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Turkish (Ottoman) Empire Declines

The Turkish (Ottoman) Empire decline started during the reign of Selim I (1566-1574). This was followed by a series of weak rulers whose reign were dominated by palace intrigues, economic instability, wars, and rebellions. Sultan Murad IV and several Grand Viziers attempted to make reforms, but competing harem and government factions stood in their way. The decline of the Turkish (Ottoman) Empire lasted until the deposition of Sultan Ibrahim I (the Mad) and the accession of Sultan Mehmed IV in 1648.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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Selim II

The great Sultan Suleiman I the Magnificent died in 1566, leaving behind a vast, wealthy, and powerful empire to his son, Selim II. Fond of women and drink, Selim was Suleiman’s least qualified son to rule the Empire. However, he was the only one left alive after a bloody fight for the throne against his brother. Behind his back, the people called him “the Sot” or the “the Drunkard.” After he was crowned Sultan, he spent most of his time inside the harem. He left the administration of the empire to his son-in-law and Grand Vizier Sokullu Mehmed Pasha. During Selim’s time, the women of the harem  dominated the Ottoman court. One of the women who excelled during this time was Selim’s wife, Nur Banu Sultan.

Selim’s reign was marked by costly naval wars with Venice and Spain for Cyprus and Tunis. The Ottomans also engaged in long and expensive wars in the Caucasus and Mesopotamia with Safavid Persia. Thousands of Turkish soldiers died from injuries, diseases, and the extreme heat and cold of northwest Iran. There was so little to gain in the campaign as the Safavids used the scorched earth tactic which left little for the Ottomans to plunder. In spite of the incredible loss of life and money, the Ottomans rulers continued the Iranian campaign.

Murad III

Murad III succeeded his father Selim.

Selim died in 1574, and he was succeeded by his son, Murad III. The harem intrigues which started during the time of his father only worsened during his reign. The palace was divided into two factions with the first led by Murad’s mother, Nur Banu Sultan, and the rival faction led by the Sultan’s wife, Safiye Sultan. Sokullu Mehmed Pasha and his wife Ismihan Sultan backed the party of Nur Banu Sultan. They favored a more diplomatic approach in dealing with Safavid Persia and the European powers.

The pro-Venice viziers, meanwhile, backed Safiye Sultan’s faction. This group had a more aggressive stance against the Empire’s neighbors. During Murad’s reign, Safiye Sultan’s allied viziers convinced the sultan to launch a new war against Persia. This was opposed by Sokullu Mehmed Pasha, but this war turned out to be successful. The unpopular Grand Vizier was later assassinated by a dervish in 1579. The Ottoman victories in Persia were short-lived as the Safavid shah continued to strengthen his army. The Ottomans suffered defeat at the hands of the Safavids over the years.

The Habsburg threat in Central Europe also became stronger as the Ottomans fought in Asia. Warfare in the European front had changed over the years since the time of Suleiman the Magnificent. This made it difficult for the Ottomans to expand their territory. The first decisive factor was that the Europeans owned the latest small and large caliber weapons, while the Ottomans still held on to outdated ones. The threat of Ottoman expansion further north also made the Europeans realize that they needed to present a unified front against a common enemy.

Mehmed III

Mehmed III acceded the throne when his father, Sultan Murad, died in 1595. Rebellions greeted his accession in the Ottoman principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia, so he decided to send his army north to quash it. They were forced to retreat south because of harsh winter. Unable to do anything about the threat, Mehmed requested the Crimean Tatar khan to put an end to it instead. This alarmed the Polish king, so he sent his own army to help the rebels in Wallachia and Moldavia.

In 1598, the Habsburg-backed Prince Michael of Wallachia took Nicopolis, Moldavia, and Transylvania. Transylvania was later recaptured by the Ottomans with the help of the Poles who were uncomfortable with Austria’s growing power in Eastern Europe.

Jelali revolts which started right after the Ottomans’ victory against the Austrians in Keresztes dominated Mehmed’s reign. The conflict stemmed from Grand Vizier Cigalazade Yusuf Sinan Pasha’s decree that all the troops should assemble before his tent after the battle. Those who were not present would be labeled as deserters. He also decreed that the deserters would be executed, and their properties in Anatolia would be seized. This angered the fief-holding cavalrymen, as well as the regular Turkish and Kurdish soldiers. Many of the disappointed soldiers went home and started the Jelali revolts.

Ahmed I

Mehmed died in 1603, and his 13-year-old son, Ahmed I, succeeded him. Since the new sultan was still a young boy, his mother Handan Sultan and the chief eunuch Dervish Mehmed Agha became the most influential forces in his court. The sultan inherited the Jelali revolts and the renewed wars with the Safavids from his father. Ahmed’s viziers were forced to sign a peace treaty with the Habsburgs in 1606 as it could not afford wars on both the European and Persian fronts. By this time, the Safavids had also revamped its army and acquired the latest weapons from its allies in Europe.

In 1604, the Safavids scored an important win in the Battle of Urmia. They quickly followed it up with the capture of Azerbaijan, Diyarbakir, Mosul, Najaf, Baghdad, Karbala, and some Ottoman territories in the Caucasus. The loss of these territories was a heavy blow to the Ottomans. The Persians were now dangerously close to the Ottoman heartland, while rebellions still simmered in Anatolia.

Because of the losses, the Turkoman and Kurdish tribesmen who swore loyalty to the Ottomans then sided with the Persians. This switch triggered another Jelali revolt, but this was later crushed by the ruthless Grand Vizier Kuyucu Murad Pasha between 1607 and 1610. Although the revolt was crushed, the roots of the problems remained. By 1612, the Ottoman losses against the Safavids were too hard to ignore, so they were forced to sue for peace.

The Ottomans were forced to give up their claims to some parts of the Caucasus. Iran, on the other hand, promised to send a hefty annual tribute of silk plus promise an alliance with the Ottomans against Russia in the Caucasus. This treaty came to nothing as both sides continued to raid each other’s borders. War flared up again by 1616, and the Ottomans suffered another defeat at the hands of the Safavids.

Chaos: From Mustafa I to Ibrahim

Mustafa I became sultan when his brother, Ahmed I, died in 1617. This weak ruler was only a figurehead for the more powerful Kosem Sultan, the concubine of Sultan Ahmed. During his reign, Mustafa relied heavily on Kosem Sultan. This was no wonder as he grew up and lived all his life inside the harem before his brother’s death. He reigned for three months before the ambitious Kosem Suntan deposed him. He was replaced by one Ahmed’s sons by Mahfiruz Hatun, Osman II, as the new ruler of the empire in 1618.

The young Osman II initially did well by securing a peace treaty with the Safavids in Persia. He also led the Ottoman army into victory against the Poles in 1620. Still, he was no match for the powerful enemies at home. These enemies included Kosem Sultan who wanted to get rid of him because she wanted one of her sons as sultan. Some of his most formidable enemies were the Janissary corps and the ulema (Muslim scholars expert in Islamic law). The Janissary corps rebelled when the sultan attempted to dissolve the troops that were recruited through the Devshirme system. The ulema, meanwhile, antagonized him when Osman tried to curb the power of the religious elite.

