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  • Charles River Editors

    While Nat Turner's rebellion remains famous today, a far larger uprising took place a generation earlier. In January 1811, hundreds of slaves in Louisiana attempted to make a new beginning for themselves or die trying. Armed with muskets, cane knives, and axes, and wearing stolen United States militia uniforms, they set out to conquer the city of New Orleans. The goal was to establish a free republic where slavery was outlawed and blacks had control over their own lives. Understandably discontented with their status and no longer willing to accept it, they were ready to engage in extreme violence to win their freedom, fully aware that death would be the only alternative. Between the...read more

  • Charles River Editors

    The first known influenza pandemic may have occurred in China in 6000 BCE, and the renowned Greek physician Hippocrates described the symptoms of influenza around 600 BCE. The first well-documented pandemic, however, occurred in 1580. It originated in East Asia, spread through Central Asia and the Russian Empire, and then on to Europe. In Rome, about 8,000 people perished and some settlements in Spain disappeared entirely. Europeans brought it to the Americas in the 16th century, where it may contributed to decimating the indigenous populations. After that, flu epidemics hit Europe sporadically for more than 200 years, with that of 1830-33 being one of the worst, when about 25% of 135...read more

  • Charles River Editors

    The fight for civil rights was at the forefront of inspirational, high-octane movements that took 20th century America by storm. It was a long time coming, to say the least, and yet, while some headway was made, progress was difficult and painfully slow. The historic advancements achieved during the Reconstruction Era were reversed by the Jim Crow law, a hideous set of statutes that enforced racial segregation. Although some of the most “progressive” northern states outwardly opposed those laws, black civilians and veterans alike who resided in these liberal states were still regarded as second-class citizens whose occupations were limited to farming, factory work, domestic service, and...read more

  • Charles River Editors

    Americans had few things to celebrate during the Barbary Wars or the War of 1812, but one of them was the growing prestige of the U.S. Navy, and among those who were instrumental in its development, few were as influential as Stephen Decatur Jr. Decatur had an impact on nearly every war America fought in between the 1780s until his death in 1820, and his stardom ensured that he was a fixture among Washington, D.C.'s elite in his own lifetime. While generals like Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman received the lion's share of the credit for Union victories, especially in the Western Theater, naval forces were instrumental in the capture of New Orleans and Vicksburg, as well as...read more

  • Charles River Editors

    By the second half of the 19th century, still less than a century old, the United States had become a regional power. It had soundly defeated its southern neighbor, Mexico, and greatly enlarged itself in the process. America’s navy and merchant marines were becoming common sights on the high seas, and the country was at the beginning of the end of its drawn-out conquest of the Native Americans. However, it was a country divided deeply along political and economic lines, a tottering edifice many predicted would split apart. Even before the final tremors from the Mexican-American War had stopped disrupting the southern border, the United States found itself in a bloody civil war. For a...read more

  • Charles River Editors

    At one point in antiquity, the Achaemenid Persian Empire was the largest empire the world had ever seen, but aside from its role in the Greco-Persian Wars and its collapse at the hands of Alexander the Great, it has been mostly overlooked. When it has been studied, the historical sources have mostly been Greek, the very people the Persians sought to conquer. Needless to say, their versions were biased. It was not until excavations in the region during the 20th century that many of the relics, reliefs, and clay tablets that offer so much information about Persian life could be studied for the first time. Through archaeological remains, ancient texts, and work by a new generation of...read more

  • Charles River Editors

    “It is the function of the Navy to carry the war to the enemy so that it is not fought on U.S. soil.” – Admiral Nimitz All Americans are familiar with the “day that will live in infamy.” At 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor, the advanced base of the United States Navy’s Pacific Fleet, was ablaze. It had been smashed by aircraft launched by the carriers of the Imperial Japanese Navy. All eight battleships had been sunk or badly damaged, 350 aircraft had been knocked out, and over 2,000 Americans lay dead. Indelible images of the USS Arizona exploding and the USS Oklahoma capsizing and floating upside down have been ingrained in the American conscience ever...read more

  • Charles River Editors

    Americans have long been fascinated by the Civil War, marveling at the size of the battles, the leadership of the generals, and the courage of the soldiers. Since the war's start over 150 years ago, the battles have been subjected to endless debate among historians and the generals themselves. The Civil War was the deadliest conflict in American history, and had the two sides realized it would take 4 years and inflict over a million casualties, it might not have been fought. Since it did, however, historians and history buffs alike have been studying and analyzing the biggest battles ever since. After the first year of the Civil War, the Confederacy was faced with a serious problem....read more

  • Charles River Editors

    "Didn't Admiral Dewey do wonderfully well? I got him the position out there in Asia last year, and I had to beg hard to do it; and the reason I gave was that we might have to send him to Manila. And we sent him - and he went!" - Theodore Roosevelt, 1898 In 1898, one of Spain's last possessions in the New World, Cuba, was waging a war for independence, and though Cuba was technically exempted from the Monroe Doctrine because it was already a Spanish territory when the Monroe Doctrine was issued, many Americans believed that the United States should side with Cuba against Spain. Initially, Republican President William McKinley wanted to avoid any wars, and for its part, Spain also wanted...read more

  • Charles River Editors

    The modern history of Africa was, until very recently, written on behalf of the indigenous races by the white man, who had forcefully entered the continent during a particularly hubristic and dynamic phase of European history. When they began to arrive in sub-Saharan Africa in the early 16th century, Christian missionaries replaced established animist practices with the tenets of Christianity. This was particularly true for the Catholics who offered a faith promising eternal paradise upon the simple confession of sin. In an age of slavery, disease, and inter-tribal warfare when life was unembellished, brutal, and usually short, this was a particularly seductive message. Add to this the...read more

