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Chinese Ports Opened to Britain 1842

The First Opium War began in 1839 after China cracked down on the illegal drug trade headed by British merchants in Guangzhou. Their loss of the First Opium War forced China to open its ports to Britain (as well as other European countries) in 1842 via the Treaty of Nanking. These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during that time period.

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The First Opium War (1839-1842): The Drug Trade and the Clash of Cultures

The British East India Company first established contact with Chinese traders in the early 1600s. British merchants bought tea and silk from Chinese traders and shipped these products back to Europe. Demand for Chinese products in Britain spiked, but the British could not find anything of their own with which to interest Chinese buyers. One exception, however, was opium, the highly addictive substance extracted from opium poppy seed pods. Grown and harvested in India, British merchants shipped the drug from their colony and offloaded the shipment at the port of Guangzhou starting in the mid-1700s.

A great number of Chinese soon became addicted to the substance, which they paid for with taels of silver. Alarmed at the rise of addiction and the outward flow of their silver reserves, the Qing officials tried in vain to stop British merchants from selling the drug. The Qing government’s futile attempt to stop the opium trade lit the fuse of China’s conflict with Britain that would last for over half a century.

The British government’s lack of knowledge of the Qing Dynasty’s culture (particularly the tribute system) worsened the conflict. In 1792, Britain sent Lord Macartney as an envoy to China to negotiate a trade treaty with the emperor. Foreign ships were confined to the waters off of Guangzhou, so the British government wanted the emperor to open several ports for them. The British government also wanted the emperor to grant its nation’s merchants access to areas where tea and silk were commonly produced. Lord Macartney was tasked to request the emperor’s permission in allowing a British minister to stay at the imperial court and oversee British interests in China.

As was the custom, Macartney brought lavish gifts for the emperor. However, the embassy failed when the British envoy refused to perform the kowtow when they met. This breach in court etiquette offended Qianlong emperor who later remarked disdainfully that China was self-sufficient and had no need for Britain’s products. Macartney’s requests were denied by the emperor, and he was forced to leave China soon after.

Lord William Napier was sent to China with goal of expanding British trade.

After breaking East India Company’s monopoly in Asia in 1834, the British government sent Lord Napier to China as Superintendent of Trade in Guangzhou. He broke protocol when he bypassed the hong merchants who served as brokers and requested a meeting with Qing officials upon his arrival. For the Qing officials, this was unacceptable as any nation which requested trade with China was essentially nothing more a than tributary and was not treated as a coequal. They refused to meet with Lord Napier who was also humiliated by the rejection.

In Beijing, scholars of the Spring Purification circle and government officials were debating the best course to combat the flow of opium into the Chinese market. Officials suggested the legalization of the substance so it could be taxed by the government. The scholars, however, opposed this suggestion for moral reasons. In 1838, Daoguang emperor appointed Lin Zexu as a special commissioner to combat the drug problem. The commissioner traveled to Guangzhou in the same year and targeted consumers and dealers alike. He enlisted the help of the local hong merchants whom he tasked to compel the foreign merchants to give up their stocks of opium.

The foreign merchants naturally refused, but Lin Zexu decided to strongarm them by having their factories barricaded and the merchants detained. The British superintendent Charles Elliott had no choice but to advise them to hand their stocks over to the Chinese authorities. They finally acquiesced when Elliott promised them compensation for the loss of their stocks. After the confiscation, Lin Zexu forced them to sign an agreement to get them to stop trading opium. Merchants who refused to comply would be sentenced to death.

Charles Elliott then sent a letter to the Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston to inform him of the situation. After lifting the detention order, the Qing authorities allowed the freed British merchants to transfer to Macau. Unfortunately, the situation only worsened when British sailors killed a local farmer. Back in 1784, a gunner of the British ship Lady Hughes was tasked to fire a gun salute while in Guangzhou. He shot two Chinese officials who died from their injuries. Chinese authorities demanded British officials to hand the gunner over to them, but the latter refused. After a long dispute, the emperor sentenced the gunner to death by strangulation. British officials had no choice but to hand him over to Chinese authorities who immediately had him executed.

Charles Elliott did not want a repeat of the Lady Hughes incident, so he refused to hand the sailors over to the authorities. Lin Zexu enlisted the help of the Portuguese authorities in Macau and asked them to boot the English out of the colony. They had no choice but to leave Macau and set up a temporary shelter at Hong Kong (Xianggang).

Meanwhile, the opium trader Dr. William Jardine had traveled to London to inform Lord Palmerston of the merchants’ situation. Jardine encouraged the foreign secretary to send a naval fleet to evacuate the merchants, as well as to reassert Britain’s “right” to trade opium in China. He was able to convince the minister to support three main goals which included the disbandment of the Cohong (guild of hong merchant-brokers) that would allow the British to deal directly with Qing officials. This forced China to compensate the British merchants for the opium stocks they lost during Lin Zexu’s crackdown.  This also compelled China to hand over one of its islands so that the British could use it as a base in East Asia

The fleet arrived off the coast of China in 1839, and immediately rescued the superintendent Charles Elliott and his companions in Hong Kong. During the greater part of 1840, Charles and his cousin Admiral George Elliott led the devastating naval attacks on China. British ships easily blockaded Guangzhou before sailing north to take Zhoushan Island off the coast of Ningbo.

This was too close for comfort to the capital. Daoguang emperor sacked Lin Zexu in frustration, and replaced him with the Viceroy of Zhili, Qishan, as chief negotiator. In January 1841, the two parties came to an agreement in the Convention of Chuanpi. Superintendent Charles Elliott represented the British side, while Qishan negotiated for the Qing. But to the emperor’s dismay, Qishan gave significant concessions to the British including the cession of Hong Kong. Despite receiving the island, the British were still unhappy with the deal. Chief negotiator and superintendent Charles Elliott was replaced with Sir Henry Pottinger when the negotiations finally broke down. Meanwhile, Elliott’s troops landed in Guangzhou and started to harass the people living in the city.

Pottinger himself was able to capture the ports of Ningbo, Zhoushan, Xiamen, and Zhapu between 1841 and 1842 in spite of the fierce resistance of the Manchu defenders. When Shanghai fell to the British navy in 1842, the emperor was forced to summon another parley. The result was the Treaty of Nanking which was signed by both parties on August 29, 1842, aboard the HMS Cornwallis. The terms of the treaty included:

  • The opening of the ports of Shanghai, Ningbo, Fuzhou, Xiamen, and Guangzhou to British trade
  • The cession of the island of Hong Kong
  • The establishment of fixed tariffs (set at 5 percent during the Treaty of Bogue)
  • The condition that Britain would no longer be a Qing tributary,  but a co-equal state
  • The abolishment of the Cohong guild of merchants

This was later supplemented by the Treaty of the Bogue in 1843. Bullied into submission, China gave Britain the most favored nation status and allowed British citizens to enjoy the benefits of extraterritoriality. Eager to take advantage of the lucrative Chinese market, France, and the United States soon entered into similar treaties in 1844. China also granted an edict of toleration to Roman Catholicism after entering into a treaty with France.

