Wilfrid Richmond.

The Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 10 online

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13th centuries caused an interest in foreign
lands which never abated. In particular, the
taste for' spices, which had become common, led
to attempts to secure these more easily and
more cheaply. After the loss of the Christian
possessions in Syria, the importation of spices
into Europe was burdened with heavy tolls by
the Muslim rulers through whose territories
they had to be carried. To the men of the 15th
century there seemed to be two possible routes
by sea to the spice islands, one by sailing around
Africa, the other by sailing directly west to
India. Attempting the latter led to the dis-
covery of America; attempting the former, to
the doubling of the Cape of Good Hope. The
result of these discoveries was to make the na-
tions on the ocean the leaders in commerce.
The Mediterranean ceased to be the centre of
the world's commerce and the Italian cities lost
their pre-eminence as commercial centres.

Inventions: Compass, Printing-press, Gun-
powder. — This exploration was possible only by
the use of the compass (q.v.). This had been
known in the West by the 12th century; in the
East, centuries earlier. But it was perfected as
a real aid to navigation only in the 14th century.
About the middle of the 15th century came an
even more important invention, that of printing
(q.v.). This resulted at once in increasing enor-
mously the number of books in existence and in
cheapening their cost to one fifth or less, so that
books were readily accessible to a much larger
number than before. At about the same time
the manufacture of gunpowder was being per-



fected. Compositions similar to gunpowder
(q.v.) had long been known in the East, and
the knowledge of the composition of "Greek
fire* had been brought to the West. But it
came into general use only in the 15th century,
and the guns long after that were held by many
to be inferior to the cross-bow. But gunpowder,
before 1500, was revolutionizing the art of war
and rendering the mediaeval knight obsolete.

Classical Literature and Pagan Spirit.—
Contemporary with these discoveries and in-
ventions was the awakening of an interest in
classical literature. In the 12th century there
has been at some centres an eager study of the
Latin classics, but, in the 13th, this had been
superseded to a great extent by the branches
considered more practical, especially law, math-
ematics, and science. In the 14th and 15th
centuries men turned again to the classics, and
Greek, which had long been neglected, became
a favorite study. Along with the study of the
pagan authors developed a new feeling for art,
which resulted in the wonderfully natural works
of the Renaissance artists. Other sides of this
new activity were manifested in the more schol-
arly spirit of criticism and in scientific study.
In fact, with the period of the Renaissance
modern history had dawned.

Bibliography. — Lavisse et Rambaud, 'Histoire
Generate du IVe siecle a nos jours ) (Paris 1893
ff. ; the first three volumes form the best gen-
eral history of the Middle Ages) ; Gibbon, de-
cline and Fall of the Roman Empire* (edited
by Bury, 7 volumes, London and New York
1896-1900) ; Milman, ' History of Latin Chris-
tianity* (9 volumes, 1867; a general favorite).
Of the many Church histories, two may be men-
tioned: Alzog, 'Manual of Universal Church
History* (3 volumes; a scholarly treatise from
a Roman Catholic standpoint) ; Schaff, 'History
of the Christian Church* (4 volumes, to Gregory
VII. ; voluminous, scholarly, from a Protestant
standpoint). Three volumes in the Periods of
European History* ; Oman, 'Dark Ages* ; Tout,
( Empire and Papacy*; Lodge, ' Close of the
Middle Ages* (New York 1893-1901), furnish
a detailed, but somewhat uninteresting, summary
of the political history. Hodgkin, ( Italy and
Her Invaders* (8 vols.), and Bury, ' Later Ro-
man Empire* (2 vols.), are the best guides for
the periods before 800. Bryce, 'Holy Roman
Empire* (new ed. 1904; wonderfully compact
and useful) ; Symonds, Renaissance in Italy*
(7 vols.) ; Burckhardt. 'Civilization of the Italian
Renaissance* ; Voigt, 'Wiederbelebung desclass-
ischen Alterthums* (2 vols., 3d edition) ; these
works are to be commended for the period of
the Renaissance. For special subjects: Monta-
lembert, 'Monks of the West* (6 vols.); Lea,
'History of the Inquisition* (3 vols.; the master-
piece of a great historian) ; Oman, 'History of
the Art of War* (Vol. II.), for military mat-
ters; Heyd, 'Geschichte des Levantehandels hn
Mittelalter* (2 vols.), very important for the
commerce; Levasseur, 'Histoire des classes
ouvrieres avant 1789* (2 vols.), admirable for
economic conditions; Gregorovius, 'Rome in the
Middle Ages* (8 vols.), very scholarly and in-
teresting; Rashdall, 'History of the Universities
of Europe in the Middle Ages* (2 vols.), the
best treatise on the subject; Saintsbury, 'Flour-
ishing of Romance,* the best brief account of the
literature in the rzth and 13th centuries; Munro,



