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The Boxer Rebellion 1899-1901

Between 1899 and 1901, the Boxer Rebellion engulfed the nation of China. The rebellion was the result of the Chinese people’s resentment of the presence of foreigners and Christian missionaries in their country, as well as the high-handed imperialism of Western nations during the 1800s. Atrocities were committed by both sides during the rebellion which became one of the bloodiest conflicts of the turn of the century.  This event is recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during that time period.   

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Western Imperialism and Anti-Christian Sentiments in China

The Opium Wars which left China torn and humiliated were over, but so were the glory days of the Qing Dynasty. The imperial court was in disarray after the death of Xianfeng emperor, while Qing soldiers still fought the Taipings. The presence of the hated foreigners in Beijing—a reminder of the state’s weakness—was something the Manchus and the Han Chinese resented most.

With these losses on their minds, the regents of Tongzhi emperor thought it prudent to start a “self-strengthening” program. This included learning from the “barbarians,” as well as the adoption of Western technology. To keep up with the West, Qing authorities allowed the establishment of foreign schools. As per the Treaty of Tianjin (1858), foreign missionaries were allowed inside China where they proselytized freely. Apart from their jobs as missionaries, they also worked as teachers, as well as hospital and orphanage administrators.

Catholic and Protestant missionaries soon gained thousands of converts, but their relationship with the Chinese people (especially the rural elite) was often marred by violence. This violence was fueled by xenophobia and anger at the Western nations’ encroachment of their territories. It didn’t help that some Catholic and Protestant missionaries also used the same strong-arm tactics to gain converts. By then, Christians had a tainted reputation after they were associated with the Taiping Rebellion which had ended in 1864.  

One of the worst anti-missionary incidents occurred in 1870 in Tianjin where a mob massacred the French officials and the missionaries with him inside a church. The mob which killed them believed the missionaries were involved in the kidnapping and killing children. This massacre nearly brought war on Chinese soil once again but was deferred when Qing officials granted new concessions to the French. In addition to the execution and exile of the instigators, China was required to pay a hefty indemnity to France.

The Boxer Uprising

American troops are shown scaling the walls of Beijing.

In Beijing, Qing rule under Empress Cixi was crumbling. Despite the reforms implemented by the imperial court, there was simply no way the ministers could stanch China’s bleeding. It could only get worse. In 1876, a severe famine affected the peasants of the provinces of Zhili and Shandong. Many people died, and this tragedy was followed by severe flooding after the Yellow river swelled in 1898. This heartbreaking tragedy was followed by another drought which left many people dead. Survivors became so poor that many resorted to banditry.

Another incident which contributed to anti-Christian sentiment was the case of the murdered missionaries of Society of the Divine Word. These German missionaries were among the most aggressive in evangelizing in the Shandong area. Two of their missionaries were murdered in 1897 by members of the Big Sword Society, a martial arts group whose primary goal was to defend people from warlords and bandits. The German government then decided to use this incident as a justification to wrest the Jiazhou Bay area from China.

The Big Sword Society eventually gave way to the rise of fellow martial arts practitioners known as the Boxers. This movement had its roots in northwest Shandong which was hard hit by the crises. They engaged in ritual boxing which was said to give them the power to resist the Christians and protect from harm. Spirit possession was an important part of the group’s practices.

In 1899, they named themselves “Boxers United in Righteousness,” and hostilities soon flared out between them and the Christians. Qing authorities tried to stop the violence and maintain peace, but their efforts were in vain. By 1900, the Boxer rebellion had reached Tianjin and Beijing, alarming the Empress Cixi and the imperial court. Foreigners in Beijing were considered prime targets that Britain was compelled to send Vice-Admiral Edward Seymour and his troops to protect them. But the destruction of the Tianjin-Beijing railway line halted their advance, so they were forced to repair the line first. The British troops, however, were ambushed by Chinese troops and militias. They were forced to retreat and await rescue by the allied forces.   

In June 1900, Empress Cixi sided with the Boxers and declared war against the foreign powers. However, the stance of different Qing authorities on the Boxers was conflicting. In Shandong, governor Yuan Shikai fought against and subdued the Boxers. Yuxian, governor of Shanxi, sympathized with the group and ordered the execution of missionaries and their families. Foreign Christian missionaries and thousands of their local converts (including women and children) were murdered by Boxers or Qing troops during this period. The conflict was largely confined to the north and did not spread to some parts of southern China.

Allied forces finally lifted the siege against the Beijing legations on August 14, 1900, and occupied the city. Along with civilians and missionaries, they rampaged all over Beijing. Empress Cixi and the imperial family immediately evacuated and retreated to Xi’an in fear. Foreign troops then marched to Boxer strongholds and exacted harsh retaliation for the murder of Christians. They also committed rape and other atrocities against Chinese civilians in vengeance.

Further Losses and Humiliations

In September 1901, Qing officials and representatives of eleven Western nations signed the Boxer Protocol as a condition for the withdrawal of allied troops from Beijing. In the Boxer Protocol, China agreed to order the execution of ten Qing officials, including Shanxi governor Yuxian. Other Qing officials were exiled. Civil service examinations were suspended in cities that served as Boxer strongholds. The allied troops then destroyed important Qing forts, while the legation quarters of Beijing were expanded and fortified. The Qing were also required to pay 450,000,000 taels as war indemnity. The reparations were to be paid in installments within 39 years. The Western nations knew that Qing treasury was already drained, so they allowed the Chinese authorities to raise import tariffs from 3.18 to 5 percent.


Photo by: H. Charles McBarron, Jr. (description) (image), 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.

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.

Mowat, C. L., ed. The New Cambridge Modern History. Vol. 12. The New Cambridge Modern History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968.

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

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The Tokugawa Era, the Meiji Restoration, and the Rise of Japanese Nationalism

Japan was engulfed in political conflicts and wars between the 12th and 16th centuries. This period of upheaval ended during the reign of the Three Unifiers (Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu). Wary of foreigners and their influence, the shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu issued the sakoku edicts in 1635 and started the self-imposed isolation of Japan in 1639.  The country would remain isolated until Commodore Matthew Perry and his “Black Ships” arrived off the coast of Japan in 1853. Japan was forced to open itself to the West, but its people resented the concessions it was forced to give to America and other European nations. This resentment of Western Imperialism would evolve into excessive nationalism and motivate Japan to prosperity by the end of the 19th century.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during that time period.  

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The End of the Sengoku Period (1467-1603) and the Rise of the Tokugawa Era (1603–1868)

The first shōgun of the Tokugawa shogunate was named Tokugawa Ieyasu,

During the early 1550s, Oda Nobunaga overcame rival daimyōs and started the long process of unifying a country during the last years of the Sengoku Period. He and his army terrorized the Japanese people, but were able to bring stability to a country torn by civil war. He and his soldiers were armed with Portuguese arquebuses which they used to the full extent to subdue daimyōs, samurais, and civilians alike. Oda Nobunaga died in 1582 after he was forced to commit seppuku by one of his vassals. He was succeeded by one of his generals, the brilliant and equally ruthless Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

By 1590, Toyotomi Hideyoshi had defeated most of his enemies to become the most powerful man in Japan. Brutal yet more flexible than his predecessor, he consolidated power by playing off rivals until they eliminated each other. He viewed European missionaries with suspicion and started the persecution of Christians in his domain. He led the Japanese invasion of Korea which devastated the kingdom during the last years of his reign.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi died in 1598 and was succeeded by his young son who was to be guided by appointed regents until he came of age. The regents and various generals promptly ignored him and soon embroiled themselves in a civil war. They came to a head in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 which was won by Tokugawa Ieyasu and his supporters. He also defeated Hideyori, Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s son, when the boy came of age.

