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   history
  • Catherine the Great

    Originally a German princess, Catherine the Great of Russia (1729-1796), took control of Russia after a palace coup that toppled her Romanov husband. She is widely known as an Enlightened Despot, using the ideas of the contemporary Enlightenment to reform parts of the tsarist state. Catherine is also responsible for the Partitions of Poland.

  • Rise of Islam

    Mohammed (d. 632) (center of picture), a minor merchant of Mecca, claimed to have been visited by the angel Gabriel and wrote the Koran in bouts of religious inspiration. He and his followers used this new revelation to seize power in both Medina and Mecca, and later began to spread the new philosophy across the Middle East by the sword. Today Muslims make up about 20% of the earth’s population.

  • Stalin and Lenin

    Lenin (1870-1924) and Stalin (1878-1953) are responsible for the construction and repression of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Lenin (on the right) was the father of the state and the leader of the Bolshevik party that brought down the government that deposed tsardom in 1917. After his death Stalin built his state into one of the most repressive and violent regimes the earth has ever known.

  • Yugoslav Wars of Secession

    Starting as a single state in 1989, communist Yugoslavia split in a series of wars and international agreements more or less along ethnic lines. Nationalist rivalries, economic pressures, and opportunistic leadership led to the dissolution and the resultant bouts of ethnic cleansing. The war illustrated the impotence and disunity of the European Union and to some extent validated secession of states along ethnic lines.

  • Unification of Germany

    Arguably the most important European event of the 19th century, the unification of Germany in 1871 under the leadership of the Prussian Hohenzollerns upset the balance of power in Europe. It eventually led to the competition for international power between Germany and France and thus contributed to the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

  • Ivan the Great and the Gathering of the Lands

    Ivan III of Russia (1440-1505) began the process known as the Gathering of the Lands. As the Grand Prince of Moscow he shook his principality from the yoke of the Golden Horde and began a expansionist process that led to the formation of the Russian state.

  • Berlin Wall and Cold War

    The Berlin Wall, first constructed in 1961, physically manifested the division between the communist and free worlds during the Cold War. The wall prevented East Germans from escaping to the West and attempted to block knowledge of the First World. The wall fell in November 1989.

  • Invention of Electrical Power

    The invention of electrical power to light and heat homes and provide energy for public transportation and the ever important factories of the 19th century allowed for the rapid industrialization and expansion of cities in the Western World. The development of AC power and electric motors made possible cheap public transportation (the appearance of suburbs) and a better standard of living even for the poorest of society.

  • Fall of Constantinople

    The fall of Constantinople in 1453 marked the end of the Byzantine Empire, and the ascendency of the Ottoman Empire in Southeastern Europe. The fall led to the migration of Christian intellectuals to the West, saving much of the knowledge of ancient Greece and Rome. This migration helped spark the beginning of the Renaissance in Italy.

  • Industrial Revolution

    Riding on the coattails of the Agricultural Revolution in England, the Industrial Revolution ushered in massive social, economic, intellectual, and political changes. At first based on revolutionary textile production, steam power, and iron ore, it expanded with technological innovation and more available capital. The modernization it brought to the Western World allowed for global dominance by the West and the development of consumer culture.

  • Establishment of Israel

    Following from a UN resolution of 1947, Israel declared its independence on 14 May 1948. Its creation led to a series of wars with some of its Muslim neighbors that led to the expansion of its territory for strategic self-defense. Until the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Israel was the only liberal, functioning representative government in the region. The state is often accused by its critics of being the major reason for instability in the Middle East.

  • Global cooling (Time magazine cover)

    The Age of Hysteria. Sometimes science, abetted by a pliant and sensationalist media, gets some things wrong. In the 1970s the world feared manmade global cooling as it fears global warming today. In both cases the environmentalist movement grew and government reaction led to more restrictions on the business world.