References

Photo by: “courtesy of Lord Napier and Ettrick” – Susanna Hoe; Derek Roebuck (1999). The Taking of Hong Kong: Charles and Clara Elliot in China Waters. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press. p. 18. ISBN 0700711457., Public Domain, Link

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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Ming Dynasty

The Ming Dynasty ruled China starting in 1368 after Hongwu Emperor defeated the Yuan Dynasty and drove the Mongols back into the steppes. China, during the reign of early Ming emperors, was at the zenith of its wealth and power. It was during the Ming era that China exacted tribute from countries along the coast of the Indian Ocean through an expedition fleet. However, the empire became increasingly isolated the middle of the 15th century. Rebellions and the arrival of the Manchus from the north in 1644 removed the last Ming emperor from power.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Online with World History during that time.

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The Fall of the Yuan Dynasty

In China, crises always preceded the fall of one Chinese dynasty and the rise of another, and the Mongol Yuan Dynasty was no exception. During the Mongols’ reign, the bubonic plague swept through Asia and Europe and killed millions of Han Chinese and Central Asians. Devastating droughts replaced the epidemic and soon added to the body count.

In 1344, the Yellow River flooded and soon changed its course, making the silted Grand Canal impassable. Unable to transport grain from southern China to the capital Dadu via the Grand Canal, the merchants had no choice but to transport their goods on ships that plied the coastal waters. This route, however, was infested with pirates who often seized the ships and their valuable cargoes. Since the north was already devastated by droughts, the seizure of the grain was a death blow to many of its inhabitants.

Burdened by droughts and famine, China’s starving peasants took comfort in their faith in Amitabha (Pure Land) Buddhism that was led by a monk called Cizhao (Mao Zhiyuan). Its members joined the White Lotus Society, a millenarian sect with roots which went all the back to the Northern Song period (AD 960–1127). The members of the sect hoped that bodhisattva Maitreya would soon appear and deliver them from their hopeless situation.

In his palace in Dadu, the Yuan emperor Toghon Temur was also feeling the pinch. He commissioned the minister and historian Toghto to head his major desilting project of the Yellow River outlet. Toghto enlisted the peasants and forced them to render corvée labor in this project. The work itself was hard, but what made it harder was that the peasants were unable to feed their own families as their fields also went unattended.

Rebellions and the Rise of the Ming Dynasty

The Hongwu Emperor was the first ruler of the Ming Dynasty.

Tired of the hard labor, a White Lotus member and self-proclaimed messiah named Han Shantong rallied disaffected workers behind him. They wore red turbans to show their unity and started an uprising against the Yuan authorities. The Red Turban Rebellion, however, was immediately quashed by the authorities. Han Shantong died in the process, but more Red Turban rebellions flared out all over the empire. Toghto was able to suppress the rebellion, but the Yuan defense fell apart when Toghon Temur removed him from his post. He was replaced by generals who spent most of their time quarreling among themselves than suppressing the rebellion.

The Red Turbans were divided into two factions: the northern faction led by the former Buddhist monk Zhu Yuanzhang and the southern group led by the government official Chen Youliang. Between 1361 and 1363, the two factions battled for supremacy. This conflict ended when Zhu Yuanzhang defeated Chen Youliang’s army at Poyang Lake in 1363.

After the defeat of his rival, Zhu Yuanzhang set his eyes on overthrowing the Mongol rulers in Dadu. He and his followers stormed Dadu in November 1367 and drove out Toghon Temur and the rest of the Mongol rulers. In the city of Nanjing in 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang proclaimed himself the first emperor of a new dynasty which he called the “Ming.” He then took the era name Hongwu by which he is now commonly known. He threw out the Mongol codes used by the Yuan Dynasty and readopted the long-forgotten Tang Dynasty laws. He brought back the civil service examinations and appointed talented men as government officials. The emperor forbade eunuchs from meddling in administration early in his reign. However, he made a fatal mistake when he himself appointed some talented eunuchs as envoys and auditors.

The emperor came to the throne as a result of the rebellion, so he had a lingering suspicion that he would be deposed by one too. After more than a decade of rule, he ordered a purge of thousands of government officials. He also created a secret police called the Embroidered Uniform Guard which spied on and arrested suspected rebels. Afraid that the nobles would rise up against him, he resettled them far from their lands and made them dependent on him by giving them allowances every month. Despite these cruelties, the Hongwu Emperor never forgot his Buddhist background. He curbed his own spending and ensured that China would remain at peace.

During his reign, the Ming army was able to decimate the remnants of the Yuan Dynasty. They forced the Mongols out from Shangdu and drove them deeper into the steppes. Humiliated and scattered, the remaining Mongol tribes soon formed the Oirat confederation which harassed the Chinese in the northern frontier. The Hongwu Emperor became fearful of a renewed Mongol invasion, so he ordered several garrisons to be built to keep the “barbarians” out of China.

Yongle Emperor’s Wars and Zheng He’s Voyages

Hongwu Emperor appointed his grandson (his eldest son had died before him) as his heir before his death in 1398. His fourth son, Zhu Di, opposed this decision and started a civil war that would last for three years. He had his nephew murdered in 1402, and soon took the throne as Yongle Emperor. He also purged real or perceived enemies, including his nephew’s remaining supporters.

Yongle Emperor was desperate to legitimize his rule since he knew that the people considered him a usurper. In 1405, he launched an expedition across the Indian Ocean to exact tributes from foreign kings and boost his legitimacy. The emperor appointed an influential eunuch named Zheng He as admiral of the voyage. He then had Zheng He outfitted with a fleet made up of 317 ships manned by more or less 27,000 personnel. Zheng He and this magnificent flotilla visited the ports of India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Hormuz, and even ventured as far as the eastern coast of Africa between 1405 and 1433. These diplomatic missions and geographic explorations brought back not just information, but also exotic goods and animals which included a giraffe and some zebras.

