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Queue Wearing Began 1644-1645

After defeating the Ming Dynasty in 1644, the Qing Dynasty immediately solidified their rule by forcing the Han Chinese to assimilate. One of the Manchu emperor’s first edicts was for men to shave the front parts of their heads and braid the remaining hair at the back into a long queue. Those who defied the order were punished with death.  These events are recorded on the Biblical Timeline Chart with World History during this time.

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The Rise of the Qing and the Enforcement of the Queue

Queue wearing was mandatory for the men of the Qing Dynasty.

By the middle of the 16th century, the Ming Dynasty was already on the verge of collapse. The gradual collapse started when the empire was ruled in succession by incompetent or indifferent rulers. The division between the eunuchs and government officials also affected the imperial court. The Yuan Mongols had retreated back into the steppes after their downfall in the 14th century, but a new confederation under Altan Khan ramped up the raids into northern China during the mid-1500s. The raids finally stopped when the Ming sued for peace in 1571.

However, the threat from the marauding northern tribes was not yet over. During the late 1500s, the Jianzhou Jurchens (descendants of the Jin Dynasty) led by Nurhaci started to raid China’s northern frontiers. The Jianzhou (along with other Jurchen tribes) occupied Jilin and Heilongjiang and had long paid tribute to the Ming emperors. In 1599, Nurhaci started to organize his people into a banner system. 300 households comprised a company, and 50 companies, in turn, were organized into colored banners. The original banners made up of Jurchen tribesmen grew overtime when they brought to heel the neighboring Mongol tribes and Chinese people.

By 1600, Nurhaci had transformed the Jurchen confederation into a cohesive state. They saw themselves as inheritors of the Jin Dynasty, so in 1616, Nurhaci announced the creation of the Later Jin Dynasty with himself as its head. They intensified the raids in northern China, but the Ming were able to rout them with the help of cannons obtained from the Portuguese.

The troubles of the Ming Dynasty only intensified in the years that followed. The drastic drop in temperatures during the early 1600s led to a series of droughts and floods. The crises worsened when the supply of silver from Japan and the Americas dropped. Impoverished peasants were unable to pay their taxes, and many soon turned to rebellion and banditry.

The Jurchens, meanwhile, were steadily consolidating power. Upon Nurhaci’s death in 1626, his son, Abahai (Hong Taiji), succeeded him as leader of his people. He continued his father’s quest to subjugate Mongols, Chinese, and Koreans during the early years of his reign. With the help of Chinese collaborators, the Jurchens adopted the Chinese government system and modernized their military by acquiring knowledge on how to manufacture cannons. In 1635, Abahai renamed his people “Manchus” and discarded the Later Jin Dynasty in favor of “Qing” (“pure” or “clear”).

While the Jurchens were busy subduing northern peoples and transforming their state, Ming China, on the other hand, was racked with uprisings. Li Zicheng led the rebellion in Henan, while Zhang Xianzhong harassed the Ming authorities in Sichuan. Watching from their vantage point in the north and seeing the chaos that engulfed China, the Manchus came to believe that the Ming had lost the Mandate of Heaven. The loss of the Mandate gave them the determination to conquer China. Abahai died in 1643, and he was succeeded by his young son (the later Shunzhi emperor). His uncle Dorgon and Jirgalang ruled as his regents.

In 1643, the rebel leader Li Zicheng declared the Ming emperor deposed and announced the creation of the Shun dynasty. He then mobilized his supporters and stormed Beijing on April 24, 1644. The doomed Chongzhen emperor hanged himself on the same night when he learned of his troops’ defeat.

Wu Sangui, a Ming general, asked the Manchus for assistance in driving out Li Zicheng and the rebels. The Manchus used this moment to sweep into China itself. They kept their promise to Wu Sangui and drove out Li Zicheng and his rebels out of Beijing when they arrived in June 1644. They also used the moment to establish a foothold in China. The remaining Ming administrators were forced to leave Beijing and move the seat of government to Nanjing. Pockets of resistance against Manchu rule, however, still existed. Shi Kefa led a Ming resistance in the city of Yangzhou, but it was ruthlessly crushed by the Manchus in 1645.

By June 1645 and despite the resistance, the Manchu rulers were already solidifying their rule in China. One of the first decrees they issued was to compel Chinese men to shave the front part of their heads and braid the remaining hair at the back into a queue. The shaving and plaiting were to be done within ten days, and those who refused to comply would be executed.

For the Manchus, the wearing of the queue was a symbol of submission, but for the Chinese, it was a symbol of oppression and forced assimilation. Many refused to comply, and it was followed by a ruthless crackdown on dissenters. The wearing of the queue, however, was limited only to the Manchus and the (Han) Chinese. Tibetans, Mongols, and Uighurs were exempted from wearing this hairstyle. The practice of plaiting the hair lasted until the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912.


Picture by: Internet Archive Book Images book page:, No restrictions, Link

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

Rhoads, Edward J. M. Manchus and Han: Ethnic Relations and Political Power in Late Qing and Early Republican China, 1861-1928. University of Washington Press, 2011.

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

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Ivan V Dies 1696

The sickly Ivan V was nothing more than a puppet for his siblings during his reign as Tsar. His health continued to decline during the regency of his sister Sophia, and it only worsened when Peter (the Great) finally seized power in 1689. Peter allowed Ivan to continue to co-rule with him even though his half-brother, by then, had become senile and partially blind. Peter finally became the sole Tsar when Ivan V finally died in 1696.  These events are recorded on the Biblical Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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The Co-rulers

Ivan V (born September 6, 1666) was the third son and second youngest of Tsar Alexei’s thirteen children by Maria Miloslavskaya. Ivan was not expected to rule, but the death of his older brothers Alexei (1670) and Feodor (1682) thrust him to spotlight. He suffered from scurvy, blindness, and mental illness, but his conditions did not stop his sister Sophia from declaring him co-ruler with their healthy and intelligent half-brother Peter.

The two boys started to co-rule in 1682, but it was Tsarevna Sophia herself who wielded greater power. Ivan’s condition worsened, but Peter grew to be a healthy, intelligent, and rambunctious boy under his half-sister’s alarmed gaze. To ensure that the Miloslavskys would always remain powerful, Sophia married Ivan off to a noblewoman named Praskovia Saltykova in 1684. The couple’s (and Sophia’s) priority was to beget an heir, but no one was surprised when an heir failed to materialize during the early years of his marriage.

The Naryshkins were also busy marrying Peter off to secure an heir. In 1689, his mother Natalya organized a bride-show and chose a noblewoman named Eudoxia Lopukhina as Peter’s wife. Despite Peter’s disinterest, he and Eudoxia were married in January of the same year. To everyone’s amazement, Ivan’s wife Praskovia gave birth to a daughter three months later.