  • Hitler

    Born into a lower middle class Austrian home, raised in the politicized and anti-Semitic streets of turn of the century Vienna, tempered in the trench hell of World War I, Adolf Hitler built the National Socialist Party of Germany and led the world into the Second World War. He is responsible for the deaths of approximately six million European and Russian Jews during the Holocaust.

  • Reformation

    Initially sparked by the priest Martin Luther’s criticisms of the practices of the Catholic Church, the Reformation began as a call for that institutions’ reform. It led to the separation of churches as Protestant congregations formed across Central and Western Europe. The schism led to a series of wars of religion and provided a stone in the foundation of modern European nationalisms.

  • World War I and Total War

    World War I (1914-1918) has been described as the final death of the medieval world and the bloody birth of the modern. This war introduced the concept of total war as huge civilian populations, science and technology (gas and the machine gun), along with millions of combatants were key factors in the struggle.

  • Adam Smith

    Arguably the most important economist of all time, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, first published in 1776, introduced the world to the theory of modern capitalism in which competition and rational self-interest leads to economic prosperity. He is also considered the father of modern economics.

  • Gunpowder and guns

    Gunpowder and the invention of the firearm greatly affected the art of warfare. It provided societies with access greater advantages and allowed Western Europe to dominate much of the world in a very short time.

     

  • Agricultural Revolution

    The Agricultural Revolution of the 17th to the 19th centuries occurred in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. New practices of field rotation, fertilization, new technical advances such as the seed drill and the modern iron plow, and innovations in crop breeding and cultivation of the new products of the New World, allowed for the explosion of the population. This increase in population provided workers for the later Industrial Revolution and the modernization of some European societies.

  • Enlightenment

    Also known as the age of reason, the Enlightenment sprung from the intellectual culture of 18th century France and Great Britain. Generally its proponents promoted reason over religious dogma, supported the development of efficient, more representative forms of government, and argued for broad religious toleration.

  • Scientific Revolution

    The Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries changed the way the world understood science. Born from the Renaissance and based on discoveries in physics, biology, chemistry, medicine, and astronomy, these scientists built the foundation upon which modern science stands

  • Siege of Vienna, 1683

    The second and final siege of Vienna marked the farthest expansion of the Ottoman Empire and ushered in its two century decline as a Great Power in European affairs. From this point on the Habsburgs and Russians, and later the Christian minorities of the Balkans, eroded the empire’s power and territory.

  • Space Exploration

    A byproduct of the Cold War’s missile one-upmanship, space exploration opened the world to modern satellite communications, GPS, thousands of scientific discoveries and inventions, and, most importantly, Tang breakfast drink.

  • Renaissance

    A widespread cultural movement born of humanism, the Renaissance influenced cultural, political, economic, and intellectual life in Europe. It began in Italy during the 13th century and lasted until the 17th. The Renaissance is said to have birthed the Early Modern Period of European history.

  • Bessemer Process (steel mill)

    The process for inexpensively producing high quality steel from pig iron was developed by Henry Bessemer and patented in 1855. What made this process so efficient was that air was forced through the molten metal, oxidizing many of the impurities while simultaneously increasing the temperature of the liquid. Thus the steel poured from the Bessemer process allowed for stronger steel products and more precision metal instruments and tools.

  • “Discovery of America” by Europeans

    Columbus’s “discovery” of America led to the rapid colonization of much of the non-Western world. The contact between Europeans and Native Americans led to the European use of tobacco, potatoes, coffee, and tomatoes, while Europeans introduced Christianity, advanced metallurgy, and small pox to the natives.

  • Dracula

    Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler, was a Voivode of Wallachia during the mid-15th century. Coming to the throne of Wallachia after his father’s and brother’s murders, Vlad made a name for himself by taking up arms against both the Hungarians and the Ottomans. Vlad also had a reputation for cruelty and impaling was his favorite form of torture and execution. This cruelty, and the ignorance and prejudice of Western Europeans toward Eastern Europeans, influenced Bram Stoker’s creation of the vampire Dracula and the introduction of the vampire undead to Western popular culture.