In China, however, Yongle Emperor’s rule was anything but peaceful. While fighting the Oirat confederation, he also embarked on a quest to depose a fellow usurper in the southern kingdom of Đại Việt. The kingdom was ruled by the Hồ dynasty that had wrested the throne from the Trần dynasty between 1399 and 1400. Yongle then led his army to Đại Việt and deposed king Hồ Hán Thương. Instead of letting the Trần heir regain his position upon the removal of the Hồ ruler in 1407, the emperor turned the kingdom into a vassal state and sent a Chinese administrator to govern in his place.

The emperor had the Great Wall repaired during his reign, and pushed the Ming’s northern border past the Jurchen heartland and into the Amur river. He left Nanjing and lived in the city of Dadu. He then proclaimed it as the Ming capital and renamed it Beijing. Unlike his father, however, Yongle Emperor spent lavishly during his reign. He built a magnificent palace complex for himself and his family in Beijing which he called Forbidden City.

The naval expeditions and the palace complexes he built had been expensive, but the long war against Đại Việt guerillas drained his treasury. This conflict cost him not only money but also thousands of Ming soldiers who were sent south to counter the rebels led by a Trần nobleman named Lê Lợi and General Nguyễn Trãi. The war in Đại Việt against the Ming overlord was still ongoing when Yongle Emperor died in 1424.

The Isolated Empire

Hongxi Emperor acceded throne when his father died. His reign was cut short in the following year, and he was succeeded by his son, Xuande Emperor. Ming treasury was drained by the time of Xuande’s succession, so he was forced to withdraw his troops from the troublesome and costly conflict in Đại Việt. He also called off Zheng He’s naval expeditions in 1433, but the admiral was unable to return to China as he died at sea. Xuande, with some prodding from Confucian scholars who disliked foreign contact, then ordered the destruction of the entire naval fleet and forbade any more expensive expeditions. What little trade that came through in China was considered by Ming rulers as tributes. The restrictions on trade, however, backfired when it gave rise to Japanese (wokou) and Chinese piracy.

Xuande Emperor died in 1435 and was succeeded by his young son Zhengtong. Regents initially ruled on his behalf, but the timid emperor took the reins of power upon his coming of age. He was captured by the Oirat leader Esen Tayisi during a botched military campaign in the north but was set free when the Ming refused to ransom him. Upon Zhengtong’s return to Beijing, he found, to his dismay, that he had been deposed in favor of his brother, the Jingtai Emperor. Although he had a quick interlude as emperor once again, he remained under house arrest for the rest of his life.

The Ming emperors that follow Zhengtong were either unremarkable, incompetent, or indifferent. China remained isolated, protected from foreign incursions by the sea ban and its Great Wall. Gone were the days of voyages, tributes, and expansion plans. As years went by, administration steadily broke down as the imperial court became bogged down by squabbling eunuchs and scholar-officials.

China would not remain in its self-imposed isolation for long as the arrival of the Jurchen people and the Europeans—for better or for worse—would open it to the world during the 16th century.

References:

Picture by: User Hardouin on en.wikipedia[1], 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.

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

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Michael I, First Tsar of the Romanov Dynasty 1613

In 1613, a distant relative of the last Rurikid Tsars named Michael (born July 22, 1596) became the first Tsar of the Romanov Dynasty. In spite of his youth and inadequate education, the Tsar was able to usher in a period of stability with the help of his supporters. He was able to secure temporary peace with Sweden and Poland during his reign, as well as secure the title of tsar for his heirs by getting rid of pretenders to the throne.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Online with World History during that time.

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Rurik, the Rus’, and the Long Road to the Romanovs

Around AD 862, a Varangian warrior named Rurik became the ruler of Eastern Slavs and the Finno-Ugrian tribes who lived near them. According to the Russian Primary Chronicle, Rurik came from a group of people called the Rus’. The Rus’ chieftain then commanded two other warriors named Askold and Dir to go to Constantinople. But the two men came upon the town of Kiev as they passed the Dnieper River on their way to Constantinople. They decided to stop by, but eventually settled in Kiev along with other Varangians. Askold and Dir later became the leaders of the town of Kiev.

Rurik died sometime later, and soon a representative named Oleg brought the former chieftain’s son named Igor with him to Kiev. He claimed the town for Igor and immediately had Askold and Dir executed. From then on, Rurik’s dynasty ruled the Kievan Rus’. Igor, Prince of Kiev, soon rose to some sort of prominence during his reign that he was able to secure a treaty with Constantinople. He died at the hands of the Drevlians, but was avenged by his warrior-queen Olga.

Olga ruled as her son’s regent after her husband’s death. She visited Constantinople during her reign and was warmly welcomed by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus. She converted to Christianity before she returned to Kiev and soon convinced her people to adopt the same religion. Her son, Svyatoslav, came of age in AD 963 and started to rule his people in his own right. He cast aside his mother’s religion and spent his reign subduing the neighboring peoples just like a proper Rus’ warrior. The Rurikid Dynasty ruled Kiev until AD 1125, but the kingdom soon broke apart into different principalities.

The Rus’ people were still fragmented when the Mongols swept into Europe during the early 13th century. After decimating the Rus’ army, the Mongols chased the survivors as far as Dnieper River and turned back when their leader felt that they had accomplished their mission. The Rus’ were given a brief reprieve when Genghis Khan died but they were once again overwhelmed when the Mongol horde returned around 1240.

The Mongol horde was led this time by one of Khan’s grandson Batu and the equally ferocious general Subotai. They took Moscow and Kiev, killing people and pillaging cities as they went. By the time worst of the carnage was over, the only independent Rus’ principality left was Novgorod. But even during the overlordship of Batu Khan and his descendants, the Grand Princes of Moscow still retained their dominance over all other Rus’ principalities.

The greater Mongol Empire crumbled in the middle of the 14th century and with it came the gradual disappearance of the Golden Horde’s power. The Grand Prince Ivan III was able to overthrow what remained of the Golden Horde and soon integrated the other Russian duchies into one state. His grandson, the famously ill-tempered Ivan IV (the Terrible), went on to become Russia’s first tsar in 1547. In a fit of rage, the tsar killed his own son and heir, Ivan Ivanovich, and left the empire to his younger son upon his death.

Ivan’s younger son Feodor I died childless in 1598 and became the last of the Rurikid Dynasty to rule Russia. His death plunged the empire into a succession crisis and ushered in the Times of Troubles (1598-1610). Five different men held the Russia’s throne until Michael, a 16-year old boy from the Romanov family, was crowned in 1613.

Michael Romanov

Life During the Times of Troubles

Michael I was the first Russian Tsar from the house of Romanov.

