present German empire was then divided among some thirty or thirty-five different rulers. There was no Republic of France; instead, France had a king whose will was law, and the French people were cruelly oppressed. There was no kingdom of Belgium, no kingdom of Serbia, of Bulgaria, of Roumania. The kingdom of Norway was part of Denmark. The Republic of France, as we now know it, dates back only to 1871; the Empire of Germany and the United Kingdom of Italy to about the same time. The kingdoms of Roumania, Serbia, and Bulgaria have been independent of Turkey only since 1878. The kingdom of Albania did not exist before 1913. Most of the present nations of modern Europe, then, are very new. The troubles which led to the great war, however, originated in the dim twilight of history.

In the earliest days, there were no separate countries or kingdoms. Men gathered together in little bands, each of which had its leader. This leader was generally chosen because of his bodily strength and courage. He was the best fighter of the tribe. The people did not have any lasting homes. They moved around from place to place, wherever they could find the best hunting and fishing. When two tribes wanted the same hunting grounds, they fought, and the weaker party had to give way. Selfishness was supreme. If a man wanted anything which belonged to his weaker neighbor, he simply beat this neighbor over the head with his club, and took it. The stronger tribe attacked the weaker, without any thought of whether or not its quarrel was just.

Gradually, in the southern and warmer parts of Europe, the tribes began to be more civilized. Towns sprang up. Ships were built. Trade came to be one of the occupations. The fighting men needed weapons and armor; so there grew up artisans who were skilled in working metals. In Egypt and Syria there were people who had reached quite a high degree of civilization, and gradually the Europeans learned from them better ways of living. First the Greeks, then the Etruscans (Ē-trŭs’cans), a people who lived in Italy just north of where Rome now is, and finally the southern Italians learned that it was possible to live in cities, without hunting and plundering. Grazing (the tending of flocks of animals) came to be the occupation of many. The owners of sheep or cattle drove their flocks from place to place, as grass and water failed them where they were. There was no separate ownership of land.

At last came the rise of the city of Rome, which, starting out as the stronghold of a little gang of robbers, spread its rule gradually over all the surrounding country. By this time, the barbarians of northern Europe had gotten past the use of clubs as weapons. They, too, had learned to make tools and arms of bronze, and those living near civilized countries had obtained swords of iron. The club, however, still remained as the sign of authority. The large bludgeon of the chief was carried before the tribe as a sign of his power over them. You have all seen pictures of a king sitting on his throne and holding a wand or stick in his right hand. It is interesting to think that this scepter, which the present king of England carries on state occasions to remind his people of his power, is a relic of the old, old days when his grandfather, many times removed, broke the head of his rival for leadership in the tribe and set up his mighty club for his awestruck people to worship.

The city of Rome (at first a republic, afterwards an empire) spread its rule over all of Italy, over all the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, and finally over all the countries of Europe south and west of the rivers Danube and Rhine. One of the emperors planted a colony north of the Danube near its mouth, and the descendants of these colonists are living in that same country today. They have not forgotten their origin, for they still call themselves Romans (Roumani [Ro͞o-mä’ni]), and talk a language greatly resembling the Latin, which was the tongue spoken by the Romans of old. With the exception of this country, which is now Roumania, the part of Europe north and east of the Danube and Rhine was practically free from the Romans. In this territory, roving bands wandered around, driving their cattle with them and clearing the woods of game.

[Illustration: The Forum (public square) of Rome as it was 1600 years ago.]

In some ways, the Romans were a highly civilized people. They had schools where their children were taught to read and write, to speak Greek, and to work problems in geometry. They had magnificent public buildings, fine temples and palaces. They built excellent paved roads all over the southern part of Europe, and had wonderful systems of aqueducts which supplied their cities with pure water from springs and lakes miles away. Their dress was made of fine cloth. They knew how to make paper, glass, and steel.

On the other hand, they were a cruel and bloodthirsty people. Their favorite amusement was to go to shows where gladiators fought, either with each other or with wild beasts. These gladiators were generally men from tribes which had fought against Rome. They had been captured and brought to that city, where they were trained to use certain weapons. Then on holidays, with all the people of Rome packed into big amphitheaters, these unfortunate captives were forced to fight with each other until one man of each pair was killed. It occasionally happened that one gladiator might be wounded, and lie helpless on the sand, The spectators would then shout to the victorious fighter to take his knife and finish what he had begun. In this way what would seem to us like cold-blooded murder was committed hundreds of times each year, while the fairest ladies and young girls of Rome sat and watched with eager interest. Thus, although the Romans had all the outward appearance of being civilized, they were savages at heart, and had no sympathy for any people who were not of their own race.

[Illustration: The Last Combat of the Gladiators]

In the early days, the Romans prided themselves on their honor. They scorned a lie and looked down on anyone who would cheat or deceive. They lived hardy lives and would not allow themselves luxuries. They rather despised the Greeks, because the latter surrounded themselves with comforts in life. The early Romans were fighters by nature. They had a certain god named Janus (our month January is named after him) and his temple was open only when they were engaged in war. It is a matter of history that during the twelve hundred years from the first building of Rome to the end of the Roman Empire, the temple of Janus was closed on but three occasions and then only for a short time.

About five or six hundred years after the founding of Rome came several disastrous wars which killed off a great majority of her sturdy fighters. Rome was the victor in all of these wars, but she won them at tremendous cost to herself. With the killing off of her best and bravest men, a great deal of the old time honesty was lost. Very soon, we begin to hear of Roman governors who, when put in charge of conquered states, used their offices only to plunder the helpless inhabitants and to return to Rome after their terms were finished, laden with ill-gotten gains. Roman morals, which formerly were very strict, began to grow more lax, and in general the Roman civilization showed signs of decay.

To the north and east of the Roman Empire dwelt a people who were to become the leaders of the new nations of Europe. These were the free German tribes, which occupied the part of Europe bounded, roughly, by the rivers Danube and Rhine, the Baltic Sea, and the Carpathian Mountains. In many ways they were much less civilized than the Romans. They were clad in skins and furs instead of cloth. They lived in rough huts and tents or in caves dug in the sides of a hill. They, too, like the Romans, held human life cheap, and bloodshed and murder were common among them. As a rule, the men scorned to work, leaving whatever labor there was, largely to the women, while they busied themselves in fighting and hunting, or, during their idle times, in gambling. Nevertheless, these people, about the time that the Roman honesty began to disappear, had virtues more like those of the early Romans. They were frank and honorable. The men were faithful husbands and kind fathers, and their family life was very happy. They were barbarous and rough, but those of them who were taken to Rome and learned the Roman civilization made finer, nobler men than Rome was producing about the time of which we speak.

[Illustration: Germans Going Into Battle]

To the east of these German tribes were the Slavs, a people no better civilized, but not so warlike in their nature. As the Germans, in later years, moved on to the west, the Slavs, in turn, moved westward and occupied much of the land which had been left vacant by the Germans.

[Illustration: A Hun Warrior]

The inhabitants of western Europe, that is, France, Spain, and the British Isles, were largely Celts. In fact, all Europe could be said to be divided up among four great peoples: There were the Latins in Italy, the Celts in western Europe, the Germans in central Europe, and the Slavs to the east. All of these four families were distantly related, as can be proved by the languages which they spoke. The Greeks, while not belonging to any one of the four, were also distant cousins of both Germans and Latins. Probably all five peoples are descended from one big family of tribes.