On the 20th of May 1622, Osman II’s reign ended when he was murdered by his own troops. His uncle, Mustafa I, was recalled and crowned as sultan once again. His reappointment did not sit well with the people, and Kosem Sultan’s appointment of a corrupt vizier did nothing to help him either. Chaos reigned once again as the Janissaries and sipahis rioted and looted all over the capital. The governor of Erzurum, Abaza Mehmed Pasha, also launched a rebellion to punish the Janissaries who were responsible for Osman’s death. The people demanded a new sultan, and by 1623, Mustafa was forced to step down a second time.

Things went smoothly for Kosem Sultan as she placed one of her sons, Murad IV, as sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He was dependent on his mother for every decision during his reign, but to his credit, Murad IV brought a bit of stability to the volatile empire. In 1624, the Safavids rose once again to recapture former territories now in Ottoman hands. The Shia Safavids occupied Baghdad and killed most of the city’s Sunni inhabitants. While this was happening, the rebel leader Abaza Mehmed Pasha and his followers launched another rebellion. He was defeated in 1624, but Murad IV pardoned him and told him (including his followers) to join the campaign against the Safavids.

The campaigns to dislodge the Safavids in Baghdad between 1625 and 1630 all ended in failure. In 1631, the frustrated Murad removed the Grand Vizier Husrew Pasha from his position for his failure in Baghdad. The Janissaries and sipahis promptly rebelled. Instead of crushing the rebellion, Murad mistakenly invited the rebels to the capital to hear their side. They came to Istanbul, and chaos descended when they started to riot.

The sultan was forced to make concessions to the rioters, so he ordered the execution of some high officials. However, the Janissaries and the sipahis were not satisfied, and the chaos in the capital continued. The mess worsened when a destructive fire raged in and destroyed a large part of Istanbul in 1633. Turkish smokers who frequently visited coffee houses were accused of setting the city on fire. Murad responded by shutting down the coffee houses and ordering the execution of some Ottoman intellectuals (who were also patrons of coffee houses).

After many years of defeats, the Ottomans finally recaptured Baghdad from the Safavids in 1638. Both parties signed a peace treaty in 1639. Mesopotamia went to the Ottomans, while the Safavids retained control of Azerbaijan and a large part of the Caucasus.

Murad IV died in 1640, and he was succeeded by his infamous brother, Ibrahim. The new sultan had spent most of his life in the harem and was nicknamed the Mad because of his mental instability. Palace intrigues returned with a vengeance, but the instability in the empire was balanced by the competent rule of the Grand Vizier Kemankeş Kara Mustafa Pasha. He was responsible for reforming the empire’s budget and taxation during Ibrahim’s reign.

He also helped curb corruption, tried to limit the number of Janissaries and sipahis in the army, and frustrated the expansion plans of the Poles and Russians in Ottoman territories. Unfortunately, one of his most powerful enemies was the sultan’s own mother, Kosem Sultan. She led a rebellion against him, and he was forced to step down in 1644. He was eventually executed.

Kosem Sultan was also responsible for pushing Ibrahim to approve of the naval invasion of Crete. It was largely unsuccessful, and the venture further drained the Ottoman treasury. Ibrahim’s excessive spending on clothes and furs also did not help the empire. The mad sultan had a tendency to demand expensive gifts from his officials, and this only fueled the corruption within the government.

In 1648, Venetian ships successfully blockaded the Dardanelles. The price of grain and other foodstuffs became higher as products from Egypt could not pass through the blockade. The Janissary corps, sipahis, and ulemas launched another rebellion until Ibrahim was forced to step down. He was succeeded by his son, Mehmed IV, on August 8, 1648. Ibrahim was executed ten days later.

Causes of the Decline

The Military

While the Ottomans were at war in Europe, Anatolia was brewing with rebellions. In the past wars, the Ottoman Empire lost many soldiers because of injuries and diseases. This included the disciplined Janissaries recruited through the Devshirme system (levy of Christian boys who later converted to Islam) who often brought them victory during wars. The Empire was later forced to replace them with Muslim recruits who were not trained enough or were ill-disciplined.

Economy: The High Cost of War

The long wars with Persia and Austria were expensive ventures for the Ottoman Empire. During the reign of Murad III, the English (with the help of its ambassador) established a trading relationship with the Ottoman Empire. This allowed the English to sell tin and other products to the Empire. The English’s most important products were expensive muskets, gunpowder, and other weapons that the Empire bought to use against the Persians and Austrians.

Over the years, the Empire also experienced shortages in gold and silver that were used to mint coins. The government had no choice but to reduce the quantity of precious metal in each coin that they made (debasing the coinage) and depend on imported metals for their coins. The coin’s lowered value then drove the prices of food and materials up. The government and the private employers, however, had no choice but to keep the wages of the people down. The high price of necessities and the imposition of high taxes coupled with low wages created discontent among the people.

Government officials, soldiers, and common people all suffered from this economic slump. Government officials who did not receive their salaries on time because the treasury was empty turned to corruption. The troops’ salaries also went unpaid or were simply insufficient when the wages finally came. The war booty that the sipahis captured over the years also became insufficient (especially with the scorched earth tactic the Safavids used), and this made the work of the cavalrymen less desirable. As the Empire plunged into chaos, the government also started to seize the sipahis’ lands (timars and ziamets) for additional revenues and taxes.

The situation of Janissary corps was no better as their wages also went unpaid or were insufficient. Their demand for a wage increase and donations made during the Sultan’s accession also did not materialize. In addition, they resented the entrance of ill-trained and ill-disciplined Muslim recruits in the Janissary corps. The Janissary corps rebelled in 1589, while the sipahis launched their own in 1592 and in 1603. The resentment between the two branches of the Ottoman army started when the Janissary corps quelled the sipahi rebellion in 1603.

The Empire was a haven for rebellion, but a more potent threat in the form of homeless peasants loomed on the horizon. As the government seized the sipahis’ lands, the peasants who lived and worked in the fiefs had no choice but to leave as well. These levendats or wanderers enlisted as members of private armies of Ottoman governors and fought in Persia or Europe. After the war, these experienced but unemployed men turned to banditry to live.

References

Photo by: Belli değil – http://www.naqshbandi.org/ottomans/khalifa/s12_portrait.htm, Public Domain, Link

Kurat, A.N. The New Cambridge Modern History: The Ascendancy of France. Edited by F. L. Carsten. Vol. V. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961.

Faroqhi, Suraiya, ed. The Cambridge History of Turkey: The Later Ottoman Empire, 1603–1839. Vol. 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Finkel, Caroline. Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1923. NY, NY: Basic Books, 2007.

Kia, Mehrdad. The Ottoman Empire. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008.

Shaw, Stanford Jay. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey : Empire of the Gazis: The Rise and Decline of the Ottoman Empire, 1280-1808. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

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Qing Dynasty, Part 2

The Jiaqing Emperor’s accession to the throne in 1796 was greeted by a double rebellion. The first was the Miao Rebellion which started in 1795 in the provinces of Hunan and Guizhou. This rebellion was eventually quashed in 1806. The White Lotus Rebellion which started in 1796 was finally suppressed around 1804. Although these rebellions were subdued, the illusion that the Qing rulers could hold the empire together had faded, while discontent always simmered just below the surface. Another uprising—this time incited by leaders of the Tianli sect—flared out in 1813 (Eight Trigrams Uprising). The Qing army quickly quelled it, but there was no way for them to stop the rot that had spread in the government.