Michael (Mikhail) Feodorovich Romanov (born July 22, 1596) was the son of Feodor Nikitich Romanov by his wife Ksenia Shestova. His father was a decorated soldier and a nephew of Anastasia Romanovna, the first wife of Ivan IV (the Terrible). He became a boyar in 1583, and soon became a candidate to succeed upon the tsar’s death in 1598. But he and his family were driven out of Moscow as Russia descended into the Times of Troubles.

Both Feodor and Ksenia were forced to divorce, enter the monastic life, and go to distant monasteries separately. Feodor took the name Philaret, while the nun Ksenia took the name Martha. Their son Michael was then sent to Belozersk to be cared for by a relative. By 1605, a monk named Dmitry was crowned tsar of Russia. Backed by Poles and Cossacks, this False Dmitry soon recalled Philaret and appointed him the Metropolitan of Rostov. It was not long before Martha and Michael also joined Philaret at Rostov.

False Dmitry became unpopular when he married a Polish woman named Marina Mniszech. The pretender was killed soon after, but his wife and son were able to escape before the assassins caught up with them. Philaret, meanwhile, rose through the ranks when he was appointed patriarch during the reign of False Dmitry’s successor, Vasily IV. But he would not hold this position for long when he led the opposition against Vasily. The offended Tsar ordered him to go back to Rostov and reunite with his family.

Vasily soon faced a threat posed by the Second False Dmitry and his wife Marina Mniszech. Swedish troops took advantage of the chaos and swooped in to take Novgorod. Polish-Lithuanian troops also arrived and occupied western Russian cities. The boyars finally had enough, and they removed Vasily through a coup. The Second False Dmitry was forced to flee south with his wife and stepson in tow.

Philaret came back to Moscow and became an ambassador to the Polish king whose troops, by then, had occupied the Kremlin. The Patriarch initially wanted his son to become tsar but knew that the state needed an adult who could unite the Russians. He then agreed to support the accession of a Polish prince as tsar and traveled to Smolensk to negotiate the terms.

But the negotiations stalled when the Catholic prince refused to convert to Orthodoxy which was one of the conditions specified by the Russians for him to rule. The Poles seized and imprisoned the Patriarch, while Russia remained in chaos as Sweden launched a full-scale invasion. The Russians were able to drive the Swedes out, but they knew that their independence would always be threatened as long as they did not have a leader.

The First Romanov Tsar   

By 1613, the worst of the Times of Troubles had died down, so the Zemskii Sobor (Assembly of the Land) decided that it was time to rebuild the state with a new tsar at the helm. One name that stood out among the candidates was Michael’s, one of the distant relatives of the last Rurikid tsar. Because of his youth, Michael did not take part in the Times of Troubles, so was not tainted in their eyes. The boyars also thought that the 16-year old would be biddable enough so they could use him for their own gain.

On February 7, 1613, the representatives of the assembly elected Michael as the new tsar. They soon dispatched a delegation to summon him from the Ipatiev Monastery in Kostroma. Martha initially refused to let her son go to Moscow with the delegation as the Troubles was still fresh on her mind. Despite the mother’s reluctance, she was eventually convinced by the delegates that the tsardom was her son’s destiny.

Michael was crowned on July 21, 1613, at the Cathedral of Dormition. The inadequate education he received made him timid and easily swayed by his mother, her family, and the advisers who surrounded him. Despite his lackluster performance, Michael was able to score a couple of diplomatic victories early in his reign, namely the Treaty of Stolbova with Sweden (1617) and the Treaty of Deulino with Poland (1618). The peace of Deulino, however, came at a cost when Russia agreed to cede Smolensk to the Poles.

Michael’s father Philaret had been exiled to Poland during the Troubles, but he was immediately released when the Treaty of Deulino was signed. Philaret came home and resumed his role as Patriarch of Moscow in the same year. As Patriarch, he was essentially one of the most powerful men in the kingdom. Michael’s timid personality, however, ensured that his father played a larger role in ruling Russiaa tsar in a patriarch’s robes.

The Romanov family secured Michael’s path by getting rid of some holdovers from the Times of Troubles. These persons included the Second False Dmitry’s wife Marina Mniszech, her three-year old son, and the Cossack leader Ivan Zarutsky. False Dmitry’s son and Zarutsky were executed, while Marina Mniszech became a prisoner for the rest of her life.

Michael largely refrained from purging the state’s enemies. Some of the boyars who took part in the Troubles retained their influence, but Cossack patriots who supported the Romanov family were often sidelined. His reign was marked by relative stability, but the same could not be said of the early years of his personal life. His mother and her family became influential and soon meddled with his choice of a bride. Michael’s first wife died in 1625, and rumors soon swirled that she was poisoned by her mother-in-law. He married his second wife Eudoxia Streshneva in 1626 without much interference from his mother who soon fell from grace.

Michael and his wife had ten children, but only four survived to adulthood. These children included Irina (1627), Alexei (1629), Anna (1630), and Tatiana (1636). Michael reigned for 32 years and died on July 13, 1645.

References:

Picture by: Anonymoushttp://www.orthodoxworld.ru/russian/istoria/book/2/12/index.htm, Public Domain, Link

 Montefiore, Simon Sebag. The Romanovs: 1613-1918. New York, Vintage Books, 2017.

Nestor the Chronicler. The Russian Primary Chronicle. Edited by Samuel H. Cross and Olgerd P. Sherbowitz-Wetzor, Cambridge, MA, The Mediaeval Academy of America, 1953.

Perrie, Maureen, ed. The Cambridge History of Russia. Vol. 1. The Cambridge History of Russia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521812276.

    

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The Arrival of Jesuits and the Resurgence of Christianity in China 1720

Christianity first appeared in China in AD 635, but imperial hostility to the religion forced it to disappear around the tenth century. Christianity only experienced a resurgence after the arrival of the Jesuits in the middle of the 15th century and their efforts to reintroduce the religion to the Chinese.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Online with World History during that time.

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The Foundation of the Jesuits

In 1534, the Spanish priest, mystic, and theologian Ignatius de Loyola founded a religious order. This religious order would later be called the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). His friends Francis Xavier, Nicolas de Bobadilla, Diego Laynez, Peter Faber, Simon Rodriguez, and Alfonso Salmeron were among the original founders of the Jesuits. The Vatican officially recognized the Jesuits in 1540 through the papal bull Regimini militantis ecclesiae.