In addition to these, there were, from time to time invasions of Europe by other nations which did not have any connection by blood with Celts, Latins, Greeks, Germans, or Slavs. For instance, the ferocious Huns, a people of the yellow race, rushed into Europe about 400 A.D., but were beaten in a big battle by the Romans and Germans and finally went back to Asia. Three hundred years later, a great horde of Moors and Arabs from Africa crossed over into Europe by way of the Straits of Gibraltar, and at one time threatened to sweep before them all the Christian nations. For several hundred years after this, they held the southern part of Spain, but were finally driven out.

Let us now come back to the story of what happened in Europe after the Romans had conquered all the country south and west of the Danube and Rhine. The wild tribes of the Germans were restlessly roaming through the central part of Europe. They were not at peace with each other. In fact, constant war was going on. Julius Caesar, the great Roman general, who conquered what is now France and added it to the Roman world, tells us that one great tribe of Germans, the Suevi (Swē’vī), made it their boast that they would let no other tribe live anywhere near them. About a hundred years B.C., two great German tribes. the Cimbri and the Teutones, broke across the Rhine and poured into the Roman lands in countless numbers. For seven years they roamed about until at last they were conquered in two bloody battles by a Roman general, who was Caesar’s uncle by marriage. After this time, the Romans tried to conquer the country of the Germans and they might have been successful but for a young German chief named Arminius. He had lived in Rome as a young man and had learned the Romans’ method of war; so when an army came against his tribe, he taught the Germans how to defend themselves. As a result, the Roman army was trapped in a big forest and slaughtered, almost to a man.

[Illustration: Gaius Julius Caesar. From a bust in the British Museum]

This defeat ended any thought that the Romans may have had of conquering all Germany. For the next one hundred and fifty years, Germans and Romans lived apart, each afraid of the other. Then came a time when the Germans again became the attacking party. Other fiercer and wilder peoples, like the Huns, were assailing them in the east and pushing them forward. They finally broke over the Rhine-Danube boundary and poured across the Roman Empire in wave after wave. Some of these tribes were the Vandals, Burgundians, Goths, Franks, and Lombards. The Roman Empire went to pieces under their savage attacks.

Questions for Review

1. Why is it that after nations become civilized, people need less land to live on?
2. Are barbarous tribes more likely to engage in war than civilized peoples?
3. Explain why clubs were the earliest weapons and why the more civilized tribes were better armed than the barbarians. 4. Can a people be said to be civilized when they enjoy bloodshed and are not moved by the sufferings of others? 5. What was it that lowered the morals of the Roman republic? 6. In what way were the Germans better men than the later Romans? 7. What was the religion of the Moors and the Arabs? 8. Why did the German tribes invade the Roman empire?


From Chiefs to Kings

The early chief a fighter.–The club the sign of power.–Free men led by a chief of their own choosing.–The first slaves.–Barbarians conquer civilized nations.–A ruling class among conquered people.–All men no longer free and equal.–The value of arms and armor.–The robber chiefs.–How kings first came.–Treaties between tribes follow constant wars.–Tribes unite for protection against enemies.–A king is chosen for the time being.–Some kings refuse to resign their office when the danger is past.–New generations grow up which never knew a kingless state.–The word “king” becomes sacred.

The chiefs of the invading tribes knew no law except the rule of the sword. If they saw anything which they wanted, they took it. Rich cities were plundered at will. They did not admit any man’s ownership of anything. In the old days when the tribes were roaming around, there was no private ownership of land. Everything belonged to the tribe in common. Each man had a vote in the council of the tribe.

Among these invaders, as with all barbarous tribes, there was no such thing as an absolute rule. A chief was obeyed because the greater part of his people considered him the best leader in war. Often, no doubt, when a chief had lost a battle and the majority of the tribe had lost confidence in him, he resigned and let them choose a new chief. (For the same reason we frequently hear today that the prime minister, or leader of the government, of some European country has resigned.) In spite of the fact, then, that the chief was stronger than any other man in the tribe, if the majority of his warriors had combined against him to put another man in his place he could not have withstood them. Government, in its beginning, was based upon the consent of the governed. All men in the primitive tribe were equal in rank, except as one was a better fighter than another, and the chief held the leadership in war only because the members of his tribe allowed him to keep it.

[Illustration: A Frankish Chief.]

It must be remembered that in these early days, the people had no fixed place of abode. Their only homes were rude huts which they could put up or tear down at very short notice; and so when they heard of more fertile lands or a warmer climate across the mountains to the south they used to pull up stakes and migrate in a body, never to return. It was always the more savage and uncivilized peoples who were most likely to migrate. The lands which they wished to seize they generally found already settled by other tribes, more civilized and hence more peaceful, occupied in trade and agriculture, having gradually turned to these pursuits from their former habits of hunting and fighting. Sometimes these more civilized and peace-loving people were able, by their better weapons and superior knowledge of the art of fortifying, to beat back the invasion of the immigrating barbarians. Oftener, though, the rougher, ruder tribes were the victors, and settled down among the people they had conquered, to rule them, doing no work themselves, but forcing the conquered ones to feed and clothe them.

[Illustration: Movable Huts of Early Germans]

History is full of instances of such conquests, and they were taking place, no doubt, ages before the times from which our earliest records date. The best examples, however, are to be found in the invasions of the Roman Empire by the Germanic tribes to which we have referred above. The country between the Rhine River and the Pyrenees Mountains, which had been called Gaul when the Gauls lived there, became France when the Franks conquered the Gauls and stayed to live among them. In like manner, two German tribes became the master races in Spain. The Burgundians came down from the shores of the Baltic Sea and gave their name to their new home in the fertile valley of the Sa䮥 (Sōn); the Vandals came out of Germany to roam through Spain, finally founding a kingdom in Africa; while the Lombards crossed the Alps to become the masters of the Valley of the Po, whither the Gauls had gone before them, seven hundred years earlier.

[Illustration: Goths on the March]

[Illustration: Franks Crossing the Rhine]

The island now known as Great Britain, which was inhabited two thousand years ago by the Britons and Gaels, Celtic peoples, was overrun and conquered in part about 450 A.D. by the Saxons and Angles, Germanic tribes, after whom part of the island was called Angleland. (The men from the south of England are of the same blood as the Saxons in the German army, against whom they had to fight in the great war.) Then came Danes, who partially conquered the Angles and Saxons, and after them, in 1066 A.D., the country was again conquered by the Normans, descendants of some Norsemen, who, one hundred and fifty years before, had come down from Norway and conquered a large territory in the northwestern part of France.

[Illustration: Men of Normandy Landing in England.]

In some cases, the conquered tribes moved on to other lands, leaving their former homes to their conquerors. In this way the Britons and Gaels gave up the greater part of their land to the Angles and Saxons and withdrew to the hills and mountains of Wales, Cornwall, and northern Scotland. In other cases, the conquered people and their conquerors inhabited the same lands side by side, as the Normans settled down in England among the Anglo-Saxons.

In the early days of savagery, one tribe would frequently make a raid upon another neighboring tribe and bring home with it some captives who became slaves, working without pay for their conquerors and possessing no more rights than beasts of burden. (This custom exists today in the interior of Africa, and was responsible for the infamous African slave trade. Black captives were sold to white traders through the greed of their captors, who forgot that their own relatives and friends might be carried off and sold across the seas by some other tribe of blacks.)

When these slaves were kept as the servants of their conquerors, their number was very small as compared with that of their masters. When, on the other hand, a tribe settled among a people whom they had conquered, they often found themselves fewer in numbers, and kept their leadership only by their greater strength and fighting ability.