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HISTORY, MODERN



c Syllabus of Mediaeval History > (3d ed., 1903),
contains references by topics to about 250 works,
mainly in English.

Dana Carleton Mukro,
Professor of History, University of Wisconsin.

History, Modern. — General Characteristics.
— When History is divided merely into Ancient
and Modern, the term Modern applies to his-
tory subsequent to the 4th century a.d. The
Americana, however, keeps to the more usual
triple division into Ancient, Mediaeval, and
Modern ; and with this classification Modern
History begins about the year 1500.

At that date, as for several centuries preced-
ing it, the scene of human progress was confined
to Western Europe, and the actors were the
Latin and Teutonic peoples. Nations, in the
proper sense, were not made; and the political
map bore faint resemblance to that of to-day.
There was one Latin Christendom, binding in
feeble union the several geographic units. But
most of the units themselves were broken into
fragments under local rulers; and these frag-
ments, sometimes of widely separated lands,
were recombined, with kaleidoscopic confusion,
in loose, shifting aggregates which possessed not
even permanent names. Out of this feudal
chaos, strong monarchies were just emerging,
to organize states, in France, England, and
Spain; but there was hardly a prophecy of a
Germany or an Italy. Except for Poland with
its Latin church and borrowed German culture,
Eastern Europe was outside the pale of civi-
lization. The barbarous northern Slavs seemed
doomed to Tartar domination, and the some-
what less barbarous southern Slavs with the
neighboring Magyars were enslaved by the
Turk. From the devouring victorious march
of the Turk even Ceni-al Europe was in immi-
nent peril.

This dismal political picture had its counter-
part in social and economic conditions. Society
was hopelessly aristocratic and predominantly
militant, and it was crystallized in strata. The
skilled industry of the towns was managed upon
the guild system ; and agricultural labor, except
in England and some ot^er small districts, was
carried on by serfs.

But Europe had been astir with dim im-
pulses to change for four hundred years, — ever
since the Crusades broke the torpor of the
Dark Ages and prepared the way for the rise of
towns and the Renaissance. Near the close of
the 15th century the tendency to progress be-
came more pronounced, and the lines of activity
more varied. Louis XI. in France, the Tudors
in England, Ferdinand and Isabella in Spain,
prepared the way for new consolidated political
societies, and for new principles of government;
the invention of printing made possible the pres-
ervation and utilization of the recently redis-
covered Greek learning and the rapid dissemina-
tion of new ideas; the discoveries of Columbus
and Vasco da Gama set free undreamed-of
energies among the lands of the Atlantic sea-
board, and summoned commercial Europe to a
right-about from east to west; the adoption of
gunpowder in the wars between Francis I. and
Charles V. marked the passing of the military
superiority of the knight in armor, and under-
mined the citadel of aristocracy in politics; the
opening of the Protestant Reformation (1520)
shattered the old unity of Christendom, and, to-



gether with the Catholic Counter-Reformation,
called out new energies in the fields of morals
and intellect. Within two generations, the one
just before and the one just after the year 1500,
there stood revealed not merely a new physical
hemisphere and new continents in the old one,
but also a new universe of thought and feeling.
Europe had passed into a new age.

The four centuries of Modern History have
been a period of constant, marvelous, increas-
ingly rapid transformation, — intellectual, politi-
cal, industrial. The stage itself has widened
from a corner of the smallest continent into
wellnigh the whole surface of the globe. The
actors have multiplied, until they promise in the
near future to include all branches of the human
race. The drama has become infinitely complex,
with the interaction of countless streams of in-
fluence. As compared with Ancient or Mediae-
val History, Modern History deals with a brief
time, but with vast spaces, complex relations,
and accelerated progress. The separate move-
ments that make up the- bewildering maze are
discussed severally in some detail, under ap-
propriate headings, in the Americana. This
article attempts only to marshal them in such
order as to bring out the essential relations be-
tween them.

