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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.

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The Adoption of the Constitution of the Papal States 1848

In 1848, Pope Pius IX was forced by his disaffected subjects to adopt a constitution for the Papal States and liberalize the enclave’s government. This compromise came about in the midst of the tumult of the Risorgimento and the explosion of revolutions of 1848.  This event is recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during that year.

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The 1848 Revolutions

Pope Pius IX was in office when the constitution of the Papal States was adopted in 1848.

After the devastating defeat of Napoleon in 1814, Pope Pius VII was finally released from house arrest in France and was free to return to Rome. The Papal States previously annexed by Napoleon and occupied by French troops were reinstated to the Pope thanks to the Treaty of Paris (1814) and the Congress of Vienna (1815). With Napoleon gone, Italy was once again divided into several independent states and duchies. The Austrian Empire dominated Venice and Lombardy, and to some extent, Tuscany, Lucca, Modena, and Parma. The Kingdom of Two Sicilies, on the other hand, reverted to the House of Bourbon.

Europe enjoyed more than a decade of peace, but old problems eventually resurfaced. Early 19th-century Europe was plagued with bad harvests, bankruptcies, and unemployment. The prices of grain and other foodstuffs rose which inevitably resulted in riots. European monarchs, however, were either downright oppressive or indifferent to their subjects’ plight. By the 1830s, revolutions rooted in liberalism and nationalist aspirations were commonplace in Western and Central Europe. Italy, in particular, was engulfed in uprisings led by revolutionaries Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi.  

The Papal States themselves were not spared from the outbreak of revolutions. In 1831, the cardinals elected the deeply conservative and authoritarian Pope Gregory XVI. The Papal States were also steeped in inequality and conservatism–something the pope’s subjects deeply resented. During his reign, Gregory XVI had to face the revolution launched by a group called the Carbonari which forced him to ask the Austrians for help. Austrian troops successfully quashed the rebellion in the same year, but uprisings continued to break out every now and then during his reign.

Gregory XVI died in 1846, and he was succeeded by Pope Pius IX. Early in his reign, he issued amnesty to exiles and prisoners and allowed the Jews in the Papal States the freedom to live outside their ghettos. He also eased the rules on press censorship and reformed his cabinet. He issued other economic and social reforms that hoodwinked his liberal-minded subjects and nationalistic Italians into believing that he was one of them.

1848 Revolutions and the Papal State Constitution

In early 1848, the citizens of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies rose up against King Ferdinand II after hearing about the reforms implemented by Pope Pius IX. The revolt was quickly quelled and barely made the headlines in Europe, but it was soon followed by the February Revolution in France. The Prussians launched their own revolution in March, followed by other German states and the Austrian Empire. Europe was once again engulfed in uprisings.

The revolutions forced some European rulers to implement economic reforms, adopt political liberalism, and allow the promulgation of a constitution. Pope Pius IX was among those who were forced to negotiate a compromise with his subjects. On March 14, 1848, he issued the Papal States’ first constitution entitled Fundamental Stature for the Secular Government of the States of the Church. The pope allowed the formation of a bicameral legislative body. This legislative body was made up by the clerics the pope appointed and by the deputies elected by the citizens. However, it was not enough for his subjects as the pope and his cardinals still retained the right to veto any parliamentary move.

He appointed the reform-minded Pellegrino Rossi as Minister of the Interior. The minister tried to implement liberal reforms, but his efforts mostly fell flat. He was assassinated by Pius’s disgruntled subjects later that year, forcing the pope to seek refuge in Gaeta. With the pope out of the way, the revolutionaries held elections to form a constituent assembly on the 9th of February, 1849. The assembly announced the abolishment of the Papal States and the end of pope’s temporal power. In addition, they declared the creation of the democratic Roman Republic in its stead.


Picture by: Unknown (User:Czinitz at hu.wikipedia) [Public domain or Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Breunig, Charles. The Age of Revolution and Reaction: 1789-1850. New York: Norton, 1977.

Carson, H.M., Peter Toon, and C.T. McIntire. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by J. D. Douglas and Earle E. Cairns. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.

Pouthas, Charles, and D. Mack Smith. The Cambridge Modern History: The Zenith of European Power 1830-70. Edited by J.P.T. Bury. Vol. 10. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960.