Praskovia gave birth to four more daughters, but rumors spread that another man had fathered the girls instead of the feeble-minded Ivan. Power had been slipping from Sophia’s grasp and it made her more anxious to get rid of Peter. In late 1689, she accused Peter of trying to murder Ivan and the whole royal family so that he alone could rule. She secretly sent her henchman, Feodor Shaklovity, to murder Peter, but the Tsar got wind of her plans. Peter and his family were forced to flee to a monastery for their safety.

Peter as the Sole Ruler of Russia and the Death of Ivan V

Peter I became the sole Tsar of Russia after his half brother Ivan’s death in 1696.

She then tried to turn the Streltsy against her half-brother by telling them that he tried to murder Ivan. The plot failed this time. Peter demanded that she give up Shaklovity, but was forced to give him up to the Tsar after her initial refusal. Shaklovity endured torture before finally admitting that Sophia planned to have her half-brother murdered so she could rule alone. Shaklovity was beheaded after his confession, while Sophia was imprisoned at the Novodevichy Convent for the rest of her life.

Ivan V and Peter continued to be on good terms and co-ruled as Tsars after this episode. Peter soon sealed his hold on the throne with the birth of his heir, Tsarevich Alexei Petrovich, on February 18, 1690. He spent most of his time with his troops and left Ivan V as a titular ruler in Moscow. Peter’s close associates or “new men” assisted him as administrators.

 Ivan’s condition worsened until he became partially blind and paralyzed. He also suffered from dementia and required constant care from his wife Praskovia. He finally died on February 8, 1696, leaving Peter as the sole Russian ruler.


Picture by: Godfrey, Public Domain, Link

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

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

The Encyclopedia Americana: The International Reference Work. Vol. 15. Americana Corporation, 1958.

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St. John Defend Rhodes, Knights of

The Knights of St. John defended the garrison of Rhodes from the Ottomans between May 23 and August 17, 1480. The garrison endured months of intense bombardment, but the Turks were repelled again and again. On the 28th of July, 1480, the Turks finally breached the city. Although they were outnumbered, the Knights of St. John successfully drove the Turkish soldiers out of the garrison. Both sides suffered heavy casualties, but the Ottoman fleet was forced to retreat.  These events are recorded on the Biblical Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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The Order of St. John of Jerusalem

During the late 11th century, a group of men and women established a hospital in Jerusalem to care for sick pilgrims and the city’s poor. Most of the caregivers came from Western Europe, and they belonged to the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. The Roman Catholic Church officially recognized the order in 1113. European knights also joined the order, and they later participated in the Crusades. The order then became known as the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. From then on, the order had two branches: the religious and the military.

In 1291, the Mamluks of Egypt captured Acre along with a great part of the Levant held by the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. This drove the members of the Order to the island of Cyprus which was ruled by Henry II of Jerusalem (a member of the House of Lusignan). They established their base in the Cypriot city of Limassol and opened a new hospital there.

The order apparently had the talent of landing on its feet as it found another source of income. The knights’ new job was to escort and protect Holy Land-bound pilgrims who traveled by sea. Apart from this, they also engaged in piracy. This gave the Mamluk and Ottoman pirates some serious competition in the Mediterranean. The Genoan and Venetian merchants, meanwhile, profited from the knights’ domination in the eastern part of the Mediterranean.

The knights tried to recapture the Holy Land under the leadership Grand Master Guillaume de Villaret but they failed. Over the years, the members of the order also felt increasingly unwelcome in Cyprus because of the high taxes imposed upon them. For de Villaret, it was high time for the Order to look for a new home and the island of Rhodes seemed perfect.

The island of Rhodes had once belonged to the Byzantine Empire. It was taken by the Crusaders in 1204 and became a part of the Latin Empire. It was then occupied by Genoa, and taken once again by the Byzantine Empire during the latter part of the 13th century. The crumbling Byzantine government, however, maintained only a nominal control of the island. The island was ruled by independent Byzantine governors who also welcomed Ottoman and Mamluk merchants or pirates.

Guillaume de Villaret soon started the plans for the knights of the Order to conquer Rhodes. The grand master himself surveyed the strongest and weakest points of the island on board a ship. He returned later to Cyprus to make preparations to conquer the island. However, his grand plans would be carried out by another as he died in 1305.

He was succeeded by his nephew, Foulques de Villaret who continued the plans to conquer Rhodes. Pope Clement V himself sanctioned it as a crusade and provided the funds. Many Europeans joined this “crusade”, and the conquest of Rhodes finally started in 1307. The Order’s troops and the Crusaders soon conquered a large part of the island, except for those that were occupied by Muslim merchants and pirates. The Byzantine troops sent by Constantinople also joined the battle, but they were not there to help the Knights.

The Knights of St. John and the Crusaders now faced two enemies: the Muslims who held out on the island and the Byzantine troops. Many of the Crusaders were discouraged when the Byzantine troops arrived as they were not expecting to fight fellow Christians. The Crusaders went home one by one until only the Knights of St. John remained in Rhodes.

During the summer of 1310 the Knights’ fortunes changed. None of the Crusaders returned for the second attempt to conquer the whole island, so the Knights hired mercenaries instead. It was successful, and they finally drove off Muslim merchants and pirates out of the island. Apart from Rhodes, they also ruled the nearby island which belonged to the Dodecanese group in the Aegean Sea. These included Nisyros, Leros, Chalki, Kos, and Tilos. The Knights established a church, a palace, and a convent in Rhodes. They also built fortifications on the island and maintained a small fleet to protect them from the Mamluk and Ottoman raiders.

The Siege of Rhodes (1480)

Castle of the Knights of St. John at Rhodes.

In Anatolia, the Ottomans under Sultan Mehmed II had reached the peak of empire building. They had toppled the weakened Byzantine Empire in 1453 and conquered much of the Balkans. The Ottoman navy also started to attack the islands off the coast of Anatolia including the islands of Tilos (1470) and Chalki (1475). The Knights knew that the Ottomans would soon attack Rhodes, so they prepared by building and repairing the fortifications in the island over the years.

The French knight and the Order’s Grand Master Pierre d’Aubosson sent spies to Istanbul sometime before the invasion. With the information the spies sent to him, he knew that the Turks would invade the island soon. In the early months of 1480, he ordered the locals to harvest the crops and bring them inside the fortress as provision for the oncoming attack. Fruit trees planted near the coast were cut down. Houses that stood outside the fortress were destroyed so that the Turks would not be able to use them.

On the 23rd of May, 1480, the dreaded Turkish fleet finally arrived near the coast of Rhodes. It was composed of hundreds of ships loaded with as much as 80,000 men who were led by Pasha Mesih Palaiologos (a relative of the dead Byzantine emperor). The Turks camped out on the hill of San Stefano and promptly started the bombardment of the fortress on the 24th of May.

As expected, the Knights were outnumbered and outgunned. 400 knights under Pierre d’Aubosson plus 200 members of the Order led the defense of the fortress. The rest were hired troops (around 2,000 men) and locals who decided to help the Knights. The Turks, meanwhile, were bolstered with 100,000 reinforcements led by Ali Pasha. They were composed of irregulars (bashibazouks who were feared for their cruelty), Janissary corps, and regular Ottoman soldiers.