It is convenient to divide the four centuries
of Modern History into the age of monarchic
states and the age of nation-states. The Ameri-
can and French Revolutions make the transition
from one to the other, and the most satisfactory
dividing date is 1789.

From the Reformation to the French
Revolution. — Monarchic States. — The constant
warfare of the i6th, 17th, and 18th centuries is
the simplest thread by which to connect the
other movements of the age. Speaking broadly,
the contests of the first half of the period, to
1648, are ^religious wars, Catholic against
Protestant, while after 1648 the struggles grow
out of dynastic and commercial rivalries.

The declaration of the war which split
Christendom into opposing camps for over a cen-
tury came in 1520, when Luther burned the
Pope's bull. The Diet of Worms at once pro-
nounced against the rash monk the ban of the
Empire; and the decree would have been en-
forced, and Protestantism stifled at its birth, if
the young Emperor, Charles V., had had a free
hand. But Charles had just become involved
in strife with Francis I., over the claims of
Spain and France in Italy, and he was kept
busy with war against France and the Turks
until 1544. For a generation, therefore, the new
faith was left to spread itself unchecked over
Germany and Scandinavia, while during the
same period the English church cut itself off
from Rome, and Presbyterian heresy made head-
way in France and Switzerland. For a time,
indeed, Protestantism threatened to conquer even
the south of Europe; but the Catnolic Counter-
Reformation, with equal zeal and superior skill,
finally saved the Romance lands to the old faith.

Religious Wars, 1546-1648. — Meanwhile,
entangled in his strife for European sovereignty,
Charles could not strike at Protestants in Ger-
many until 1546. It was then too late. In
1555, after brief struggles, the princes of the
Schmalkald League forced upon him the Peace
of Augsburg; and, though troubled with in-
cessant bickerings, Germany had no further
civil war for sixty years. Just that period, how-



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ever, was filled with terrible religious contests
in the Netherlands and France; and then the
age of religious wars closed with another civil
war in Germany, — the most destructive in Eu-
ropean history. The century of strife from the
opening of the Schmalkald War to the. close of
the Thirty Years' War (1546-1648) did not ma-
terially alter religious frontiers. Catholicism, to
be sure, made some conquests with the sword,
— Bohemia, South Germany, and the southern
Netherlands,— but in most of these districts,
as in the Latin countries of Southern Europe,
the Counter- Reformation was making rapid
gains before war began.

The close of the period of religious war is
marked by the decay of Spain, the continued dis-
ruption of the Holy Roman Empire, and the
rise of France and of the Dutch Republic. To
explain these changes it is needful to dwell
somewhat further upon the wars.

In 1556-7, after his failure in Germany,
Charles V. resigned his crowns, — the Austrian
possessions passing to his brother, and the
Spanish to his son, Philip II. Despite the di-
vision, Philip was far the most powerful mon-
arch in the world. Each year the a gold fleet*
filled his coffers from the exhaustless wealth
of the Americas, and in 1580 Portugal with her
East India empire fell into his hands. This
was the power, — supreme in Europe and sole
mistress of the New Worlds east and west, —
against which the petty, disunited Netherland
provinces dared to rebel. Beginning as a po-
litical revolt in 1568, the struggle soon became
a religious war; and it was waged for more
than forty years with a relentless fury which
made it a byword for ferocity even in that
brutal age. The ten southern provinces finally
returned to Spanish allegiance; but the north-
ern provinces, — Dutch in blood and Protestant
in religion, — fought on with desperate courage
until they won independence. At the same
time they preserved political and religious lib-
erty for the world. Midway in the struggle,
Elizabeth of England sent some tardy aid.
Philip then turned upon England; but the de-
struction of his <( Invincible Armada* in the
splendid sea-fight in the Channel not only saved
England at home but also paved the way for
the English colonization of North America.
The war closed in 1609. Spain had sunk into a
second-rate power, never again to play an impor-
tant part in European politics; but the United
Provinces, through the stage of the desolating
war, had grown prosperous. They drew wealth,
not from the wasted land, but from the sea,
plundering the new possessions of Spain in the
East Indies and building there a colonial em-
pire for themselves. For most of the century,
in intellectual, commercial, and industrial activ-
ities, the Dutch held the first place in Europe.