Tokugawa Ieyasu took for himself the prefectures of Nara, Kyoto, Edo, Nagasaki, and Osaka as fiefs. He ruled as shōgun (military dictator) starting in 1603, but soon abdicated in favor of his son Hidetada. Although he was technically a retired shogun, he still wielded considerable power up until his death in 1616.

Portuguese, Spanish, English, and Dutch traders and evangelists flocked to Japan during the early years of the Tokugawa shogunate. The Europeans played each other off in their quest to dominate the Japanese market and acquire converts, but their strategies soon backfired. Tokugawa Ieyasu had always been wary of foreign and Christian influence on his subjects, leading him to prohibit trading and evangelization activities in his domain. (The only exception to the rule were the Dutch traders whom the Japanese perceived as pragmatic and cooperative.) In 1614, Japanese and European Christians alike were persecuted. The shōgun’s heirs maintained the anti-Christian policies until the end of the Tokugawa shogunate in the 19th century.

The Tokugawa shogunate’s anti-foreign stance hardened during the mid-1600s. The deep-seated suspicion on foreigners led the shōgun to impose the edicts of seclusion (sakoku) starting in 1635. Japanese citizens were not allowed to travel abroad, while foreign traders and European missionaries were ordered to leave Japan. Those who left and dare to come back were punished with death. The shōgun ordered the destruction of large ships to discourage the Japanese people from leaving the country.

Although feudal and backward, the Tokugawa era was generally a period marked by peace and stability. Though Japan still had an emperor, he and his family faded into obscurity.  The shōgun was the head of the bakufu (military dictatorship) and was at the top of the hierarchy. He was followed by various daimyōs and samurais. Those who were at the bottom of the hierarchy (peasants, artisans, and merchants) were expected to toe the line.

Cracks in the Tokugawa shogunate started to appear during the 1830s when Japan was plagued by droughts. Famine set in, and people soon died of starvation. The hoarding done by ruthless traders led to the rising prices of grain. Starving people engaged in protests, but these assemblies sometimes led to riots. The bakufu implemented reforms, but these measures often came too late.

Even samurais were not immune to changing fortunes during the last decades of the Tokugawa shogunate. They were forced to work other jobs, as well as contribute a part of their stipend to an incompetent government. Unable to maintain them any longer, some daimyōs were forced to let their samurais go. These masterless samurais (rōnins) sometimes became bodyguards of wealthier people or mercenaries.

Japan remained irresistible to the West despite its self-imposed isolation. Britain tried to initiate trade but was rebuffed by the bakufu. During the late 1700s and early 1800s, news of Russia’s colonization of eastern Siberia reached Japan. The bakufu prepared for any eventuality by tightening its control on the Ainus of Hokkaido. American ships also made attempts to land in Japan but were turned away.

Japan’s isolation was finally lifted when the American Commodore Matthew Perry and his flotilla of steamships arrived in the Edo Bay on July 8, 1853. Perry insisted on delivering a letter from President Fillmore to the “emperor” (it was, in fact, the shōgun). The letter contained a request for trade and diplomatic relations, shelter and provisions for stranded American whalers, and coal for their ships. The presence of the large steamships and the volley of the gunner’s practice shots compelled the Japanese authorities to receive Commodore Perry’s letter. Perry and his flotilla left, but not before promising to return to Japan one year later.

Despite Japan’s isolation, the bakufu was aware of China’s defeat and humiliation at the hands of Britain and her allies during the First Opium War. They feared that the Americans would do something similar, so some daimyōs counseled the shogun to resist any attempts to open the country to foreigners. Other daimyōs, however, acknowledged that Japan had remained isolated for so long that its weapons and army had become outdated. They simply would not stand a chance against foreign forces in the event of an invasion.

Perry and his flotilla returned in early 1534. Representatives of the bakufu signed the Treaty of Kanagawa with Perry but gave few concessions to their American counterparts. Perry, however, was satisfied with the outcome and left Japan in the same year. His visit was followed by Townsend Harris who became the first American consul general in Japan. He succeeded in forcing the bakufu to sign the Treaty of Shimoda in 1858 after insinuating that the humiliations China suffered might also happen to Japan if it did not comply.

The Treaty of Shimoda included terms that were advantageous only to Western nations. Apart from trade concessions, the treaty also granted Europeans and Americans the right to reside in or near the treaty ports and enjoy the benefit of extraterritoriality. Although it was not included in the treaty, foreigners began to bring Christianity back to Japan’s shores. Cheap goods from the West flooded Japan’s market, rendering local manufacturers unable to compete.

Japan was also forced to set the tariff on imported goods at a measly 5 percent, as well as grant the Most Favored Nation status on all Western nations which traded in its ports. What angered the Japanese authorities most was the fact that they were bound to this treaty forever. There was also no way for them to revise the terms without the consent of all concerned foreign powers.

The enemies of the Tokugawa shōgun felt that the bakufu had conceded much in dealing with the “barbarians.” They believed that this behavior was unbecoming of a shōgun and that he no longer held the privilege to rule them. Enemies of the Tokugawa shōgun—particularly the daimyōs of Satsuma and Chōshū—saw their chance to topple him during the early 1860s. They formed the Satchō Alliance with the intent of restoring the emperor to the seat of power after getting rid of the shōgun.

The humiliations Japan suffered after the bakufu signed the Treaty of Shimoda gave way to nationalism. To counter their feelings of inferiority, traditionalists asserted that Japanese culture and religion were superior to those of the “barbarian West.” The clamor to restore the emperor also became louder among the Japanese population.

Taking a cue from China, the nation embarked on its own “self-strengthening” program. Intellectuals learned about Western science and technology and translated Western books into Japanese. For the first time, Japanese students were allowed to leave their homeland and travel to the United States to study. Samurais were also sent by their daimyōs abroad to learn Western military tactics and acquire knowledge on Western weapons. Unlike in China, however, Japan’s “self-strengthening” program was a success story.

The Fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate

As years passed, the anti-foreign feelings of nationalistic Japanese often manifested in violence against Europeans and Americans living in the country. Foreign envoys promptly protested to the bakufu, but the shōgun’s position was already tenuous among his people so there was nothing he could do. The foreigners retaliated by bombarding Shimonoseki (the stronghold of the Chōshū clan) and Kagoshima (the stronghold of the Satsuma clan). The Satsuma clan secretly befriended the British to get them to stop the bombardment, and claimed that members of their clan had managed to drive the enemy away. This was done so they could save face.

The Satsuma clan was now subdued, so the Chōshū clan took up the slack. In 1863, the emperor decided to once again isolate Japan and gave the foreigners an ultimatum. When the foreigners refused to leave, the Chōshū clan fired upon Western ships off the coast of Shimonoseki. The American, Dutch, English, and French fleet promptly retaliated and overcame the Chōshū clan in September 1864.

Frustrated in their efforts to dislodge the foreigners, the Satsuma and Chōshū daimyō focused on toppling the Tokugawa shogunate and strengthening the Japanese military instead. The shogun died in September 1866, and it was followed by the emperor in the following year. This emboldened the daimyōs to convince the new shōgun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, to retire. The shōgun agreed and allowed the restoration of Japan’s Yamato Dynasty to the seat of power. The 15-year old Prince Mutsuhito acceded the throne and took the name Emperor Meiji (“Enlightened One”) in 1868.