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“The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African” Inspires Growing Abolitionist Movement 1789

In 1789, the book entitled “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African” was published. Penned by the freedman Olaudah Equiano himself, the book was part travelogue and part autobiography. When distilled, however, the book was a searing condemnation of slavery and the British Empire’s part in the slave trade.

The indomitable Equiano himself went on a tour of Britain, Scotland, and Ireland between 1789 and 1791 to promote his book. It became a bestseller and soon inspired the growing abolitionist movement in England. Together with the anti-slavery group Sons of Africa, Equiano and other black activists intensified their lobbying against slavery in the British Parliament.

Despite the hardships he experienced, Equiano’s story had a happy ending. His marriage to Susanna Cullen of Cambridgeshire produced two daughters. His book went on to have several editions and later translated into several languages. Equiano was one of the wealthier Englishmen when he died in 1797. He, however, did not live long enough to see his book’s impact on the abolitionist movement. Britain finally passed the Act for the Abolition of Slavery in 1833. These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during that time period.

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First Volume

The cover of Equiano’s autobiography

Olaudah Equiano was born in 1745 in present-day Igboland region of Nigeria. Olaudah in the Igbo language “signifies vicissitude or fortune also, one favoured, and having a loud voice and well spoken.” His father was one of the “embrence” (chieftain or elder) under the suzerainty of the distant king of Benin. He had several siblings and was very close to his sister.

He was also close to his mother, and he sometimes accompanied her to the market as a child to trade with a neighboring people called “oyibo.” Their peoples often traded food, but there were instances when he saw slaves being traded in the market. These slaves were often prisoners of war or were convicted of crimes.

His parents and the other adults were working in the fields when some men came to their village and kidnapped some children, including the eleven-year-old Olaudah and his sister. It was the last time Olaudah would see his village or family again. To his grief, the kidnappers separated him and his sister. He was sold to the chief of another village where he worked as a servant for some time before he was sold again.

Olaudah was briefly reunited with his sister when he and the slave traders arrived at the Atlantic coast. The reunion was shortlived as he and his sister were separated by the traders once again. The slave traders brought him to a place called Tinmah and sold him to a wealthy widow. The widow and her young son treated him as if he was one of their own, but his time with them did not last long. The slave traders suddenly uprooted him again and passed the child from one slave trader to another.

After six or seven months, Olaudah was forced to board a slave ship bound for the West Indies. It was the first time the boy had seen white men who then crammed him and other slaves inside the ship’s hold. He and the other slaves were then transported to the West Indies in a dangerous journey across the Atlantic called the Middle Passage. The young Olaudah was chained together with other prisoners inside the foul smelling and densely packed hold. During the course of the journey, the boy once gave in to despair and refused to eat, but the slave traders flogged and force-fed him as punishment. Other slaves became sick and later died because of starvation and the unhygienic conditions of the hold.

Olaudah noticed the crew use a mariner’s quadrant during the few times he was allowed on deck for some fresh air. The seamen, in a fit of benevolence, showed him how to use it. The boy was astonished by what he saw and considered it a magical device. Little did he know that his interest in the mariner’s quadrant would change his life later on.

After several weeks at sea, the slaves disembarked at Bridgetown in Barbados. Plantation owners and merchants flocked to the port to check and buy the slaves. Some buyers often picked and chose among the slaves, so that mothers were sometimes separated from their children, wives torn from husbands, or siblings separated from each other.

Olaudah and those who were not fit for sale were forced to board a sloop bound for North America. When they arrived in Virginia, the boy was brought to the plantation of a man named Mr. Campbell. The new master soon changed his name from “Olaudah” to “Jacob.” After working for some time in Virginia, he was sold to Henry Pascal, the captain of a British trade ship and an officer in the royal navy. After bringing the boy to his ship, Pascal ordered his crew to sail back to England. Olaudah spent the next few years as Pascal’s personal servant.

On a whim, Pascal gave the boy a new name. He called Olaudah “Gustavus Vassa” after the great 17th-century Swedish king. Olaudah refused to answer when Pascal called him by the name and insisted that his new master call him by the name “Jacob.” Pascal responded by hitting him.

The journey across the Atlantic was long and rough, but the crew’s mistreatment of Olaudah made it more difficult. A boy named Richard Baker later befriended him, making the voyage more bearable. Richard (or Dick as he was called by the crew) became the boy’s interpreter, and Olaudah learned more of the English language because of him.