The number of priests that joined the Jesuits grew rapidly between 1540 and 1544. These men quickly gained a reputation for discipline because of their leader’s military past. They were also known for their commitment and obedience to the Catholic Church during a time when it was threatened by the Reformation. The energetic Jesuits refused to stay inside their monasteries and spend their days in prayer and contemplation. Instead, they went out and ministered to society. It was not long before the brothers were establishing schools, orphanages, and shelters for prostitutes throughout Europe.

The Jesuits in Asia and the Resurgence of Christianity in China

A page from the Portuguese-Chinese dictionary created by Ruggieri, Ricci, and Fernandez.

In 1539, Pope Paul III appointed the Jesuit co-founder Francis Xavier as a papal legate and missionary to India. He arrived in Portuguese-held Goa three years later and successfully evangelized in the area. Thousands of Indians converted to Christianity, but the Jesuit missionary did not stay for long. He traveled to Japan in 1549 and established a Christian community there. The rapid growth of Christianity alarmed some Buddhist monks who then drove the Jesuit missionary out of the kingdom.

Francis Xavier briefly visited China, but soon returned to Goa to continue his missionary work. He tried to re-enter China in 1552, but his request was refused by the authorities. He died in Shangchuan Island in Guangdong in the same year and his body was taken back to Goa where it was buried.

The Italian Alessandro Valignano was one of the first Jesuits to follow Francis Xavier’s path in Asia. He arrived in Goa in 1574 and soon developed a way to evangelize the natives without much interference with local customs. He traveled to Portuguese-held Macau but found that Christianity was unable to gain a foothold there because not one missionary knew the language. The Chinese were also unimpressed with “bearded round-eyes” (as they called the Europeans) and even forbade them from entering Guangzhou.  

Valignano wrote to the head of the Jesuits in Goa and asked him to send a priest who had an aptitude for language. His prayers were answered when the head of Jesuit mission in Goa sent a fellow Italian priest named Michele Ruggieri to Macau in 1579. Valignano left for Japan, but Ruggieri stayed in Macau where he learned to read and write the Chinese language. The task that Ruggieri faced was enormous, so he appealed to Valignano to send the priest Matteo Ricci as a companion and fellow student. Valignano—then in Japan —sent the message to the Jesuit mission in Goa. The Jesuits then sent Matteo Ricci to join Ruggieri in Macau in 1580.

The duo left Macau and ventured to nearby Guangzhou and Zhaoqing in an attempt to establish a mission further inland. They befriended locals and authorities but was initially met with resistance when they tried to establish a mission. They finally made a breakthrough in 1582 when they received permission to establish a mission in Zhaoqing. Between 1583 and 1588, the duo (together with the Jesuit layman Sebastiano Fernandez) were also able to compile the first Portuguese-Chinese dictionary.

Father Ruggieri mapped out towns and cities in Guangzhou and Zhaoqing during his free time. Matteo Ricci, on the other hand, embarked on the task of translating European texts to Chinese. Ricci translated Latin catechisms to Chinese and Confucian classics to Latin. Ruggieri left China in 1588 to ask the Vatican to send an embassy to Beijing, but he died in Italy without seeing his dream come true.

Ricci stayed behind in China but was expelled from Zhaoqing in 1589. He transferred to Shaoguan, and then relocated to Nanjing and Nanchang in 1595. Valignano, meanwhile, appointed him Major Superior of Jesuits in China. He traveled to Beijing in 1598, but it was not until 1601 that Ricci gained entrance to Wanli Emperor’s court in the Forbidden City. The emperor was unimpressed at first, but Ricci persisted. He allowed the Jesuit priest to build the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Beijing four years later. He died in Beijing in 1610 and was given full honors by Wanli Emperor during his funeral.

Wanli Emperor died in 1620, but the Ming and Qing emperors who succeeded him were hostile to Christianity. Jesuit activities in China were suppressed, while missionaries were sent back to Macau. Christianity was considered a “dangerous doctrine” and soon, Chinese Christians faced persecution. By the middle of the 1600s and despite the persecutions, the Christian population in China reached more than 300,000 people.

References:

Picture by: Matteo Ricci, Michele Ruggieri, Sebastian Fernandez (Chinese characters) – Portuguese-Chinese dictionary: manuscript by Matteo Ricci and Michele Ruggieri. Published as part of a book: http://books.google.com.au/books?id=A7h5YbM5M60C , p.223, Public Domain, Link

Barthel, Manfred. The Jesuits History and Legend of the Society of Jesus. Translated by Mark Howson. New York, NY: William Morrow, 1987.

Martin, Malachi. The Jesuits: The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Roman Catholic Church. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988.

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First Continental Congress 1774

The First Continental Congress was held between September 5th and October 26th, 1774, in response to the Coercive Acts (Intolerable Acts) imposed by the British Parliament. Delegates from twelve colonies (with the exception of Georgia) traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and attended the Congress held in Carpenters’ Hall. After nearly two months of deliberation, the delegates issued a unified Declaration of Colonial Rights and Grievances. They also agreed to condemn the Coercive Acts and boycott British goods.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Online with World History during that time.

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The Boston Tea Party and the Coercive (Intolerable) Acts

In 1766, the British Parliament finally repealed the Stamp Act. It was replaced by the Townshend Acts in the following year which levied taxes on goods such as paint, lead, paper, glass, and tea. To the Parliament’s dismay, the Townshend Acts proved just as unpopular. The colonists responded by boycotting British goods. Riots also engulfed Boston during that time. The authorities tried to suppress the riots by sending additional British troops to Boston in 1768. It seemed like a good idea at first, but the presence of troops only intensified Bostonian resentment.

The unrest in Boston was fueled by colonial propagandists (such as Samuel Adams) and continued as the years passed. The hostilities soon came to a head on March 5, 1770, when a mob of Bostonians attacked the British soldiers assigned to guard the Customs House. Five people died in the clash that ensued, causing even more anger and resentment. In April 1770, the British Parliament led by Lord North abolished all the taxes under the Townshend Acts with the exception of the duties imposed on tea. Despite this concession, relations between Britain and the colonists remained strained.

The Tea Act, the Boston Tea Party, and its Implications

In May 1773, the British Parliament passed the Tea Act. This law granted a loan of 1,500,000 pounds to East India Company and the exclusive right to sell tea in the colonies. In exchange, the East India Company would relinquish the responsibility of appointing their governors to the Parliament. Shipments of tea would not pass through Britain but would go straight to the colonies where the merchandise would eventually be taxed. The Parliament’s goals were to save the finances of the East India Company, as well as lower the taxes on tea in America. For the Americans, however, the Tea Act was just the Crown’s way to control the colonies’ trade.