  • Charles River Editors

    By the dawn of the 17th century, Portuguese influence in Africa fell into decline, and the occasions of European contact with Ethiopia became very few and far between. It would be another three centuries before another European would venture into the holy precincts of Lalibela as part of a British military expedition mounted in 1867. Thus, the “rediscovery” of the remarkable churches and the story of Christianity in Ethiopia would only be recently written. It is also true that the Catholic spiritual hierarchy reflected the structure of African spiritual life. The first line of African worship is composed of the spirits of passed ancestors whose relationship with the living remains...read more

  • Charles River Editors

    Beginning in the Triassic but especially in the Jurassic period, reptiles came to dominate the oceans, the land and even the skies. There has never been anything else quite like this period in terms of the success of a particular type of creature. For almost two hundred million years, reptiles were the only significant creatures on Earth. They were so successful and so diverse that they evolved to take advantage of every available habitat and no other type of large creature had a chance to develop. To put the two hundred million years of reptile dominance in perspective, the entire span of recorded Human history, the time since people advanced from tribes of primitive, nomadic...read more

  • Charles River Editors

    Africa may have given rise to the first human beings, and Egypt probably gave rise to the first great civilizations, which continue to fascinate modern societies across the globe nearly 5,000 years later. From the Library and Lighthouse of Alexandria to the Great Pyramid at Giza, the Ancient Egyptians produced several wonders of the world, revolutionized architecture and construction, created some of the world's first systems of mathematics and medicine, and established language and art that spread across the known world. With world-famous leaders like King Tut and Cleopatra, it's no wonder that today's world has so many Egyptologists.  Although the Egyptians may not have passed their...read more

  • Charles River Editors

    After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, when Western Europe was governed by a Germanic warrior-caste, the theory of a just and virtuous war took root. The Roman Church enhanced its authority by sanctifying oaths taken for just military purposes, and Bishop Anselm of Lucca (d. 1086) was the first to suggest that military action for the cause of religion could remit sin. At the Council of Clermont in July 1095, Pope Urban II canonized religious war by urging Western Europe's nobility to take up arms in defense of the Byzantine Empire against the Muslims, thus launching the Crusades. Religious military orders such as the Knights of Saint John, the Templars, and the...read more

  • Charles River Editors

    "What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!" - William Shakespeare. Hamlet Any work about the mercurial Aleister Crowley is better off being labeled a "story" than a "biography" thanks to the impossibility of being sure that anything one reads about him is true. The basic recorded facts, including birth date, educational records, and published works, are reliable indicators that can be likened to stars guiding a lost desert traveler if the sky is clear. For the rest, one is wandering in the...read more

  • Charles River Editors

    Over the last 2,000 years, ambitious men have dreamed of forging vast empires and attaining eternal glory in battle, but of all the conquerors who took steps toward such dreams, none were ever as successful as antiquity’s first great conqueror. Leaders of the 20th century hoped to rival Napoleon’s accomplishments, while Napoleon aimed to emulate the accomplishments of Julius Caesar. But Caesar himself found inspiration in Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE), the Macedonian king who managed to stretch an empire from Greece to the Himalayas in Asia by the age of 30. It took less than 15 years for Alexander to conquer much of the known world. When Alexander crossed the Hellespont in 334...read more

  • Charles River Editors

    After he had finished off the Persian Empire, Alexander must have been glad to leave Persia and its adjoining provinces at his back. Alexander was planning to march onwards, into India, and had made overtures to the wild tribesmen that inhabited the region that is now Pakistan, but he had been abruptly refused. The chieftains of the hill clans who guarded the passes of the mighty Hindu Kush mountains were determined to make a fight of it, secure in the knowledge that the high passes of their domains were virtually unconquerable. Alexander, never one to accept defiance, made his preparations and, in midwinter, a season traditionally reserved for rearmament and regrouping, he began his...read more

  • Charles River Editors

    International trade in the ancient world was a more intricate and far-reaching system than many have been led to believe. The Silk Road and the Incense Trade Route have been heavily investigated in recent decades, but the Amber Road trade network dominating northern Europe has been given far less attention. Amber, the hardened sap of prehistoric trees, has washed up on Baltic shores for generations, and though it had little value to the locals beyond religious symbolism and aesthetic beauty, they learned that foreign civilizations would pay massive sums for the beautiful substance. Though written sources are scattered and tend to come and go depending on the civilization involved, much...read more

  • Charles River Editors

    The African slave trade is a complex and deeply divisive subject that has had a tendency to evolve according the political requirements of any given age, and is often touchable only with the correct distribution of culpability. It has for many years, therefore, been deemed singularly unpalatable to implicate Africans themselves in the perpetration of the institution, and only in recent years has the large-scale African involvement in both the Atlantic and Indian Ocean Slave Trades come to be an accepted fact. There can, however, be no doubt that even though large numbers of indigenous Africans were liable, it was European ingenuity and greed that fundamentally drove the industrialization of...read more

  • Charles River Editors

    The United States and Canada today share the longest undefended border in the world, encompassing 5,525 after the U.S. purchased Alaska, and though they have long been allies, the border has not always been peaceful. During colonial times, generations of the British war with France meant generations of threats and of actual attacks by Canadian militia and allied Indians from New France. The British ended that threat from Canada by defeating France in 1763 and forever ending French rule in North America. When the 13 colonies rebelled against British rule, the Canadian colonies remained loyal, despite invitations from the American rebels and an invasion by American forces. When the Revolution...read more