Compulsory state education began in the West during the 16th century Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther wrote a letter to the German government in 1524 stating the following, “…If the government can compel such citizens as are fit for military service to bear spear and rifle…how much more has it a right to compel the people to send their children to school….” Subsequently, the first compulsory education system in the West was set up in 1559.
Slavery first began in the West when Portuguese slave-trading ships, loaded with captured African men, women and children, landed in the harbors of the Americas. Although this trade was begun by Portugal, England, Holland and France joined in the 17th century.
The slaves were taken on ships from West Africa to Brazil, the Caribbean Islands and British North America. Continue reading
The Industrial Revolution (1760-1840) brought a marked change in European society with several developments. These were mainly the change from hand production to machine production and the change in focus from producing goods for those who could afford them, to producing goods for the average person (mass production for mass consumption).
The Industrial Revolution began in Britain, although it would later spread throughout the Western world. On the eve of the revolution the textile industry was based on the entrepreneur-craftsman relationship. The wool products would be made in the homes of the craftsman and then given to the entrepreneurs to sell. However, in 1764 James Hargreaves invented the Spinning Jenny. This was a mechanized cotton spinner, which made production more efficient. The process was then taken over by the factories.
The steam engine was a tremendous invention. It was first used in industrialization by Thomas Savery in 1698. From there, it became the primary source of power for factories around Europe.
The Standard-of-Living debate was Continue reading
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821) was a French official and a commander of the French army after the French Revolution. He was appointed first consul by the French government. Soon after, a new constitution was passed, which gave Napoleon absolute power over France. In 1802, he was appointed consul for life. Two years later, he created the Code Napoléon, wherein were listed new laws, traditions and customs.
One major step taken by Napoleon after the disastrous French Revolution was to reunite the Catholic Church and France. In 1801 Pope Pius VII and Napoleon came to an agreement, closing the gap between them. Some of the terms were:
- Catholicism would be acknowledged as the official religion of France
- Bishops would be chosen by Napoleon and approved by the Pope
- Priests would be selected by the bishops from government pre-approved lists
However, there were concessions made by the Pope. Two of these were that the priests would remain government employed (government would pay their salaries), and that the church lands that had been confiscated during the Revolution would not be returned to the pope.
In 1802, Napoleon Continue reading
The fateful French Revolution (1789 – 1799) began under King Louis XVI. Among the contributing factors leading up to the revolution were three things:
- The salon culture: private home talks about politics and ideas. This is significant because it helped to develop Enlightenment ideas that would later fuel the revolution.
- Special privileges for the nobility. These privileges were mainly tax exemptions, which caused worse finances for the French government.
- The major debt crisis. Due to all the wars, and participation in wars, the French were just managing to pay the interest rates of their loans. This alone consumed fifty-percent of their budget.
So, in 1789 the king called a meeting of the Estates General. This was a collection of three parties that voted for laws, taxes, etc…. One party was the 1st Estate, made up of the clergy. Another party was the 2nd Estate, consisting of the nobility. Yet another party was the 3rd Estate, the commoners, in other words the rest of France. In the Estates General, the voting was made by estate (3 votes), instead of by head. This made the voting unfair. Even though the 3rd Estate greatly outnumbered the 1st and 2nd combined, the latter often voted together, making the vote count 2:1.
In 1789, for the first time in history the 3rd Estate took sudden charge of the meeting. They outright decided without any legal permission to Continue reading
What is today known as the United States of America was first settled by several British emigrants who wanted to live a freer life. They established several colonies on the Eastern coast of future American land, beginning with Jamestown (1607). Eventually, there would be thirteen colonies, those that would later be the homes to men who would fight for the freedom they held so dear.
When the colonists sailed away from Britain and colonized New England, they fully expected to have self-government under the British crown. This included having representative assemblies in the colonies. In 1619 the first of these assemblies was established in Virginia.
Towards the latter half of the 17th century the British began to undermine colonial self-government. They believed that this self-government was a gift from their king and could be revoked at any given time. So the British established the Dominion of New England: a system in which one man, the governor, was given the power to govern all the colonies. Though this was later dissolved when it proved too troublesome, it was a firm step forward by the British in their campaign to fully control New England.
Adam Smith (1723 – 1790), one of the greatest figures in the Scottish Enlightenment, is significant because he introduced economics as a separate field of study. In his book, The Wealth of Nations (1776), Smith talks about several economic topics, among them self-interest.
Concerning self-interest, he raises the question: is self-interest morally acceptable? His answer is yes. You must have interest in yourself and your family for several reasons. One is because it brings about trade. It is in my self-interest to buy your goods and it is in your self-interest to sell them. We both gain: I the goods, you the money.
Another topic in his book is the ‘invisible hand.’ According to Adam Smith, this hand is what Continue reading