Protests greeted the arrival of ships loaded with British goods including tea. Some protesters prevented the vessels from docking on several ports of the colonies. Members of the Sons of Liberty prevented workers from unloading the merchandise from the ships. Things came to a head on the night of December 16, 1773, when a group of Bostonians–disguised as Native Americans–boarded the ships docked on the port of the town. They took 350 crates of tea from the hold of the ship, hoisted them on deck, and threw the crates into the sea. The shipment was valued at almost 10,000 pounds. News of this protest (later called the Boston Tea Party) spread to other colonies and served as a warning for ship owners to avoid American ports in the meantime.

 The British Parliament responded to the Boston Tea Party by introducing the punitive Coercive Acts. The colonists, however, called these laws the “Intolerable Acts.”  These Acts included the following:

Boston Port Act – stipulated that unless the Bostonians pay for the damages which resulted from the Boston Tea Party, their ports would remain closed for operations.

Massachusetts Government Act – this law overhauled the colony’s charter and granted authority to a governor appointed by Parliament. Election of Massachusetts officials was suspended and the right to appoint them was reserved to the governor.

Administration of Justice Act – stipulated that any government official violating any law in the colonies should be sent to London or to other colonies for trial. Bostonians called it the “Murder Act.”

Quartering Act – decreed that British troops should be quartered or housed in the homes of private citizens.

The British Parliament also passed the Quebec Act to punish the colonists further.

Quebec Act – Parliament allowed the formation of government in Quebec more than a decade after the British took the province from the French. The Act also extended the southern border of Quebec to the Ohio River and as far west as the Mississippi River. This law angered the colonists who claimed the area.

The First Continental Congress 1774

The First Continental Congress agreed to condemn the Coercive Acts and boycott British goods.

King George III and the British Parliament issued the Coercive Acts in hopes that it would isolate Massachusetts into submission. The laws, however, accomplished the opposite. In sympathy, the residents of South Carolina and Virginia sent grain and other foodstuffs north. The people of Connecticut also saved the colony from hunger by sending sheep.

The British authorities hoped that the other colonies would fall in line after issuing the punishment to Massachusetts, but it did not go as they hoped. The Massachusetts legislature sent a circular to other colonies asking them to send delegates for the First Continental Congress. New York agreed to hold a Congress so the colonies could organize a unified boycott, as well as formulate a response to the punitive laws meted out to Massachusetts.

George Washington and the burgesses of Virginia declared June 1 (the day on which the Coercive Acts would take effect) as a day of fasting and prayer as a way to show their solidarity with Massachusetts. Virginia’s governor later dissolved the assembly, but this did not stop the burgesses from planning a Continental Congress. On August 1, 1774, the Virginia House of Burgesses decided to send several delegates (including George Washington) to the First Continental Congress.

The First Continental Congress was held on the 5th of September, 1744 in the Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia. Among the colonies, Georgia alone did not send delegates because it relied on British help in fighting its border wars with the Native Americans. The delegates themselves were divided between the more radical representatives who pushed for complete independence from Britain and the moderates wanted to remain with the motherland but wanted to defend their rights as British citizens. John Jay, John Adams, and George Washington were among the prominent men who attended the Congress.

After more than a month of debates, the First Continental Congress finally issued its Declaration of Colonial Rights and Grievances. In the Declaration, the colonists issued a defiance of the Parliament’s power to impose taxes on the colonies without representation. The delegates also condemned the Administration of Justice Act and the Massachusetts Government Act. They chose Peyton Randolph as the president of the First Continental Congress.

The Declaration included a list of the colonists’ grievances against the British Parliament, as well as the laws it had passed since the end of the French and Indian War. The delegates stated their intention to form a Continental Association, as well as boycott British goods after December 1774. They agreed to ban the export of American goods to Britain in the fall of 1775. The delay would give enough time for the Virginia planters to sell their tobacco before the deadline on September 10, 1775. The delegates agreed to hold the Second Continental Congress in May of the following year.

References:

Picture by: USCapitolThe First Continental Congress, 1774, Public Domain, Link

Allison, R. J. The American Revolution: A Concise History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Fleming, Thomas. Liberty!: The American Revolution. New York: Penguin, 1997.

Raphael, Ray. The First American Revolution: Before Lexington and Concord. New York: New Press, 2002

Schmittroth, Linda. American Revolution. Detroit: U.X.L., 2000.

 

 

 

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The Story of Tambuka 1728

The Story or Epic of Tambuka (Utendi/Utenzi wa Tambuka) is a Swahili epic poem written by Bwana Mwengo wa Athman in 1728. Also known as Chuo Cha Herkali (the Book of Herakleios or the Battle of Tabuk), the utendi tells of the victories of Prophet Muhammad’s armies against the Byzantine army in Tabuk during the rise of Islam. The text was written in Arabic script, but the author used the Swahili dialect kiAmu in writing the poem. The text contains a few expressions from other northern Swahili dialects, such as the kiUnguja and kiTikuu (kiGunya).  This event is recorded on the Bible Timeline Online with World History during that time.

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The Utendi wa Tambuka was written with four vipande (lines) within each stanza. Each kipande (line) has eight mizani (syllables). Each end of the first three lines should rhyme, while the last syllable of the fourth line always in “a.” It also follows that this last syllable is always repeated at the end of the each stanza.

Ali Ibn Abi-Talib is celebrated as one of the heros in the Epic of Tabuk.

 The manuscript begins with Prophet Muhammad’s commemoration of three Muslim soldiers who were killed in battle. It then transitions to the beginning of the poem with an account of Jibril (the angel Gabriel) paying a visit to Muhammad. The angel tells the prophet that God had commanded him and his sahabah (followers) to take Tabuk which, at that time, was held by the Byzantine Empire. It is not clear whether the Hirqal (Herakleios) referred to in the poem was the Byzantine emperor or a governor of the province of Shams (Syria).

The Prophet accepts this mission, and commissions his son-in-law Ali Ibn Abi-Talib to write the accounts of the expedition to Tabuk. Muhammad then writes a letter to the governor of Shams (or the Byzantine Emperor Herakleios) Hirqal telling him to renounce Christianity. The Shahada (the Islamic creed) follows this page, and it then transitions to the commissioning of Ibnu Omar as the bearer of the letter. It also tells of Ibnu Omar’s preparation for the trip and his delivery of the letter to the hands of the Byzantine minister at Tabuk.