A short civil war (the Boshin War) ensued when the former shogun refused to give up his extensive lands and return them to the crown. The Tokugawa forces, however, were soon defeated and the family was forced to give up their claims to the lands. From then on, the Emperor and his ministers were free to implement reforms and usher Japan into the 20th century.


Photo by: Kanō Tan’yūOsaka Castle main tower, Public Domain, Link

Meyer, Milton Walter. Japan: A Concise History. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2012.

Nish, Ian H. A Short History of Japan. New York: Praeger, 1968.

Perez, Louis G. A History of Japan. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.


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Japanese Chinese War (The First Sino-Japanese War 1894-1895)

Between 1894 and 1895, Imperial Japan and Qing Dynasty China fought supremacy over Korea. It would be called the First Sino-Japanese War, a bloody conflict from which Japan emerged triumphantly. China was forced to cede the Liaodong Peninsula, Taiwan, and the Penghu Islands to Japan after its loss in 1895. It was also compelled to acknowledge Japan’s supremacy in Korea. This event is recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during that time period.

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Japan During the Meiji Restoration

Japan was able to turn itself from a feudal society into a modern and wealthy state during the Meiji period (1868-1912). Starting in the late 1870s, the emperor and his ministers toyed with the idea of transforming the government into a more Westernized one. In 1879 and thereafter, the Japanese people were allowed to elect prefectural, town, and local representatives. By 1889, a constitution had been promulgated. This was soon followed with the election of a prime minister.

Japan learned from the humiliations it suffered during the 1850s, so it quickly transformed its military to become the strongest in Asia during the late 19th century. The army structure and discipline was copied after the Germans, while the navy was modeled after the British. The troops were made up by young men conscripted from all classes, while the military’s arsenal was among the most modern at that time. All these were implemented to counter the threats (whether real or perceived) posed by China and Russia.

It was also during this time that Japan started to dream about territorial expansion. It tightened its hold on Hokkaido, and tried to occupy the Sakhalin and Kuril Islands but was deterred by Russian presence there. It annexed the distant yet crucial Bonin and Ryukyu Islands. The Ryukyus, long a tributary of the Qing Dynasty, were taken from China.

It was not long before Japan’s ministers set their sights on Korea, the Hermit Kingdom. Korea, although long isolated from the outside world, still maintained contact with and paid tribute to Qing China. The Joseon Dynasty which ruled it since the 14th century had become weak and the kingdom itself remained backward. Western powers were already making moves to lift Korea’s veil of isolation and establish trade with the kingdom. Japan was quick to recognize this, so during the 1870s, its ministers sent envoys to Korea to establish relations with it and encourage it to become independent from China’s suzerainty.

Korea’s response to Japan’s overtures was eerily similar to the latter’s response to the West in 1853. Although the Koreans resisted at first, they were finally strong-armed into signing the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1876. The treaty guaranteed Korean independence (from China only) and granted exclusive trade privileges to Japan. Japanese citizens were also allowed to reside in Korea. Taking a page from the Western playbook, Japan then demanded extraterritoriality from the host country.

China, naturally, refused to acknowledge the existence of the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1876. King Gojong’s court became divided between the conservative pro-China faction and the group which supported a progressive and pro-Japan stance. Relations between Japan and China became frosty as the years passed.

The Gapsin Coup further damaged the relations between China and Japan. A group of reformers supported by Japan attempted to oust the pro-China administration in Korea in 1884. The coup, however, was unsuccessful. Riots flared up in Seoul, and a mob burned down the Japanese legation. When the furor died down, Korea was forced to grant trade and diplomatic privileges with Japan. It was also compelled to pay an indemnity for the damage the rioters had caused to the Japanese legation. Japan and China stationed troops in Korea in the same year but agreed to withdraw them after signing the Sino-Japanese Convention of Tientsin in 1885.

Korea was engulfed in rebellions between the late 1880s and the early 1890s. Despite the truce China and Japan both signed, the Nagasaki Incident of 1886 and murder of the revolutionary Kim Ok-gyun in 1894 only added fuel to the fire. The situation finally worsened when King Gojong asked Chinese authorities to send reinforcements to help him suppress the Donghak Rebellion (1894).

A rendering of the Matsushima, flagship of the Imperial Japanese Navy during the Sino-Japanese War.

2,000 Chinese troops were sent to Korea in response to King Gojong request. Japan, however, felt that this was a direct violation of the Convention of Tientsin. To counter Chinese presence in the peninsula and to protect their interests there, the Japanese authorities also sent their own troops. The hostilities became full-scale war when the Chinese and Japanese troops faced each other in combat in July 1894. The Japanese troops, however, managed to rout the Chinese in the Battle of Seonghwan (July 28-29, 1894) and Battle of Pyongyang (September 15, 1894).

The Japanese navy made quick work of the Chinese Beiyang Fleet in the Battle of the Yalu River two days later. Japanese troops then crossed the Yalu River into Manchuria and massacred Chinese soldiers and civilians alike. This gave them a foothold not only in Korea but also within the Qing Dynasty’s homeland itself. The invasion of Manchuria was quickly followed by the occupation of the distant Pescadores (Penghu Islands).

China was forced to sue for peace after the devastating defeats she suffered during the war. Representatives of both nations signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki (April 17, 1895) to end the hostilities. In this treaty, China was required to pay 200 million taels to Japan as indemnity. Japan also annexed Taiwan, the Pescadores, the Liaodong Peninsula, and Korea. France, Germany, and Russia later intervened and forced Japan to give up its claim to the Liaodong Peninsula. In exchange, China would pay Japan an additional indemnity of 30 million taels. The presence of Russian reinforcements in eastern Siberia forced Japan to abandon its claim to the Liaodong Peninsula. It was, however, free to occupy Taiwan, Korea, and the Pescadores. Japan perceived the Triple Intervention as another humiliation, and its relations with France, Germany, and Russia became frosty soon after.


Picture: Public Domain, Link

Meyer, Milton Walter. Japan: A Concise History. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2012.

Nish, Ian H. A Short History of Japan. New York: Praeger, 1968.

Perez, Louis G. A History of Japan. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.


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Methodists Separate from Church of England 1795

The 18th-century religious movement called Methodism was founded by the Anglican priest John Wesley. As Methodist converts increased, the clergy of the Church of England often refused to administer them the sacraments. Wesley adamantly encouraged the Methodists to remain in the Anglican fold, but it was not meant to be. In 1795, Methodist leaders issued the Plan of Pacification which allowed their clergy to administer the sacraments to their own members. This marked the formal separation of Methodists from the Church of England.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during that time.

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John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was born in the town of Epworth in 1703. He was one of the nineteen children born to the former Nonconformist and Epworth rector Samuel Wesley by his wife Susanna Wesley (also called “the mother of Methodism” by the movement’s historians). His grandparents, however, were Puritan Nonconformists. The younger Wesley studied at the Charterhouse School, Christ Church, and Lincoln College, Oxford. His ordination as a deacon came in 1725 and became an ordained priest three years later.

In 1729, he returned to Oxford and discovered that his brother Charles and a few of their friends had formed a study and spiritual improvement group called the “Holy Club.” Members of the “Holy Club” (later labeled “Methodists”) met to pray and study the Greek New Testament. John joined them, and it was not long before he became the group’s leader.