These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during this time period.

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Daoguang Emperor succeeded his father to the throne in 1821 and spent his reign fighting the spread of opium in China as well as the invasion of Western powers. He and his ministers were strong-armed into granting concessions to Western nations after the end of the First Opium War 1842. He died in 1850 and was succeeded by his son, the ill-equipped Xianfeng Emperor.  

Xianfeng Emperor faced the bloody Taiping Rebellion (1850) at the onset of his reign. The rebellion, which was at first centered in Nanjing, was quashed in 1864, but it was soon followed by several offshoot uprisings. First was the Nian Rebellion in Anhui (1853-1868), which was then followed by Muslim uprisings in Yunnan (1855-1873) and Gansu (1862-1873). The situation would only worsen for China when the Second Opium War broke out in 1856. The Qing army—already spread too thin—suffered defeats at the hands of allied Western nations. Xianfeng Emperor, like his father, was forced to grant concessions to Western powers when the war ended in 1860.

Xianfeng Emperor died in 1861, leaving the throne to his young son, the future Tongzhi Emperor, who was to remain under regency until he came of age. A coup d’etat led by Prince Gong, Tongzhi Emperor’s mother Consort Yi (later Empress Dowager Cixi), and the Manchu official Wenxiang ousted the appointed regents and held the reins of power themselves. Faced with a country devastated by the two Opium Wars and violent uprisings, this faction soon realized that China desperately needed rehabilitation. To this end, the corrupt regents tried in vain to curb the power of the equally corrupt gentry. They also tried to revive China’s agriculture which had stagnated during the past peasant uprisings.

The defeats China suffered in the Opium Wars was a hard lesson for the Qing rulers. To ensure that the empire would not suffer similar defeats in the future, the regents embarked on a “self-strengthening” program. This included the modernization of the military, as well as the adoption of Western education and technology. Chinese workers began to copy Western weapons and warships, but their inadequate knowledge on manufacturing often made the machines unserviceable. The Qing rulers also approved and supported the creation of heavy industries, such as coal mining, textile manufacturing, and the construction of telegraph lines and railroads.

As part of the modernization program, Qing officials allowed the establishment of foreign language schools in four of China’s major cities (Shanghai, Beijing, Fuzhou, and Guangzhou). American and European missionaries not only worked as evangelists but also as administrators of and teachers in these schools. For the first time in the empire’s history, a Chinese student named Yung Wing was allowed to travel to the United States to study at Yale College. He graduated in 1854 and went to back to his homeland to work as an interpreter and reformer. Hundreds of Chinese students sponsored by missionaries followed in Yung Wing’s footsteps and enrolled at colleges in New England during the late 1800s.

The self-strengthening program soon fell apart as modernization clashed with Chinese culture and the officials’ self-interest. Conservatives in the Qing imperial court (especially the scholar-officials) opposed the modernization because they believed that the heavy industries (mining and the railroad construction, for example) upset the land’s fengshui. Many of them also feared that the modernization would diminish their power and take away their privileges. Apart from power-hungry officials, the Qing bureaucracy was also bogged down by inept administrators who mismanaged the program. Empress Dowager Cixi herself diverted funds meant for the modernization of the navy and funneled them to the renovation of the Summer Palace.

Another reason for the failure of “self-strengthening” program was the existence of the unequal treaties Chinese officials signed with Western nations. These treaties gave American and European companies edge against local enterprise whose owners were ill-equipped to take on the competition. This, coupled with an empty treasury, effectively put a stop to the empire’s modernization program during Cixi’s reign.

The First Sino-Japanese War

Kim Ok-gyun pictured in Nagasaki in 1882. His assassination would contribute to tensions leading to the First Sino-Japanese War

Peace was once again shattered when China and Japan’s interests in Korea clashed during the late 1800s. Korea, though mostly isolated during the Joseon era, had long been China’s tributary. Japan, on the other hand, was forced by the Americans to emerge from its own isolation in 1853. It implemented its own modernization program which, unlike China’s version, proved to be very successful. It was not long before Japan became a powerful force in East Asia and was having its own expansionist dreams. Korea, the resource-rich hermit kingdom, was its first target.

In the 1870s, Korea slowly started to open its borders for trade with Japan. However, the Japan-Korea trade did not sit well with the Qing government as it still considered the kingdom as its tributary. The royal court of Emperor Gojong itself started to become divided between the conservative pro-China group and reform-minded pro-Japan faction. It did not help that during the 1880s Korea became engulfed in droughts, bankruptcy, and uprisings. The Koreans’ resentment of Japanese interference in internal affairs often manifested in violent incidents between the citizens of the two countries. The assassination of the pro-Japan Korean reformer Kim Ok-gyun and the Donghak Rebellion in 1894 only served as additional kindling to the First Sino-Japanese War.

When the Donghak Rebellion exploded in Korea in 1894, King Gojong was quick to ask the Qing government for reinforcements. This request was granted, and China sent more than 2,000 Qing troops led by Yuan Shikai to the peninsula. Japan took this as a direct violation of the Tientsin Convention the two countries signed in 1885 during the aftermath of the Gapsin Coup. The Meiji government responded by sending a larger expeditionary force to Korea.

By June 1894, the Japanese forces had captured the royal palace in Seoul and then set up a puppet government. Combat between the two troops soon started, but the Japanese were able to rout the Chinese soldiers in the Battle of Seonghwan (July 28-29, 1894) and Battle of Pyongyang (September 15, 1894). Two days later, the Japanese navy proved that its country’s military overhaul worked when it overpowered China’s Beiyang Fleet in the Battle of Yalu River. In October of the same year, Japanese forces crossed the Yalu River into Manchuria and proceeded to massacre Chinese soldiers and civilians. The Japanese occupation of Manchuria was followed by the invasion of the Pescadores (Penghu Islands).

The defeats China suffered during the First Sino-Japanese War finally forced its rulers to sue for peace. On April 17, 1895, representatives of both countries signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki. Korea, Taiwan, the Pescadores, and the Liaodong Peninsula were all annexed to Japan. (The annexation of the Liaodong Peninsula to Japan, however, was later blocked by Western powers.) The Russians, meanwhile, took advantage of China’s weakened state to pressure its rulers into leasing the Liaodong Peninsula to them instead. Apart from the annexation of several territories, China was forced to pay a hefty war indemnity and grant concessions to Japan.

China’s defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War doomed the Qing Dynasty further. The empire’s foremost scholar-officials, including Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao, and Tan Sitong, all clamored for additional reforms. Their request was granted in June 1898 when the Guangxu Emperor finally approved what would be later called the Hundred Days’ Reform. But the conservatives felt that these reforms once again threatened their privileges, so they convinced the Empress Cixi to stop them. The empress then led a coup to oust the Guangxu Emperor. She then had the emperor imprisoned in one of the Qing palaces. The reformers Kang and Liang managed to escape to Japan, while the rest of the advocates for reform were executed.