Olaudah became curious after he saw Dick and Pascal reading books. With his curiosity piqued, he took a book and proceeded to “talk[ed] to it, and then put my ears to it, when alone, in hopes it would answer me; and I have been very much concerned when I found it remained silent.”

They arrived in Falmouth, England in spring of 1757. During the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), Olaudah accompanied Pascal (who recently returned to the navy) to Guernsey, Holland, Scotland, the Orkneys, Turkey, and the coast of France. He was not a part of the English navy, but his mere presence in Pascal’s ship compelled him to help the crew during naval engagements with the French.

During a trip to London, Pascal left Olaudah under the care of his relatives, the Misses Guerins. The sisters showered him with kindness and became his first instructors in Christianity. They taught him how to read and write, but supplemented it by sending him to school. The boy later asked them to allow him to be baptized. They agreed to his suggestion, and he was baptized in St. Margaret’s Church in Westminster in 1759.

He accompanied Pascal to the American colonies before sailing to Cape Breton in 1758. They returned to Europe after the successful siege of Louisbourg (Nova Scotia) but was grief-stricken when he learned of Dick’s death in 1759. In 1761, the crew sailed to Gibraltar but soon went back to the Atlantic coast to capture Belle-Isle. By the end of the war in 1763, the 18-year-old Olaudah was already a battle-hardened veteran.

Olaudah and his friends fully expected for Pascal to set him free now that the war was over. When they arrived in England, however, Pascal informed him that he had been sold to a Captain James Doran. The young man protested, saying that he had served Pascal faithfully and that his master had taken whatever meager salary he was supposed to receive. Besides, he was already baptized as a Christian, so no one had the right to sell him. However, the protests fell on deaf ears, and he was forced to make a new voyage across the Atlantic not unlike to the one he took in 1756.

Captain Doran’s ship took him to Montserrat where he was then sold to a Quaker merchant, the kind and humane Robert King. Olaudah initially worked odd jobs for King, but King elevated him to the position of a clerk when his master realized that he had someone capable and talented in his hands. For the next three years, he became King’s most trusted slave.

Olaudah saw for himself how fellow slaves were treated in the West Indies. In St. Kitts, for example, he saw that it was common “for the slaves to be branded with the initial letters of their master’s name; and a load of heavy iron hooks hung about their necks. Indeed on the most trifling occasions they were loaded with chains; and often instruments of torture were added. The iron muzzle, thumb-screws, etc. are so well known, as not to need a description, and were sometimes applied for the slightest faults. I have seen a negro beaten till some of his bones were broken, for even letting a pot boil over.”

They did backbreaking work for long hours in return for measly wages. Masters sometimes purchased slaves and rented them out to plantation owners, but tended to withhold the slaves’ wages the plantation owners paid them. Those who dared complain about this would be beaten or flogged. Robert King, a staunch Quaker, earned the goodwill of the other slaves when he himself fed them when their masters would not.

Any property a slave possessed was fair game for the West Indies white elites. Olaudah once heard of a slave who was able to buy a boat after saving up money from his meager wages. The governor, however, seized the boat without giving the slave compensation. The slave later complained to his master, but to no avail. Olaudah sense of justice was later satisfied when he learned that the governor died in the King’s Bench in England… in great poverty.” Equiano’s Narrative contains more harrowing accounts about the life of slaves in the West Indies. His firsthand experience with slavery had a profound effect on his spirituality and pushed him to be involved in England’s abolitionist movement.

He was later loaned out to Captain Thomas Farmer as a sailor. Olaudah started trading fruits and other merchandise while traveling as a sailor in the West Indies and the American east coast. He started with a capital of three pence but managed to save his earnings from his small enterprise. Robert King had remarked to Olaudah that he would set him free if he came up with 40 pounds sterling. King’s promise of freedom only motivated him to work harder.

Second Volume

By 1764, Olaudah had saved as much as 47 pounds sterling from trading in the islands of West Indies and the American east coast. He approached King when he went back to Montserrat and to his master’s surprise, handed him the 40 pounds sterling he had saved up. He asked King to grant him his freedom, but King loathed to let a talented worker go. With the help of Captain Farmer, he eventually convinced his master to grant him his freedom and release his manumission papers. Despite King’s protests, Olaudah left Montserrat and sailed all over the West Indies and North American east coast again. Captain Farmer, however, died at sea before Olaudah sailed for England.

