Lesson 1: The Medieval City

Week: 1

During the Middle Ages (also called medieval times or Dark Ages), northerners ventured south to western Europe fill the vacuum left by the downfall of the Roman Empire. Life was tough for common people, who worked as serfs. Some serfs even died when their masters worked them too hard. Cities were extremely important, producing the majority of the writing, art, science, astronomy, architecture, literature, and theater of the times. After the Crusades, people began to appreciate the value of luxury items. Traveling peddlers settled down and became merchants. Merchants began making their own goods and became manufacturers. Manufacturers produced enough goods to export them to foreign lands. Many people bartered goods, but at times gold was required for payment. People such as medieval knights borrowed gold and ended up losing their lands and other possessions. Merchants or money lenders lent gold to their masters in the castles in exchange for charters, councils, and other forms of power. Eventually, through this, cities were built and merchants and lenders became more powerful than many old masters living in their castles.

Lesson 2: Medieval Self-Government

Week: 2

When nomadic, all people were equally rich and poor. Wherever people settled and formed governments, whether in Rome, Greece, or Egypt, a small number became rich kings and noblemen, but the majority were poor peasants. In the thirteenth century, a middle class of merchants arose to challenge the power of the kings and princes. In England, when King Richard the Lionheart left for the crusades and was jailed, he left his corrupt brother John in charge. John's vassals rebelled and jailed him until he signed the Magna Carta and promised to do better. John repeatedly violated the Magna Carta, but soon died, leaving his son Henry III in charge. King Richard borrowed money for his crusades, and ended up forming a Parliament with representatives of the burghers and the common people. Similar Parliaments were found across Europe, including in Scandinavia, Switzerland, and Holland.

Lesson 3: The Medieval World

Week: 3

The people of the Middle Ages (also called medieval times or Dark Ages) believed themselves divinely ordained into particular roles - from serfs to kings. People believed they would go to Heaven or Hell. The superstitious people believed that death personified, devils, ghosts, spooks, and angels wandered amidst them. People would do wicked deeds, pray for forgiveness, then do more wicked deeds. The medieval library at first consisted of only the Bible, but Aristotle's great encyclopedia of knowledge was later added. The teachers of the time relied exclusively on these books for teaching, rather than making their own observations about the world. When Roger Bacon conducted experiments that disputed knowledge from the Bible or the great encyclopedia, he was forbidden from studying or writing for ten years. Although people were locked into their station in life, they were afforded some dignities, such as being cared for in old age. Merchants formed guilds to ensure steady income for all. Authorities capped the prices of goods to prevent price gouging. Competition was discouraged, as people believed riches would not get anyone into Heaven. Unlike the Greeks and Romans, who sought to create Heaven right here on earth (except for their slaves), the people of the Middle Ages focused on ascending to Heaven after death.

Lesson 4: Medieval Trade

Week: 4

The fall of the Roman Empire ushered in the Middle Ages, a period of deterioration and slow progress, as the powerful strove to maintain the status quo. However, change is a powerful force that cannot be stopped. In the late Middle Ages, Italian cities grew to new commercial importance for three reasons: 1) Italy had the most roads and towns in Europe, 2) the Pope lived in Italy and served as a conduit for money and commerce, and 3) Italian cities supplied the embarkation points for the Crusades. During this time, Venice flourished by salt-making. Genoa merchants traded with Tunisia, France, and Black Sea grain depots. Florence attempted democracy with poor results, and in the vacuum, the Medici family rose to power. In the north, the merchants formed the 'Hansa,' a powerful association of over 100 cities with its own navy. As commerce improved, people grew wealthier and were able to devote additional leisure time to learning and creating great works of literature, art, and music, heralding the Renaissance era.

Lesson 5: The Renaissance

Week: 5

During the Renaissance, people diverted their attentions from Heaven and Hell to beautifying their mortal existence on Earth. Academics, the arts, music, literature, and the sciences flourished. Troubadours sang songs of heroic deeds. The youth studied in great universities. Dante Alighieri is one example of a Renaissance Italian writer. Dante wrote a famed narrative poem, 'The Divine Comedy,' about Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven in the afterlife. Francesco Petrarca, or Petrarch, was a Renaissance author who wrote of love and of nature and the sun. However, not everyone loved the intellectual growth of the Renaissance. Some of the old schoolmasters pushed back against people learning Greek to read Aristotle, Homer, and Plato, even burning books and art in protest. The old schoolmasters and their old ways were eventually defeated. The Middle Ages came to a close when the Pope turned humanist and the Vatican became a museum of Roman and Greek antiquities.