Here there had arisen a new situation: all men were no longer equal, led by a chief of their own choosing, but instead, the greater part of them now had no voice in the government. They had become subjects, working to earn their own living and also, as has been said, to support in idleness their conquerors.

This ability of the few to rule the many and force them to support their masters was increased as certain peoples learned better than others how to make strong armor and effective weapons. Nearly five hundred years before the time of Christ, at the battle of Marathon (Măr’ȧ thŏn), the Greeks discovered that one Greek, clad in metal armor and armed with a long spear, was worth ten Persians wearing leather and carrying a bow and arrows or a short sword. One hundred and sixty years later, a small army of well-equipped Macedonian Greeks, led by that wonderful general, Alexander the Great, defeated nearly forty times its number of Persians in a great battle in Asia and conquered a vast empire.

[Illustration: Alexander Defeating the Persians]

In later times, as better and better armor was made, the question of wealth entered in. The chief who had money enough to buy the best arms for his men could defeat his poorer neighbor and force him to pay money as to a ruler. Finally, in the so-called “Middle Ages,” before the invention of gunpowder, one knight, armed from crown to sole in steel, was worth in battle as much as one hundred poorly-armed farmers or “peasants” as they are called in Europe.

In the “Dark Ages,”[2] after all these barbarians that we have named had swarmed over Europe, and before the governments of modern times were fully grown, there were hundreds of robber chiefs, who, scattered throughout a country, were in the habit of collecting tribute at the point of the sword from the peaceful peasants who lived near. This tribute they collected in some cases, regularly, a fixed amount each month or year, just as if they had a right to collect it, like a government tax collector. It might be money or food or fodder, or fuel. The robber chiefs were well armed themselves and were able to give good weapons and armor to their men, who lived either in the chief’s castle or in small houses built very near it. They likewise plundered any travelers who came by, unless their numbers and weapons made them look too dangerous to be attacked. But the regular tribute forced from the peaceful farmers was the chief source of their income. The robber chief and his men lived a life of idleness when they were not out upon some raid for plunder, and the honest, industrious peasants worked hard enough to support both their own families and those of the robbers.

[2] The “Dark Ages” came before the “Middle Ages.” They were called “dark” because the barbarians had extinguished nearly all civilization and learning.

[Illustration: A Knight in Armor]

These robber chiefs had no right but might. They were outlaws, and lived either in a country which had no government and laws, or in one whose government was too weak to protect its people. They were no worse, however, than the so-called feudal barons who came after them, who oppressed the people even more, because they had on their side whatever law and government existed in those days.

Now let us stop to consider how first there came to be kings. In the early days of the human race and also in later days among barbarous peoples, the land was very sparsely settled. The reason lay in the chief occupations of the men. A small tribe might inhabit a great stretch of territory through which they wandered to keep within reach of plenty of game. As time went on, however, the population increased, and, as agriculture took the place of hunting, and homes became more lasting, tribes found themselves living in smaller and smaller tracts of land, and hence nearer to their neighbors. In some cases, constant fighting went on, just as Caesar tells us that two thousand years ago, the Swiss and the Germans fought almost daily battles back and forth across the Rhine. In other cases, the tribes found it better for all concerned to make treaties of peace with their neighbors, and if they did not exchange visits and mix on friendly terms, at least they did not attack each other.

Finally, one day there would come to several tribes which had treaties with each other a common danger, such as an invasion by some horde of another race or nation. Common interest would drive them together for mutual protection, and the chief of some one of them would be chosen to lead their joint army. In this way, we find the fifteen tribes of the Belgians uniting against the Roman army led by Julius Caesar, and electing as king over them the chief of one of the tribes “on account of his justice and wisdom.” Five years later, in the year 52 B.C., we find practically all the inhabitants of what is now France united into a nation under the leadership of Vercingetorix (Vẽr sin jet’ō riks) in one last effort to free themselves from Rome. Five hundred years later, the Romans themselves were driven to join forces with two of the Germanic tribes to check the swift invasion of the terrible Huns.

In some cases, these alliances were only for a short time and the kingships were merely temporary. In other cases, the wars that drove the tribes to unite under one great chief or king lasted for years or even centuries, so that new generations grew up who had never lived under any other government than that of a king. Thus when the wars were ended, the tribes continued to be ruled by the one man, although the reason for the kingship had ceased to be. In the days of the Roman republic, from 500 to 100 B.C., when grave danger arose, the senate, or council of elders, appointed one man who was called the dictator, and this dictator ruled like an absolute monarch until the danger was past. Then, like the famous Cincinnatus, he gave up the position and retired to private life. The first lasting kingships, then, began, as it were, by the refusal of some dictator to resign when the need for his rule was ended.

By this time, the custom of choosing the son of a chief or king to take his father’s place was fairly well settled, and it did not take long to have it understood as a regular thing that at a king’s death he should be followed by his oldest son. Often there were quarrels and even civil wars caused by ambitious younger sons, who did not submit to their elder brothers without a struggle, but as people grew to be more civilized and peace-loving, they found it better to have the oldest son looked upon as the rightful heir to the kingship.

As kingdoms grew larger, and more and more people came to be busied in agriculture, trade, and even, on a small scale, in manufacture, the warriors grew fewer in proportion, and people began to forget that the king was originally only a war leader, and that the office was created through military need. They came to regard the rule of the king as a matter of course and stopped thinking of themselves as having any right to say how they should be governed. Kings were quick to foster this feeling. For the purpose of making their own positions sure, they were in the habit of impressing it upon their people that the kingship was a divine institution. They proclaimed that the office of king was made by the gods, or in Christian nations, by God, and that it was the divine will that the people of the nations should be ruled by kings. The great Roman orator, Cicero (Sĭs’erō), in a speech delivered in the year 66 B.C., referring to people who lived in kingdoms, says that the name of king “seems to them a great and sacred thing.” This same feeling has lasted through all the ages down to the present time, and the majority of the people in European kingdoms, even among the educated classes, still look upon a king as a superior being, and are made happy and proud if they ever have a chance to do him a service of any sort.

Questions for Review

1. Why was it that in barbarian tribes there was no private ownership of land?
2. What is meant by saying that government was based upon the consent of the governed?
3. Was there anything besides love of plunder that induced the German tribes to move southward?
4. Explain the beginnings of slavery. 5. Explain the value of armor in early times. 6. What is meant by the “Dark Ages”?
7. What is meant by saying that the fighting men were parasites? 8. When the first kings were chosen was it intended that they should be rulers for life?
9. Is it easy for a man in power to retain this power? 10. Why is it that most Europeans bow low before a king?


Master and Man

The land is the king’s.–He lends it to barons.–Barons lend it to knights and smaller barons.–Smaller barons collect rent for it from the peasants.–A father’s lands are lent to his son.–Barons pay for the land by furnishing men for the king’s wars.–No account is taken of the rights of the peasant.–The peasant, the only producer, is despised by the fighting men.–If a baron rebels, his men must rebel also.–Dukes against kings.–What killed the feudal system.–Feudal wrongs alive today.

When one great tribe or nation invaded and conquered a country, as the Ostrogoths came into Italy in the year 489 A.D., or as the Normans entered England in 1066, their king at once took it for granted that he owned all the conquered land. In some cases, he might divide the kingdom up among his chiefs, giving a county to each of forty or fifty leaders. These great leaders (dukes or barons, as they were called in the Norman-French language, or earls, as the English named them) would in turn each divide up his county among several less important chiefs, whom we may call lesser or little barons. Each little baron might have several knights and squires, who lived in or near his castle and had received from him tracts of land corresponding in size, perhaps, to the American township and who, therefore, fought under his banner in war.