Upon Captain Farmer’s death, Olaudah continued his adventures in the Americas when he joined Captain William Phillips’ crew. He visited Savannah, Georgia, but did not stay long when a couple of hostile white patrollers tried to kidnap him and send him back to slavery. Luckily, he was able to bluff his way out of the kidnapping. He then went back to Montserrat to say goodbye to Robert King before sailing for London. He immediately visited the elderly Guerin sisters to thank them for their kindness.

He found that living in London was not as easy as he envisioned. He could not find work, so he apprenticed as a hairdresser under Dr. Charles Irving. He worked as a steward and hair-dresser to the captains of ships bound for Montserrat and Turkey. He later joined a voyage to the Arctic with Dr. Irving in 1773 where they trapped in ice for eleven days.

The Arctic incident made him grateful for God’s mercy. When he returned to London, he immediately pushed himself “to seek the Lord with full purpose of heart ere it was too late” and become a” first-rate Christian.” He “shopped” around for a church where he could join and began reading the Bible earnestly. He continued to work as a steward, but his spiritual crisis deepened during a voyage to Spain where he claimed to have seen a religious vision. This vision had a profound effect on his life, and he went back to London a transformed man.

Olaudah met Dr. Irving once again and agreed to accompany him to Jamaica’s Miskito Coast to establish a plantation. He worked as Irving’s overseer, but his heart yearned for cosmopolitan London. After some resistance on Irving’s part, they finally parted ways amicably in 1776. He secured a passage first to Jamaica on board a sloop, but Hughes, the vessel’s captain, tried to kidnap him on the way. Olaudah, however, was lucky enough to escape and reach England several months later.

He was already tired of seafaring, but there was no work available for a man like him in England. During this period, he became involved with the Sons of Africa, an anti-slavery group whose members were former slaves. They spoke out against slavery and lobbied in Parliament to end the enterprise.

In November 1786, Olaudah became the commissary of the British slave repatriation expedition bound for Sierra Leone. He quickly lost his enthusiasm for the job when he witnessed the ineptitude and abuses of the British leaders of the expedition. He tried to intervene, but the authorities fired him as a result. He went back to London, wrote to Queen Charlotte, and asked for her support for the abolitionist movement. Olaudah ended his narrative with his views on slavery and how he became involved in England’s abolitionist movement.


Picture by: Unknown – Project Gutenberg eText 15399 – Uploader: User Tagishsimon on en.wikipedia; description page is (was) here* 01:52, 17 April 2005 [[:en:User:Tagishsimon|Tagishsimon]] 455×700 (50,997 bytes) <span class=”comment”>([[:en:Olaudah Equiano]] – [[:en:Project Gutenberg]] eText 15399.png From {{PD}})</span>, Public Domain, Link

Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings. Edited by Vincent Carretta. London: Penguin, 2003.

Equiano, O. (2005). The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African, by Olaudah Equiano. [online] Project Gutenberg. Available at: [Accessed 20 Nov. 2017].

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Britain Takes Cape Colony 1795

Europe and North America were plagued by revolutions and wars in the latter part of the 18th century. Cape Colony, a distance Dutch territory in Africa, was largely insulated from all the conflicts. This would change when France took the Dutch Republic and tried to disrupt British trade in India during the Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802). Eager to protect its lucrative trade, Britain decided to take Cape Colony in 1795.  This event is recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during that time.

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The Colonization of South Africa

Dutch sailors bound for Asia were the first Europeans to venture into the Cape Peninsula to buy food from the Khoi herdsmen and farmers. The number of Dutch ships that sailed to and from Asia increased in the 17th century, so the need for meat and fresh vegetables also spiked. This compelled the Dutch East India Company to send Jan van Riebeeck and several Dutch farmers to establish farms in the Cape Peninsula in 1652.

The Dutch East India Company established restrictions on the amount of land that could be farmed by each Boer (Boere for plural). The company’s directors also maintained that the Cape would only be a way station for their ships. The arrival of additional Dutch settlers with their Malay and West African slaves in tow put a strain on the Cape’s resources. French Huguenots and Dutch immigrants later followed the Dutch settlers. It was not long before disagreement sparked between the neighbors.