Peace would be a far-fetched goal as the 20th-century greeted China with a peasant uprising called the Boxer Rebellion. This violent anti-imperialism and anti-Christian rebellion would only fuel the end of the Qing Dynasty. While Western troops were battling the rebels, Empress Cixi and members of the royal family fled to Xian in humiliation. The Qing Dynasty had completely lost not only its prestige but also the confidence of the Chinese people.

Reformers and revolutionaries alike emerged during the twilight years of the Qing Dynasty. The reformers were led by officials such as Zhang Zhidong, Yuan Shikai, and Liu Kunyi. The revolutionaries, on the other hand, included Huang Xing, Zuo Rong, and Qiu Jin.

One of the most significant reformer-revolutionary was Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925), a native of Xiangshan (later renamed Zhongshan), Guangdong. He lived with his brother in Hawaii for some time during his youth before coming back to China. He then studied medicine in Hong Kong, and eventually converted to Christianity. In 1894, he tried to convince Viceroy Li Hongzhang to implement reforms but he was rebuffed. He went back to Hawaii, but he was no longer pushed for reforms. There he organized a revolutionary organization, and plotted to seize Guangzhou. This plot, however, failed.

While staying in London in 1896, Sun Yat-sen was kidnapped by Qing agents. He was released through the efforts of his friend James Cantlie and the British press who rallied behind his cause. He later met with exiled reformers Liang Qichao and Kang Youwei, but unlike them, Sun Yat-sen believed that the Qing Dynasty had no place in modern China. He later teamed up with fellow revolutionary Huang Xing to form the Revolutionary Alliance while exiled in Tokyo in 1905. Their initial goal was to overthrow the Manchu rulers, followed by the establishment of a military dictatorship which would usher China from monarchy to democracy.

In 1905, Japanese forces were able to rout the Russians in the Russo-Japanese War. Japan became the undisputed military power on this side of the Pacific, and this victory was soon followed by its occupation of Manchuria. But for the empress, Japan’s strength was a testament to the triumph of constitutionalism pushed by some reformers in her own court. In the same year, she finally gave in to pressure and allowed the promulgation of a constitution.

The Guangxu Emperor died of arsenic poisoning on November 14, 1908, and was quickly followed Empress Cixi’s own death the day after. As Guangxu was childless, his three-year-old nephew Puyi was enthroned as emperor upon his death. But the regents of the young emperor were unprepared to handle the uprisings that would rock China. An uprising shook Hunan in 1906, which was followed by a mutiny four years later in the city of Guangzhou.

The 1911 Revolution and the Foundation of the Republic of China

In May 1911, an uprising led by the local gentry flared up in the province of Sichuan. This was in protest to the central government’s proposal to nationalize and finish the provincial railroad networks using foreign loans. This proposal, however, did not sit well with the Sichuan gentry who had poured their own money into the local railroad project. The realization that they would only recoup a portion of their investments if the Qing pushed through with the nationalization of the railroad network naturally angered them. They then organized protests which the authorities promptly tried to suppress.

The Qing authorities, however, made the mistake of summoning the New Army stationed in Wuhan to suppress the rebellion in Sichuan. Their ranks had been infiltrated by Sun Yat-sen’s revolutionaries, and many soldiers by then were sympathetic to their cause. Instead of suppressing the rebellion, the revolutionary troops took Wuchang on October 10, 1911, and immediately set up a military government in Hubei province. This was supported by the local assembly which then announced Hubei’s independence. It was not long before the rebellions spread through central and eventually, to southern China.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen was in the United States when the revolution happened and only read about the events in the newspapers. He came home and agreed to become temporary president of the independent provinces.

Yuan Shikai, the Qing prime minister, tried to keep Puyi in power by suppressing the rebellions, but his efforts were in vain. He finally negotiated the emperor’s abdication in exchange for a sizable settlement. On February 12, 1912, Empress Dowager Longyu signed the abdication papers on behalf of the young Xuantong Emperor. This abdication effectively ended imperial rule and ushered in the era of the Republic of China. In December 1911, Dr. Sun Yat-sen resigned from the presidency and handed the reins of power over to Yuan Shikai.

References

Photo by Unknown authorhttp://unsuk.kyunghee.ac.kr/jangmyun_2004/NZEO/bbs/view.php?id=gallery_km&no=25, Public Domain, Link

Ebrey, Patricia Buckley. The Cambridge Illustrated History of China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Fairbank, John King. China: A New History. Cambridge (Mass.): The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1994.

Peterson, Willard J., ed. The Cambridge History of China. The Ch’ing Dynasty to 1800. Vol. 9. The Cambridge History of China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Roberts, J.A.G. A Concise History of China. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.

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The Second Opium War (Arrow War, 1856-1860)

The Treaty of Nanking fell apart despite the significant concessions China gave to Western nations during the aftermath of the First Opium War. The disagreements escalated into the Second Opium War which lasted from 1856-1860. By 1861, China had suffered another loss and was once again forced to grant concessions to Western powers.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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The Second Opium War (Arrow War, 1856-1860)

China gave major concessions to Britain after its loss in the First Opium War (1839-1842) in the Treaty of Nanking. However, the unpopular and unequal treaty collapsed as the years passed, and war once again seemed inevitable. The British blamed the Qing officials for their lack of cooperation in enforcing the terms of the treaty. The charging of transit duties on goods was another bone of contention between the two parties. They also disagreed on when the Qing officials would finally allow British citizens the freedom to live and trade inside the walls of Guangzhou.   

By 1847, the patience of the Hong Kong administrator and British ambassador John Francis Davis was already wearing thin. He ordered an expedition to Guangzhou and seized several forts in Foshan. Unable to muster an adequate defense, the Viceroy of Guangdong and Guangxi provinces Keying was forced to promise that the authorities would let the British merchants and officials enter Guangzhou in 1849. This concession became unpopular with the inhabitants of Guangzhou, and news of it eventually reached the emperor. Keying was then replaced as governor-general by Xu Guangjin. In 1852, a Chinese official named Ye Mingchen replaced Xu Guangjin as governor of Guangdong.

The British merchants and officials fully expected that Guangzhou would be an open city in two years time. To their disappointment, Xu Guangjin shrugged off Keying’s promise and postponed it again in 1849. The governor of Hong Kong agreed to the postponement which only angered his compatriots.

While British troops were besieging southern China, the rest of the country was racked by civil war with the onset of the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864). It was followed by the Red Turban Rebellion in 1854 which would last for another two years. Besieged at every point, Qing officials were able to breathe a sigh of relief (though just barely) when Britain became embroiled in the Crimean War in 1854. This respite, however, would not last.

On October 8, 1856, Qing coast guards seized the lorcha named Arrow off Guangzhou on suspicions of piracy. The boat, which sailed under the British flag, was owned by a Chinese settler in Hong Kong who had registered it with the authorities in the colony. Most of the Arrow’s Chinese crew were arrested, but its captain, Thomas Kennedy, managed to secure the freedom of a couple of seamen who served as his skeleton crew. Kennedy and his men immediately returned to Hong Kong and informed the colony’s governor John Bowring of the incident.

The seizure of the Arrow compelled Bowring to authorize a siege on Guangzhou. British ships bombarded the walled city, while Governor Ye Mingchen responded by ordering the destruction of all British factories in the territory. Foreign trade was suspended, while all Englishmen in his jurisdiction were considered fair game.

The murder of missionary Auguste Chapdelaine was the official reason for France’s involvement in the Second Opium War.