The residents of Rhodes endured 60 days of unrelenting bombardment until the Turks decided to row for land. On July 28, they entered the garrison and wave after wave of Turkish soldiers poured inside. The Grand Master and several Knights engaged the Turks in a hand-to-hand combat, but the sheer number of attackers overwhelmed the defenders.

However, luck was on the side of the Knights as the invasion suddenly turned into a melee for the Turks. The attackers at front retreated in a confused mess, but those at the rear of the crush kept pushing back at them. Many were already hurt, so the Knights took advantage and picked them off one by one. In the end, thousands of Turkish soldiers were either wounded or killed. Mesih Pasha did not have a choice but to order a humiliating retreat. Rhodes would remain in Christian hands for another 42 years until the arrival of Suleiman I’s fleet.


Picture by: Antiquarian at English Wikipedia, CC BY 2.5, Link

Buttigieg, Emanuel, and Simon David Phillips. Islands and Military Orders, c.1291-c.1798. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2013.

Packard, Barbara. “The Sieges of Rhodes: Print and Propaganda.” Museum of the Order of St John. Accessed March 20, 2017.

Porter, Whitworth. A History of the Knights of Malta: or, the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Setton, Kenneth M. The Papacy and the Levant (1204-1571). The fifteenth century. American Philosophical Society, 1978.

Vann, Theresa M., and Donald J. Kagay. Hospitaller Piety and Crusader Propaganda: Guillaume Caoursin’s Description of the Ottoman Siege of Rhodes, 1480. London ; New york: Routledge, Taylor & Group, 2016.

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Swahili Cities Rise

The Swahili cities of East Africa rose between the 9th and 10th centuries. Some of the most important Swahili cities included Kilwa, Pemba, Zanzibar, and Mafia. The most prominent of these was the city of Kilwa, the capital of the kingdom of Zanj. The Shirazi Dynasty from Persia ruled the city of Kilwa during its height. The Swahili people traded with Arab, Persian, Indian, and Chinese merchants which made the kingdom very rich. At its peak, the Swahili kings’ influence even reached as far as the island of Madagascar.  These events are recorded on the Biblical Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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The People and Cities of the Eastern Coast

Swahili refers to the language spoken by the people who live mainly in modern Kenya and Tanzania. Swahili and variants of it are also spoken in Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, and other Central East African countries. The Swahilis are Bantu-speaking people, but the language borrowed some words from Arabic after centuries of trade with Gulf caliphates and sultanates. The language and variants of it are also spoken by people in the Barawa (Brava) town of Somalia to the Zambezi region in modern Mozambique.

The northern Swahili coast is an arid area, but the landscape becomes progressively lush in the southern coast. The first humans who settled on the Swahili coast were hunters and gatherers. They later engaged in fishing and agriculture. Their main crops were taro, sorghum, and banana. Meat, coconuts, and honey were also consumed regularly by the first Swahili peoples.

Arab and Persian merchants visited and traded with the Swahili peoples during the reign of the Abbasid caliphate (AD 750-1258). Coins minted during the reign of the great Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid were later found on the Swahili coast. Trading ships from Siraf in Persia sailed the Indian Ocean and docked at the port of Zanj.

The Swahilis sold ivory, ambergris, tortoiseshells, timber, leopard skins, iron, and gold not only to the Gulf region but also to India and China. In turn, they bought fine porcelain from China and Islamic glass and pottery from the Gulf. Enslaved peoples were also brought from the Swahili coast into the Gulf and even to China.

A part of the Swahili coast was known to Muslim merchants and geographers as the land of Zanj. The Arab geographer al-Masudi himself sailed from Suhar in Oman to Zanj and the nearby islands. The 12th-century Muslim geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi mentioned the Swahili cities of Pemba, Merca, Barawa (Brava), and Mafia in his records. The 13th-century al-Andalus geographer Ibn Sa’id al-Maghribi, meanwhile, visited the Swahili Coast, particularly Mombasa. He also visited the coastal cities of Mogadishu and Merca. The famed Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta also visited the city of Kilwa (in present-day Tanzania) around 1332.

The history of the medieval Swahili city-states has long been intertwined with Islam. The Yemenite Banu Majid tribe settled in Mogadishu in Somalia after they were driven out from their homeland. Yemenites from the regions of Abyan and Haram also sailed across the Gulf of Aden and started to live in the coastal cities of Somalia.

The Shirazi Dynasty Dominates the Swahili Cities

The Great Mosque of Kilwa was likely built in the 10th century.

The most prominent of the Swahili cities was Kilwa Kisiwani in Tanzania. Back in the 9th-century AD, a Persian-Abyssinian prince fled Shiraz with his family after he was driven out by his brothers. They first sailed from the port of Hormuz to Mogadishu. They lived there for some time until they were driven out of Mogadishu as well. The Shirazi prince and his family sailed down to the island of Kilwa which they later bought from the local Bantu chieftain. The prince and his family ruled Kilwa Kisiwani from then on. The succeeding kings of Kilwa were then known as the rulers of the Shirazi dynasty.

One of Persian prince’s descendants, Sultan Daud b. Suleiman became “Master of Trade” during the mid-1100s. Sultan Daud and his son Hasan ruled Kilwa, Pemba, Mafia, and Zanzibar. The Swahili cities became major trading ports for Arab and Persian merchants during their reign. Kilwa itself became wealthy not only because of trade but also because of the Shirazis’ monopoly on the gold trade in Great Zimbabwe. The gold they mined in the Great Zimbabwe first went through the Shirazi-held city of Sofala. Shipments of gold were then transported to the island of Kilwa. The Shirazi sultan then imposed taxes on the gold that went through his city. The revenues collected from the gold trade were sent to the king’s treasury.

Most of the people of the Swahili coast became Muslims during the domination of the Shirazi dynasty. They practiced Sunni Islam and followed the Shafi school of thought. Mosques and Islamic-style tombs in Kilwa Kisiwani were built during the time of Sultan Daud b. Suleiman. Traces of Islamic architectural elements could be seen in the remains of the great palace and emporium of Kilwa. The Swahili cities boasted single and multi-level houses that were made of coral stones and lime mortar.

The Swahilis extended their domination into Madagascar. The cities of Barawa and Mogadishu were the Swahilis’ main rivals during the 14th-century. The Swahili cities continued to flourish and reached their peak during this time.


Picture by: en:user:Claude McNabfrom with source-description: Original Uploader was Claude McNab (talk) at 19:32, 15 May 2006., Public Domain, Link

Bosworth, Clifford Edmund. The New Islamic Dynasties: A Chronological and Genealogical Manual. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996.

Oliver, Roland, ed. The Cambridge History of Africa:. The Cambridge History of Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977. doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521209816.