Wesley traveled to North America in 1735 at the invitation of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. He was supposed to work as a missionary to the Native Americans in Georgia, but the time he spent in America ended in failure. However, this period in his life was not completely a waste of time. Before he returned to England in 1738, he had met a few Moravians whose beliefs and piety impressed him. He met a Moravian named Peter Boehler when he returned to London, and the two soon became friends. Boehler’s guidance and presence in Wesley’s life reinvigorated him. Another event that changed his life that year was a meeting in Aldersgate Street where he listened to a reading from Martin Luther’s commentary on the book of Romans.

After visiting a Moravian leader at Hernhut, he returned to London and started to preach on salvation through Jesus Christ. His enthusiasm ruffled the feathers of some Anglican clergymen who later barred him from preaching behind the pulpit. Far from deterred and with some encouragement from his friends, Wesley began organizing church societies in some cities and towns in England, Scotland, and Ireland. So began the religious movement called Methodism.

Life as a pioneer of a religious movement was not easy. The clerics of the Church of England viewed the Methodists with animosity. There were also a couple of instances when Wesley himself was attacked by mobs. Loyal to the core, he encouraged the Methodists to attend Anglican services and celebrate the Holy Communion with Anglican members. Anglican ministers, however, forbade Methodists from taking the Holy Communion with them. Methodist ministers began to hold the Lord’s Supper among themselves and their members–something Wesley himself discouraged. Despite these difficult experiences, he remained faithful to the Church of England and its teachings and encouraged the Methodists to do the same.

Independence from the Church of England

John Wesley is considered the founder of Methodism.

The separation between the Methodists and the Church of England became inevitable as the years passed. By the 1770s, the movement had grown to a point that there were more than a hundred Methodists preachers working in Britain and the North American colonies. The newly created United States of America, however, had a shortage of Methodist ministers. Wesley responded by bypassing the authority of the Anglican bishops and ordaining ministers with authority to dispense the Communion.

Until his death in 1791, Wesley continued to encourage the Methodists to maintain a connection with the Church of England. The rift between the two denominations only widened as the years passed. The issue regarding the dispensation of the sacraments continued to be a bone of contention between the Anglicans and the Methodists (and even among the Methodists themselves). Some members wanted to submit to the Church of England with regards to the sacraments issue, while others advocated total separation. This issue was repeatedly addressed in annual conferences starting in 1791, but no concession could be reached for another four                                                                       years.

Finally, in the 1795 conference, the Methodist leaders decided to allow the administration of sacraments if the majority of church officials consented. The 1795 Plan of Pacification marked the total separation of the Methodists from the Church of England.


Picture by: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Boswell, John W. A Short History of Methodism. Nashville: The M.E. Church, South, 1903.

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

Telford, John. Popular History of Methodism. London: Charles H. Kelly, 1900.





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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. Its loss in 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.

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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 ordinary 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 than half a century.

The British government’s lack of knowledge about 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. 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.

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. 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, however, 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 strangled.

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
  • Forcing China to compensate the British merchants for the opium stocks they lost during Lin Zexu’s crackdown
  • Compelling China to hand over one of its islands that the British could use 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.

Chinese soldiers pictured with gingals (a type of gun) during the First Opium War.

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. Elliott’s troops, meanwhile, 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.


Picture by: Edward Belcher [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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Tripoli Became a Colony of Italy 1912

In 1911, the Italian government tried to bolster its expansionist ambitions by demanding that the Ottomans leave Libya and “return” the territory to Rome. The Ottomans rejected the Italians’ ultimatum, so Rome had no choice but to declare a war against the Turks. After several months of naval and land battles, Tripoli finally fell and became a colony of Italy in 1912.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during that time.

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The Decline of Ottoman Power and the Scramble for Africa

The death of Sultan Suleiman I in 1566 was the beginning of the decline of the Ottoman Empire. Starting in the 1600s, the Empire was plagued with wars on almost all fronts. Eastern European warlords and princes, meanwhile, had also started to demand their independence. The Ottoman government was saddled with weak and corrupt leaders, so it was not long before the Empire started to burst at the seams.

Greece was among the first of the Ottoman colonies to declare itself independent from the Ottomans in 1829. Other Balkan and Mediterranean colonies also started their own struggle for independence. While the overburdened Ottomans were busy stemming the bleeding of its Empire, their European neighbors were scrambling to wrest huge chunks of it for themselves.

By the late 19th century, most of the Balkan states had declared independence or autonomy. Bosnia and Herzegovina were not as lucky as they were taken from the Ottoman Empire by Austria-Hungary. England, France, Germany, and Italy made a mad dash to take the Empire’s African territories. France (to Germany’s dismay) took Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. Egypt, meanwhile, was firmly in the hands of Britain.

Italo-Turkish War and Italian Tripolitania

Historic map of Tripoli

Italy was not a major colonial power during the 19th and 20th centuries. It was unified during the mid-19th century, but largely remained poor and most of its people were unemployed. Italy watched enviously as powerful France and Britain took large chunks of North Africa for themselves. To compensate, Rome then turned its gaze across the Mediterranean and decided to expand its territory by seizing two of the Roman Empire’s former territories: Tripoli and Cyrene in Ottoman Libya.

On September 28, 1911, Italy declared its intention to expand in Libya and then sent an ultimatum to the Ottoman administrators for them to “return” the territory. The Ottomans replied with a rejection the following day. This rejection only gave the Italians the perfect excuse to invade Tripoli. Italy declared a war against the Ottomans and started with a naval blockade. More than 40,000 Italian troops were dispatched to take part in this war of expansion in Libya which began on October 1, 1911. The Italians first softened Tripoli’s defenses with bombardment. This left the Ottomans with no choice but to leave the city and retreat further into the desert.

Four days later, victorious Italian troops occupied Tripoli while Ottoman volunteers and Libyan tribesmen were forced to retaliate with guerilla warfare. It was during this Italo-Turkish War that Young Turks leaders Enver Pasha and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk saw action as Ottoman volunteers. Turkish troops, however, were recalled later on as the beleaguered Ottomans prepared for the Balkan War.

The Italians also introduced some of the “firsts” of modern warfare. These included the first use of aircraft in bombardment and reconnaissance, as well as the first widespread use of machine guns and armored cars. By early November 1911, Italian troops had overcome resistance in Tripoli and soon declared its sovereignty over the colony. Despite the Italian victory, Libyan resistance continued into the latter part of 1911 and into mid-1912. As the war raged on, Italy managed to overpower the Ottoman navy in the eastern Mediterranean. Italian troops then occupied the island of Rhodes and some parts of the Dodecanese group.   

By October 1912, the beleaguered Ottoman Empire was facing another war in the Balkans and it could not afford to be distracted. Ottoman representatives were forced to accept the setback and decided to sue for peace. They signed the Treaty of Lausanne (Treaty of Ouchy) on October 18, 1912, along with their Italian counterparts.

One of the terms of the Treaty was for the Italians to evacuate Rhodes and the Dodecanese. However, they failed to honor the agreement and continued to occupy the island. The Ottomans also evacuated most of their troops from Libya, but a few remained in the territory and continued to fight the enemy. Conflict flared every now and then between the Ottomans (plus their Libyan tribesmen allies) and Italian troops, but Tripoli, from then on, was firmly in the hands of the Italians.


Picture by: Piri Reis, Public Domain, Link

Bury, J.P.T. The New Cambridge Modern History, Volume XII: The Shifting Balance of World Forces,1898-1945. Edited by Charles Loch Mowat. Cambridge: University Press, 1968.