In France the Edict of Nantes (1598) closed
the wars of religion by guaranteeing toleration
and handing over certain garrisoned towns to
the Huguenots as security. During the next
half century, under the wise administration of
Henry IV. and then of Richelieu, the industry
of the people restored prosperity with marvel-
ous rapidity. Richelieu crushed the feudal no-
bles and recaptured from the Huguenots their
garrisoned towns. In other respects, however,
he kept toward the Protestants the pledges of
the Edict of Nantes; and as he warred upon



the Protestants within France in order to
strengthen the royal power, so he aided the
Protestants of Germany in the Thirty Years'
War in order to make France supreme in Eu-
rope. France had long been in real peril from
the Hapsburg powers of Spain and Austria,
which ringed her about in hostile embrace;
but the failure of Spain against Holland and
Richelieu's policy of weakening Austria in the
German war removed the peril, and, as Spain
declined from the first place in Europe, France
stepped into it

Meantime the Thirty Years' War (1618-
48) was desolating Central Europe. The princes
of North Germany proved timid and in-
capable; and the cause of Protestantism was
saved only by foreign intervention, by Denmark,
by Sweden, and finally by Catholic France. At
the close of the struggle, the first European
Congress reorganized Europe, By the Peace
of Westphalia, France received most of Alsace
and some other Rhine districts. The independ-
ence of Switzerland and of the United Piov-
inces was formally recognized. Sweden, al-
ready reaching down both west and east snores
of the Baltic, secured much of the south shore
also, with command of the mouths of the Ger-
man Oder, Elbe, and Weser. On the other
hand, the Empire lost more than territory. The
political rearrangements within that state re-
duced the imperial Diet to the level of a use-
less debating society and put an end to what-
ever had persisted of national unity. From
this time until it vanished, a century and a half
later, the Holy Roman Empire was a meaning-
less survival, cumbering the earth, and the
Hapsburg ^Emperors* derived their only reaJ
importance from their position as hereditary
archdukes of Austria. To most of Germany the
war had brought blasting ruin. Half the pop-
ulation and two thirds the movable property
were swept away. Land tilled for centuries be-
came waste, and men became savages. Not till
the middle of the nineteenth century did large
districts again contain as many homesteads and
cattle as in 161 8; while the low position of the
German peasantry, until 1850, was due in great
measure to this war.

American Colonization. — Before the religious
wars closed, the continent of Europe had ceased
to be the sole scene of important historical de-
velopment. American colonization was well
advanced, and political liberty had received a
remarkable development both in England and
in English colonies. These topics demand at-
tention before the student enters upon the con-
sideration of the next period of European wars.

Spain made her first settlement upon the
American continent at the Pearl Coast in 1513.
Then sweeping to north and south, she took
swift possession of all South America except
Brazil, all Central America, and of the Floridas
and Calif or nias, far up both coasts of North
America, while plans were afoot to plant her
flag over the rest of that continent. But the
ruin of the Armada, together with Spain's de-
cay at home, came in time to leave room for
other colonization. France seized upon the
mouths of the Mississippi and the St. Lawrence,
the apparent gateways to the continent; and
English colonies stretched themselves in patches
along the fringe of the North Atlantic coast
The Dutch spent their colonizing energies main-



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HISTORY, MODERN



ly in the Orient; and, despite some ambitious
beginnings, Sweden soon grew too weak to be
a serious factor in North America. Thus that
continent was left in dispute between Spain,
France, and England. The contest was to be
interwoven with the European wars of the last
half of the seventeenth century and of the
eighteenth century, and the outcome was big
with consequence to the world. All European
countries except England governed their col-
onies on despotic plans. The English colonists
took to the New World institutions and prin-
ciples of freedom, and soon gave them a wider
development there than had been possible even
in the old home. Besides the rights of free
speech and jury trial and habeas corpus, each
English colony had from the first, or very
quickly inaugurated, a representative legisla-
ture with full parliamentary privileges and with
control over taxation. In several colonies, lo-
cal government also was conducted on extreme
democratic principles. Not until two hundred
years later did any of these free principles ap-
pear in the colonies of any other people, —
and then only because of the success of the
English colonies.