Despite the restrictions placed by the Dutch East India Company, a number of Boere and their families left the Cape Peninsula and pushed northeast in search of land. They were later known as “Trekboere,” and later became the ancestors of the Afrikaners. These hardy people believed that the land was theirs by right because they were “chosen” by God. This belief, however, had a dark side. Armed with muskets and a sense of destiny, Boer families managed to kill and displace the indigenous Khoi and San peoples in search of land. They later encountered the Xhosa people who fiercely resisted the encroachment on their land. The Dutch (and later the English) and Xhosa people engaged in the Xhosa (Kaffir) War between 1779 and 1879.

The British Occupation 1795

A map showing the extent of the Dutch Cape Colony in 1795.

Cape Colony remained a backwater trade and farming town while Europe and North America were engulfed in wars during the latter part of the 18th century. The American (1776) and French (1789) Revolutions made naval wars and blockades on both sides of the Atlantic common. In 1792, Britain, the Dutch Republic, and their allies waged a war against France (the Revolutionary War). After defeating the Dutch Republic in 1795, however, France renamed the territory “Batavian Republic,” and began to occupy it.

The defeat of the Dutch Republic in 1795 and France’s ambition to disrupt the lucrative trade in India alarmed Britain. To combat France, the British war ministers then decided to seize the strategically important Cape Colony to secure the Indian Ocean passage. Nine British warships were dispatched to Cape Colony in the same year. On August 7, 1795, defeated the Dutch militiamen in the Battle of Muizenberg.

British colonists occupied Cape Colony until the country’s relations with France improved. In 1803, Cape Colony reverted to the Batavian Republic after France and Britain signed the Treaty of Amiens. The peace of Amiens, however, would not last as hostilities resurfaced in the same year.

British troops once again invaded Cape Colony on January 4, 1806. They easily subdued Dutch, French, and native troops in the Battle of Blaauwberg on the 8th of January, 1806. The Dutch troops held out for another week, but their leader, Lieutenant General Janssens, knew that defeat was inevitable. He capitulated on the 18th, and he and his troops were sent back to the Netherlands soon after. The British occupied Cape Colony until the Dutch ceded it to Britain in the Convention of London in 1814.


Picture by: George McCall Theal, Public Domain, Link

Fage, J.D. A History of Africa. London: Routledge, 1998.

Omer-Cooper, J.D. The Cambridge History of Africa: from c. 1790 to 1870. Edited by John E. Flint. Vol. 5. London: Cambridge University Press, 1976.

Oliver, Roland Anthony, and John Donnelly Fage. A Short History of Africa. Sixth ed. London: Penguin Books, 1988.

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Marco Polo in China

If Marco Polo had not stayed in China between 1274 to 1295, the world would not know much about Kublai Khan and his court. The son of the merchant Niccolo Polo, Marco joined his father and uncle at the young age of seventeen on a journey that would take him across the vast continent. Marco, his father, and his uncle Maffeo were welcomed by Kublai Khan in his court when they arrived in 1274/1275. The young man spent seventeen years in China until he, his father, and his uncle left in 1292. They arrived in Venice in 1295—several times richer than when they first left the Republic. It was Marco Polo’s knowledge of Yuan China which made him one of the most fascinating travelers of the Medieval Period. These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during that time.

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Niccolo and Maffeo’s First Journey

Marco Polo was born in the Republic of Venice on September 15, 1254. He was the son of the wealthy Venetian merchant Niccolo Polo and the nephew of Maffeo. In the mid-1250s, the brothers Niccolo and Maffeo loaded their goods into a ship and sailed to Constantinople to trade. At that time, the Byzantine capital was ruled by the Latins and the Venetians also traded there. They spent a few years trading in Constantinople but left the city before the Byzantines regained the Empire from the Latins.

The two brothers sailed to the Crimean port city of Soldaia (modern Sudak) in 1260. They traveled to the encampment of Berke, the Khan of the Golden Horde, and gave him jewels as tribute. Berke Khan was pleased with the Polo brothers, so he rewarded them with additional capital and goods. Niccolo and Maffeo stayed in Crimea until they were forced to leave and trade somewhere else again in 1262.

They then went to Bukhara and made the dangerous journey across Asia to China. They arrived in Kublai Khan’s capital in Dadu/Khanbaliq around 1265 or 1266. The khan received and welcomed them at his court. The khan was interested in Europe and in Christianity, so he told them to go back to the continent. Before they left, Kublai told them to bring back 100 priests and the oil from the lamp of Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. He also gave them a paizu (safe-conduct) which they could use while traveling in Mongol territory.