When news of the conflict reached Lord Palmerston (now Prime Minister), he immediately ordered an expeditionary force to be sent to besiege China. The fleet was escorted by French forces who had come to seek vengeance for the execution of Auguste Chapdelaine, a French missionary in China. After serving as reinforcements against a rebellion in India, the fleet then proceeded to the waters off Guangdong in 1857.

The Earl of Elgin and British Consul Harry Parkes led this expeditionary force and the bombardment of Guangzhou. When the city finally fell, British soldiers arrested Governor Ye Mingchen and exiled him to India where he died in 1859. Parkes was left behind in Guangzhou as one of its temporary administrators while the British fleet continued north.

Lord Elgin led the bombardment of Taku Forts in 1858. When they came to the city of Tianjin itself, Xianfeng emperor finally sent a representative to negotiate. On June 18, 1858, both parties signed the Treaty of Tianjin (Tientsin) which forced China to:

  • Open ten additional ports to European trade, especially those that lead to China’s interior
  • Legalize opium trade
  • Allow the establishment of a British embassy in Beijing
  • Allow foreign merchants and missionaries to travel unhindered in the country

France and the United States also forced China to sign similar treaties. Russia then entered the fray and forced China to give up the land north of the Amur River in the Treaty of Taigun. It also compelled China to allow a joint administration of the land between the Ussuri River and the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

Allied forces came back to Bohai Bay in June 1859 to ratify the Treaty of Tianjin. Little did they know that while they were away, Xianfeng Emperor had ordered the fortification of Taku Forts and the improvement of its artillery. Fierce bombardment met them, and they were forced to turn back. Elated at their victory, the emperor’s ministers advised him to rescind the treaty and continue the fight against the allied troops.

The fight, however, was not yet over. A bigger allied fleet returned and easily captured Taku Forts. Allied troops soon entered Beijing where they encountered fierce resentment and resistance. Some of Beijing inhabitants captured and harassed the British and French delegation (including the vindictive Harry Parkes). Lord Elgin, in turn, ordered the splendid Summer Palace to be burned to the ground.     

For Xianfeng Emperor and the Chinese people, the concessions and humiliations seemed never-ending. He was forced to allow the foreigners to use Tianjin as a treaty port and cede Kowloon (Jiulong) to the British. To top it all off, China also had to pay war indemnities to allies. Russia took advantage of the moment to nullify its earlier agreement with China and took over the land east of the Ussuri River.

 The 30-year old Xianfeng Emperor died a tired and broken man in 1861. He was succeeded by his six-year-old son Zaichun (the future Tongzhi emperor) who would be guided by his father’s appointed regents.

References:

Picture by: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bury, J. P. T., ed. The New Cambridge Modern History. Vol. 10. The New Cambridge Modern History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960.

Ebrey, Patricia Buckley. The Cambridge Illustrated History of China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Fairbank, John King. China: A New History. Cambridge (Mass.): The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1994.

Fairbank, John K., ed. The Cambridge History of China. Late Ch’ing 1800–1911. Vol. 10. The Cambridge History of China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978.

Roberts, J.A.G. A Concise History of China. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.

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Franciscan Friars Founded San Diego, CA 1769

Fears of a Russian incursion in the Pacific in the mid-1700s finally forced Spain to secure its hold on Alta California. After finding few volunteers, the Spanish government decided to send Franciscan missionaries to Alta California. In 1769, the first Franciscan friars arrived in California and founded the Mission San Diego de Alcala.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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San Diego in the Age of Discovery

The Kumeyaay people were the first inhabitants of the land on which the modern city of San Diego now stands. During the Age of Discovery, the Spaniard Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo became the first European to explore the San Diego Bay area. He later named it “San Miguel” in honor of the saint whose feast day was fast approaching when he explored the region. Cabrillo and his crew continued north, but the exploration was cut short when he died of gangrene.

More than half a century would pass before the Spaniards visited the area again. In 1602, Sebastian Vizcaino and his fleet sailed from Acapulco to Alta California to explore the region. His main task was to find safe harbors for Manila-Acapulco galleons and claim the land for Spain. Vizcaino’s fleet arrived in the San Diego Bay on November 12, 1602, and proceeded to map the area for Spain. He named this territory San Diego de Alcala after the 15th-century Spanish saint and Franciscan friar Didacus of Alcala.

However, the plans to establish harbors and Spanish settlements failed to become a reality. The Age of Explorers also ended, and the adventurers were replaced by Jesuit missionaries. In 1700, the Jesuit friar Eusebio Kino was one of the first Spaniards to enter Arizona and established a mission near present-day Tucson. This adventurous and intelligent missionary also contradicted past explorers by claiming that neighboring California was not an island. Although the Mexican authorities did not believe him, Father Kino still continued his mission in Arizona. The Jesuits fell from grace as the years went by, and they were soon replaced by Franciscan friars.

The Foundation of Mission San Diego de Alcala

The Mission San Diego de Alcala was founded in 1769.

In the mid-1700s, the Danish explorer Vitus Bering and his Russian crew reached and explored some of the islands of Alaska. Although he died during the expedition, Russia was able to stake its claim on this new-found yet distant territory. Fears of a Russian incursion in the Pacific finally pushed King Carlos III of Spain to instruct Gaspar de Portolá, governor of Baja California, to secure Alta California. Spanish colonists, however, did not find Alta California attractive. They had made their fortunes in Mexico and there was no incentive for them to seek wealth in an inhospitable land.

With no volunteers in sight, the governor then turned to the priests of the Franciscan Order and commissioned them to establish a mission in Alta California. The Franciscan friars led by Father Junipero Serra and Gaspar de Portolá were escorted by Spanish soldiers as they made their way to Alta California.

Two Spanish ships sailed from Baja California to the San Diego Bay in January and February 1769. This fleet arrived in April of the same year. A separate party, meanwhile, left Baja California by land in March. Scurvy, the scourge of early explorers, easily halved the members of this expedition.

 Father Serra, meanwhile, traveled with the second expedition and arrived in San Diego on the 1st of June, 1769. He was in his 50s by then and a leg infection made the journey north more difficult for him. Despite his age and condition, he was able to establish the Mission San Diego de la Alcala more than one month after the group’s arrival.

The site on which the Spaniards established the first mission, however, could not sustain them for long. The Spaniards moved to a more suitable place near the San Diego River and close to where the Kumeyaay people lived. In addition to successfully securing the area, the Franciscans also managed to gain more Kumeyaay converts.

References:

Picture by: Bernard Gagnon (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Fehrenbacher, Don E. A Basic History of California. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company, 1964.

“History.” Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá. Accessed September 18, 2017. http://www.missionsandiego.org/visit/history/.

Jackson, Robert Howard, and Edward D. Castillo. Indians, Franciscans, and Spanish Colonization: The Impact of the Mission System on California Indians. Albuquerque, NM: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 2005.

 

 

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Bible Translated into Burmese 1835-1837

In 1834, the American missionary Adoniram Judson became the first person to translate the Bible into Burmese. Judson’s Burmese translation was finally published in 1835—a major accomplishment for a man who arrived in Burma in 1813 not knowing a single word of the Burmese language.  This event is recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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Early Years

Adoniram Judson, the man who translated the Bible to Burmese, was born in 1788 in Malden, Massachusetts. He was the son of Adoniram Judson Sr., a Congregational minister, by his wife Abigail Brown. He taught for a year at a school in Plymouth after graduating from Brown University. In 1808, Judson entered the Andover Theological Seminary to study divinity.