Lesson 6: The Age of Expression

Week: 6

Once, learning was reserved for a privileged few. During the turbulent times of war and strife of the 1400s, some people, such as Brother Thomas à Kempis, found ways to create works of literature, music, science, and art. Through these works, everyday people brought about the 'Age of Expression' by relating their own individual ideas, even though they were not famous, not a king, not a Pope, or even a rich person.

Lesson 7: The Great Discoveries Part I

Week: 7

With the fading of the restrictions of medieval times, people began to explore the world around them. Despite the perils of sea travel, such as illness, rotten food, thirst, starvation, and leaky vessels, plucky explorers such as Magellan and Columbus and Vasco da Gama opened up new lands for exploration and colonization. During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, explorers sought paths to China and Japan. The Portuguese, such as Henry the Navigator, explored the coast and interior of Africa. At this time, the most educated had rejected the notion that the world was flat, accepting that it is approximately spherical in shape.

Lesson 8: The Great Discoveries Part II

Week: 8

When it came to exploring the "New World," the first explorer was likely Leif Erikson, a brave Norsemen who visited America in the eleventh century. However, his voyage was not known to Christopher Columbus, who sought to sail across the Atlantic without knowing what he would find. Columbus won the financial backing of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain for his voyage. Columbus sailed with his new crew into the vast unknown ocean. Columbus landed in the Caribbean Islands of North America in 1492 and traded with the native people, believing he had arrived in Asia. Other great explorers include Americus Vespucius, for whom America is named, John Cabot, his son Sebastian, and Ferdinand Magellan. Americus Vespucius was the first to realize North and South America were new continents and not part of Asia. John Cabot crossed the Atlantic and explored up and down the coast of North America. Ferdinand Magellan organized the first voyage to circumnavigate the Earth, although he died in the Philippine Islands before the completion of the voyage.

Lesson 9: Buddha

Week: 9

Siddhartha (Buddha) grew up as a privileged prince in a castle, shielded from the cruelties of life. Upon viewing the suffering and death of the outside world, he went on a quest to find the meaning of existence. Siddhartha wandered for many years, before becoming a teacher and teaching about submission and meekness and the equality of all living creatures.

Lesson 10: Confucius

Week: 10

Confucius, born in the year 550 B.C., was a peaceful Chinese philosopher. Confucius believed in right living and righteous thinking for the peace of the soul that comes with a good conscience. He valued stoicism, self-possession, and honoring one's parents and past ancestors. His influence as a teacher grew over time, until the kings and princes of China turned to him for wisdom. The Christian figure of Jesus Christ similarly preached humility and meekness and absence from worldly ambitions. Another Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tse, taught the Golden Rule. (Nothing but good comes to him who loves others as he loves himself.)

Lesson 11: The Early Reformation

Week: 11

Emperor Charles V was born in 1500. Raised a Catholic, he believed in religious tolerance, although as a ruler he continually had to intervene in conflicts, in part over religion. When he died at age 58, he was tired and dispirited by settling the continual quarreling and fighting. During this time, the Roman Catholic Church gained power and riches. In southern Europe, the attention of the people turned from religious matters to art and music and theater. People further north were more serious and religious-minded. A schism grew between the people of the north and south, and a desire for reform kindled in Germany. As literacy grew in Germany, people began to read the Bible for themselves and to question what the priests were telling them. Desiderius Erasmus printed pamphlets and a book called 'Praise of Folly,' critical of the behavior of the monks. However, it was Martin Luther that sparked the real reformation rebellion against the Roman Catholic Church.