The brothers retraced their route from China to West Asia. They reached Acre in the Levant in 1269, but they learned that Pope Clement IV had died. They decided to return to Venice and wait for the election of the new pope. They docked in Venice in 1270, and Niccolo saw his son, Marco, for the first time. The boy’s mother died when he was six, and an uncle took him in until his father arrived. Marco Polo was around fifteen or sixteen when he met his father.

The Second Journey

Niccolo and Maffeo delivered Kublai Khan’s letter to Pope Gregory X in 1271. The pope, however, could only send two Dominican friars who were based in the Levant to the Khan. So Niccolo, Maffeo, and Marco sailed from Venice to Jerusalem in 1271. They met up with the two Dominican friars and took a bit of oil from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with them. The two friars did not realize that the journey would be difficult, so they decided to turn back. The Polos were forced to continue the journey back to the Khan without the priests. It took them around three years before they could reach China.

Their original plan was to board a ship bound for China in Hormuz, so they followed the Tigris River until they arrived in the port city. But for some reason, they detoured and headed north to the desert instead of boarding a ship to China. They passed the Pamir Mountains (in modern Tajikistan) and arrived in the oasis city of Kashgar on the western edge of the Taklamakan Desert. They crossed the desert and entered China via Dunhuang in Gansu after thirty days.

In China

A mosaic of Marco Polo displayed in Genoa, Italy.

Marco Polo was fascinated with the unfamiliar customs and new things (such as asbestos) that he saw in Chinese cities. They continued to travel through the province of Gansu and pushed east to Shangdu, the Khan’s summer retreat. Kublai Khan’s messenger, however, went ahead and sent word that the Latins were coming to Shangdu. They arrived in Kublai’s summer palace around 1274 or 1275. The Khan welcomed them, but he was disappointed that the Polos failed to bring the 100 priests that they promised.

The Polos were not the first Europeans to visit the Mongols. John of Plano Carpini and William of Rubruck had been to Mongolia before them, although their missions were unsuccessful. This may have been due to their lack of charm as compared to Marco Polo. It was also possible that the previous Mongol rulers were not as welcoming nor as cosmopolitan as Kublai Khan.

Marco Polo was 20 or 21 years old when they arrived at Kublai Khan’s court in Shangdu (Xanadu). He mastered several languages including Uighur and Mongol during their journey. His mastery of these languages impressed Kublai Khan. He was also a keen observer and a good storyteller. His insights were so valuable to Kublai that he ordered them to stay in China until further notice.

Marco Polo at Kublai Khan’s Court

Kublai Khan, at that time, was at the height of his power. His army had chipped away at the Southern Song strongholds until its Empress Dowager surrendered Hangzhou to him. By 1279, any resistance from the Southern Song disappeared when the last brother of the emperor died after he drowned while on the run.

Kublai Khan was at Shangdu when the Polos arrived in China. Marco was impressed with its magnificence. Years after his stay in China, he recorded that the palace grounds was spacious and had wide courts. The palace walls were decorated with splendid paintings of people, plants, and animals. The Khan sat on a great and glowing throne on top of a platform while he held court.

The palace was surrounded by wide hunting grounds and lush parks. Deer and goats roamed the hunting grounds, while the khan kept leopards, lynxes, tigers, hunting dogs, falcons, and hawks. Kublai Khan allowed Marco Polo to roam the palace grounds whenever he wanted.

Marco Polo noted that Kublai Khan’s family, advisers, and attendants came with him when he went outside Shangdu to hunt. A large royal tent was reserved for him. Smaller tents, meanwhile, were set up for his four principal wives, twenty-two sons, and hundreds of courtiers. They feasted on delicious food every day even when the camp was far from Shangdu.

The Khan and his court returned to Khanbaliq/Dadu during the end of summer. The residents of his official capital lined the sides of the road and welcomed them upon their arrival. Kublai also allowed Marco Polo to live in his palace in Dadu. The young Venetian noted that it was larger and more magnificent than the royal palace in Shangdu. The feasts in Dadu were also more splendid than in Shangdu. Marco Polo once attended a feast where Kublai hosted as many as 40,000 noblemen and merchants.

When he had the chance to roam Dadu, Marco Polo noted that the capital was lively and full of merchants from all over China and Asia. He also had the chance to mingle with ordinary Mongols and Chinese. Marco learned the Chinese language during his stay in Dadu. He noted that even ordinary people received food and clothing from the tribute of linen, silk, and hemp given to Kublai Khan.