England in the Seventeenth Century. — In
England itself the seventeenth century saw an
Important development in free government
Through the Stuart period, from 1603 to 1688,
England was engaged in a critical struggle
between the royal claims of a Divine Right* gov-
ernment and the rising spirit of popular gov-
ernment. Except for brief intervals the con-
flict was parliamentary, not military, but it was
constant and stubborn. Much of the time it
was confused with ecclesiastical questions,
which, to the men of the time, often seemed
the chief issue; and it was fortunate, indeed,
that the stern heroism of Puritanism became
engaged on the side of political liberty. Dur-
ing this century, too, England was the last re-
maining battle ground in Europe for free gov-
ernment. In the other large states, — in Spain,
France, Austria, in the Scandinavian lands, even
in the petty principalities of Italy and Germany,
— despotism was triumphant. In England, pop-
ular principles not merely maintained them-
selves against the Stuart attack; they came
out of the conflict with increased vitality. The
great experiment of a Puritan Commonwealth
failed; but after the Stuart Restoration it be-
came apparent that the body of the monarchists
themselves were now thoroughly devoted to par-
liamentary government, and the attempt of the
later Stuarts to set up a personal absolutism
called forth the ^Glorious Revolution* of 1688,
which established the supremacy of Parliament
over the king.

Dynastic and Commercial Struggles, 1648-
1783. — We now return to the general develop-
ment of Europe after 1648. On the continent
the period from the Peace of Westphalia to the
French Revolution (1648-1789) is marked (1)
by absolutism within the several states and (2)
by dynastic interests in their foreign relations, —
with incessant selfish war, as the result. The
famous phrase ascribed to Louis XIV. of France,
— € I am the State, 9 — might have been used ap-
propriately by any monarch of the time outside
of England. A few great rulers dominate the
period. Indeed the stacre is largely filled by
three monarchs,— Louis XIV. (1643-1715), Peter



the Great (1689-1725), and Frederick the Great
(1740-S6). The influence of Peter was re-
stricted for the most part to Russia; but the
other two belong to all Europe, and the pe-
riod divides itself naturally into the Age of
Louis XIV. and the Age of Frederick II. The
chief aim of statesmen was to prevent any one
country from becoming too strong for the safety
of its neighbors. The Peace of Westphalia
had transferred political predominance from the
Hapsburgs to the Bourbons. Thus, during the
first half of the period France threatened the
a balance of power,* and league after league of
other powers was organized against her. In-
ternational morality, however, was low; and
commonly rulers were willing to let a strong
power rob a weaker one if they could find 'com-
pensation* by robbing some other state them-
selves. In the last wars of Louis XIV., just
before and after 1700 (known in American his-
tory as King William's War and Queen Anne's
War), the dynastic interests of European ruling
families became merged in a titanic, century-
long struggle between France and England for
world dominion, — though neither country was
yet fully conscious of the import of the strife.

In Europe, France was no longer in peril, as
she had been in the period preceding Richelieu ;
and Louis the Fourteenth's half-century of
war was merely a struggle to enlarge his do-
minions. For a generation the victories of Tu-
renne dazzled Europe; and France annexed
some important strips of territory on the
east, at the expense of Spain and of the
decaying Empire. But in the closing period,
when the Allies also had found great gen-
erals, in the English Marlborough and the
Austrian Prince Eugene, even success in the
field deserted Louis; and to a comprehen-
sive view his failure was profound. Exhausted
France was crushed by taxation to pay the in-
terest of the war debt; while, in attacks upon*
petty provinces in Europe, she had wasted en-
ergies and opportunities that might have made
her supreme in Asia and America. Within, the
economic reforms of the ^reat Colbert were
abandoned; and the revocation of the Edict of
Nantes (1685) drove into exile more than two
hundred thousand of the best citizens of France.
The effect corresponded in a measure to the
effect upon Spain of the expulsion of the Mo-
riscoes somewhat earlier. The Huguenots had
comprised the skilled artisans and the enter-
prising merchant classes; and their flight added
to the terrible economic demoralization and de-
prived France of all chance at industrial lead-
ership.

To men of the time, however, the failure was
partially disguised by the glamor that sur-
rounded the court of the Grand Monarque.
French literature, brilliant and sparkling,
was in its first splendid period; and French
intellectual leadership survived for more than
a century. Until after 1800, the court of Louis
XIV. remained the model for every court in



Online LibraryWilfrid RichmondThe Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 10 → online text (page 160 of 185)