Perkins, John. “The Indian Ocean and Swahili Coast coins, international networks and local developments.” Perkins, John. Accessed February 01, 2017.

Roberts, J. M., and Odd Arne. Westad. The History of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

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Eugene IV

Pope Eugene IV reigned from 1431 to 1447. He was the second pope following Martin V after the end of the Great Western Schism, and these past events still affected his reign. He tried to dissolve the Council of Basel which resulted in a conflict with the cardinals who took part in it. He tried to reunite the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, but his efforts failed. He issued the papal bull Sicut Dudum that forbade the capture and enslavement of the Guanches. He later allowed Prince Henry of Portugal to make slave raids on the northwestern coast of Africa.  These events are recorded on the Biblical Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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Early Life and Career

Gabriele Condulmaro, the future Pope Eugene IV, was born in 1383 in Venice. He came from a wealthy family and entered an Augustinian monastery in Venice at an early age. His uncle, Pope Gregory XII, later appointed him as the Bishop of Siena. But his stay there was cut short after the Sienese objected to the rule of a foreign and young bishop. In 1408, he became the cardinal-priest of the Basilica of San Clemente.

The Great Western Schism ended in 1417 with the election of Pope Martin V in Constance. The new pope then appointed Cardinal Condulmaro as the papal legate in the March of Ancona. The cardinal also governed the city of Bologna where he successfully stopped a rebellion.

Pope Martin V died in 1431, and the College of Cardinals elected Gabriele Condulmaro as the new pope. Before his election, he agreed to assign half of the Church revenues to the cardinals and consult them before making any decisions. The agreement pleased the cardinals, and his election went smoothly because of this. He took the name Eugene IV, and was crowned at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on March 11, 1431.

Conflicts with the House of Colonna and the Council of Basel

Pope Eugene IV was in power from 1431 to 1447.

The previous pope Martin V came from the powerful and influential Colonna family of Rome. The House of Colonna benefitted from Martin’s generosity after he gave them money and properties in the Papal States. As soon as he became pope, Eugene IV demanded that the return of the money and the properties. Martin V’s relatives were angry at this demand, and clashes soon flared up between the pope and the family. After some time, the family surrendered the castles they acquired and paid back the money they received from Martin V.

Martin V convoked the Council of Basel in 1431 to address the Conciliar Movement and the pope’s prerogative in decision-making. The Conciliar Movement, which started in the Council of Pisa, was an attempt to solve the Great Western Schism in 1409. The Council of Constance solved the Schism when it successfully removed the three popes and elected a new one. For the first time in the history of the Catholic Church, a council was more powerful than the pope.

Nine months after his election, Eugene IV dissolved the Council of Basel because of poor attendance. The council protested the dissolution, and the attendees refused to go home. They also accused the new pope that he only wanted to get rid of the council because he did not want to carry out the reforms. They insisted that the Council had more authority than the pope. They summoned him instead to Basel to show their authority. It was resolved after Pope Eugene IV crowned Sigismund of Luxembourg as the Holy Roman Emperor in 1433. He reconciled the two parties and convinced the pope to take back his order of dissolution. Pope Eugene also announced the Council of Basel as an ecumenical council.

The conflict ended there as talks were derailed by opposing parties. Many of the participants went home, while those who remained in Basel elected Felix V as their own “pope.” Pope Eugene IV convoked his own council in the Italian city of Ferrara in 1438. He later transferred the council to Florence when the plague broke out in Ferrara. In this council, the pope proposed the reunion of the Roman Catholic Church with the Eastern Orthodox Church. To this end, he made agreements with Armenian, Jacobite, Nestorian, and Maronite leaders of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The pope pledged his support for a campaign against the Ottoman Turks by assigning a portion of Church revenues to fund the crusaders. This crusade, however, resulted in the bloody Battle of Varna. The council of Florence lasted until July 1439.

Eugene IV and Slavery

In 1402, the French explorer Jean de Bethencourt arrived in the Canary Islands. The islands were inhabited by the Guanches, a group of people who were related to the Berbers. When he saw the Guanches, Jean de Bethencourt immediately captured them and took them to Cadiz in Spain to become slaves. He traveled to the king’s court in Castile and asked Henry III to proclaim him as king of the Canary Islands. King Henry III agreed on the condition that de Bethencourt recognize him as his overlord. The Canary Islands became Spain’s first colony outside of Europe, and they continued to raid the Canary Islands to capture the Guanches. The enslaved Guanches were replaced by Castilian peasants in the Canary Islands.

Now that Spain had staked its claim to its first colony, the Portuguese wanted one, too. The Portuguese king John I looked no further than Ceuta, the Marinid stronghold on the North African side of the Strait of Gibraltar. They conquered Ceuta in 1415 and started some expeditions down the northwestern coast of Africa. Just like the Spaniards, the Portuguese also captured “black Moors” and sold them in Europe as slaves.

This practice of kidnapping and slavery for profit did not escape the notice of Pope Eugene IV. In 1435, he issued the papal bull entitled Sicut Dudum which forbade the Spaniards from capturing the Guanches of Canary Islands. He also commanded the Spaniards to free the Guanches and return them to the islands. Those who did not submit to the papal bull would be punished with excommunication.

In 1441, however, Prince Henry of Portugal (the Navigator) convinced the pope to grant his people the right to raid the northwest coast of Africa for slaves. This was done under the pretext of a crusade against Muslims and “heathens.” The pope granted his request and issued a bull which promised to forgive the sins of anyone who joined the expedition.

Rome was a chaotic place during much of Pope Eugene IV’s reign, so he was forced to flee to Ferrara. He spent most of his time in Ferrara, Florence, and Bologna until he was able to come home in 1443. He died in Rome on February 23, 1447.


Picture by: Cristofano dell’AltissimoUnknown, Public Domain, Link

Kerr, Gordon. Timeline of the Popes: A History from St Peter to Francis I. RW Press, 2013.

Loughlin, James. “Pope Eugene IV.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 25 Jan. 2017 <>.

Panzer, Joel S. “The Popes and Slavery by Joel S Panzer.” The Popes and Slavery. Accessed January 25, 2017.

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Surrender of Quebec 1759

On September 13, 1759, British and French troops met and fought on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec. This battle was the culmination of years of fighting between the British and French (along with their Native American allies) in a conflict known as the French and Indian War. British forces defeated the French defenders of the city in a short battle and proceeded to seize Quebec in the following days. At the end of the French and Indian War, France was forced to cede Quebec (along with other North American colonies) to Britain.  These events are recorded on the Biblical Timeline Chart with World History during this time period.

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The Europeans Arrive in Quebec

The first known inhabitants of southern Quebec were Algonquian- and Iroquoian-speaking First Nations tribes. The northern part of Quebec had long been home to Canada’s aboriginal Inuit. In 1534, King Francis I of France commissioned Jacques Cartier on a voyage to find gold in the New World and the fabled Northwest Passage to Asia. Cartier and his crew arrived near the Gaspe Peninsula in May 1534 but failed to find treasures or trade routes to Asia that was not blocked by land or ice. They sailed back to France, but Cartier returned the following year. This time, Cartier and his crew entered the St. Lawrence and sailed upriver until they came across a Huron village called Hochelaga. This area later became the city of Montreal.