[Illustration: A Norman Castle in England]

Each baron had under him a strong body of fighting men, “men-at-arms,” as they were called, or “retainers,” who in return for their “keep,” that is, their food and lodging, and a chance to share the plunder gained in war, swore to be faithful to him, became his men, and gave him the service called homage. (This word comes from hōmō, the Latin for “man.”) The lesser baron, in turn, swore homage to, and was the “man” of the great baron or earl. Whenever the earl called on these lesser chiefs to gather their fighting men and report to him, they had to obey, serving him as unquestioningly as their squires and retainers obeyed them. The earl or duke swore homage to the king, from whom he had received his land.

This, then, was the feudal system (so named from the word feudum, which, in Latin, meant a piece of land the use of which was given to a man in return for his services in war), a system which reversed the natural laws of society, and stood it on its apex, like a cone balanced on its point. For instead of saying that the land was the property of the people of the tribe or nation, it started by taking for granted that the land all belonged to the king. The idea was that the king did not give the land, outright, to his dukes and earls, but that he gave them, in return for their faithful support and service in war, the use of the land during their lifetime, or so long as they remained true to him. In Macbeth, we read how, for his treason, the lands of the thane (earl) of Cawdor were taken from him by the Scottish king and given to the thane of Glamis. The lands thus lent were called fiefs. Upon the death of the tenant, they went back to the king or duke who had given them in the first place, and he at once gave them to some other one of his followers upon the same terms. It often happened that upon the death of an earl or baron his son was granted the lands which his father had held, Finally, in many counties, it grew into a custom, and the oldest son took possession of his father’s fief, but not without first going to the king and swearing homage and fidelity to him.

Two things must be kept in mind if we are to understand the system fully. In the first place, in the division of the lands among the barons of the conquering nation, no account was taken of the peasants. As they were of the defeated people, their rights to the land were not once considered. In many countries, the victors thought of them as part and parcel of the conquered territory. They “went with” the land and were considered by the lord of the county as merely his servants. When one lord turned over a farm to another, the farmers were part of the bargain. If any of them tried to run away, they were brought back and whipped. They tilled the land and raised live stock, giving a certain share of their yearly crop and a certain number of beeves, hogs, sheep, etc., to the lord, as rent for the land, much as the free farmers in other countries paid tribute to the robber chieftains. Thus the one class of people who really earned their right to live, by producing wealth, were oppressed and robbed by all the others. Note this point, for there are wrongs existing today that are due to the fact that the feudal system is not wholly stamped out in some countries.

[Illustration: A Vassal doing Homage to his Lord]

In the second place, it must be noted that the king was not the direct master of all the people. Only the great lords had sworn homage to him. He was lord of the dukes, earls, and barons. The less important barons swore homage to the great barons, and the knights, squires, retainers, and yeomen swore homage to the lesser barons. If a lesser baron had subdivided his fief among certain knights and squires, the peasants owed allegiance, not to him, but to the squire to whom they had been assigned. Thus, if a “man” rebelled against his lord, all of his knights, retainers, etc., must rebel also. If, for instance, a great duke refused to obey his king and broke his oath of allegiance, all his little barons and knights must turn disloyal too, or rather, must remain loyal, for their oaths had been taken to support the duke, and not the king. History is full of such cases. In many instances, dukes became so powerful that they were able to make war on even terms with kings. The great Dukes of Burgundy for a time kept the kings of France in awe of their power; the Duke of Northumberland in 1403 raised an army that almost overthrew King Henry Fourth of England; the Duke of York, in 1461, drove Henry Sixth from the throne of England and became king in his place.

[Illustration: William the Conqueror]

A strange case arose when, in 1066, William, who as duke of Normandy had sworn homage to the king of France, became, through conquest, king of England. His sons, great-grandsons, and great-great-grandsons continued for one hundred and fifty years to be obliged to swear allegiance to the French kings in order to keep the duchy of Normandy. It was as if the Governor of Texas had led an army into Mexico, conquered it, and become Emperor of that country, without resigning his governorship or giving up his American citizenship.

Two things which tended to break down the feudal system and bring more power to the common people were, first, the invention of gunpowder, and, second, the rise of towns. A man with a musket could bring down a knight in armor as easily as he could the most poorly armored peasant. Kings, in fighting to control their great lords, gave more freedom to citizens of towns in return for their help. The king’s armies came to be recruited largely from townspeople, who were made correspondingly free from the feudal lords.

The rule of the feudal system, that each man owed a certain amount of military service to his ruler has lasted to the present day and is responsible for much of the misery that now exists. Kings went to war with each other simply to increase their territories. The more land a king had under his control, the more people who owed him taxes, and the greater number he could get into his army, the greater became his ambition to spread his kingdom still farther.

Questions for Review

1. How was it that the king of a tribe could claim to own all the land in the country which he had invaded? 2. Did the kings, lords, and fighting men contribute anything to the welfare of the working classes?
3. Would the peasants have been better off if all the fighting men, lords, dukes, kings, etc., had suddenly been killed? 4. Can you see why in some countries in Europe a man who earns his living is looked down upon by the nobles? 5. What is meant by saying that the feudal system turns society upside down?
6. Why did the farmers continue to feed the fighting men? 7. Explain how the use of gunpowder in warfare helped to break up the feudal system.
8. How did the rise of cities also help to do away with the feudal system?


A Babel of Tongues

The great family of languages.–Few languages in Europe not belonging to the family.–The dying Celtic languages.–The three branches of the Germanic family.–The influence of the Latin tongue on the south of Europe.–The many Slavic peoples.–The map as divided by kings without regard to peoples and languages.–The strange mixture in Austria-Hungary.–The southeast of Europe.–The Greeks and Dacians.–The Roman colonists.–The Slavs.–The Volgars.–The Skipetars.–A hopeless mixture.

In Chapter II it was pointed out that almost all the peoples of Europe were related, in one big family of tribes. It is likely that the forefathers of the Celts, the Latins, the Germans, the Greeks, and the Slavs belonged to one big tribe which had its home back in the highlands of Central Asia. As a general rule, the relationship of peoples to each other can be told by the languages which they speak. If two tribes are related because their forefathers once belonged to the same tribe, it is almost certain that they will show this relationship in their languages.

The language of England a thousand years ago was very much like the language of the Germans, for the English were originally German tribes. Even today, it is easy to see that English is a Germanic language. Take the English words house, father, mother, brother, water, here, is, etc. The German words which mean the same are haus, vater, mutter, bruder, wasser, hier, ist. It is very plain that the two languages must have come from the same source.

There are professors in European colleges who have spent their whole lives studying this relationship of languages. These men have proved not only that almost all the languages of Europe are related, but that the language of the Persians, and that of some of the old tribes in Hindustan also belong to one great family of tongues. Let us take the word for mother. In one of the ancient languages of Hindustan it was matr; in the Greek, it was mātār; in the Latin mater (mätār); in the Bohemian matka; in the German mu̠tter; in the Spanish mädre; in the Norwegian mōder, etc. This great family of languages is called “the Indo-European group,” because the tribes which spoke them, originally inhabitants of Asia, have scattered all over India and Europe. The only peoples in Europe whose languages do not belong to it are the Finns and Laplanders of the north, the Basques (Bȧsks) of the Pyrenees Mountains, the Hungarians, the Gypsies, and the Turks.