Lesson 12: The Reformation and Martin Luther

Week: 12

Smart and courageous, the German peasant Martin Luther grew disillusioned with the Roman Catholic Church when the actions of Church leadership differed from what the Bible advised. Short on money, Pope Leo X and other Church leaders began selling indulgences, pieces of paper that could be purchased to supposedly decrease the time people had to spend in Purgatory before ascending to Heaven. Martin Luther grew outraged by the practice and posted a paper with 95 theses attacking indulgences and other Church practices. When Luther's list spread like wildfire across Europe, the papal authorities demanded he come to Rome. Luther refused and the Church excommunicated him. Those unhappy with the Church rallied around Luther and hid him from the Church. Chaos and violence followed, with the poor uprising against the religious and the rich. From this disorder, the Protestant religion arose and its adherents battled the Catholics for supremacy.

Lesson 13: Religious Warfare Part I

Week: 13

After the Reformation, the Roman Catholics and Protestants showed intolerance for one another and continued to quarrel. Religions also persecuted scientists that dared challenge church doctrine with their scientific findings. For example, the Catholic Church punished Galileo (who said the Earth revolves around the Sun) and Michael Servetus. The Roman Catholic Inquisition sought out and executed so-called heretics, including Protestants. The religious division posed a problem for King Philip, a zealous Catholic, who ruled over the rich but Protestant nation of the Netherlands. King Philip sent the Duke of Alba, his 'iron man,' to the Netherlands to force them to renounce their Protestant faith. The people of the Netherlands fought back and defeated the Spanish forces, preserving their religious freedom.

Lesson 14: Religious Warfare Part II

Week: 14

In the late 1500s, the Catholic Spanish waged war on the sea against the Protestant British and Dutch. In 1618, the Thirty Years War erupted between Catholics and Protestants, destroying cities and causing starvation. The war ended after thirty years in 1648 with the treaty of Westphalia.

Lesson 15: The English Revolution

Week: 15

Starting in 55 B.C. and continuing for hundreds of years, England was continually invaded. Invaders included Julius Caesar of Rome, the Saxons of Germany, the Danes of Denmark, the Norsemen of Scandinavia, and the Duke of Normandy. In France, the problem came from within, as its people fought among themselves. One French heroine, Joan of Arc, led the French Army to victory over England, but she was taken prisoner and burned at the stake as a witch by the English. By the end of the 15th Century, England became a centralized country ruled by King Henry VII of the House of Tudor. After Henry VII died, a series of individuals struggled for control of the English throne and Parliament.

Lesson 16: The Balance of Power

Week: 16

While the English struggled over the throne and for freedom, Louis XIV came to power in France. For decades, Louis XIV presided over an era of splendor and grace. However, the King ruled alone as a despot, and this meant the other French leadership had little to do and fell away. King Louis attempted to grow his influence, marrying the daughter of the King of Spain and claiming Belgium as his wife's dowry. However, Belgium resisted and King Louis never managed to unify Europe under his rule. Spain warred against King Louis for secession, and the war emptied his treasury. Thus, Europe remained divided and the balance of powers between its great countries remained.

Lesson 17: The Rise of Russia

Week: 17

The Mongolians under Genghis Khan invaded and conquered Russia around 1224. It took Russia two hundred years to gain Independence. Over the subsequent centuries, rulers came and went, but Russia grew in power and influence. A year after Columbus discovered America, a man named Schnups tried to reach the city of Moscow (Russia), but was turned back at the frontier of the country. The Muscovite people wanted foreigners to stay away. Unfortunately for them, a convenient trade route linking northern Europe to Constantinople led through their territory. Byzantine monks entered the territory and taught the Russians about the Christian religion, the alphabet, art, and architecture.

Lesson 18: Russia vs. Sweden

Week: 18

Around the turn of the 16th century, a rebellion brewed against the Russian Tsar Peter when he left the country. Upon his return, he executed the uprisers. When these events repeated in 1716, Peter again emerged in control and ruled until his death. During his reign, Tsar Peter enacted many reforms, including building up Russia's military, roads, towns, and schools, replacing the Duma of Nobles with a Senate of state officials, and dividing Russia into eight provinces. To avoid religious conflicts, Tsar Peter made himself the head of the Russian Church. During this time, Sweden had grown in power. When Charles XII, a boy of fifteen, became King in Sweden, its rivals, including Russia, smelled weakness and attacked. In 1700, the Russian forces of Peter suffered a defeat to Sweden. Charles XII pressed his advantage, going on the attack and depleting his armies. As a result, in 1709, the Russians destroyed the weakened Swedish army and Sweden lost much of its Baltic territory.