Estes, Kenneth W. International Encyclopedia of Military History. Edited by James C. Bradford. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Simon, Rachel: Italo-Turkish War 1911-1912 , in: 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the

First World War, ed. by Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan

Kramer, and Bill Nasson, issued by Freie Universit盲t Berlin, Berlin 2016-08-23. DOI:


Stephenson, Charles. A Box of Sand: The Italo-Ottoman War 1911-1912: The First Land, Sea and Air War. Ticehurst, East Sussex, England: Tattered Flag Press, 2014.


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Catherine I Rules After Death of Husband 1725

Despite her humble beginnings and her unpopularity, Tsar Peter the Great’s consort Catherine I was able to consolidate power and rule Russia after her husband’s death in 1725. The illiterate Empress, however, was only a puppet for Peter’s trusted friend Menshikov who soon took over the administration of the empire.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during this time.

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The Peasant

Martha Skavronskaya, the future Catherine I of Russia, was born around 1683 in the Swedish province of Livonia. Her father, Samuel Skavronski, was a peasant and died when Martha was just two years old. Her mother died soon after, so Martha was separated from her siblings and soon adopted by an aunt. At the age of twelve, the girl was sent to Marienberg to work as a servant of the Lutheran Pastor Gluck and his family.

Just like the majority of 18th-century peasant women, young Martha never learned to read or write. She was, however, attractive, cheerful, and smart, so it was not long before she caught the eye of a trumpeter in the dragoons named Johann Raabe. Pastor Gluck’s delighted wife immediately arranged their engagement, and their wedding was held in 1702.

Russian troops marched into town soon after the couple’s wedding, so Johann was forced to retreat with the Swedish troops. Martha stayed behind and accompanied Pastor Gluck (and other townspeople) to the Russian camp to plead for their safety. A German mercenary-officer in service of the Russians promised Pastor Gluck safety. Martha and the other townspeople, on the other hand, were another matter. She and other townspeople were forced to remain in the camp as prisoners of war.

Martha soon caught the eye of the German officer and the two became lovers. She was also able to attract one of the most powerful men in the campaign, the Commander-in-Chief Boris Sheremetev himself. Apart from working as Sheremetev’s personal servant, Martha also served as his mistress. This arrangement, however, did not last long after she was given (or even sold) to the dashing St.Petersburg governor and general Alexander Menshikov.

The Mistress

Like Martha, Menshikov came from a humble background (his father was rumored to be a Moscow pie-seller or a common soldier), and in her he found a kindred spirit. Martha worked as a servant in his household, but it was possible that she was also his lover. She first met Peter during his many visits to Menshikov’s home in 1703. Menshikov was quick to grab an opportunity when he saw one, so he immediately exploited the Tsar’s attraction to his beautiful servant. He arranged their meetings, and it was not long before Peter summoned Martha to Moscow to be his mistress.

The Tsar had married the noblewoman Eudoxia Lopukhina in his youth, but the relationship had been troubled for many years. He had a relationship with a number of women outside his marriage, but he finally had enough and forced his wife to enter a convent to dissolve their marriage. His relationship with his long time mistress Anna Mons also came to an end, so Martha arrived at a crucial moment in his life.

 She lived in Peter’s house in Moscow’s German quarter, but she rarely saw him as he was often away supervising the Great Northern War. She became pregnant with their first child in 1704, so the Tsar insisted that she convert from Catholicism so the child would be born in the Orthodoxy. She gave birth to their son in the same year and soon changed her name to Catherine.

Catherine had a calming effect on the Tsar who suffered from seizures and rages. To him, she was a lover, surrogate mother, and de facto wife rolled into one. It was not long before she found herself pregnant with their second son, whom they eventually named Peter.

The Wife

Catherine I of Russia, shown here in 1717, was born in Sweden in 1683.

The year 1706 was a mix of tragedy and bliss for the couple. They welcomed their first daughter (which they named after her mother) in 1706 but lost the two elder boys in the same year. The Great Northern War still raged on, but they were able to spend some time with each other. She gave birth to Anne in 1708 but soon suffered another blow when her eldest daughter died.

Catherine rarely saw Peter while the Great Northern War reached its height. She also tried to mediate between the temperamental Tsar and his son by his first wife, the Tsarevich Alexei, who resented his father as much as his father despised him. In 1709, she accompanied the Tsar to the southern front and stayed far from the camp when Peter won the Battle of Poltava against the Swedes. Their fifth child, Elizabeth, was born not long after her father’s victory against Charles XII.

The worst moments of the war were finally over, so Catherine was able to see the Tsar more frequently. Although their relationship was still far from legal, she began to appear in public functions with him. She also successfully compelled him to recognize their daughter Anne as a princess. In 1711, Peter himself announced that she was to become a Tsarina and that they would be officially married (they married in secret in 1707). This scandalized the people, but Peter’s terrifying temperament and well-documented cruelty ensured that no one would oppose his plans.

Catherine accompanied Peter on an official state visit to Poland and proved herself indispensable when she traveled with him to the Turkish front. Peter’s war against the Ottomans did not go well, and she was forced to serve as a nurse for wounded Russian soldiers. She was also credited as the one who saved the army when she allegedly gathered her jewels (as well as those of the officers’ wives) and used them to bribe the Ottoman vizier into letting them retreat without further harassment. The bribe was irresistible, and the Russian army was allowed to limp home in defeat.

Peter finally made good on his promise and officially married Catherine on February 9, 1712. They attended a simple ceremony but arrived at an elaborate reception afterward. She was now Tsarina, and Peter soon went back to governing his empire. The Tsar was often away from his family as the Great Northern War continued, while his wife stayed at home with their children. The stress of war, however, began to take its toll on the Tsar’s health. They welcomed the birth of two additional daughters, but both girls died in infancy.

Peter’s relationship with Menshikov and Sheremetev became strained when he discovered their corrupt practices. Thanks to Catherine’s mediation, Menshikov was compelled to give up the money he embezzled so he was spared. Catherine gave birth to a son in 1715, but their joy was turned to worry when the Tsar fell ill later in the same year. He recovered, but the Tsarina knew that she would have to fight for the welfare of her children just in case Peter died and her stepson Alexei succeeded as tsar.

Catherine joined her husband in several state visits to Poland, Prussia, and Denmark. She gave birth to another son in 1717, but the boy died soon after. The couple recovered from their grief and resumed their tour of Holland in the same year. Peter later went to France to negotiate the betrothal of Tsarevna Elizabeth and the Dauphin, but left his wife behind at the request of the scandalized French court. To Peter’s dismay, the betrothal negotiations were unsuccessful because of the Tsarina’s questionable background. The English royal family also refused to invite them to court because of the same reason.

The couple was back in St. Petersburg by fall of 1717.  While they were away, Tsarevich Alexei had fled to Austria to his brother-in-law, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI.  The Tsar was able to track him down, and agents brought his wayward heir back to Russia in 1718. To her relief, Tsarevich Alexei renounced his claim to the throne in exchange for clemency from his father. The prince, however, was sentenced to death for wanting his father dead and was sent to prison to await execution. He mysteriously died on June 26, 1718.  

A funeral was held for the Tsarevich, but the royal couple did not mourn him at all and soon went back to their routine. The people still considered Catherine an outsider, but she stubbornly stayed by Peter’s side in spite of their rejection. Peter made moves to modernize the empire, but conservative Russians only pushed back harder.