The descendants of the old Celtic peoples have not kept up the Celtic languages to any great extent. The reason for this is that first the Romans and then the Germanic tribes conquered most of the lands where the Celts lived. In this way, Spain, Portugal, France, and Belgium now talk languages that have grown from the Latin, the language of Rome. The Celts in the British Isles now all talk English, because the English, who were a Germanic people, conquered them and forced them to use their language. Patriotic Irishmen and Welshmen (who are descendants of the Celtic tribes) are trying to keep alive the Irish and Welsh languages, but all of the young people in the British Isles learn English, and they are generally content to talk only one language. The other Celtic languages which have existed within the last one hundred years are the Gaelic of the north of Scotland, the Breton of western France, and the Cornish of the southwestern corner of England.

The Germanic languages (sometimes called Teutonic) are found in three parts of Europe today. The Scandinavian languages, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, belong to this family. Western Austria and Germany form, with Holland and Western Belgium, a second group of German-speaking nations. (The people of eastern Belgium are Celts and talk a kind of French.) The third part of Europe which uses a Germanic language is England.

In an earlier chapter we learned how the Celts in France, Spain, and Portugal gave up their own languages and used the Latin. Latin languages today are found also in the southern and western parts of Switzerland, all over Italy, and in Roumania.

We learned also about the Slavs who lived to the eastward of the Germanic tribes. When the Germans moved west, these Slavs followed them and occupied the lands which had just been left vacant. In this way, we find Slavic peoples talking Slavic (sometimes called Slavonic) languages in the parts of Europe to the east and south of the Germans. More than half of the inhabitants of Austria-Hungary are Slavs, although the Austrians proper are a Germanic people, and the Hungarians do not belong to the Indo-European family at all. The Serbians and Montenegrins are Slavs. The Poles and Russians are Slavs. The Bulgarians speak a Slavic language and have some Slavic blood in them, although, as will be pointed out later, originally they did not belong to the Slavic family.

[Map: Distribution Of Peoples According to Relationship]

The Greeks and Albanians belong to the great Indo-European family of tribes, but their languages are not closely related to any of the four great branches.

[Map: Distribution Of Languages]

The two maps on pages 65 and 66 are very much alike and yet in some respects very different. The first shows how Europe is largely inhabited by peoples of the great Indo-European family. Those who are descended from the Celts are marked Celtic even though today they have given up their Celtic language, as have the Cornish in England and the inhabitants of Spain, France, eastern Belgium, and the greater part of Ireland. The Bulgarians are marked as not belonging to the great family, although they speak a Slavic language.

In the second map, the distribution of languages is shown. You will notice that the Celtic languages are found only in small parts of the British Isles, and in the westernmost point of France. The Bulgarians are here marked Slavic because their language belongs to that branch. One of the most curious things about the two maps is the presence of little spots like islands, particularly made up of German-speaking peoples. There are several of these little islands in Russia. They have been there for nearly two hundred years. A traveler crossing the southern part of Russia is astonished to find districts as large as an American county where not a word of Russian is spoken. The people are all of Germanic blood, although they live under the government of Russia. In the same way, there is a large German island in the midst of the Roumanians in Transylvania and another between the Slovaks and Poles at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. There is a large Hungarian island in Transylvania also, entirely surrounded by Germans and Roumanians. The table on the opposite page shows the main branches of the Indo-European family that are found in Europe.


(a) Hindu branch

(b) Persian branch

(c) Celtic branch Gae’lic (northern Scotland) Welsh
Cornish (dead)
Erse (Irish)
Bre’ton (western France)

(d) Latin branch Portuguese
Romansh (southeastern Switzerland) Italian

(e) Germanic branch Norwegian
Flemish (Belgium)
Low German
High German

(f) Slavonic branch Russian
Polish }
Lettish } Baltic states of Russia Lithuanian }
Old Prussian (dead)
Czech (Bohemian [pronounced Check]) Slo vak’ (northern Hungary)
Slove’nian (southwestern Austria) Croa’tian (southern Austria)
Ruthe’nian (northeastern Austria-Hungary, and southwestern Russia)

(g) Greek

(h) Alba’nian

The main source of the present trouble in Europe is that kings and their ministers and generals, like their ancestors, the feudal lords, never considered the wishes of the people when they changed the boundaries of kingdoms. Austria-Hungary is a good example. The Austrians and Hungarians were two very different peoples. They had nothing in common and did not wish to be joined under one ruler, but a king of Hungary, dying, left no son to succeed him, and his only daughter was married to the archduke of Austria. This archduke of Austria (a descendant of the counts of Hapsburg) was also emperor of Germany and king of Bohemia, although the Bohemian people had not chosen him as their ruler. The Hungarians, before their union with Austria, had conquered certain Slavic tribes and part of the Roumanians. Later Austria annexed part of Poland. In this way, the empire became a jumble of languages and nationalities. When its congress is called together, the official announcement is read in eleven different languages. Forty-one different dialects are talked in an area not as large as that of the state of Texas.

We must remember that besides the literary or written languages of each country there are several spoken dialects. A man from Devonshire, England, meeting a man from Yorkshire in the north of the same country, has difficulty in understanding many words in his speech. The language of the south of Scotland also is English, although it is very different from the English that we in America are taught. A Frenchman from the Pyrenees Mountains was taught in school to speak and read the French language as we find it in books. Yet besides this, he knows a dialect that is talked by the country people around him, that can not be understood by the peasants from the north of France near the Flemish border. The man who lives in the east of France can understand the dialect of the Italians from the west of Italy much better than he can that of the Frenchman from the Atlantic coast.

In America, with people moving around from place to place by means of stage coach, steamboat, and railroad, there has been no great chance to develop dialects, although we can instantly tell the New Englander, the southerner, or the westerner by his speech. It should be remembered that in Europe, for centuries, the people were kept on their own farms or in their own towns. The result of this was that each little village or city has its own peculiar language. It is said that persons who have studied such language matters carefully, after conversing with a man from Europe, can tell within thirty miles where his home used to be in the old country. There are no sharply marked boundaries of languages. The dialects of France shade off into those of Spain on the one hand and into those of the Flemish and the Italian on the other.

[Map: Southeastern Europe, 600 B.C.]

The British Isles furnish us with four or five different nationalities. The people of the north of Ireland are really lowland Scotch of Germanic descent, while the other three-fourths of Ireland is inhabited by Celts. To make the difference all the greater, the Celts are almost universally Catholics, while the Scotch-Irish are Protestants. The people of the north of Scotland are Gaels, a Celtic race having no connection in language or blood with the people of the southern half of that country. The Welsh are a Celtic people, having no relationship with the English, who are a Germanic people. The Welsh and the Cornish of Cornwall and the people of highland Scotland are the descendants of the ancient Britons and Gaels who inhabited the island when Julius Caesar and the Romans first landed there. Then five hundred years afterwards, as has already been told, came great swarms of Germans (Angles, Saxons, and Jutes), who drove the Britons to the west and north, and settled the country now known as England. After these, you will recall, came a number of Danes, another Germanic people, who settled the east coast of England. Two hundred years later, the Normans came from France. These Normans had been living in France for a century or two, but had come originally from Norway. Normans, Danes, Angles, and Saxons all mixed to make the modern English. Together, they fought the Scotch, the Welsh and the Irish, and having conquered them, oppressed them harshly for many centuries.