Lesson 19: The Rise of Prussia

Week: 19

Starting out as a forlorn country, the House of Hohenzollern transformed Prussia into an efficient empire. The treasury ran a surplus, torture was forbidden, and the judiciary system, roads, and schools were greatly improved.

Lesson 20: The Mercantile System

Week: 20

European countries required lots of money to build and run their militaries, government offices, schools, roads, etc. The exploitation of mines in conquered, distant lands, such as in Peru, resulted in new revenue streams from finding precious metals such as gold and silver. The mercantile system was established, wealth was based on how many resources a country possessed, including precious metals and spices. This system led to the exploitation of native peoples in far-off countries with rich but undeveloped resources. During the 19th century, the mercantile system was discarded by many countries in favor of capitalism.

Lesson 21: The American Revolution

Week: 21

After the cessation of the Thirty Years War, the Europeans began fighting for control over new lands in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Colonies were established in these far-off lands. In the 17th century, English colonies were established between Maine and South Carolina in what is today the United States of America. Eventually, the colonies warred with England to win their independence. On July 4th, 1776, with the approval of the Declaration of Independence, a new nation was born called the United States of America. The United States Constitution was approved later in 1787.

Lesson 22: The French Revolution

Week: 22

In 18th century France, those in power were not strong enough to force the nobility and clergy to pay taxes. So the tax burden fell entirely on the poor peasantry. While the royalty and wealthy lived rich lives of extravagance, the poor suffered. Seeing an opportunity, the middle-class professionals incited the hungry poor to attack the French King and his court. Riots broke out, the Bastille prison was destroyed, the French King and Queen and many others were beheaded, and five Directors were appointed to run the government. Several years later, in 1799, the general Napoleon Bonaparte arose to become the French Emperor.

Lesson 23: Napoleon

Week: 23

Napoleon was born in 1769 on the island of Corsica, which at the time was part of Italy. Napoleon reportedly wasn't handsome or tall or brilliant or wealthy and suffered from poor health. However, Napoleon was unmatched in ambition and wanted the world to know his name. He also was an excellent public speaker. Napoleon rose to fame as a general in the French army and became the Emperor of France. Napoleon ultimately lost power and was exiled to an island off the coast of Africa where he died. Note: Although British propaganda led people to mock Napoleon as a short little tyrant, leading to the idea of the 'Napoleon Complex,' Napoleon wasn't actually short. He was around 5'7", around average at that time in France [1].

Lesson 24: The Holy Alliance

Week: 24

After Napoleon was exiled to St. Helena, those in power before his rise returned to influence. Exhausted from the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars, the soldiers and peasantry just wanted to be left alone in peace. The Holy Alliance was formed between Russia, Austria, and Prussia in 1815, with the goal of conducting international relations in accordance with the principles of Justice, Christian Charity, and Peace. However, the Holy Alliance came with powerful armies dedicated to keep the peace, even if it meant sacrificing the liberty of the people.

Lesson 25: The Great Reaction

Week: 25

In Europe, people feared the fragile peace would be broken. The fallout from Napoleon's rise and fall differed depending on the country, but the power structure was unsettled in most. To keep order, rulers established police states with spies lurking around every corner. In some countries, houses were searched and private letters were read. Liberty was snatched away from the European people across the continent.

Lesson 26: National Independence Part I

Week: 26

The Congress of Vienna was well-meaning but ultimately failed to provide peace and stability. The first hint of warning came from distant colonies in America. The native Haitians gained their freedom from the French in 1804. With the help of Haiti, Venezuela declared their independence from the Spanish. The revolution continued its spread across South America. Spain asked the Holy Alliance for help. However, with the prompting of England, the United States (under the fifth President of the United States, James Monroe) established the Monroe Doctrine as policy. The Monroe Doctrine took a stance against European colonialism in North and South America. The Holy Alliance decided not to intervene, and much of South America and Mexico gained their independence. Back in Europe, trouble rippled across the continent, and revolt broke out in France and Austria.