By 1719, the couple suffered another tragedy: the death of their young son and heir Peter. The death of their son devastated the couple, but they went back to their routine once their period of mourning was over. Tsar Peter was often ill, and it seemed that he had mellowed with age. The couple spent much time thinking about possible heirs for the throne, of which the first candidate was the dead Tsarevich Alexei’s son Peter. They did not like this possibility, so they looked for suitable husbands (and potential heirs) for their two daughters. They found a suitable groom in Charles Frederick, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp and nephew of the dead Swedish king Charles XII. Lineage made up for what Charles lacked in wealth and looks, so the Tsar soon arranged the betrothal of his daughter to the duke.

The Empress

In 1722, Catherine accompanied her husband on the march south to face Safavid Persia. After taking Derbent in Dagestan, the Russian army marched back to Astrakhan. Peter fell ill soon after, but his poor health did not prevent him from thrashing Menshikov who fell back to embezzlement again. Catherine, for her part, had no choice but to be involved in politics when her husband’s health started to decline. Peter further shocked his people in 1723 when he declared Catherine the Empress and co-ruler of the Russian Empire. She was crowned with great pomp in Moscow’s Uspensky Cathedral in 1724 and it was followed by lavish celebrations. The empress fell ill soon after and had to leave Moscow for her beloved St. Petersburg. Peter’s health was no better, and he had to undergo a bladder surgery to relieve the pain which plagued him for some time.

Peter and Catherine’s relationship deteriorated sometime after the coronation. She had been close to her private secretary William Mons, so rumors soon spread that she and Mons were lovers. The accusation of infidelity was strengthened by the appearance of Mons’s supposed love letter to Catherine (or one of her daughters). This damning letter later wound up in the hands of her husband.

The Tsar had Mons arrested along with his sister Matryona, her children, and the Tsar’s own jester. Mons was condemned to hang, while his sister and her children were sent to exile. Catherine tried to intervene to save her secretary, but Peter was so wrapped up in his jealousy and left Mons to die. Their relationship became strained, and it was not until Anne’s betrothal on November 23 of the same year that they reconciled.

The Tsar fell ill once again during the winter of 1724, and his condition only worsened after the new year. He had been unable to urinate without pain, so his surgeons decided to operate once again. He seemed to get better after the operation, but the wound became infected and gangrene soon set in. He knew that he was dying, so he hastily summoned Princess Anne so he could dictate his will.

He was unable to continue and soon fell into a coma. The distraught empress knew how vulnerable she and her daughters were, so she asked Menshikov to protect them in the event of Peter’s death. Menshikov knew that his own safety and privileges would be in danger if Alexei’s son Tsarevich Peter succeeded, so he agreed to support her.

Peter, ruler of the Russian Empire, died at the age of 52 during the early hours of January 25, 1725. Established grandees and Peter’s favorite upstarts gathered in the palace to talk about who would succeed the dead Tsar. Conservative grandees wanted Tsarevich Peter to succeed his grandfather, but others favored Princess Anne. The strongest party, however, was that of Menshikov and the dead Tsar’s favorites. While Peter lay dying, Menshikov had already bribed the guardsmen with increased pay if they would support Catherine’s accession to the throne.

The crowd which gathered in the Winter Palace was caught by surprise when ranks of guardsmen suddenly arrived outside just as dawn was breaking. Menshikov was busy throwing his weight around in the palace, but the presence of the guardsmen was enough to silence the Tsarevich Peter’s supporters. When the grieving Catherine arrived, the grand admiral suddenly hailed her as Russia’s new empress. Sensing that they had no choice, the rest of the crowd followed suit.

Despite her overwhelming grief, Empress Catherine met with her ministers and signed documents while supervising her husband’s funeral. Fate dealt her another blow when little Natalia, the couple’s youngest daughter, died three days before Peter’s funeral. Father and daughter were buried together on March 8, 1725, at the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral.

Catherine was ill-equipped to handle the responsibilities her husband left behind. She never learned to read or write, and the problems of the vast empire were just too many for her to grasp. She knew that her hold on the throne was fragile, so she turned on her long-time ally, Menshikov, to guide and protect her. Menshikov kept his part of the bargain. He did his best in rooting out enemies and stamping out possible dissenters, while every day Catherine ensured that she had the army’s loyalty.

She wisely kept Tsarevich Alexei by her side to make sure that the people would see her as a benevolent mother. Her grief slightly ebbed, and she was able to become more than a figurehead for Menshikov for a little while. She received reports that the peasants were overburdened by the poll-tax, so she immediately slashed the amount collected by her government. She also discontinued some of Peter’s naval projects and allowed the army fewer recruits so the government could save money.

Menshikov continued to play a great part in administering the empire, while the empress gradually took a back seat. She was eventually convinced to create a council made up of her trusted men who would then make most of the decisions for her. The council included Grand Admiral Fyodor Apraksin, Chancellor Gavriil Golovkin, Chancellor Peter Tolstoi, the German diplomat Andrey Osterman, and Menshikov himself. These men ruled the empire, while the illiterate Catherine was left to sign decrees and other documents.

Her spending sprees and incompetence made her unpopular among the people. She began to drink and party heavily to cope with her loss, and would often stagger to bed at 3 in the morning. Menshikov was content to leave her to her revelry and absent-mindedly wandering around the palace and gardens while he continued to extend his influence and enrich himself at the expense of the government coffers.

Catherine fell ill in late 1726 and her condition worsened as the new year arrived. Menshikov knew that Catherine would not last long, so he started supporting Tsarevich Peter as her successor. The Empress herself wanted Peter to rule. Princess Anne was already disqualified because she was born out of wedlock, while the empress did not want to burden her youngest daughter Elizabeth with the ruling an empire.

By April and in spite of the efforts of her doctors, Catherine knew that she did not have enough time. Menshikov created a will which made Tsarevich Peter the successor and had her sign it on her deathbed. She signed it without protest but made sure that her daughters would succeed in case Peter died without an heir. On May 6, 1727, Catherine I, Empress of Russia, died after only three years of unremarkable reign.


Picture by: Jean-Marc Nattier, Public Domain, Link

Lieven, Dominic, ed. The Cambridge History of Russia: Imperial Russia, 1689-1917. Vol. II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Longworth, Philip. The Three Empresses: Catherine I, Anne and Elizabeth of Russia. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1973.

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

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Inca City of Machu Picchu Built in Peru

The Inca city of Machu Picchu in Peru was built during the reign of Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (1438-1472). The royal city was built more than 2,400 meters above sea level between the Amazon Basin and the Andes mountains. Machu Picchu remains as one of the Incan masterpieces in engineering with its successful integration of urban planning and agriculture. More than 200 structures stand in this highland city which include royal palaces, temples, and houses. Machu Picchu was abandoned shortly after the death of the last Sapa Inca and the domination of the Spanish conquistadors. It was rediscovered in 1911 by American professor and explorer Hiram Bingham. These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during that time.

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Hiram Bingham’s Great Peruvian Adventure

Hiram Bingham organized the 1911 Yale Peruvian Expedition.

In mid-1911, the Yale professor and explorer Hiram Bingham and four of his friends boarded a ship bound for Peru. His companions included the mountaineer Herman Tucker, Yale professor Harry Foote, Yale geographer Isaiah Bowman, and Bingham’s former student, Paul Lanius. Two of their companions, the Danish topographer Kai Hendriksen and Dr. William Erving, sailed to Peru before the rest of Bingham’s crew.