The minister just shrugs the letter off and tells the messenger that renouncing Christianity is out of the question. The narrative then skips to the time when Hirqal receives the said letter in his residence in Damascus. He refuses to convert to Islam, and soon the two sides are preparing to go to war. It is followed by a narrative of the battles, and Hirqal’s imprisonment after the Byzantine side was allegedly defeated.

Muhammad’s followers compel Hirqal, his minister, and his friends to convert to Islam, but the offer is met with refusal. The prophet then orders the execution of the Byzantine governor and his companions. The utendi celebrates Imam Ali as one of the heroes of the narrative, along with the Prophet’s companions, Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab.

References:

Picture by: Hakob Hovnatanyanhttp://www.paymanonline.com/article.aspx?id=E030AEC0-8F65-4A91-91A8-385F52EDA20E, Public Domain, Link

Green, Roland, and Stephen Cushman, eds. The Princeton Handbook of World Poetries. Princeton University Press, 2016.

“Item Record (Utenzi wa Hirqal).” Swahili Manuscripts Database. Accessed August 22, 2017. http://mercury.soas.ac.uk/perl/Project/showSwahiliItem.pl?ref=MS 45022a.











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New Netherland Taken by the English and the Creation of New York 1664

Starting in 1613, Dutch settlements in New Netherland appeared alongside French and English colonies in the northeastern portion of North America. The Dutch, French, and English settlers often engaged in trade, but rivalry and hostilities occasionally flared up between them.  The Dutch dominance in New Netherland finally ended when it was taken by the English for James, the Duke of York, in 1664.  This event is recorded on the Bible Timeline Online with World History during that time.

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The Dutch in New Netherland

In 1613, Dutch traders established New Amsterdam on the southern tip of the island of Manhattan. Like their French counterparts in Canada, the Dutch traders’ main source of income was the beaver pelt trade with the Native Americans. With the Iroquois as allies, the Dutch fur trade soon expanded into the areas between the Hudson, Connecticut, and Delaware Rivers.

The Dutch colony and their outposts were wedged between two powerful rivals. The English held most of the northeastern seaboard with colonies extending from the coast of the Massachusetts Bay to Cape Cod. The London Company of Virginia was further south, but it was quickly prospering due to the tobacco plantations throughout the colony.

The French fur traders, meanwhile, were confined to their outposts along the banks of the St. Lawrence River. However, their alliance with the Huron people and their entrepreneurial spirit strengthened their foothold in the eastern portion of modern Canada. They were outnumbered by the English settlers, but these pioneers still outpaced their Dutch counterparts.

In 1620, the representatives of the Virginia Company came together and discussed the existence of New Amsterdam. They commissioned the explorer Thomas Dermer to travel north and meet with the Dutch traders to assert their rights to the colony. Dermer also claimed the whole island of Manhattan and the Hudson River area for the English.

News of their claim to New Amsterdam reached England in 1621, so King James I decided to strengthen it by granting the land between the 40th and 48th parallels to the Council for New England. The English ambassador in The Hague promptly told the Dutch authorities to compel their traders to leave New Amsterdam because they were staying there illegally.

The claims and the land grants had no effect on the Dutch. In the same year, the authorities granted a charter to the Dutch West India Company and gave it the right to appoint its own governor in New Amsterdam. The company also received the right to make treaties with the natives, as well as create its own military and build garrisons.

The Dutch traders also established trade outposts along the banks of the Connecticut River in 1623 (Hartford) and settled Walloon immigrants in Fort Orange (Albany) in 1624. The Dutch also built outposts near modern Philadelphia in the south. England, meanwhile, had its hands tied with wars with France and Spain, so its claim to the colony was momentarily set aside.

In 1626, governor Peter Minuit of the Dutch West India Company bought the island of Manhattan from the Lenape people. Although there were still few settlers, the Dutch leaders continued to fortify the city as the years passed. Their fur trade prospered when the Company forged an alliance with the Mohawk people that dominated the Hudson River area. Despite England’s claims to New Netherland, the Dutch—ever practical—did not hesitate to trade with their English counterparts.

New Amsterdam, pictured here in 1664, served as the seat of colonial government in New Netherland.

Their numbers, however, continued to lag behind the English settlers. To encourage emigrants, the Dutch government across the Atlantic issued the Privilege and Exemption for their citizens in 1629. Those who volunteered to go to America would be granted land immediately and be allowed to trade with the English and the French. Dutch emigrants sailed to America and settled in what is now Hoboken and Staten Island.

The Dutch finished the Huys de Hoop outpost (present-day Hartford) in Connecticut in 1633. This outpost was unfortunately wedged between two English settlements that were established in the same year. The English settlers also controlled the mouth of the Connecticut River, which cut off the Dutch outpost in Hartford from New Amsterdam. Trade still continued between the English and the Dutch despite the resentment that simmered beneath the surface. The two groups went beyond the fur trade and even transitioned to agricultural products.

In 1639, the English became more aggressive in taking territories from the Dutch. They attempted to take over Fort Nassau but were repelled. Additional emigrants flowed into New Netherland when the Dutch West India company relaxed trade regulations and provided incentives for emigrants. Huguenots, Walloons, Englishmen, Jews, and Native Americans all flocked to New Amsterdam, which soon gained a reputation as a cosmopolitan city.

Despite the incentives, most of the emigrants were interested in trade rather than cultivating the land, so its population still lagged behind the English colonies. Large groups of English emigrants also settled in New Netherland, and their number alarmed Governor William Kieft. He bought the land owned by Native Americans near present-day Greenwich and forced the English settlers who lived there to acknowledge Dutch authority.

The relationship between the Dutch and the Native Americans became complicated as the years passed. The Mohawk and the Dutch formed an alliance based on trade but left out the Algonquian who lived among them. Murders and retaliatory killings between the three groups flared up over the years which left the Dutch with fewer allies in the area.

New Amsterdam continued to be a melting pot of Dutch, French, English, and Native American peoples. The colony’s diverse population was both its strength (because of revenue) and its weakness (lack of loyalty from non-Dutch settlers). The Dutch colonists’ rivalry with the French over beaver pelt and with the English over land also intensified over the years.

By then, there were nearly 30,000 English settlers living in the colonies from Maine to Virginia. These colonies became increasingly independent as England became engulfed in conflict during the brief disappearance of the House of Stuart and the reign of Oliver Cromwell. In 1651, the English Parliament enacted the Navigations Acts which prohibited English merchants from buying New World products in Zeeland and Holland. The English navy led by Admiral Robert Blake also challenged the Dutch domination in the Caribbean.