Cartier claimed the area for France and named the colony “New France.” With the help of friendly natives tribes, the French traders  were able to transform the area into a center for the fur trade. The French people did not immediately seize the opportunity to migrate to Canada because of the difficulty of the voyage and the struggle of pioneers in a foreign land. Wars back home also hampered possible French migrants from settling New France in greater numbers.

In 1603, the French explorer Samuel de Champlain traveled to New France in another attempt to find the Northwest Passage. He never found the passage but went on to explore the St. Lawrence River and establish a trading post on Stadacona near modern Quebec City. The colony of Quebec finally grew when a greater number of settlers migrated from France. The French kings granted the vast lands of Quebec to companies whose directors then divided and distributed to influential Frenchmen. These lands were then leased to and cultivated by French farmers. Apart from hardy fur traders and frontiersmen, intrepid Catholic priests and missionaries started to gain a foothold in the area.

Expansion and Conflict

Between the late 1600s and early 1700s, French explorers had established riverine outposts in Illinois, Indiana, and eventually, Ohio. Unlike their British counterparts, the relationship between the French and most of the Native American tribes they encountered was initially cordial. The French settlers made an alliance with tribes such as the Piankashaw, Shawnee, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Chippewa, and Ottawa. As the settlers expanded in Ohio, they made alliances with peoples such as the Delaware, Shawnee, Mississauga, and Wyandot. The British colonists, on the other hand, acquired an alliance with the Iroquois Confederacy, Cherokee, and Chickasaw. These tribes would go on to play a large role in the French and Indian War and influence its outcome.

 While New France’s total European population stayed below 50,000, the population of Britain’s North American colonies had grown to more than 250,000. Their situation was also precarious as rival colonies in the American northeast hemmed them in. By the 1730s, Canadian settlers traveling further south and southeast inevitably came across British colonists who, in turn, were expanding north and west. Friction soon arose between the colonists who were scrambling to get their hands on lands and resources.

In the 1740s, the fur trader William Trent established several trade outposts in the Ohio Country. In 1752, French forces (with their First Nations allies) raided and destroyed a British outpost in Pickawillany and killed the Miami chieftain Memeskia as punishment for trading with British merchants. Eager to protect the area from rival traders, the French authorities ordered the construction of Fort Presque Isle, Fort Le Boeuf, Fort Machault, and Fort Duquesne. As they went along, they displaced or captured British traders and their Iroquois allies. Iroquois representatives appealed to the governor of New York for help, but their pleas were in vain.

The French and Indian War: The Long Road to Quebec

Watercolor painting of General Montcalm leading his troops into battle.

News of the French expansion in the Ohio Country reached governor Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia in 1753. Later that year, he dispatched a contingent of the Virginia militia under the young George Washington to demand the withdrawal of the French forces from the Ohio Country. Washington and his forces arrived in Fort Le Boeuf in October 1753 and relayed Dinwiddie’s demands to the French commander Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre. The French commander ignored the governor’s demand. Washington and his men left Fort Le Boeuf and returned to Virginia two months later.

The hostilities between the French and British colonists escalated into full-scale war in 1754. George Washington and his troops managed to ambush and defeat a French reconnaissance party in the southwestern portion of present-day Pennsylvania. The Virginia militia and their French prisoners then retreated to Great Meadows where they constructed Fort Necessity. This victory was quickly reversed when French troops attacked and captured the fort on July 3, 1754.   

Meanwhile, the British Parliament finally decided to provide reinforcements for the Virginia militia. In summer of 1755, the British navy and army chipped away at French defenses in the Atlantic by capturing the Acadian peninsula. General Edward Braddock and his men tried to capture Fort Duquesne but were defeated by French soldiers in the disastrous Battle of Monongahela. The British forces reversed this by defeating the French in the Battle of Lake George on September 8, 1755.

Between May 8 and 9, 1756, Britain and France finally declared war on each other. Meanwhile, in America, the formidable French General Montcalm scored victories when he led his troops in capturing Fort Oswego (August 14, 1756), Fort William Henry (August 8, 1757), and Fort Ticonderoga (July 8, 1758). The siege on Fort William Henry became infamous for its brutality and the inability of the French troops to stop its Native American allies from massacring British and local soldiers (as well as civilians) who had already surrendered.

The tides of war turned against the French colonists less than one month after the capture of Fort Ticonderoga. British forces managed to capture Louisbourg on July 26, 1758. The capture of this crucial fortress on the eastern tip of Cape Breton Island made Quebec more vulnerable to an invasion from the north. This defeat was followed by the capture of Fort Frontenac and Fort Duquesne. The seizure of these forts cut off any communication between the troops stationed in the Great Lakes area and the authorities in the cities of Quebec.

The heartbreaking losses of the French colonists continued in 1759. British forces captured French supply ships and seized trade goods, resulting in food shortages in the French colonies and endangering the French-Indian alliance. In summer of the same year, British troops sealed the western frontier by capturing Fort Niagara and Crown Point. British troops and their allies now controlled the area between the Atlantic and the St. Lawrence River. It was not long before the British forces attempted to capture Quebec itself.

In summer of 1759, the British troops under Major General James Wolfe led a grinding 2-month bombardment of Quebec. On the French side, General Montcalm led the successful defense of the city. Finally, on September 13, British forces successfully landed on Quebec’s Anse-au-Foulon. They marched north until they reached the Plains of Abraham where they were met by the beleaguered French forces under General Montcalm. On the same day, the British army defeated the French forces at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Although they managed to rout the French troops, the British army was unable to occupy Quebec on that day. General Montcalm and General Wolfe both died within hours of each other on September 14. It was not until September 18, 1759, that Quebec was finally forced to surrender and open its gates to the victorious British troops.

In 1763, the guns of the Seven Years’ War/French and Indian War were finally silenced. In the end, France was forced to cede Canada to the British in the Treaty of Paris. In return, Britain would allow the inhabitants of Canada the freedom to practice Catholicism. The British representatives agreed to the condition that the new rulers would not drive the French settlers from their lands if they chose to remain in the colony. Residents who did not want to submit to British rule would be allowed to sell their lands and leave Canada within an 18-month period.


Picture by: Charles William via the English-language Wikipedia., Public Domain, Link

McNaught, Kenneth William Kirkpatrick. The Penguin History of Canada. London: Penguin, 1978.

Morton, Desmond. A Short History of Canada. 2nd ed. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1994.

Riendeau, Roger. A Brief History of Canada. New York: Facts On File, 2000.

