Critics have often accused European royalty of ruinous expenditures on palaces, retinues, pensions, mistresses, and high living in general, and yet such expenditures were usually a relatively small part of government outlays. War was really the major cause of disastrous financial difficulties for modern governments. Henry VIII’s six wives, his court, his frequent royal journeys did not beggar England; the wars of Charles V and Philip II did beggar Spain.
One of the nations that briefly surpassed the United States in per capita income was its immediate neighbor, Canada. Exploiting its vast hydroelectric resources and oil and mineral wealth, Canada had become a major industrial nation.
Between 1954 and 1959 the United States and Canada built an extensive new seaway to join the Great Lakes with the St. Lawrence River, so that Canadian and mid-western goods could flow to world markets more readily. Yet Canada increasingly asserted an independent foreign policy—independent of both Britain and the United States.
On October 1 the first and only Legislative Assembly elected under the new constitution began deliberations. No one faction commanded a majority in the new Assembly, though the Center had the most seats. Since they occupied the lowest seats in the assembly hall, the deputies of the center received the derogatory nickname of the Plain or Marsh.
Part of the Ottomans’ inheritance no doubt came from their far-distant past in central Asia, when they had almost surely come under the influence of China and had lived like other nomads of the region. Their language, their capacity for war, and their rigid adherence to custom may go back to this early period.
In the West pagan literature declined and virtually disappeared, while in the East a few passionate devotees of the old gods still made their voices heard. Christian writings increasingly took the center of the stage. In the East, writers devoted much energy to polemical statements on doctrinal questions and disputes. In both East and West the best minds among Christians faced the problem of how to treat Greek and Roman literature. At first, a few thinkers, mostly in the West, advised against reading anything but Scripture.
The Second Empire might have converted into a constitutional monarchy with full parliamentary government. Yet the changes had been wrung from an ailing and vacillating emperor by frequent popular agitation. It is also possible that a radical republican groundswell would have submerged the empire in any case.
The transition from medieval to modern times was marked by the consolidation of royal power, the decline of serfdom, the revolt against the medieval church, and the increasing importance of a money economy. These changes were hastened by the calamity and hardships of the late Middle Ages, including the Hundred Years’ War, the Black Death, the Great Schism in the church, and the threat of Turkish invasion.
Napoleon revived some of the glamor of the Old Regime but not its glaring inequalities. His series of law codes, the Code Napoleon (1804-1810), declared all men equal before the law without regard to rank and wealth.
It extended to all the right to follow the occupation and embrace the religion of their own choosing. It gave France the single coherent system of law that the philosophes had demanded and that the revolutionary governments had been unable to formulate.
In Spain the fighting of Christian against Muslim had been virtually continuous since the Muslim conquest in the eighth century.
Just after the year 1000 the Cordovan caliphate weakened, and the Spanish Christian princes of the north won the support of the powerful French abbey at Cluny. Under prodding from Cluny, French nobles joined the Spaniards in warring on the Muslims.
Even more than the writers and preachers of the Renaissance, its artists displayed an extraordinary range of originality in their interests and talents. They found patrons both among the princes of the church and among merchant princes, condottieri, and secular rulers. They took as subjects their own patrons and the pagan gods and heroes of antiquity, as well as Christ, the Virgin, and the saints. Although their income was often meager, they enjoyed increasing status both as technicians and as creative personalities.