Monthly Archives: October 2016

Western Civilization^2 lesson 35

What factors contributed to the decline of Spain?

Spain’s formidable power and wealth began to decline drastically in the 1600s due to an unhappy combination of revolts, wars, plagues, and poor management. Many provinces of Spain attempted to break free and become their own countries. Catalonia and Portugal actually managed to unshackle themselves from Spain. However, trying to tame entire provinces ate up Spain’s funds rapidly. What money that was not used up was inhaled by the raging mouth of ongoing wars with the French and Dutch. Plagues overshadowed Spain and carried away 6,000,000 to 10,000,000 citizens. Unable to govern all of Spain at once, King Philip III granted the Duke of Lerma excessive political power. In 1609, the Duke of Lerma forced 400,000 Moriscos (Muslims who converted to Christianity)—who were all working citizens of Spain—to vacate their homes within three days with anything they could carry on their backs, because the Duke worried they had not truly converted. Perhaps the biggest factor in the decline of Spain was Many of the causes of the decline of Spain could have been avoided in the long run simply with better planning and a more competent ruler.

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Western Literature^2 lesson 25

“Now that I have finished the section Montaigne, would I read any more of his essays? Why or why not?”

Michel de Montaigne, who lived from 1533 to 1592, was a significant philosopher in French Renaissance. The unique writing style that he created, called the essay, would go on to influence famous writers all over the world. However, when he poured out his thoughts onto the pages of his essays, there was no shortage of literary error, which makes me disinclined to read more of his work without provocation. Continue reading

Western Civilization^2 lesson 30

What was English life like under Oliver Cromwell?

Oliver Cromwell was a member of Parliament who pushed for the execution of Charles I more than almost anybody. In fact, his signature is one of the most identifiable on the warrant for King Charles’s death, and can be found third on the list. After the execution of the Monarch, Parliament ran England from 1649 to 1653; however Oliver Cromwell was unhappy with this arrangement. Backed by his New Model Army, he sent home the Parliament members and became the leader of England from 1653 to 1658, calling himself “Lord Protector.” Under his rule, the governing of England was split into 11 areas, each one entrusted to one of his favorite generals under the NMA. Oliver Cromwell was a strict Puritan and believed that all of England should follow his religious ideals. When England didn’t follow the Puritan way on its own, Cromwell began enforcing his own religious policies. Enjoyment for its own sake was frowned upon. Theatres and inns were closed down in mass quantities, and sports were banned for the most part. If people were caught playing football on Sunday, they were whipped. Even swearing was punished—though not by whipping—instead the swearers were taxed by heavy fines. Make-up and colorful dresses were banned as well. Soon Christmas joined the list. Soldiers were even ordered to seize food being cooked for Christmas celebration. Cromwell also had a severe hatred for the Irish Catholics. He ordered all Irish children sent to the West Indies to work as slave laborers in the sugar plantations. He and his Generals had become monstrously hated people by the time Cromwell died in September 1658. In fact, his body was dug up and mutilated under orders of Charles II, son of Charles I. The Irish especially would remember Cromwell as a severe and cruel man, not afraid to use deadly force to get what he wanted.

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Western Civilization^2 lesson 25

Who were the Levellers, and what did they believe?

In 17th century England, the solid foundations for libertarianism were hammered out for the first time. Led primarily by John Lilburne (also known as Freeborn John),—a Lieutenant-Colonel in Parliamentarian Army, a group of free-thinkers known as the Levellers, began to blossom. John wrote and published pamphlet after pamphlet, gaining throngs of supporters for the Leveller cause: equal freedom and opportunity for all, regardless of wealth or station at birth.

The Levellers were a political movement that became the foundation of the Libertarians. Levellers were originally called Liberals, however now the term Liberal has come to mean left-leaning socialists. The original Liberals were referred to as “Classic Liberals”. These Classic Liberals hankered for private property, religious freedom for individuals, and minimal government control. According to Rothbard, a 20th century economist, the Levellers “transformed the rather vague and holistic notions of natural law into the clear cut, firmly individualistic concepts of natural rights of every individual human being.” By 1647, it had become clear that the Libertarian movement challenged control of Parliament, so when the Levellers formally presented their demands to Parliament, they were rejected and kept from making a move by the army which had eventually decided to side with Parliament. In 1646, John and a few of his accomplices were captured and locked away in the Tower of London. The horde of followers who banded together to rescue him officially formed the Leveller party in name. While still in his jail cell, in 1649, John and three others managed to write and smuggle out a paper for the constitutional reform of Britain. The paper, “Agreement of the People,” was the source of many more ideas that were implemented in the US constitution and the Bill of Rights. Continue reading

Western Literature^2 lesson 20

“Is the language of Foxe still compelling today?”

Foxe’s Martyrs was written in 1563 soon after the reign of Queen Mary I, nicknamed “Bloody Mary” for her merciless persecution and slaughter of tens of thousands of Protestants. She was the daughter of King Henry VIII, himself an egotistical pig and tyrant, ambitious beyond belief, and a live and die Catholic. This was the time of change, the time of Queen Elizabeth I, Protestant and Head of the Church of England. The book was received enthusiastically because its author, John Foxe, filled it with the rhetoric of the last breath of tortured and dying Protestants. Foxe, an educated man and English historian, was also a devout Protestant convert. His main goal in writing Foxe’s Martyrs was to contrast the satanic Catholic Church with the angelic Protestant martyrs. Intended for the upper crust, the book set the standard for the English language of that time and the following 200 years, and still compels readers today. Continue reading

Western Civilization^2 lesson 20

A) What were the causes of the Dutch Revolt?

Philip II, the son of Charles V, inherited the Netherlands in 1555 and Spanish kingdom shortly after in 1556. He was intensely Catholic, and unlike his father, was born in Spain. Consequently, he spoke fluent Spanish and inherited the Spanish culture. Philip II’s heavy handed taxation and anti-Protestant policies led to the Dutch Revolt in 1568.

Going back to the reign of Charles V (the Holy Roman Emperor), the Dutch were taxed to support the Holy Roman Empire’s many wars with its many neighbors. The Netherlands were wealthy due to the entrepreneurial people that filled the streets. The Netherlands also depended on trade, which led to politics that tolerated many freedoms and different religions. People got along, and therefore flourished. Some degree of autonomous government existed, reaching back to the guilds and merchant of the Middle Ages. Phillip II inherited this. However, he wanted central control. He was highly resented for this desire and for simply being Spanish and therefore having no ties to the Flemish people. Continue reading