Judson decided to become a missionary in 1810 after reading “A Star of the East,” Reverend Edward Norman Harris’s account as a missionary to the Karen people of Burma. He received a license to preach and also met his future wife, Ann Hasseltine, in 1810.

He married Ann on February 5, 1812, and he was ordained as a minister one day later. The couple and their fellow missionaries boarded a ship bound for Calcutta on the 19th of February, 1812. They arrived in Calcutta in the middle of June, but he and his wife transferred to the Baptist denomination two and a half months later. Preaching the gospel to Hindus was illegal, so the couple was forced to flee to Mauritius in 1813 for fear that they would be arrested.

Adoniram Judson was the first missionary to translate the Bible into the Burmese language.

The couple soon returned to India but decided to continue to Burma instead. They arrived in Rangoon in 1813 and joined the Baptist missionary Felix Carey and his family. The Careys left Burma, so the Judsons took over their mission. Judson and his wife started to learn Burmese, but it took them four more years before they could hold a proper church service. What began as a struggle became a lifelong love affair with the Burmese language. Adoniram started to write the “Grammatical Notices of the Burman Language” and finished it in 1816. He completed the Burmese translation of the Gospel of Matthew and also started the difficult task of compiling a dictionary of Burmese words.

Life as a missionary in Rangoon was difficult and tiring with little reward. Buddhism was deeply embedded in the culture, and their resistance made his job more difficult. The king also forbade his people from converting from Buddhism to other religions, so Judson only had eighteen converts by 1822. Judson and a fellow missionary appealed to the Burmese King Bagyidaw to let them preach the gospel all over the kingdom, but the request was denied. Despite these challenges, Judson was able to finish his Burmese translation of the New Testament in 1823.

Judson was arrested and spent 20 months in prison during the Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826). Ann sought to free him from prison, but he was only freed when the British army defeated the Burmese. He worked for the Burmese government as a translator, but tragedy struck again when his wife and youngest child died.

In 1827, Judson set off to evangelize in the areas where the animist Karen people lived. To his surprise, he found them more receptive to the gospel than their Buddhist counterparts. He continued his Burmese translation of the Bible while working with this repressed minority. He finally finished the translation in 1834 and published it in the following year.

References:

Picture by: George Peter Alexander Healyhttp://library.brown.edu/cds/portraits/display.php?idno=268, Public Domain, Link

Middleditch, Robert Thomas. Burmah’s Great Missionary: Records of the Life, Character, and Achievements of Adoniram Judson. New York: Edward H. Fletcher, 1854.

Thorne, C.G., Jr. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by J.D. Douglas and Earle E. Cairns. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.

Warburton, Stacy Reuben. Eastward! The Story of Adoniram Judson. New York: Round Table Press, Inc., 1937.

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Peace of Augsburg 1555

After more than thirty years of religious and political conflicts, the rulers of Germany finally agreed to sign and enact the Peace of Augsburg on September 25, 1555. The German princes agreed to recognize Protestantism and Catholicism, and allowed both forms of Christianity to co-exist in their realm. Fragile as the peace was, it brought a measure of stability to a land long divided by differences in religion.  This event can be found on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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The Schmalkaldic War (1546-1547) and the Augsburg Interim (1548)

Emperor Charles V never stopped trying to bring the Protestants back into the Catholic fold during Martin Luther’s lifetime. His efforts intensified after the Reformation leader’s death on February 18, 1546, but the Protestant princes did not give in. A war between the Catholic Holy Roman Empire and the Protestant princes had loomed on the horizon for many years but it finally flared in 1546. The princes of the Schmalkaldic League had no choice but to gather their own troops to prepare for war.

Battles raged between the Schmalkaldic army and Charles’s forces between the summer of 1546 and spring of 1547. By April 24, 1547, Charles’s army had finally defeated the outnumbered Protestants at the Battle of Muhlberg. The Protestant leaders Philip of Hesse and Elector John Frederick of Saxony were soon captured and imprisoned. Charles’ army also besieged Wittenberg, so John Frederick was forced to sign away the right to his title to keep the emperor’s army from destroying the city. The title of elector was then transferred to Charles’s ally and John Frederick’s cousin Maurice.

The Protestants had been a thorn in Charles’s side since the rise of Martin Luther, but he was getting tired of the religious conflict and was anxious to bring peace to Germany. While waiting for the results of the Council of Trent, the emperor went ahead and established a compromise with Protestants. This temporary compromise was eventually called the Augsburg Interim (1548). During the Interim, Protestants were allowed to live in peace granted that they would adopt some Catholic practices again. Masses were once again celebrated, and Germans were forced to acknowledge the Pope’s authority over them. Priests, however, were allowed to continue the giving of both bread and wine to the laity. Priests who married during the Reformation, meanwhile, were free to stay in that state.

The Peace of Augsburg 1555

The front page of the Peace of Augsburg treaty, which was also known as the Augsburg Settlement.

Despite these concessions, peace was hard to obtain in a place where Protestantism had taken deep root. Charles brought in Spanish troops to enforce the terms of the Interim. But the presence of outsiders (and Catholic ones at that) only added to the resentment of the Germans. War began again in 1552, but it was the ambitious Saxon elector Maurice who stood at the helm after taking the side of the Protestants. He made an alliance with Henry II of France but gave away the bishoprics of Metz, Verdun, and Toul in exchange for military help.

Charles’s army suffered a major defeat in the same year which forced him to flee to Innsbruck. It was then up to his brother, King Ferdinand of Bohemia and Hungary, to sue for peace with the German princes (Peace of Passau, 1552). However, the Peace of Passau died prematurely when Albert Alcibiades, Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach, broke ranks and offered his services to Charles V. The Holy Roman Emperor accepted his offer, and the renegade margrave’s attacks in Germany began.

The Margrave helped Charles besiege Metz in October 1552, but they were forced to withdraw in January 1553. Alcibiades then returned to Germany and once again started harassing the region of Franconia. Tired of the unrest Alcibiades was causing, a group of Catholic and Protestant princes soon rose up to oppose him. The Margrave was finally defeated at the Battle of Sievershausen in 1553. Alcibiades was forced to flee and seek refuge in France after his defeat.

The increasingly despondent emperor had abandoned all hope that he would be able to solve Germany’s conflicts. He started to withdraw from public life and allowed his brother, King Ferdinand, to represent the Habsburg side at the Diet of Augsburg in February 1555. The Pope did not send a representative, so the German princes were forced to work out peace among themselves.

The Peace of Augsburg was enacted on September 25, 1555, and included terms such as:

1. The guarantee that Protestants would enjoy the same security enjoyed by German Catholics.

2. The condition that subjects would follow their overlord’s religion. Those who do not want to conform, however, were free to sell their properties and move elsewhere.

3. The guarantee that all lands taken by Protestant princes from Catholic churches before 1552 would remain in their possession.

4. The assurance that the Catholic Church had the right to deprive the clergymen who had converted to Protestantism their former properties and other rights that were given by the Church.