Road networks stretched across the Yuan Empire during the Khan’s reign. These roads were lined with trees that protected the travelers from the heat of the sun. Post houses also dotted these road networks. The post houses also served as lodges for merchants and other travelers. Marco Polo was surprised to see paper money and coal being used in China as both had not reached Europe during the 13th century.

Marco Polo as Kublai Khan’s Envoy

Marco Polo said that Kublai Khan appointed him as an envoy to the southern and southwestern provinces of China. He and his guards traveled south where they became victims of bandits. They reached Tibet where Marco marveled at the abundance of gold, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and coral. He was also impressed at the size of the Tibetan mastiff.

They crossed into an uninhabited region of Tibet and into the province of Yunnan. The province was ruled by one of Kublai’s sons, and it was famed for the abundance of salt. Marco noticed that they did not use paper money, but they molded salt into bars and stamped these with Kublai’s seals. The people of Yunnan then used these salt bars as currency. They soon left Yunnan and came back north to Dadu.

The Return to Venice

The Polos stayed in China for seventeen years. They saw the Khan consolidate his power in China, Korea, and the Mongolian homeland. But they also saw his failures in the invasion of Japan and the death of his beloved empress Chabi and heir Zhenjin. They also saw the intrigues and schemes of Kublai’s advisers and sons in his court while the Khan gradually declined. The Polos were unsure that they would still enjoy the same privileges the moment the Khan died and his heir succeeded the throne.

So they made plans to leave before the Khan died. The Khan was dismayed when the Polos made their petition, and he did not allow them to leave his court. An opportunity arrived several years later when the Ilkhan ruler Arghun sent a message to Kublai Khan. Arghun’s favorite wife had died, so he requested the Khan to send a princess from his dead wife’s tribe who could take her place.

The Khan decided to send Princess Kokochin of the Bayaut tribe. However, the Persian envoys did not want to return to the Ilkhan capital of Tabriz overland because it was dangerous. They asked the Khan if they could travel by sea, and the Polos saw an opportunity to leave China. Since the Mongols were not used to traveling by sea, the Venetians volunteered to escort the princess to Persia. The Khan finally agreed to let the Polos go, and he also sent them letters to the rulers of Europe.

The party traveled south to Quanzhou (in present-day Fujian Province) where they boarded a ship bound for Persia in 1292. They made several stopovers along the way, including the kingdom of Champa (modern south and central Vietnam), Java, Sumatra, and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). They visited several ports in India where Marco met some Jews and Christians. After a difficult journey in the Indian Ocean, they finally reached Hormuz to deliver Princess Kokochin.

The Polos continued the journey throughout Persia via land. They traveled to the Black Sea port in Trebizond and from there they boarded a ship bound for Constantinople. From Constantinople, they reached Venice in 1295 via the Mediterranean. The Polos’ long adventure in Asia had ended, and they were finally home.


Picture by: Salviati –, Public Domain, Link

Atwood, Christopher Pratt. Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire. New York, NY: Facts On File, 2004.

Buell, Paul D. Historical Dictionary of the Mongol World Empire. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2003.

Moule, A. C., Paul Pelliot, and Marco Polo. Marco Polo: The Description of the World. London: Routledge & Sons Limited, 1938.

Polo, Marco, and Noah Brooks. The Story of Marco Polo. New York: Century, 1897.

Odum, Justin. UW Departments Web Server. Accessed January 10, 2017.

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Crusade, Seventh 

Another war loomed on the horizon less than twenty years after Frederick II of Germany’s unconventional Sixth Crusade. Jerusalem once again fell into Muslim hands in 1244. European monarchs were urged to go back to the Holy Land for a reconquest. Propelled by religious fervor, King Louis IX of France launched the Seventh Crusade in 1248. The new Crusaders were well-prepared and well-supplied (unlike most of the previous ones) so that the mission went well at first. But just like the earlier ones, the Seventh Crusade ended in failure. It also dampened the Europeans’ enthusiasm to join the Crusades. The Seventh Crusade is recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during 1270.

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Jerusalem Recaptured by the Ayyubids

Frederick II received the city of Jerusalem and some parts of the Holy Land after securing the Treaty of Jaffa with the Ayyubid Sultan al-Kamil in 1229. He declared himself the king of the city but left it when he heard that Pope Gregory IX attacked the island of Sicily (then a part of the Holy Roman Empire). He assigned two Frankish noblemen to rule the city while he was away from Jerusalem, but he never came back to the Holy Land as long as he lived.