Bingham’s original goal was to climb Mount Coropuna and to search for Vitcos, the Inca’s so-called last capital. The professor met with Peru’s president upon his arrival in June 1911. The president was pleased with Bingham’s expedition, so he assigned a military escort for the crew. They stayed in Cuzco for a short time, and it was here that Bingham chanced upon an amazing discovery.

One day, Bingham met a rector of a local university. The rector remarked that a tavern owner told him that some Inca ruins could be found on a cliff above a bridge that linked the banks of the Urubamba River. He became curious after hearing the information, and he decided to confirm if the story was indeed true. They arrived near the tavern mentioned by the rector on July 23, 1911.

On the 24th of July, 1911, the crew came across a family of Peruvian farmers. The farmers were wary of the newcomers, but they allowed their son to guide Hiram Bingham and his crew to the Incan ruins. The group trekked on the mountainside until they came upon the iconic stone-faced terraces and granite houses of Machu Picchu. The sight captivated Hiram Bingham and his companions, and the rediscovery of the place became one of the biggest archeological finds of the 20th century.

The Incas and the Machu Picchu

During the 14th century, the Sapa Incas (rulers of the Inca people) went on a conquest spree. They subdued neighboring cities, and because of this, the number of people the Inca ruled also grew. The sixth Sapa Inca, Inca Roca, decided to build palaces for himself and his family. He enlisted the people they subdued for this task. He then commanded them to build irrigation canals and agricultural terraces to support the people who lived in the Cuzco valley.

The Inca conquest of the areas outside of Cuzco continued during the 15th century. Their conquest spread as far as the jungle areas of the Andes where the coca plant was cultivated. The royal city of Machu Picchu was built on one of the ridges in the area above the Urubamba River.

Peruvian historians point to Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (the ninth Inca) as the man behind Machu Picchu. Palaces for members of his family and temples were built during his time. Only a select few could enter the royal estate in the highland. Commoners who likely worked as farmers on the terraces were also allowed to live in Machu Picchu. The houses of the elite were built from finely cut stones quarried nearby and stacked on top of the other without the use of mortar. These houses were so finely made that most of the walls still stood when Hiram Bingham arrived in 1911. The commoners, meanwhile, lived in mud-brick houses that easily disintegrated as years passed.

Machu Picchu was abandoned by the Incas during the 16th century after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in 1532. Francisco Pizarro executed the last Sapa Inca, Atahualpa, in 1533. The Inca civilization fell, and the great city of Machu Picchu was abandoned after the death of the last Sapa Inca.


Picutre by: Harris & Ewing, photographer – Library of Congress, Public Domain, Link

Bingham, Hiram. Lost City of the Incas: The Story of Machu Picchu and Its Builders. London: Phoenix, 2003.

Kops, Deborah. Machu Picchu. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 2009.

“Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.” UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Accessed February 01, 2017.

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Renaissance Adds Impetus to Reformation, The 

Wars and epidemics were rampant in 14th-century Europe. Many became so disappointed with the Church’s ineffective response to the Black Plague that they became hedonists. However, the conflicts that ravaged Europe also brought about a renewal of interest in classical Greek and Roman thought. Modern historians call this period in Europe’s history the Renaissance. It lasted from AD 1300 up to 1600. It was a period of innovation in technology, arts, and literature. The accomplishments of the Renaissance thinkers would later add impetus to the Reformation (1517-1648) that was led by Martin Luther and other early Protestant leaders.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during that time.

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The End of the Medieval Period

Chaos and death reigned in 14th-century Europe. The rise of the Ottoman Turks ended the domination of the Greeks in Asia Minor. The clash between religion and politics, meanwhile, produced the Avignon Papacy and the Great Western Schism. Early reformers, such as John Wycliffe and Jan Hus (to some extent), emerged from the conflicts, such as the Hundred Years’ War and the Peasants’ Revolt. There was also no shortage of catastrophes in 14th-century Europe. These included the Great Famine (1315-1317) and the deadliest of all, the Black Death. By the time the Black Death had slowed down in 1353, Europe had lost almost a third of its people. But while these conflicts and calamities were happening, the seeds of rebirth and reform were also taking root.

The Renaissance

Florence, Italy is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance.

The Renaissance was a period in European history that spanned from early 1300 AD up to 1600 AD. Renaissance is a French word which means “rebirth.” It was a period of the Europeans’ revival of interest in classical Roman and Greek literature and art. The changes started in chaotic Northern Italy, and it gradually spread to other parts of Europe. This revival was possible due to the following factors:

* One contributing factor to the Renaissance was the profitable trade between the Northern and Central Italian cities and the East. Because of the trade, the Italian city-states became prosperous in spite of the turbulence of the Late Medieval Period. Florence and Milan became important financial centers. The rival maritime republics of Genoa and Venice emerged as two of the most prosperous.

The Venetians were natural sailors and traders who saw entrepreneurial opportunities everywhere. They conquered and ruled a part of the Byzantine Empire with the help of the Crusaders in 1204. Their reign lasted until 1261, but the Venetians were able to establish trading posts on the coast of the Black Sea and other ports in the East. After the collapse of the Latin and Byzantine Empire, the practical Venetians continued to trade with the Ottoman Empire. The Venetians imported Turkish grains, spices, cotton, and alum that they used for dyeing textiles. The Ottomans, meanwhile, bought Venetian luxury goods, paper, textiles, and soap.

Genoa was Venice’s main rival during the Late Medieval Period. The Genoese, like the Venetians, were skilled sailors and merchants. Genoa’s main products included wine, timber for ships, olive oil, and luxury goods. They sold these products for profit in Sicily, Spain, North Africa, and Egypt. In turn, the Genoese imported spices, cotton, and gold from their trading partners.

The maritime republics became wealthy because of trade with the East. Neighboring Italian cities such as Florence, Mantua, Pisa, and Milan also became wealthy commercial centers as years passed. Wealth was not something that only the pope, the monarchs, and the landowning nobles had. The trade allowed the merchant class to rise and become equal to the nobles in wealth.

* Because of their wealth, the merchant and banking families could now sponsor artists and writers. This was a second factor that contributed to the Renaissance. Prominent merchant class families, such as the House of Este of Ferrara, the Medicis of Florence, and the Gonzagas of Mantua, supported painters and sculptors. Some of the greatest Italian sculptors and painters who rose during the Renaissance period included:

Fra Angelico
Gentile and his brother Giovanni Bellini
Leonardo Da Vinci

During the Medieval Period, religious education was considered more important than science or the arts. Most of the classical Roman and Greek literature were buried into obscurity during the Medieval Period. The Renaissance period, however, revived the people’s interest in classical Roman and Greek literature, philosophy, and history. This revival which would later give birth to the term “humanism.”

* However, this shift from religious education to humanism would have been impossible if not for the efforts of the scholars who sought Greek and Roman classics even in Europe’s most far-flung libraries. These determined scholars were part of the third major contributing factor to the Renaissance. The destruction of the Byzantine Empire was, in a way, a blessing for Western Europe. Greek monks who fled Constantinople in and after 1453 brought classical Greek texts to Western Europe.

The Italians Poggio Bracciolini, Giovanni Boccaccio, Coluccio Salutati, and Francesco Petrarch were the masters of the Renaissance. The Christian humanist of the Renaissance period, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, later influenced Reformation figures such as Erasmus of Rotterdam, Sir Thomas More, and Martin Luther.