Lesson 27: National Independence Part II

Week: 27

Although the Vienna Congress strove for peace, their methods resulted in great strife. Across Europe, unrest broke out with the result of consolidating power and unifying countries. The work of the Vienna Congress was finally undone.

Lesson 28: The Age of the Engine

Week: 28

As history progresses, so do advancements in technology. From the first wheel circa 100,000 B.C. to the steam engine, the telegraph, the automobile, and the space rocket, humanity continually strives for new achievements.

Lesson 29: The Social Revolution

Week: 29

As machines automate more and more work over time, the fewer people are needed to perform previously manually intensive tasks, changing the nature of the work of humanity. Automation also tends to concentrate the wealth into the hands of a few who own and control the automation technologies.

Lesson 30: Emancipation

Week: 30

In England in the early 1800s, working class people were forced to work all day to afford the most basic food and shelter. Even poor children of only five and six were forced to work, sometimes to their deaths. As the workers were overworked and exhausted, a foreman would whip them to make sure they remained awake and working. Even more horrible working conditions and immense cruelties were suffered by slaves across the globe. Some people in Europe and in America began to advocate for abolishing slavery. The English, French, Portuguese, Dutch, and Russians all ended the practice. In the United States, the practice of slavery was a factor leading to the Civil War between the northern states, which opposed slavery, and southern states, which supported slavery. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which set many slaves free in the United States, and the northern states won the Civil War. Days after the war ended, President Lincoln was assassinated. It was still later, with the encouragement of socialists such as Karl Marx, that working people started pursuing better working conditions.

Lesson 31: The Age of Science

Week: 31

As history progresses, science falls in and out of favor, as many view it as countering religious beliefs. The victorious military leader tends to be glorified for warfare, while the scientist is more likely to be forgotten. Scientists have been ridiculed, shunned, excommunicated, and even killed for their findings. Certainly, Galileo is the classic example of a persecuted scientist, as his findings about the Earth revolving around the Sun differed from Church doctrine and led to his excommunication. Today, much progress has been made studying life, the Earth, and the Heavens. Today, people benefit from a variety of scientific breakthroughs, from the lighting in houses to computers to modern medical treatments.

Lesson 32: Art

Week: 32

Children are natural artists. They love to sing and paint and make sculptures in the mud and put on little plays for their parents. Many times, as they get older, academic studies and work replaces this love of art. Nations are similar in this respect. At some times, such as the Dark Ages, many are too busy working and struggling to survive to create art. At other times, such as the Renaissance, there is a resurgence of popularity of painting, sculpture, music, theater, and literature. People are inspired to create great works of art by religion and a love of God, by romantic or familial love, by poverty, by injustice, by the absurd, by the universe, and by everyday life.

Lesson 33: Music

Week: 33

In the Middle Ages, music was mostly of a religious nature. In the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, music flourished and its topical scope expanded. New instruments were invented such as the violin and pianoforte, and master composers such as Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart concocted their symphonic masterpieces. With the coming of the Industrial Age of steam and iron and factories, the new order obsessed with production and efficiency had little use for art and music. Art tended to be removed from life, other than a few specialists who made music or art as their profession.

Lesson 34: Colonial Expansion and War

Week: 34

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, large business enterprises began amassing power and making progress including building factories and railroads, founding steamship lines, and running telegraph wires. By this time, all territories in Africa and Asia were claimed. Some countries in southeast Europe continued to struggle for freedom, and a Congress in Berlin in 1878 was held to settle differences between European countries, Turkey, and Russia. In 1914, the archduke Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, was assassinated by a Serbian student. The assassination was a contributing factor in the outbreak of World War I.

Lesson 35: A New World

Week: 35

Marquis de Condorcet advocated all his life for the poor and died for his efforts. He persisted in maintaining hope for the future and faith in humankind. World War I was a terrible calamity, yet it did not shake humankind's hope for a better future. Although we continue to progress, we all think of ourselves as thoroughly "modern," elevated in comparison to those in the past. However, no matter how far we advance, we are still human, with the same limitations as our ancestors.

Lesson 36: As It Ever Shall Be

Week: 36

This chapter bids the reader adieu and presents a pictorial chronology of major historical events across the world.