From New Netherland to New York

Back in New Netherland, the Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant had whipped the rough-and-tumble colony into shape. The Dutch territory spanned from some parts of the Connecticut River and Delaware Bay in the south. The Company also controlled the greater part of the Hudson River area up to Fort Orange in present-day Albany. The directors of Dutch West India Company still controlled the fur trade through their partnership with the Iroquois but started to relax the rules on the English settlers who sold tobacco in their territory.

The House of Stuart, meanwhile, had been restored to the English throne in 1660. Charles II summoned a Council of Plantations in 1663 to discuss possible actions to drive the Dutch colonists out of New Amsterdam. In early 1664, Charles granted Delaware, Connecticut, and New Netherland to his brother, James, the Duke of York. He then sent his adviser Captain John Scott to stake England’s claim in New Netherland.

The English colonies were also busy in asserting themselves. While England was grappling with the Restoration, the English colonists in Connecticut had claimed Westchester County and nearby Long Island. Governor Peter Stuyvesant knew that the Dutch were outnumbered and poorly-equipped to fight the more powerful English. He also realized that he would not receive any help from the Dutch authorities across the Atlantic, so he was prepared to hand the colony over to the English.

Captain John Scott arrived on Long Island in 1663 and started negotiations with Stuyvesant and John Winthrop (leader of Connecticut colony) immediately. Scott’s reputation as a swindler, however, did not help in the negotiations and Winthrop decided to imprison Charles’ commissioner. The Duke of York then sent his Groom of the Chamber, Richard Nicolls, to assert his claim and appointed him appointed him as governor of the new territory.

Nicolls left England on May 25, 1664, and arrived with his fleet in August of the same year. Governor Stuyvesant gave New Amsterdam up to Nicolls without any bloodshed on September 8, 1664. Nicolls, for his part, rewarded the Dutch for readily handing the colony over to him by allowing them to remain in Manhattan. He also allowed Dutch ships to travel freely to and from the Netherlands and waived Cromwell’s Navigations Acts. The handover was not entirely without bloodshed as the Dutch defenders of Fort Orange and Fort Casimir fought the English before surrendering the garrisons.

References:

Picture by: Johannes Vingboons – Geheugen van Nederland (Memory of The Netherlands), Selections from the Map Collections http://international.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?intldl/awkbbib:@field(DOCID+@lit(awkb012367)), Public Domain, Link
Rich, E.E. The New Cambridge Modern History: The Ascendancy of France, 1648-1688. Edited by F. L. Carsten. Vol. 5. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971.
Shepherd, William R. The Story of New Amsterdam. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International – Books on Demand, 1917.

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Bible Timeline As a Gift

The darling Ashley (we don’t know her but we think she’s adorable) is not showing our Bible World History Timeline but we still like her video.

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John the Baptist in the Bible, Biography

John the Baptist was the last prophet in the Bible who spoke about the coming Messiah. He was also a preacher who baptized people and denounced their sins. Jesus Christ was John’s cousin, and John had been born some years before he was conceived.

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Elizabeth and Zechariah, Parents of John the Baptist

According to the Bible, the birth of John the Baptist happened about six months before Jesus was born which is where it appears on the Bible Timeline online. He was born to a temple priest named Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth. Both of them were descendants from the priestly line of Aaron. Elizabeth had been barren for many years and one day while Zechariah was performing his temple duties the angel Gabriel appeared to him and told him that he was going to have a son named John. Gabriel also told Zechariah that John was going to be filled with the Holy Spirit and that he was going to turn many people from sin by pronouncing the coming Messiah.

Zechariah then questioned Gabriel about what he said because Elizabeth and he were old. Gabriel then took away his ability to speak and told him that he would be able to talk again after John was born. During Elizabeth’s pregnancy Mary (Elizabeth’s cousin) the mother of Jesus had visited her after Gabriel told her that she was going to give a supernatural birth to Jesus. She realized that she was going to birth Jesus sometime after John was born.

John_the_Baptist_Wilderness
‘John the Baptist, by Andrea del Sarto, 1528.’

Background of John the Baptist 

Once John was born, he was raised under the teachings of his father Zechariah. He learned about the Torah, Talmud and other important Jewish Holy Books and scripture. John was probably being groomed for the priesthood like his father, but the Spirit of God had led John out into the wilderness to live as a wild man who learned how to eat off of the land. The Bible claims that he had eaten locust and wild honey as a part of his daily diet and that his clothing was manufactured from camel hair. John’s life is characterized as a life of a rugged individual who lived in the wilderness preaching the word of God.

Preaching in the Wilderness

John the Baptist earned his name by baptizing many people from their sins. He also preached the concept of repentance or turning away from their evil deeds. John’s fame went out far and wide, and many people came to hear his message and to be baptized. When a person is baptized, they are submerged underneath a body of water and then taken back out as part of a symbolic process that shows a person has received new life in Jesus Christ. John’s fame also caused some of the local people within Judea to follow him as disciples. Jesus made an appearance before John and was baptized by him though John had initially refused. John was telling the people about Jesus because he knew that he was the Son of God. John had also confronted many of the Jewish religious leaders who were Pharisees and Sadducees. King Herod (the ruling Judean monarch of the time) visited John one day and was denounced by him for marrying his brother’s wife. King Herod ultimately had John imprisoned for speaking out against him in public.

john_the_Baptist
‘Puvis de Chavannes, The Beheading of St John the Baptist, c. 1869’

Speaking out Against Herod John the Baptist eventually met his death while in prison. King Herod was having a birthday party and during this event his daughter had danced for the guests and it pleased everyone in attendance. King Herod told her that she could have anything that she desired because she danced so well. The young lady told the king that she wanted the head of John the Baptist on a platter after she listened to the advice of her mother. King Herod was upset because he liked to listen to John preach, and he knew that John’s death could cause serious problems with the people of Judea. However, he didn’t want to go back on his word in front of his guests and ended up killing John.

His Death

John’s disciples had taken away his body after he had died and Jesus was informed. During John’s incarceration he had his disciples go to Jesus to make sure that he was the chosen Messiah. John was only human and at times doubted, especially when he was imprisoned for his beliefs. Even though this was the case John ultimately knew that Jesus was the son of God and the chosen Messiah.
John died around four years before Christ.

Biblical References:

Luke 1: 1 – 79 The story about how Zechariah and Elizabeth give birth to John the Baptist.

Matthew 4: 13 – 17 Jesus is baptized by John.

Mark 6: 14 – 29 John the Baptist confronts King Herod about his unlawful marriage and ends up dying in prison.

Matthew 14: 1 – 12 John the Baptist is killed in prison by King Herod.