[Map: Southeastern Europe, 975 A.D.]

But it is in the southeastern corner of Europe that one finds the worst jumble of nationalities. Six hundred years before Christ, the Greeks and their rougher cousins, the Thracians, Macedonians, and Dacians inhabited this district. When one of the Roman Emperors conquered the Dacians about 100 A.D., he planted a large Roman colony north of the Danube River. Then came the West Goths, who swept into this country, but soon left it for the west of Europe. Next came the Slavic tribes who are the ancestors of the modern Serbs. Following these, came a large tribe which did not belong to the Indo-European family, but was distantly related to the Finns and the Turks. These people were called the Volgars, for they came from the country around the River Volga. Before long, we find them called the Bulgars. (The letters B and V are often interchanged in the languages of south-eastern Europe. The people of western Europe used to call the country of the Serbs Servia, but the Serbs objected, saying that the word servio, in Latin, means “to be a slave,” and that as they were not slaves, they wanted their country to be called by its true name, Serbia. The Greeks, on the other hand, pronounce the letter B as though it were V.)

A strange thing happened to the Volgars or Bulgars. They completely gave up their Asiatic language and adopted a new one, which became in time the purest of the Slavic tongues. They intermarried with the Slavs around them and adopted Slavic names. They founded a flourishing nation which lay between the kingdom of Serbia and the Greek Empire of Constantinople.

North of the Bulgars lay the country of the Roumani (ro͞o mä’nï). These people claimed to be descended from the Roman Emperor’s colonists, as was previously told, but the reason their language is so much like the Italian is that a large number of people from the north of Italy moved into the country nearly a thousand years after the first Roman colonists settled there. From 900 to 1300 A.D., south-eastern Europe was inhabited by Serbians, Bulgarians, Roumanians, and Greeks.

[Illustration: A Typical Bulgarian Family]

A fifth people perhaps ought to be counted here, the Albanians. (See map) This tribe is descended from the Illyrians, who inhabited the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea even before the time of the Roman Empire. Their language, like the Greek, is a branch of the Indo-European family which is neither Latin, Celtic, Germanic, nor Slavic. They are distant cousins of the Italians and are also slightly related to the Greeks. They are a wild, fierce, uncivilized people, and have never known the meaning of law and order. Robbery and warfare are common. Each village is always fighting with the people of the neighboring towns. The Albanians, or Skipetars (skïp’ĕtars) as they call themselves, were Christians until they were conquered by the Turks about 1460. Since that time, the great majority of them have been staunch believers in the Mohammedan religion.

Questions for Review

1. Where did the great Indo-European family of languages have its beginning?
2. Why is it that the Celtic languages are dying out? 3. What killed the Celtic languages in Spain and France? 4. What are the three parts of Europe where Germanic languages are spoken?
5. In what parts of Europe are languages spoken which are descended from the Latin?
6. Explain the presence in Austria-Hungary of eleven different peoples?
7. Are the Bulgarians really a Slavic people?


“The Terrible Turk”

The Greek Empire at Constantinople.–The invading Mohammedans.–The Ottoman Turks.–The fall of Constantinople.–The enslaving of the Bulgars, Serbs, Greeks, Albanians, and Roumanians.–One little part of Serbia unconquered.–The further conquests of the Turks.–The attack on Vienna.–John Sobieski to the rescue.–The waning of the Turkish empire.–The Spanish Jews.–The jumble of languages and peoples in southeastern Europe.

In the last chapter, we referred briefly to the Greek empire at Constantinople. This city was originally called Byzantium, and was a flourishing Greek commercial center six hundred years before Christ. Eleven hundred years after this, a Roman emperor named Constantine decided that he liked Byzantium better than Rome. Accordingly, he moved the capital of the empire to the Greek city, and renamed it Constantinopolis (the word polis means “city” in Greek). Before long, we find the Roman empire divided into two parts, the capital of one at Rome, of the other at Constantinople. This eastern government was continued by the Greeks nearly one thousand years after the government of the western empire had been seized by the invading Germanic tribes.

[Illustration: The Turkish Sultan before Constantinople]

For years, this Greek empire at Constantinople had been obliged to fight hard against the Mohammedans who came swarming across the fertile plains of Mesopotamia (mĕs’ō pō tā’ mĭ ā) and Asia Minor. (Mesopotamia is the district lying between the Tigris (tī’grĭs) and Euphrates (ūfrā’tēz) Rivers. Its name in Greek means “between the rivers.”) The fiercest of the Mohammedan tribes, the warlike Ottoman Turks, were the last to arrive. For several years, they thundered at the gates of Constantinople, while the Greek Empire grew feebler and feebler.

At last in 1453, their great cannon made a breach in the walls, and the Turks poured through. The Greek Empire was a thing of the past, and all of southeastern Europe lay at the mercy of the invading Moslems (another name for “Mohammedans”). The Turks did not drive out the Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbians, and Albanians, but settled down among them as the ruling, military class. They strove to force these peoples to give up Christianity and turn Mohammedans, but were successful only in the case of the Skipetars of Albania. The Albanians, Serbians, Bulgarians, Greeks, and Roumanians remained where they had been, but were oppressed by the newcomers.

For more than two hundred years after the capture of Constantinople, the Turks pushed their conquests farther and farther into Europe. The entire coast of the Black Sea fell into their hands. All of Greece, all of Bulgaria, and all of Roumania became part of their empire. Of the kingdom of Serbia, one small province remained unconquered. Up in the mountains near the coast of the Adriatic gathered the people of one county of the Serbian kingdom. As the Turks attacked them, they retreated higher and higher up the mountain sides and rolled huge stones down upon the invaders. Finally, the Turk became disgusted, and concluded that “the game was not worth the candle.” Thus the little nation of Montenegro was formed, composed of Serbians who never submitted to the Ottoman rule. (The inhabitants of this small country call it Tzernagorah (tzẽr nä gō’ra); the Italians call it Montenegro. Both of these names mean “Dark Mountain.”)

Not satisfied with these conquests, the Turks pushed on, gaining control of the greater part of the kingdom of Hungary. About 1682, they were pounding at the forts around Vienna. The heroic king of Poland, John Sobieski (sō bĭ ĕs’kĭ), came to the rescue of the Austrian emperor with an army of Poles and Germans and completely defeated the Turks. He saved Vienna, and ended any further advance of the Turkish rule into Europe. (The map on page 82 shows the high water mark of the Turkish conquests.)

It must be remembered that the original inhabitants of the conquered lands were still living where they always had lived. The Turks were very few in number compared with the millions of people who inhabited their empire and paid them tribute. Many wars were caused by this conquest, but it was two hundred and thirty years before the Christian peoples won back their territory.

[Map: Southeastern Europe 1690 A.D.]

By the year 1685, the Hungarians had begun to win back part of their kingdom. By 1698, almost all of Hungary and Transylvania was free from Turkish rule. It will be recalled that a certain Count of Hapsburg had become Emperor of Germany, and when we say Germany, we include Austria, which had become the home of the Hapsburgs. It was shortly after this that the Hapsburg family came to be lords of Hungary also, through the marriage of one of their emperors with the only daughter of the king of that country. (See page 69.)

In this way, when the province of Bukowina and the territory known as the Banat, just north of the Danube and west of what is now Roumania, were reconquered from the Turks, it was the joint kingdom to which they were attached. (Bukowina has never been a part of Hungary. It is still a crown land, or county subject to the emperor of Austria personally.)