The Peace of Augsburg, however, was only applied to Lutherans and Catholics. Calvinists, Anabaptists, and members of other sects were excluded.

References:

Picture by: User:Michail[1], Public Domain, Link

Douglas, J. D., and Earle E. Cairns. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.

Roper, Lyndal. Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet. New York: Random House, 2016.

Scribner, R.W. The New Cambridge Modern History: The Reformation, 1520-59. Edited by G.R. Elton. 2nd ed. Vol. II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.





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Cyprus Ceded to the Venetians

The House of Lusignan ruled Cyprus for 270 years before it was ceded to the Venetians in 1489. The first Lusignan king of Cyprus, Aimery, came to the Holy Land during the late 1170s. He rose to prominence during his time in the Holy Land and later inherited Cyprus from his brother, Guy. Aimery’s successors from the House of Lusignan ruled Cyprus until the reign of King James II the Bastard. The king’s marriage to a wealthy Venetian lady, his death, and the entry of cunning Venetian merchants led to the end of the rule of the House of Lusignan in Cyprus.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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Beginnings: The House of Lusignan in the Holy Land and Cyprus

Aimery, the Lord of Lusignan, fled France after his participation in a botched rebellion against Henry II of England (as well as the Count of Anjou and Duke of Normandy). He arrived in Jerusalem around the late 1170s where he married Eschiva of Ibelin. She was the daughter of an influential nobleman who came to Jerusalem during the Crusades.

Aimery was promoted to Constable of Jerusalem in 1180. His younger brother, Guy of Lusignan, also married Sibylla, the Queen of Jerusalem in the same year. The brothers joined the Crusaders who fought in the ill-fated Battle of Hattin, and they were among the noblemen captured and released by Saladin.

Queen Sibylla died in 1190, and her death disqualified Guy of Lusignan from taking the throne of Jerusalem. The crown passed on to Isabella I of Jerusalem, but Guy received Cyprus as to make up for his loss. Guy ruled Cyprus briefly until his death in 1194. His brother, Aimery, succeeded him to the throne of Cyprus after he was elected by Guy’s vassals.

Aimery of Lusignan, the new lord of Cyprus, became more powerful when the King of Jerusalem died in 1197. He married the king’s widow, Isabella I, and ruled as king of Crusaders and Jerusalem. The House of Lusignan went on to rule Cyprus for the next 270 years until it was ceded to the Venetians.

Reversals: The Last Lusignan King of Cyprus

Historical map of Cyprus

James II, the illegitimate son of King John I of Cyprus, was born around 1438-40. He was the son of John’s mistress Marietta of Patras and half-brother of the king’s legitimate daughter Charlotte. James was appointed as the archbishop of Nicosia at the young age of 16 because of his father’s influence. He fled Cyprus for Rhodes in 1457 after killing the king’s chamberlain. His father pardoned him soon after, and he was reinstated as an archbishop after this episode.

King John II died in 1458, and his daughter succeeded him to the throne. Civil war broke out when James challenged his half-sister’s right to rule. He kept Charlotte and her husband as prisoners in the Kyrenia Castle until they were able to flee for Rome in 1463. Her younger brother seized the throne soon after and ruled the island kingdom of Cyprus as King James II.

He traveled to wealthy Venice to seek some support for his tiny kingdom in 1468. While he was there, he married a Venetian woman from a wealthy family. Her name was Caterina Cornaro, and she traveled to Cyprus to claim the position of the queen in 1472. Their marriage was short-lived as James died only a few months after Caterina’s arrival in Cyprus. It was suspected that some powerful Venetians were involved in his mysterious death.

The young queen was pregnant at the time of her husband’s death, so she stood as regent for her son. The boy also died before he reached his first year, and the powerful Venetian merchants soon took over the administration of the islands. In 1489, the Venetians pressured Queen Caterina to give up her claim to the throne of Cyprus. Alone and powerless, she was forced to cede Cyprus to the Republic of Venice and step down as queen in 1489. The Venetians held Cyprus until the Ottoman Turks wrested the island from them in 1571.

References:

Picture by: Piri Reis – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Hayk using CommonsHelper., Public Domain, Link

Dursteler, Eric. A Companion to Venetian History, 1400-1797. Leiden: Brill, 2013.

Edbury, P. W. The Kingdom of Cyprus and the Crusades, 1191-1374. Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Setton, Kenneth M., Harry W. Hazard, and Norman P. Zacour. A History of the Crusades. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.

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Azores, Portugal Takes 

Spain conquered the Canary Islands in 1402. It was the kingdom’s first colony, and neighboring Portugal was eager to make a conquest, too. The Portuguese under Prince Henry the Navigator ventured further into the Atlantic until they found a group of islands in 1431. The archipelago was later named Azores and Portugal claimed it as the kingdom’s own colony starting in 1432.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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The Start of the Age of Discovery

In 1439, the Catalan Gabriel Valsequa (Gabriel de Vallesca) published a star chart (planisphere). In this map, de Valsequa mentioned that a Portuguese navigator named Diogo de Silves discovered the islands of the Azores in 1427. De Silves’ discovery of the islands is still disputed, so the claim remains a legend.

The German mariner and geographer Martin Behaim produced a globe called Erdapfel in 1492. He put the discovery of the islands of Azores in 1431 after two ships led by an unnamed commander visited the area. The Portuguese navigator Diogo Gomes also told Martin Behaim that two expeditions to the Azores were made during the time of Prince Henry the Navigator. The first expedition reached the islands of Pico, Faial, Santa Maria, Terceira, and San Miguel. The exact date of this voyage, however, remains a mystery.

The Beginnings of the Portuguese Empire

Mount Pico is part of the Azores archipelago.

The second voyage mentioned by Diogo Gomes was under the command of the Portuguese monk Fray Gonçalo Velho Cabral in 1431. His crew saw some islands, but the ship immediately returned to Portugal. He and his men returned to the area in 1432. They landed on an island that they later named “Santa Maria” in honor of the Virgin Mary. They explored the area for some time and sailed back to Portugal to report to Prince Henry.

Prince Henry the Navigator honored Gonçalo Velho Cabral by giving him the island of Santa Maria as his fief. He also planned to send herds to the islands and once again sent Gonçalo to explore the area. Gonçalo Velho Cabral was appointed as the Commander of the Islands of Azores in 1433 by King Alfonso V. It was not until 1435 that the group of Portuguese settlers organized by Gonçalo Velho Cabral landed in Santa Maria.

The Portuguese rulers sent more expeditions to the area and settled the island of Sao Miguel in 1444. Some settlers arrived on the Island of Terceira five years later. The islands of Sao Miguel and Terceira, meanwhile, were settled in 1452. By the end of the 1400s, the Portuguese were the undisputed masters of the Azores and the neighboring islands of Madeira.

References:

Picture by: Guillaume Baviere from Helsingborg, Sweden – 2010-07-19Uploaded by tm, CC BY 2.0, Link

Barreto, Mascarenhas. The Portuguese Columbus, Secret Agent of King John II. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.

Minahan, James. One Europe, Many Nations: A Historical Dictionary of European National Groups. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Olson, James Stuart, and Robert Shadle, eds. Historical Dictionary of European Imperialism. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991.