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St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre

Between August 24 and 26, 1572, thousands of Huguenots were massacred in Paris at the instigation of several members of the French royal family and the Duke of Guise. The infamous event fell on the feast day of St. Bartholomew (August 24), several days after the wedding of Henry of Navarre and Margaret of Valois. The St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre ended any hopes of reconciliation between the French Catholics and their Huguenot compatriots during the 16th and 17th centuries.  This event is recorded on the Biblical Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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The Reformation in France

In 1517, Martin Luther published his 95 Theses against the sale of indulgences. Unbeknownst to him, this piece of literature would upset the balance of power and set off a series of wars in and out of Germany even after his death.

The Reformation, ignited by Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, eventually found its way into France. During the 1530s, Protestantism spread quickly in France thanks to the efforts of John Calvin. Unfortunately, French Protestants (Huguenots) never found their homeland a hospitable place for their faith. By the mid-1500s, King Henry II officially sanctioned the persecution of Huguenots, a policy that continued under his son, Francis II. The persecution against them only intensified when Huguenots tried to kidnap the young king in Amboise in 1560. The Conspiracy of Amboise failed, and more than a thousand Huguenots were executed in the aftermath.

Under Francis II (and in the shadow of his powerful mother Catherine de Médici), France’s policy concerning the Huguenots seesawed between repression and conciliation. The tides of conflict could not be held back any longer when France finally plunged into its first War of Religion between 1562 and 1563. The war ended in 1563 with the Peace of Amboise, but the hatred between the Catholics and the Huguenots remained. The second War of Religion exploded in 1567 and ended in 1568 with the Treaty of Longjumeau. The ink was not yet dry on the document when the third War of Religion broke out in the same year. This was ended with the Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1570, but peace would be a far-fetched dream for the Huguenots.

Two years after the Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France was once again engulfed in another War of Religion.  What made this particular war so notorious was the wantonness of destruction unleashed by the rulers of France against the Huguenots of France and those who came from the Kingdom of Navarre.

The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day

The St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre took place in August of 1572.

The Catholics  

Catherine de Médici – the Italian queen consort of King Henry II of France. She gave birth to the future King Francis II in 1544, and was soon followed by Elizabeth of Valois (1545), Charles IX (1550), Margaret of Valois (1553), and the Duke of Anjou, Henry III (1558). She occasionally played regent during the reign of her husband Henry II and her son Francis II. She became more powerful after the death of Francis II and the accession of her younger son, Charles IX.

Catherine tried to be conciliatory to the Huguenots during the early years of her rule. After the Surprise of Meaux (1567), the queen launched a repressive campaign against Louis I de Bourbon (the Huguenot Prince de Condé) and his supporters. She allegedly ordered the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre along with her younger and more ambitious son, Henry, Duke of Anjou, and some French and Italian noblemen.

Charles IX – the younger son of King Henry II and Catherine de Médici. Charles inherited the throne of France when his older brother died Francis II died in 1560. Sickly, mentally unstable, and unfit to rule, he was long overshadowed by his mentor, the Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, and by his own mother. He was said to have ordered the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day with the instigation of his mother.   

Margaret of Valois – younger daughter of Henry II and Catherine de Médici. Her wedding with the Huguenot King Henry III of Navarre on August 18, 1572, was tarnished with the massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day on August 24. She became the Queen of Navarre and France following her brothers’ death and her husband’s accession to the throne of France.

Henry I, Duke of Guise – leader of the Catholic faction at the French court and lover of Margaret of Valois. The duke blamed Coligny for his father’s death in 1563 and sought revenge from his youth. He personally supervised Coligny’s assassination in 1572.

Henry, Duke of Anjou – youngest son of Henry II and  Catherine de Médici. Primary instigator of the massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day.

The Huguenots

Jeanne d’Albret – Queen of Navarre and joint ruler with her husband Antoine de Bourbon. She converted to Calvinism during the mid-1500s and imposed Protestantism in Navarre. She would repeatedly come to a head with Catherine de Médici during the French Wars of Religion. Jeanne finally agreed to make peace with the Catholic faction in 1572 with the betrothal of her son Henry III to the French princess Margaret of Valois. Her death in Paris two months before her son’s wedding was blamed on Catherine de Médici.

Henry III of Navarre (later Henry IV of France) – son and heir of Jeanne d’Albret and Antoine de Bourbon. Catherine de Médici and Henry’s mother Jeanne d’Albret arranged his marriage to the French princess Margaret of Valois in 1572 to reconcile the Catholics and the Huguenots. Henry III was one of the few survivors of the Huguenot massacre on St. Bartholomew’s Day.

Gaspard de Coligny – French admiral and leader of Protestant faction at the French court. He became the Huguenots’ most trusted supporter and protector during the Reformation. Henry I, Duke of Guise, blamed Coligny for the death of his father. Coligny became an influential adviser to the mentally unstable Charles IX, something that Catherine greatly resented. On August 22, 1572, assassins allegedly sent by Catherine de Médici (or Henry, Duke of Guise or even Spain) failed to kill Coligny. The second attempt, however, was supervised by the Duke of Guise himself and resulted in the admiral’s death on St. Bartholomew’s Day (August 24). A massacre of tens of thousands of Huguenots followed the death of Coligny.

Before his death, Coligny had been trying to convince Charles IX to lead the French army in a war against Philip II of Spain to take the Low Countries. Coligny hoped that the war against Spain would finally unite the Huguenots and the Catholics, but the plan encountered fierce resistance from the Duke of Guise.

The Wedding and the Bloodbath

The marriage of Margaret of Valois and Henry III of Navarre was solemnized on August 18, 1572, in Paris. It was the culmination of months of negotiation between the Protestant Queen Jeanne d’Albret and the Catholic Queen Catherine de Médici. King Charles IX of France, his younger brother Henry III, and their mother attended the wedding, along with the Catholic and Huguenot nobility. The marriage of Henry and Margaret was supposed to end the enmity between the Huguenots and Catholics, but what transpired afterward only deepened the hatred between the two factions.

Four days after the wedding, an assassin attempted to kill Gaspard de Coligny as he walked home from the Louvre. He escaped with his life intact, but with his left arm fractured by the shot. His bodyguards were unable to apprehend the assassin, but rumors quickly spread that it was Catherine de Médici who sent the killer.

On St. Bartholomew’s Day (August 24), assassins sent by Catherine and Henry, Duke of Anjou (with permission from Charles IX and the personal supervision of the Duke of Guise) made another attempt at Coligny’s life. They attacked him at home and threw his dead body out of a window afterward. His killing was followed by the massacre of Huguenot noblemen who were staying in the Louvre Palace. Henry of Navarre was detained while the massacre was ongoing. Armed men also roamed the streets of Paris and targeted common Huguenots. The bloodbath continued for three days until Charles IX himself ordered the people to stop the killings.