During the 15th century, the southeastern part of Europe came to be inhabited by a still different people. Not long after Ferdinand and Isabella, the king and queen of Spain, had conquered the Moorish kingdom of Granada (see Chapter II) that used to stretch across the southern half of Spain, the Spaniards decided to drive out of their country all “unbelievers,” that is, all who were not Christians of the Catholic faith. (This happened in 1492, the same year that they sent Columbus to America.) The Moors retreated into Africa, which was their former home, but the millions of Spanish Jews had no homeland to which to return. In the midst of their distress, the Sultan of Turkey, knowing them to be prosperous and well-behaved citizens, invited them to enter his land. They did so by hundreds of thousands.

The descendants of these people are to be found today throughout the Balkan peninsula, though mainly in the large cities. They are so numerous in Constantinople that four newspapers are published there in the Spanish language, but printed in Hebrew characters. The city of Salonika, a prosperous seaport of 140,000 people, which used to belong to Turkey but now is part of Greece, has over 50,000 of these Jews. They readily learn other tongues, and many of them can talk in four or five languages besides their native Spanish, which they still use in the family circle.

Constantinople (called Stamboul by the Turks) is a polyglot city, that is, a place of many languages. Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Jews, Italians are all found mingled together.

[Illustration: A Scene in Salonicka]

The main source of trouble in the Balkan peninsula is that the races and nationalities are so jumbled together that it is almost impossible to say which land should belong to which nation. Take the case of Macedonia (the district just northwest of the Aegean Sea). It is inhabited largely by Bulgarians, and yet there are so many Greeks and Serbs mixed in with the former that at the close of the last Balkan war in 1913, Greece and Serbia both claimed it as belonging to them because of the “prevailing nationality of its inhabitants!” In other words, the Serbians claimed that the inhabitants of Macedonia were largely Serbs, the Greeks were positive that its people were largely Greeks, while Bulgaria is very resentful today because the land was not given to her, on the ground that almost all its inhabitants are Bulgarians!

Religious and racial hatreds have had a great deal to do with making the Balkan peninsula a hotbed of political trouble. Right in the center of Bulgaria, for example, speaking the same language, dressing exactly alike, doing business with each other on an equal footing, are to be found the native Bulgarian and the descendant of the Turkish conquerors; yet one goes to the Greek Orthodox Church to worship and the other to the Mohammedan Mosque. With memories of hundreds of years of wrong and oppression behind them, Bulgarians and Turks hate and despise each other with a fierce intensity. Let us now leave the Balkan states, with their seething pot of racial and religious hatred, and turn to other causes of European wars.

Questions for Review

1. What became of the Greeks when the Turks captured Constantinople? 2. Why could one county of Serbia resist the Turks? 3. How long after the fall of Constantinople were the Turks threatening Vienna?
4. Explain how Constantinople has people of so many different nationalities.
5. Why have the Turk and Bulgarian never been friendly?


The Rise of Modern Nations

How the peasants looked upon war.–War the opportunity of the fighting men.–The decreasing power of barons.–The growth of royal power.–How four little kingdoms became Spain.–Other kingdoms of Europe.–The rise of Russia.–The Holy Roman Empire.–The electors.–The rise of Brandenburg.–The elector of Brandenburg becomes King of Prussia.–Frederick the Great.–The seizure of Silesia and the consequent wars.

You have already been shown how in the early days of the feudal system, the lords, with their squires, knights, and fighting men made up a class of the population whose only trade was war, and how the poor peasants were compelled to raise crops and live stock enough to feed both themselves and the fighting men. These peasants had no love for war, as war resulted only in their losing their possessions in case their country was invaded by the enemy. The fighting men, on the other hand, had nothing to do unless war was going on, and as those who were not killed returned from a war with rich plunder in case they were victorious, they were always looking for a chance to start trouble with some neighboring country.

In those days, kings cared little what their nobles did, so long as the nobles furnished them with fighting men in times of war. As a result, one county in a certain kingdom would often be at war with a neighboring county. The fighting man either was killed in battle or he came out of it with increased glory and plunder, but the peasants and the common people had nothing to gain by war and everything to lose. As we have seen, force ruled the world, and the common people had no voice in their government. The workers were looked down upon by the members of the fighting class, who never did a stroke of work themselves and considered honest toil as degrading. In fact, as one writer has said, the only respectable trade in Europe in those days was what we today would call highway robbery.

France and England in the 15th Century

Gradually in most of the European countries the king was able to put down the power of his nobles and make himself master over the whole nation. In this way a strong central power grew up in France. After the death of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, in 1477, no noble dared to question the leadership of the king of France. The same thing was true in England after the battle of Bosworth in 1485, which resulted in the death of King Richard III and the setting of the Tudor family on the throne.

Spain and Other Kingdoms

Spain had been divided into four little kingdoms: Leon, Castile, Aragon, and Granada, the latter ruled by the Moors. The nation marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon to Isabella of Castile and Leon joined the three Christian kingdoms into one, and after 1492, when the Moors were defeated and Granada annexed to the realm of Ferdinand and Isabella, Spain became one kingdom. About this time, also, there had grown up a strong kingdom of Hungary, a kingdom of Portugal, a kingdom of Poland, and one of Denmark. Norway was ruled by the Danes, but Sweden was a separate kingdom. In Russia, Czar Ivan the Terrible (1533-84) had built up a strong power which was still further strengthened by Czar Peter the Great (1690-1725).

The Holy Roman Empire

The rest of the continent of Europe, with the exception of the Turkish Empire, formed what was called the Holy Roman Empire, a rule which had been founded by Charlemagne (A.D. 800), the great Frankish monarch, who had been crowned in Rome by the pope as ruler of the western world. (The name “Holy Roman Empire” was not used by Charlemagne. We first hear of it under Otto I, the Saxon emperor, who was crowned in 962.)

[Map: The Empire of Charlemagne]

This Holy Roman Empire included all of what is now Germany (except the eastern third of Prussia), all of what is now Bohemia, Austria (but not Hungary), and all of Italy except the part south of Naples. There were times when part of France and all of the low countries (now Belgium and Holland) also belonged to the Empire. (The mountaineers of Switzerland won their independence from the Empire in the fourteenth century, and formed a little republic.) See map “Europe in 1540.”

[Map: Europe in 1540]

In the Holy Roman Empire, the son of the emperor did not necessarily succeed his father as ruler. There were seven (afterwards nine) “electors” who, at the death of the ruling monarch, met to elect his successor. Three of these electors were archbishops, one was king of Bohemia, and the others were counts of large counties in Germany like Hanover and Brandenburg. It frequently happened that the candidate chosen was a member of the family of the dead emperor, and there were three or four families which had many rulers chosen from among their number. The most famous of these families was that of the Counts of Hapsburg, from whom the present emperor of Austria is descended.

[Illustration: Louis XIV]

This Holy Roman Empire was not a strong government, as the kingdoms of England and France grew to be. The kings of Bohemia, Saxony, and Bavaria all were subjects of the emperor, as were many powerful counts. These men were jealous of the emperor’s power, and he did not dare govern them as strictly as the king of France ruled his nobles.