  • Armenian Genocide

    Not as well-known as the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide is the classic example of a modern genocide. Under the cover of an international war from 1915-1918, Turkish nationalists and Kurdish tribesmen perpetrated the mass murder and expulsion of millions of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. This event triggered the mass exodus of a persecuted minority across the globe. Today the Turkish government still denies the event and vibrant Armenian communities in the United States lobby Washington to force the country to recognize its historical responsibility.

  • BLACK DEATH

    The Black Death pandemic of 1348-1351 and its subsequent outbreaks killed between 30 and 60 percent of Europe’s population. Its outbreak sparked a number of religious, cultural, and social upheavals that significantly shaped the face of Europe and the world.

  • US Constitution

    The US Constitution is the formative document for the American government. It established and enumerated the powers of the federal government. The document effectively limited the federal government’s power over the individual and the states.

  • Battle of Crécy and the Longbow

    Arguably the most important battle of the Hundred Years’ War between the English and French crowns in 1346, the Battle of Crécy is often claimed to have been the death of chivalrous warfare. In this battle the English and Welsh longbowmen illustrated their effectiveness against heavily encumbered French knights. This battle ushered in a series of English victories, ultimately squandered at the end of the war.

  • Great Depression

    The Great Depression’s causes are widely debated by scholars. However, from 1929 to the early 1940s the world suffered a severe downturn in trade, consumption, and employment. This downturn led to the growth of the Nazi Party in Germany. In the United States unemployed climbed as high as 25%. In response, FDR began a policy of Keynesian economic spending and government economic interference initially meant to blunt the hardships experienced by American workers. Arguably this kept the American economy in the economic doldrums. Recovery only came after America’s entry into the Second World War.

  • First university

     

    The University of Bologna is the oldest continuously operating facility of higher learning in Europe. First established in 1088 it became the premier institution for the teaching of secular and religious law. Bologna established a model for later universities across the world.]

  • Charlemagne

    Charlemagne, or Karl the Great, was a Frankish king of the late 8th and early 9th centuries. Building on the large state he inherited in 768, he took the title of Roman Emperor after his conquest of much of Central Europe and the northern half of Italy. His empire sparked the spread of Frankish feudalism, ultimately led to the creation of the French and German monarchies and nobility, and aided in the spread of Christianity.

  • Crusades

    The Crusades (1095-1291) are commonly and often misleading portrayed simply as a brutal assault by Western Europe on the Muslim kingdoms of the Eastern Mediterranean. While some soldier/crusaders were merely interested in rapine and plunder, the Crusades were in many ways the West’s response to the aggressive actions of various Muslim kingdoms and caliphates. These series of wars led to increased distrust between the Christian and Muslims worlds and still resonates in relations between them today.

  • Prohibition

    Considered by some (including the members of this Department!) to be an ill-conceived restriction of a personal freedom, the US government bowed to the pressures of an energized and outspoken social movement sometimes collectively called the Temperance Movement. Its proponents saw a direct connection between the ills of society and poor health with the consumption of alcohol. In 1920 the sale, distribution, and manufacture of booze was made illegal by the 18th Amendment. In response a vibrant wave of bootlegging across the country allowed for the establishment of illegal bars (speakeasies), the meteoric rise of the Mafia, and eventually to stock car racing (NASCAR). Thankfully Prohibition was lifted by the 1933 ratification of the 21st Amendment.

  • Potatoes

    Introduced to Europe in the second half of the 16th century, this product of the Andes revolutionized European food production. As an easily grown crop with a high caloric value, European farmers adopted the potato, which became a staple food to millions of Europeans. The 1845 blight disastrously illustrated what over dependence on the crop could do to the impoverished peasantry of Ireland.

  • Napoleon

    Born out of the excesses of the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte restored order to a France in chaos. His military prowess and narcissism contributed to his conquest of most of Europe. However, the Russian winter led to his eventual downfall. Napoleon’s upset of the European balance of power facilitated a conservative reaction, which generally kept Europe at peace the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1853.