The Ayyubid ruler, al-Kamil, died in 1238, so his son As-Salih Ayyub and his brother As-Salih Ismail now fought to become the new ruler of the Ayyubid lands. While the two men were at war with each other, the Treaty of Jaffa secured by Frederick II in 1229 also expired. As-Salih Ayyub used the end of the treaty and prepared to establish his rule on his father’s domain. He hired Khwarezmian mercenaries to bolster his Egyptian troops and attacked Jerusalem on the 11th of August, 1244.

Louis IX: The Crusader King

News of Jerusalem’s fall to the Ayyubid ruler reached Europe soon after. The pope once again called for a new Crusade, but unlike before, he did not need to work too hard for someone to answer the call. His enthusiastic volunteer was King Louis IX of France. The young king was known for his devotion to Christianity and he was later canonized as a saint. He fell into a coma in 1244, and people were afraid that he might die. The king miraculously recovered from his illness just as the people were beginning to lose hope.

After his recovery, he announced that he would go on a Crusade to the Holy Land. His mother and regent, Queen Blanche of Castille, was displeased with his decision. Louis refused to change his mind, so there was nothing that she could do. Thanks to her competent rule, Louis could afford to leave as he was the only European monarch whose hold on the throne was secure.

He prepared for the voyage and war for the next three years. He imposed a special Crusade tax on the church and used the money to buy warships from the Genoese. He also convinced many French noblemen to join him. As much as 1,500 knights and their entourage signed up so that around 25,000 men joined the Seventh Crusade. French soldiers made up the bulk of the Crusaders, but some Englishmen, Scots, Norwegians, and Germans also joined them. The king also sent enough food and other provisions ahead to Cyprus even before the whole army set sail.

Detour in Cyprus

The Crusaders led by King Louis IX left Europe in summer of 1248. His queen, Margaret of Provence, came with him, while his brothers Robert of Artois and Charles of Naples joined them. The Earl of Salisbury, the Count of Marche, and the French chronicler Jean de Joinville also joined them. They arrived in Cyprus in September of 1248 and stayed there for the rest of the year. They could not agree whether they should attack Syria or Egypt first. Others wanted to spend winter in Cyprus as the Mediterranean was dangerous during that time of the year. Those who wanted to stay temporarily in Cyprus won. They sailed to Egypt in spring of 1249.

“Louis IX being taken prisoner”

The Crusade in Egypt

They sailed south into Egypt and arrived in the city of Damietta on the 5th of June 1249. The new Crusaders initially won several battles against the Egyptians. The Ayyubid soldiers lost their confidence when they heard of Sultan as-Salih’s death. Now that the Sultan was dead, the defenders of Damietta had no choice but to retreat into the city of Mansoura. In the city, they waited for the announcement as-Salih’s successor.

The Crusaders occupied Damietta, but they did not linger there for long. They pursued of the Egyptians further up the Nile in November and arrived in Mansoura in February 1250. Louis IX’s brother, Robert of Artois, led his soldiers in the siege of Mansoura, but he was killed along with his men. Robert’s death was a big blow to Louis’ Crusaders, and it was the start of the mission’s downfall.

Al-Muazzam Turanshah, as-Salih’s successor, later arrived in Mansoura from Hasankeyf (in Anatolia) to lead Egypt’s defence against the Crusaders. He ordered his men to block the Nile so that the Crusaders would not be able to retreat to Damietta. With nowhere else to go, Louis and the Crusaders had no choice but to surrender. He was imprisoned by Turanshah, and his wife (who stayed behind in Damietta) had to ransom him so he would be freed.

The remaining Crusaders, along with Louis and Margaret, sailed off to Acre after they were set free. Louis fortified the walls of Acre and other cities in the Holy Land while he was there. He left for France in 1254.

Picture By Gustave Doré, Public Domain, Link
Madden, Thomas F. Crusades: The Illustrated History. Ann Arbor, MI: Univ. of Michigan Press, 2004.
Perry, Frederick. Saint Louis (Louis IX. of France): The Most Christian King. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1901.
Shaw, Margaret R. B., Geoffroi De Villehardouin, and Jean Joinville. Chronicles of the Crusades. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1963.