By August 26, 1572, thousands of dead Huguenots laid on the streets of Paris. The killing frenzy also spread to other provinces, pushing the death toll from anywhere between 2,000 (Catholic writers’ estimate) to 70,000 (Protestant writers’ estimate). Philip II of Spain and Pope Gregory XIII greeted the news of the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre with joy. Many of Europe’s Catholic and Protestant monarchs, however, were horrified when they heard of the slaughter in France.

Charles IX’s mental health, on the other hand, deteriorated soon after the massacre. There were moments when he rejoiced at the death of the Huguenots, but there were instances when he would be racked by guilt and rave about them. He was not healthy to begin with, but his health continued to decline as the months passed. He died in 1574 at the age of 23 and was succeeded by his younger brother, Henry III, Duke of Anjou.

Picture by:Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts., Public Domain, Link

Hassall, Arthur. France, Mediaeval and Modern: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1918.

Heritier, Jean. French Wars of Religion: How Important Were Religious Factors. Edited by J.M.H. Salmon. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company, 1967.

Moran, Patrick Francis. The St. Bartholomew Massacre, 24th August, 1572. Dublin:

Browne and Nolan, 1875.

“St. Bartholomew’s Day (24th August 1572).” Musee Virtuel du Protestantisme. Accessed December 13, 2017.

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Britain Abolishes Slavery in the West Indies 1833

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The Abolitionist Movement and the Abolition of Slave Trade Act of 1807

The abolitionist movement in Britain began to gain momentum during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The French and Haitian Revolutions played a large role in the spreading the belief in liberty and equality on both sides of the Atlantic. However, it was homegrown abolitionists who lived in Britain that helped to transform the narrative. British Quakers, as well as middle-class and working-class women’s groups, were the primary allies in the fight to abolish slavery. At the center of the abolitionist movement, however, were former slaves themselves. They organized groups and spoke in public about the evils of slavery. They also petitioned Parliament to end the slave trade and abolish slavery altogether.

The efforts of the British abolitionists finally bore fruit when the Parliament passed the Abolition of Slave Trade Act in 1807. The Act forbade British ships from transporting slaves, as well as imposed a fine on ship captains who broke the law. (Several ship captains conveniently ignored the law since slave trade was lucrative). Plantation owners, merchants, and other people whose livelihood depended on the exploitation of slaves met the passage of the Act with resistance, but to no avail. Although the law only abolished the slave trade in the British colonies, it did not abolish slavery itself. This only pushed the abolitionists to work harder to help the slaves attain their freedom.

Prelude to Freedom

William Wilberforce was an English politician who represented the abolitionists in Parliament.

The slave rebellions in British Guiana and Jamaica accelerated the end of the slavery in the West Indies. In 1823, rumors of emancipation reached a group of slaves working in the Demerara region of British Guiana. Upon hearing the news, they demanded that their masters grant them freedom immediately. Their owners, however, denied the news of emancipation. It soon became a rebellion, and 13,000 slaves soon joined in the uprising. The rebellion was brutally crushed. The leaders of the Demerara Rebellion were executed, while the rest remained in slavery.

It was the death of the missionary John Smith in British Guiana that galvanized the abolitionist movement in Britain. John Smith ministered primarily to slaves in the Demerara’s ‘Le Resouvenir’ plantation. The authorities soon linked his name to the uprising and accused him of inciting the slaves to rebel. He was convicted and sentenced to hang but was saved when the sentence was commuted to imprisonment. Unfortunately, he died of pneumonia while in prison. The British authorities hurriedly buried him in an unmarked grave in the early morning hours so as not to arouse the anger of the slaves. But news of the “Demerara martyr” soon reached England and outraged the public. In the same year, British newspapers and the Parliament were flooded with condemnation of Reverend Smith’s death. Concerned groups also petitioned Parliament to pass laws that would protect the slaves and the missionaries who ministered to them.

The British colony of Jamaica was not a stranger to slave rebellions. Slave uprisings flared every now and then, but the rebellion which rocked it in 1831 was the largest one yet. It started with a peaceful protest, but soon snowballed into riot and destruction. It was eventually subdued, but not before a number of whites and hundreds of black slaves lost their lives. Samuel Sharpe and other leaders of the rebellion were sentenced to death. Not only did the brutality of the rebellion shock England, but it also made the plantation owners realize that it was only a matter of time before another uprising would destroy their properties. They decided to accept the inevitable and cut their losses by agreeing to the passage of laws that would eventually end slavery.

Britain Finally Ends Slavery in the West Indies

British abolitionists continued to speak out against and write about slavery between 1823 and 1833. They published and distributed literature which greatly influenced the public’s opinion on slavery. Prominent Quakers, such as William Wilberforce and Thomas Fowell Buxton, represented the abolitionists in the Parliament. Buxton himself managed to get 1.5 million signatures on his petition to end slavery in the British Empire. His efforts to set the slaves free, however, encountered great resistance from merchants, planters, and members of Parliament who were sometimes plantation owners themselves.

The tide against slavery finally turned in 1833. The Whigs (composed largely of members of the middle class) dominated the House of Commons after the Great Reform Act of 1832. The proslavery lobby pushed back by arguing that slavery was crucial to the prosperity of the West Indies and the British Empire.

The Colonial Secretary Edward Smith-Stanley penned a new proposal in an attempt to find a win-win solution to the issue. The MPs debated the secretary’s proposal in the Parliament, but the terms proved unacceptable to both sides. After a period of negotiation and debate, both sides finally found the terms acceptable in summer of 1833. The Abolition of Slavery Act (also known as British Emancipation Act) was finally approved on August 28, 1833. The law finally became effective on August 1, 1834. The government compensated former slave owners for their loss, while emancipated slaves spent many years as “apprentices” to “prepare” them for their new life.


Picture by: Karl Anton Hickel – Image: Bridgeman Art Gallery; Portrait: Wilberforce House, Hull Museum, Hull City Council, Public Domain, Link

Browne, Randy M. Surviving Slavery in the British Caribbean. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017.

Rodriguez, Junius P., and William E. Burns. Encyclopedia of Emancipation and Abolition in the Transatlantic World. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2007.

Sherwood, Marika. After Abolition Britain and the Slave Trade Since 1807. London: I.B. Tauris, 2007.

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John Wycliffe

John Wycliffe was a 14th-century English scholar, theologian, professor, and reformer. He is considered as one of the first reformers of the Church during the Late Medieval Period. He studied at Oxford and was known as a brilliant teacher and writer. John Wycliffe’s criticism of the policies of the Avignon popes was useful to the powerful Duke of Lancaster. Pope Gregory XI later condemned John Wycliffe’s beliefs as heresies in a papal bull in 1377 and forbade him to preach them any longer. He translated the Latin Vulgate Bible into Middle English with his friends during the last years of his life. John Wycliffe, the “Morning Star of the Reformation,” died in 1384.  These events are recorded on the Biblical Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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Early Life and Career

John Wycliffe was born in 1324 or 1329 in the village of Hipswell in North Riding of Yorkshire. He came from a well-to-do family who lived in the village of Wycliffe-on-Tees in Yorkshire. Little is known about his life as a boy, but he was one of the fortunate ones who survived the Black Death. His family had enough money to send him to Oxford during the mid-1330s. It was said that he studied either at the Queen’s College, Merton College, or Balliol College in Oxford. However, it is mostly likely that he attended Merton or Balliol College.