The Renaissance in Italy reached Northern Europe in 1450. The Hundred Years’ War was near its end, while Europe’s population had recovered from the Black Death. Back in 1439, Johannes Gutenberg of Germany had invented a form of movable type printing press. Before the invention of the movable type, manuscripts were copied onto a parchment by hand. The task was tedious, and it made the books more expensive. Monasteries and noblemen were the only ones who could afford books before the invention of the movable type.

The movable type printing press, however, made the books more affordable. Ordinary Europeans who were literate and have enough money now have access to books. One of the first works published by Gutenberg was the Vulgate Bible. It was completed around 1454 or 1455, and the printing of the Bible would play a large part in the upheavals of the Reformation Period.

For centuries, Latin was the official language used by the church and the nobility for communication. The common people who lived during the Medieval Period did not understand this language. During the Renaissance, writers started to write in their own languages. They also wrote in a way that could easily be understood by their own people. Information became widely available and literacy rose among Europe’s upper class.


Picture by: Steve Hersey, CC BY 2.0, Link

Bartlett, Kenneth R. A Short History of the Italian Renaissance. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013.

Fleet, Kate. European and Islamic Trade in the Early Ottoman State: The Merchants of Genoa and Turkey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Gagarin, Michael, and Elaine Fantham, eds. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. Vol. I. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2010.

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Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) 1652

The Religious Society of Friends (or Quakers) was founded in 1652 by the English religious leader George Fox. The Friends were considered early on as a radical organization by the government and other religious organizations, resulting in the persecution, imprisonment, and death of many of their members. Despite the persecution they suffered, Quaker membership in Britain grew as the years passed and even expanded into North America.  These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during this time period.

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George Fox, the man who founded the Religious Society of Friends, was born in 1624 in the village of Fenny Drayton, Leicestershire. He was the son of the churchwarden and relatively prosperous weaver, Christopher Fox, by his wife Mary. His parents were known in the village as pious and upright Puritans. They made sure that George could read and write, but was not able to send him to England’s prestigious universities. Young George worked as a cobbler and raised livestock under the supervision of a man called George Gee.  

George attended church at a young age. He became very religious, but what made him different from other children his age was his ability to detect the inconsistencies between what the churchgoers did on Sundays and what they did during the weekdays. He began to read and study the Bible earnestly. His work as a caretaker of livestock often gave him time to be alone and indulge in introspection.

George became disenchanted with the superficial piety shown by some Puritans as he grew older. At the age of 19 and in the midst of the English Civil War, he decided to leave his village and do some soul-searching. He traveled all over England and talked to clergymen of various sects along the way. The hypocrisy he witnessed among the clerics and churchgoers only led to his disillusionment with the organized religion. He also witnessed the brutalities of the English Civil War–leading him to adopt pacifism later on. But this wandering and seeking soon took its toll on his mind and body.

He finally had a spiritual breakthrough in 1647. He had been completely disillusioned with the ministers he interacted with because what they sometimes taught were not even biblical. He realized that he could be guided instead by God’s “Divine Spirit,” and that spiritual revelations would come as long as he continued to open his heart to Christ. He began preaching in marketplaces, fairs, jails, courts, and churches, and it was not long before he gained his first converts. In the next five years, George Fox continued his journey and his preaching. He sometimes ran afoul of local churches when he started disrupting their services. As a result, the authorities had him arrested and jailed.

The Establishment of the Religious Society of Friends or Quakers

George Fox was the founder of the Religious Society of Friends.

The Religious Society of Friends was formally established in spring of 1652. George Fox had been visiting Lancashire and Westmorland and decided one day to visit Pendle Hill (famous among the locals as a witches’ haunt). He then had a vision of “the Lord let me see in what places he had a great people to be gathered.” He continued to preach and gain converts, especially among the Protestant group called the Seekers. As his followers increased, he became less introspective and more charismatic.

The first Quakers were known by different names. “Children of Light,” “The Camp of the Lord,” “Primitive Christianity Revived,” “Publishers of Truth,” and “Friends of Jesus” were some of the names the members called their group. Later on, they came to be known simply as “Friends” based on Jesus’s teaching in John 15:14. The pejorative label “Quaker” originated from George Fox’s confrontation with a Derby judge. During a hearing, Fox admonished the judge by quoting Isaiah 66:2 (“he who is humble and contrite in spirit                                                             and trembles at my word”). The judge responded by saying, “You are the quaker, not I!”  

George Fox believed in the doctrine of the “Inner Light” in which he believed that there is “that of God in every man.” The Friends believed that God’s wisdom is easily accessible to man. Man can communicate to God by re-establishing the link between him and God through Jesus Christ. Their belief in the “Inner Light” was often misunderstood by outsiders and often led to their arrest.

The beliefs of the Religious Society of Friends were radical for their time. Fox did not believe that only men who went to England’s premier universities made good ministers. They did not swear oaths, citing James 5:12 as the basis for their beliefs. Quaker weddings were solemn and simple affairs with no officiating minister. The Friends rejected the idea of tithes and did not believe in the usual corporate worship. Quakers worshiped in silence most of the time and spoke only when led by the Holy Spirit.

The Friends got into trouble with the authorities when they began disrupting church services and country fairs by proclaiming condemnation on the attendees. Fox also adopted the belief in pacifism and rejected a chance to serve in Cromwell’s army after he was released from jail. He was thrown in jail after this rejection.

The Religious Society of Friends gained more converts after Fox sent the “Valiant Sixty” to preach all over England, Scotland, and Ireland (they were, however, made up of almost 70 men and women). Despite their growth in numbers, they were not spared from persecution in an intolerant England. Thousands of Friends were imprisoned during its first 40 years. Hundreds of Friends suffered tongue borings (accomplished with the use of a hot iron), whippings, and brandings. Some, however, died in squalid English jails before they could be freed.

The Friends were given a reprieve when King Charles II freed 700 Quakers in 1660. But their relief was short-lived. In 1664, the Parliament issued the Conventicle Act which made the assembly of five or more people illegal if it did not conform to the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer. Many Quakers chose to hold their meetings in secret, while others brought food to disguise their assembly. Those who were caught were imprisoned, but the persecution did not stop the Quakers. Two years before Fox’s death in 1691, the Friends finally were able to breathe a sigh of relief when the Parliament passed the Act of Toleration.   

 Fox made several voyages to the British colonies in the West Indies and North America during his lifetime. He helped Quakers in the colonies organize their church, as well as preached to colonists who followed other forms of Christianity. He also initiated the Friends’ monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings.

What made the Friends different was the group’s belief that women could and should occupy a prominent role in the church and in society. The Friends allowed women to be ministers and heads of charitable activities. Consistent with Fox’s belief that there is “that of God in every man,” they also included men and women from all races and all segments of society. Apart from North America, the Friends soon gained converts in Germany and the Low Countries.


Picture by: user Magnus Manske on en.wikipedia – Originally from en.wikipedia; description page is (was) here14:44, 19 March 2004 Magnus Manske 187×218 (9,620 bytes) (In the [[:en:public domain]] by age), Public Domain, Link

Bacon, Margaret Hope. The Quiet Rebels: The Story of the Quakers in America. Philadelphia, PA: New Society Publishers, 1985.

Holder, Charles Frederick. The Quakers in Great Britain and America: The Religious and Political History of the Society of Friends from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century. The Neuner Company, 1913.

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

“350 years of a unique witness: Quaker timeline | Christian History Magazine.” Christian History Institute. Accessed December 22, 2017.