  • Custer’s Last Stand

    Custer’s Last Stand was a massacre of the Seventh Cavalry Regiment led by flamboyant General George Custer in late June 1876 in Montana. It was one of many battles fought between an expanding United States and numerous Indian tribes. This battle was a significant victory for a coalition of Arapaho, Lakota, and Northern Cheyenne warriors. The news of the defeat shocked many Americans who were convinced of their racial superiority and the inevitably of the United States’ Manifest Destiny.

  • MAGNA CARTA

    Arguably, the Magna Carta was the first document in the development of English Parliamentarianism. Penned in 1215 by a number of feudal barons, the Charter forced King John to accept that his rule was not arbitrary and that all freemen were under the aegis of the law of the land.

  • New World Gold

    After the discovery of massive quantities of gold and silver by the Spanish in South and Central America, Spain used this new found wealth to pursue its wars of power and religion against the Protestants and their supporters in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. The influx of so much specie significantly reduced the price of native gold and silver, destroying mining and the economies of a number of regions in Europe. It also led to the inflation of land values, making private ownership of land by the working classes much less attainable in areas.

  • Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher

    Ronald Reagan, the American President, and Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, ushered in a period of economic prosperity and stability in their respective countries during the 1980s. As devoted anti-communists, they also led the economic, diplomatic, military, and social struggle against the USSR.

  • Nuke explosion

    Developed in the United States by the scientists of the Manhattan Project, nuclear weapons represented both the pinnacle of human scientific discovery and the most destructive weapon ever developed. The US used it against the Japanese in World War II at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The USSR late stole the technology and developed theirs in 1947 and 1948, arguably leading to the “permanence” of the Cold War with the fear of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).

  • Louis XIV and Versailles

    Built as a testament to his and his country’s power, Louis XIV built the palace of Versailles during the 17th century. This symbol of his personal power and state’s greatness cowed the nobility into devolving many of their traditional powers to the central state, contributed to the development of modern polite and elite culture, and, along with Louis’s endless wars, nearly bankrupted the state. The long term economic problems eventually led to the French Revolution of 1789.

  • Mao and the Great Leap Forward

    Communist leader Mao Zedong implemented a radical policy of industrialization and collectivization from 1958-1961 in the hopes of making China a modern industrial state. Private farming was outlawed, towns were forced into producing low quality iron (pictured: backyard kilns that produced substandard iron products), and other ill-conceived policies were introduced. This resulted in mass famine and the deaths of millions of Chinese workers and political dissidents.

  • Rock and Roll

    Rock and Roll: The late-1950s revolutionary emergence of rock and roll opened up new avenues of cultural expression and criticism of “traditional” American values. It provided a vehicle for disaffected youth, minorities, and women to rise to stardom. It also led to a wave of hedonism and self-destructive behavior chronicled in numerous contemporary gossip magazines and TV shows.

  • Attila the Hun

    As leader of the Hunnic Empire during the 5th century, Attila controlled a vast area of Europe from the Ural River to the Rhine. He was the terror of the Eastern and Western Roman Empires, but failed to take Gaul, Rome, or Constantinople. Attila and his Huns represent but a single Asiatic invasion of Europe during the period of the Great Migrations, weakening the hold of the Western Roman Empire on much of Central Europe.

  • Careers in History

    Though the liberal arts curriculum traditionally offers knowledge for knowledge’s sake, the study of history opens numerous opportunities in a wide range of career fields. History, as one of the cornerstones of a liberal arts education, provides its students with a greater ability to think rationally,



  • Our Mission

    History is, and has always been, a fundamental part of a liberal arts education. Traditionally, the liberal arts promoted knowledge for knowledge’s sake.



  • Why History

    Simply put, history is the study of human interaction and change over time. Historians look critically at the past to understand why certain cultures and societies, states and conflicts developed as they did.