France in the 18th Century

[Illustration: John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough]

During the 18th century, there were many wars in Europe caused by the ambition of various kings to make their domains larger and to increase their own incomes. King Louis XIV of France had built up a very powerful kingdom. Brave soldiers and skillful generals spread his rule over a great part of what is Belgium and Luxemburg, and annexed to the French kingdom the part of Germany between the Rhine River and the Vosges (Vōzh) Mountains. Finally, the English joined with the troops of the Holy Roman Empire to curb the further growth of the French kingdom, and at the battle of Blenheim (1704), the English Duke of Marlborough, aided by the emperor’s army, put an end to the further expansion of the French.

[Illustration: The Great Elector of Brandenburg]


The 18th century also saw the rise of a new kingdom in Europe. You will recall that there was a county in Germany named Brandenburg, whose count was one of the seven electors who chose the emperor. The capital of this county was Berlin. It so happened that a number of Counts of Brandenburg, of the family of Hohenzollern, had been men of ambition and ability. The little county had grown by adding small territories around it. One of these counts, called “the Great Elector,” had added to Brandenburg the greater part of the neighboring county of Pomerania. His son did not have the ability of his father, but was a very proud and vain man. He happened to visit King William III of England, and was very much offended because during the interview, the king occupied a comfortable arm chair, while the elector, being simply a count, was given a chair to sit in which was straight-backed and had no arms. Brooding over this insult, as it seemed to him, he went home and decided that he too should be called a king. The question was, what should his title be. He could not call himself “King of Brandenburg,” for Brandenburg was part of the Empire, and the emperor would not allow it. It had happened some one hundred years before, that, through his marriage with the daughter of the Duke of Prussia, a Count of Brandenburg had come into possession of the district known as East Prussia, at the extreme southeastern corner of the Baltic Sea. Between this and the territory of Brandenburg lay the district known as West Prussia, which was part of the Kingdom of Poland. However, Prussia lay outside the boundaries of the Empire, and the emperor had nothing to say about what went on there. Therefore, the elector sent notice to all the kings and princes of Europe that after this he was to be known as the “King of Prussia.” It was a situation somewhat like the one we have already referred to, when the kings of England were independent monarchs and yet subjects of the kings of France because they were also dukes of Normandy.

[Illustration: Frederick The Great]

The son of this elector who first called himself king had more energy and more character than his father. He ruled his country with a rod of iron, and built up a strong, well-drilled army. He was especially fond of tall soldiers, and had agents out all over Europe, kidnapping men who were over six feet tall to serve in his famous regiment of Guards. He further increased the size of the Prussian kingdom.

His son was the famous Frederick the Great, one of the most remarkable fighters that the world has ever seen. This prince had been brought up under strict discipline by his father. The old king had been insistent that his son should be no weakling. It is told that one day, finding Frederick playing upon a flute, he seized the instrument and snapped it in twain over his son’s shoulder. The young Frederick, under this harsh training, became a fit leader of a military nation. When his father died and left him a well-filled treasury and a wonderfully drilled army, he was fired with the ambition to spread his kingdom wider. Germany, as has been said, was made up of a great many little counties, each ruled by its petty prince or duke, all owing homage, in a general way, to the ruler of Austria, who still was supposed to be the head of the Holy Roman Empire.

[Map: The Growth of Brandenburg-Prussia, 1400-1806]

This empire was not a real nation, but a collection of many different nationalities which had little sympathy with each other. The ruler of Austria was also king of Bohemia and of Hungary, but neither country was happy at being governed by a German ruler. Then, too, the Croatians, Serbs, Slovenes, and Slovaks were unhappy at being ruled, first by the Hungarians and then by the emperor, as they were Slavic peoples who wished their independence. It so happened that about the time that Frederick became king of Prussia in place of his father, the head of the House of Austria died, leaving his only child, a daughter, Maria Theresa, to rule the big empire. Frederick decided that he could easily defeat the disorganized armies of Austria, so he announced to the world that the rich province of Silesia was henceforth to be his and that he proposed to take it by force of arms. Naturally, this brought on a fierce war with Austria, but in the end, Frederick’s well-trained troops, his store of money, and above all, his expert military ability made the Prussians victorious, and at the close of the fighting, almost all of Silesia remained a part of the kingdom of Prussia. The Austrians, however, were not satisfied, and two more wars were fought before they finally gave up trying to recover the stolen state. Frederick remained stronger than ever as a result of his victories.

Questions for Review

1. Why were the fighting men of the Middle Ages a source of loss to a nation in general?
2. How was it that Spain became one nation? 3. What did Peter the Great do for Russia? 4. Why did the Emperor have less power than many kings? 5. What was the ambition of Louis XIV of France? 6. What effect had the training of his father upon the character of Frederick the Great?
7. Had Frederick the Great any right to Silesia?


The Fall of the Two Kingdoms

The Poles, a divided nation.–The three partitions.–Wars and revolts as a result.–The disappearance of Lithuania.–The growing power of the king of France.–An extravagant and corrupt court.–Peasants cruelly taxed and oppressed.–Bankruptcy at last.–The meeting of the three estates.–The third estate defies the king.–The fall of the Bastille.–The flight and capture of the king.–The king beheaded.–Other kings alarmed.–Valmy saves the revolution.–The reign of terror.

In the flat country to the northeast of Austria-Hungary and east of Prussia lay the kingdom of Poland, the largest country in Europe with the exception of Russia. The Poles, as has been said before, were a Slavic people, distant cousins of the Russians and Bohemians. They had a strong nobility or upper class, but these nobles were jealous of each other, and as a result, the country was torn apart by many warring factions. The condition of the working class was very miserable. The nobles did not allow them any privileges. They were serfs, that is to say, practically slaves, who had to give up to their masters the greater part of the crops that they raised. In the council of the Polish nobles, no law could be passed if a single nobleman opposed it. As a result of this jealousy between factions, the Poles could not be induced to obey any one leader, and thus, divided, were easy to conquer.

Frederick the Great, regretting the fact that he was separated from his land in East Prussia by the county of West Prussia, which was part of Poland, proposed to his old enemy, Maria Theresa of Austria, and to the Empress Catharine II of Russia that they each take a slice of Poland. This was accordingly done, in the year 1772. Poor Poland was unable to resist the three great powers around her, and the other kings of Europe, who had been greedily annexing land wherever they could get it, stood by without a protest. Some twenty years later, Prussia and Russia each again annexed a large part of the remainder of Poland, and two years after this, the three powers divided up among them all that was left of the unhappy kingdom. The Poles fought violently against this last partition, but they were not united and were greatly outnumbered by the troops of the three powers.

This great crime against a nation was the result of the military system; and this in turn was the result of the feudal system, which made the king, as commander-in-chief of the army, the supreme ruler of his country. The men in the Prussian and Austrian armies had no desire to fight and conquer the poor Poles. Victory meant nothing to them. They gained no advantage from it. To the kings who divided up the countries it simply meant an enlargement of their kingdoms, more people to pay taxes to them, and more men to draw on for their armies.

[Illustration: Catharine II]

Instead of crushing out the love of the Poles for their country, this wrongful tearing apart has made their national spirit all the stronger. There have been revolts and bloody wars, caused by Polish uprisings, time and time again, and the Poles will never be satisfied until their unhappy country is once more united.

To the northeast of the Poles live the Lithuanians, whose country had been annexed to the Polish kingdom when their duke, who had married the daughter of the king of Poland, followed his father-in-law on the Polish throne. Lithuania fell to Russia’s share in the division, so that its people only changed masters. They are a distinct nation, however, possessing a language and literature of their own, and having no desire to be ruled by either Poles or Russians. If they were to receive justice, they would form a country by themselves, lying between Poland and Russia proper.

The Downfall of the French Monarchy