Shafer, Boyd C., Bailey Diffie, and George Winius. Europe and the World in the Age of Expansion: Volume 1 Foundations of the Portuguese Empire 1415-1580. University of Minnesota Press, 1977

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Wycliffe’s Bible

The English reformer John Wycliffe was one of the first translators of the Latin Vulgate Bible to English in the late 1370s. The late 1370s were the lowest points in his life after he was condemned as a heretic. The heresy issue limited his movement in England, but he was also at his most productive during this difficult period. His translation was later known as Wycliffe’s Bible. Because of his efforts, ordinary Englishmen could finally read the Bible. For the first time during the Medieval Period, God’s word was not limited to the clergymen who, at that time, were the only ones who could understand Latin.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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The Bible in Medieval Europe

The first known attempts to translate the Bible from Latin Vulgate into English were during the Early Medieval Period. Bishop Aldhelm, the Venerable Bede, Abbot Aelfric, and King Alfred all translated portions of the Bible. These translations were often incomplete, and the manuscripts had disappeared over time. Thirteenth century Europe was also a turbulent place during the height of the Albigensian heresy in France. In response to the “heresies” preached by the Albigensians, the Council of Toulouse forbade the people to read non-Latin translations of the Bible. All unauthorized versions of the Bible were also seized and destroyed.

The state of the 14th century Roman Catholic Church was just as turbulent. Seven popes chose to stay in Avignon in France (instead of Rome) where they became dependents and puppets of the French king from 1309 to 1377. Accusations of abuse of power and unrestrained extravagance hounded the popes of Avignon. The Bible was still in Latin Vulgate at that time, and could only be understood by the clergymen. The people, naturally, were dependent on the clergymen for translation and interpretation.

John Wycliffe’s Translation of the Bible

The Gospel of John in Wycliffe’s BIble.

During the mid-1300s, a brilliant English scholar and theologian named John Wycliffe rose from Oxford. He preached and wrote against the abuse of power and extravagant living by the pope and the clerics in 14th century Europe. His ideas were considered heretical by the Avignon pope, and he was condemned as such in 1377. Although he was forbidden to preach his “heretical” beliefs, Oxford University still allowed him to lecture on other subjects until 1381.

John Wycliffe wanted the common people to know God’s word, so he started the difficult task of translating the Bible from Latin Vulgate to Middle English. He was not alone in this task as his follower Nicholas Hereford translated some parts of the Old Testament up to the book of Baruch. Wycliffe, meanwhile, translated the Apocrypha and the New Testament. Others completed the translation of the rest of the Bible even after Wycliffe’s death in 1384. The whole book was organized and revised by John Purvey.

The controversy of John Wycliffe’s teachings echoed into the early 15th century. He and a Czech priest named Jan Hus were both condemned as heretics. The council also ordered John Wycliffe’s bones to be exhumed and burned. The ashes were later scattered on the Swift River as punishment for his “heresies.”

References:

Picture by: Public Domain, Link

Bruce, F. F. History of the Bible in English. Cambridge: Lutterworth Press, 2002.

Estep, William Roscoe. Renaissance and Reformation. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1986.

Stone, Larry. The Story of the Bible: The Fascinating History of its Writing, Translation & Effect on Civilization. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010.

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John Wycliffe Declares Papacy Antichrist

The brilliant English scholar John Wycliffe is considered one of the leading figures of the early Reformation. It was Wycliffe who was most vocal in his condemnation of the Avignon Papacy’s corruption and greed. In his writings and sermons, John Wycliffe declared the Avignon Papacy as the antichrist. Because of his vocal opposition, Pope Gregory XI condemned John Wycliffe as a heretic. He was also forbidden to teach his beliefs to other people. The Council of Constance held between 1414 and 1418 issued a final condemnation of the English reformer.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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The Avignon Papacy and John Wycliffe

Before the end of the 13th century, a conflict flared up between King Philip IV of France and Pope Boniface VIII. The pope issued a papal bull which excommunicated and deposed the king in 1303. To prevent the pope from issuing the bull, Philip ordered his men to kidnap the pope. Boniface was rescued by his friends, but he died before 1303 ended. He was succeeded briefly by Benedict XI, but he, too, died after several months.

The pope’s throne was vacant for several months before the College of Cardinals elected Philip IV’s nominee in 1305. The new pope was Archbishop Bertrand de Got, and he took the name Clement V. Unlike the previous popes, Clement V did not live in Rome. He stayed in France and became a puppet of Philip IV the Fair. He settled in Avignon in 1309, and the papal seat would remain in the quiet French town for 68 years.

The Italian poet and scholar Petrarch called the Avignon papacy “the Babylonian captivity”.

Clement’s six successors stayed in France, and there they lived in prosperity. They were able to expand the bishop’s residence into the magnificent Avignon Palace. The palace was a testament to their wealth, but it also came with a price. Rumors of popes’ scandalous behavior spread from France to different parts of Europe. They were also accused of simony (selling of church positions) and abuse of indulgences to fund their lavish lifestyle in Avignon. Other complaints included:

* The reduction of parish budgets while the popes maintained an extravagant life in Avignon.

* The imposition of heavy taxes on bishops.

* The high prices charged to the people whenever they requested certain church services.

* The corruption and greed of the Avignon popes and their clerics.

The English theologian and reformer John Wycliffe attacked the Avignon papacy and declared it as antichrist in his sermons and writings. The Italian poet and scholar Petrarch himself called it the “Babylonian captivity.” Wycliffe, for his part, persuaded the papacy and the clergy to control their greed and adopt apostolic poverty. The Avignon papacy rejected Wycliffe’s call and issued papal bulls that condemned his beliefs as heresies. He was forbidden from preaching about his “heretical” ideas again.

John Wycliffe, however, gained a lot of sympathizers and followers over the years. Some of them were called the Lollards, and they were the ones who preached his message all over England. His ideas also reached continental Europe. Wycliffe influenced a Czech priest called Jan Hus and he became one of the first reformers in the continent. Jan Hus and John Wycliffe were both condemned in the Council of Constance in 1415.

References:

Picture by: AltichieroUnknown, Public Domain, Link

Gascoigne, Bamber. A Brief History of Christianity. London: Hachette UK, 2013.

Murray, Thomas. The Life of John Wycliffe. Edinburgh: J. Boyd, 1829.

Payton, James R. Getting the Reformation Wrong: Correcting Some Misunderstandings. Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010.

Samworth, Herb. “The Work of John Wyclif and Its Impact.” Accessed January 18, 2017. http://www.solagroup.org/articles/historyofthebible/hotb_0006.html.

Stacey, John. “John Wycliffe.” Encyclop忙dia Britannica. September 18, 2008. Accessed January 18, 2017. https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Wycliffe.

Stephen, Leslie. The Dictionary of National Biography: Wordsworth-Zuylestein. Edited by Sidney Lee. Vol. LXIII. London: Oxford University Press, 1921.

Wycliffe, John. Writings of the Reverend and Learned John Wickliff. London: Printed for the Religious Tract Society, 1831.

Wycliffe, John, and Robert Vaughan. Tracts and Treatises of John de Wycliffe: With Selections and Translations from His Manuscripts, and Latin Works. London: Printed for the Society by Blackburn and Pardon, 1845.