It was in Oxford that he learned logic, philosophy, canon and civil law, mathematics, and theology. He became fluent in Latin—a skill that came in handy when he translated the Bible during the later years of his life. He became the Master of Balliol College in 1360. Wycliffe left the job to serve as a vicar of Fillingham in 1361 and returned to Oxford to study again in 1363 and 1368. He received his bachelor’s degree in divinity in 1369 and finally became a doctor of theology in 1372.

While serving as a vicar of Fillingham, John Wycliffe requested the papal court in Avignon to provide him with additional allowance (prebend). Pope Gregory XI, however, did not grant this request and this rejection became the early source of his resentment of the papacy. In 1374, John Wycliffe served at the rectory of Lutterworth after his appointment by Edward III.

Wycliffe’s Politics and Criticism of the Avignon Papacy

John Wycliffe advocated for the Bible to be translated into the vernacular.

King Edward sent John Wycliffe as one of England’s envoys who would settle the conflict with the papal legates in Bruges in 1374. The conflict stemmed from the Statute of Provisors which was passed by the English Parliament in 1351. The king had the right to appoint provisors (deputy clerics) to a benefice (rectory, vicarage, or curacy) even when it was not yet vacant. Before 1351, the pope could also appoint provisors, and his right to appoint them even overrode the king’s. The English resented this as many provisors appointed by the pope did not even live in England.

The fact that the pope was French and was entirely dependent on the French king during the Hundred Years’ War made matters worse. The Parliament was also worried that the charitable works were being neglected even if the money came from the English tithes. The negotiations in Bruges between the English envoys of Edward III and the papal legates failed. John Wycliffe became the rector of Lutterworth parish after the unsuccessful negotiations in Bruges.

Perhaps it was in Flanders that John Wycliffe met the Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt (Ghent). The Duke of Lancaster knew that Wycliffe was supportive of the English nobility, so he used it to advance his political ambitions. When he came back to England, John Wycliffe started to preach against the abuses of power within the Catholic Church.

It seemed to those who were present during his appearance in Parliament in 1371 that John Wycliffe supported the government’s plan of seizing church properties whenever necessary. He also encouraged the English government to keep the revenues within the realm which undoubtedly pleased John of Gaunt. Wycliffe also wrote tracts and articles that condemned some doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church. His criticism of the Church made the English bishops uncomfortable, so they convinced the Archbishop of Canterbury to interfere.

King Edward III died in 1377, and he was succeeded by his young grandson Richard II. As the new king was still a boy, the unpopular Duke of Lancaster became his regent. The Hundred Years’ War with France still raged on in the continent, and the English treasury was drained. To add funds to the crown’s treasury, John of Gaunt introduced a poll tax. Everyone—from the peasants to the clergymen—was required to pay one groat (a silver coin) to fund a prolonged war. The poll tax made the unpopular duke one of the most hated men in England. It did not help John Wycliffe that the duke was his supporter.

William Courtenay, the Archbishop of Canterbury and an enemy of the Duke, summoned Wycliffe to St. Paul’s Cathedral because of the ideas that he preached. He was escorted in Canterbury by John of Gaunt, Lord Percy and some friars from Oxford. Many residents of London were also present to witness the event. It was a fiasco. The discussion became a shouting match between Wycliffe’s supporters and enemies. It descended into a brawl, and John of Gaunt had to flee for his life.

The “Heretic”

On May 22, 1377, the pope sent bulls condemning John Wycliffe and his teachings. Wycliffe was imprisoned in the Black Hall at Oxford after the papal bulls reached the university. He was released later, but he was ordered to appear at the Lambeth Palace in 1378 to defend himself. Some residents of London who sympathized with Wycliffe interrupted the proceedings. The Queen Mother herself did not allow the bishops to do anything harsh against Wycliffe. The Archbishop called for a second trial, but the council followed the Queen Mother orders and did not issue a sentence. He was only commanded not to preach his “heretical ideas” again, but John Wycliffe only ignored it.

John of Gaunt, meanwhile, became even more unpopular when he imprisoned two English squires who held a Spanish hostage. They had refused to hand the hostage to the authorities and instead fled to the Westminster Abbey. The authorities dragged the two squires out of the sanctuary which was a direct violation of the right of asylum provided by the church. John Wycliffe backed the authorities and defended their actions in Parliament in front of the pope’s envoys.

John of Gaunt enjoyed Wycliffe’s full support, but the duke saw that he was fast becoming a liability. The duke started to abandon John Wycliffe in 1378, but by this time, the theologian had also gained a lot of followers. They would later be known as the Lollards, and they, in turn, preached Wycliffe’s sermons to the people. Still, the authorities at Oxford allowed him to teach at the university until 1381.

It was during this difficult time when John Wycliffe and his disciples translated the Bible from Latin Vulgate into English. Nicholas Hereford, one of Wycliffe’s closest associates in Oxford, translated the Old Testament up to the book of Baruch. Wycliffe translated the rest of the Apocrypha and portions of the New Testament, but many books were left untranslated even after his death. Other disciples took up the pen and continued to translate the Bible well into 1388. It was curated by his assistant, John Purvey.

1381 was a difficult year for John Wycliffe after he published his denial of transubstantiation. Transubstantiation refers to the doctrine that during mass, the bread and wine become the real body and blood of Christ. John Wycliffe insisted that the bread and wine were mere representations of Christ, and were not his actual body and blood. This rejection of transubstantiation outraged the priests who then rejected his ideas.

John of Gaunt had already withdrawn his support from Wycliffe. But even if they were on good terms, the duke was busy suppressing the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 to be of any help. In response to Wycliffe’s “heresy,” Chancellor William de Berton of Oxford assembled the university’s leading theologians into a council. The council then condemned him and his beliefs. They also did not allow him to teach the denial of transubstantiation in Oxford. Those who continued to teach Wycliffe’s heretical ideas would be punished with imprisonment or excommunication. Wycliffe immediately appealed his sentence to King Richard II, but many of his former supporters had abandoned him, so the appeal was denied.

Death and Condemnation

John Wycliffe left London in 1382 and returned to Lutterworth to spend the last years of his life there. He continued to serve the parish until December 28, 1384 when he suffered a stroke while celebrating mass. He died two days later.

Wycliffe remained controversial even after his death. In 1414, he was declared as a heretic along with the Czech priest Jan Hus in the Council of Constance in Germany. Wycliffe’s bones were removed from the grave and burned as punishment for his heresy. Afterward, his ashes were scattered in the Swift River.


Picture by: Thomas Kirkby (1775–c.1848), Public Domain, Link

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

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

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

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