Byzantine achievement was varied, distinguished, and of major importance to the West. Byzantine literature may suffer by comparison with the classics, but the appropriate society with which to compare medieval Byzantium is the Europe of the Middle Ages. Both were Christian and both the direct heirs of Rome and Greece. The Byzantines maintained learning on a level much more advanced than did the West, which, indeed, owes a substantial cultural debt to Byzantium.
The author of Piers Plowman was a popular writer roughly contemporary with Chaucer. The poem is a series of allegorical dreams that show the relationship of the individual to society in the fourteenth century. Piers, a simple plowman who works because he finds it good to do so, encounters lust, sloth, and greed around him. The poem is traditionally ascribed to William Langland (c. 1332–c. 1400).
Askers and beggars fast about flitted
Till their bags and their bellies brimful were crammed; Feigned for their food, fought at the ale-house;
In gluttony, God wot, go they to bed.
Baroque, the label usually applied to the arts of the seventeenth century. probably comes from the Portuguese barroco, “an irregular or misshapen pearl.” Some critics have seized upon the suggestion of deformity to criticize the impurity of seventeenth-century art in contrast with the purity of the Renaissance. Especially among Protestants, the reputation of baroque suffered because it was identified with the Counter-Reformation and many of its leading artists appeared to he propagandists for Rome. Many viewers were also repelled by the flamboyance of baroque works.
There were many eyewitnesses to the events of the French Revolution. The English, of course, followed its destructive path with fascination. The following is an account (no doubt biased) by one such eyewitness, Henry Essex Edgeworth, a Catholic who went to Paris to be spiritual director to the Irish who lived in the capital.
The carriage proceeded thus in silence to the Place de Louis XV,* and stopped in the middle of a large space that had been left round the scaffold: this space was surrounded with cannon, and beyond, an armed multitude extended as far as the eye could reach….
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.
In India World War I had marked a crucial turning point. Indians, growing in numbers and educated in the Western tradition, responded to Allied propaganda in favor of the war to save the world for democracy. Monetary inflation and other war dislocations fostered growing agitation for self-government.
The emperors immediately following Constantine were Arians until Theodosius I (r. 379-395), who in 381 proclaimed orthodox Nicene Athanasian Christianity to be the sole permitted state religion. All those who did not accept the Nicene Creed were to be driven from the cities of the Empire. The Empire, East and West, was united under Theodosius, but his sons Arcadius (r. 395-408) and Honorius (r. 395-423) divided it, with Arcadius ruling at Constantinople.
Most industrial nations competed with the British for imperial riches, responsibilities, and “glory.”
France remained Britain’s primary competitor, though Germany, Italy, Belgium, Portugal, the Netherlands, the United States, and Denmark had overseas empires or colonies by the end of the century.
Japan, Russia, even remnants of the Spanish empire, remained players in “the great game.”
When the Liverpool and Manchester Railway line opened in September of 1830, the railway train—drawn by the Rocket, then the fastest and strongest of the locomotives—ran down and killed William Huskisson, a leading British politician and an ardent advocate of improving transport and communication, who had under-estimated its speed. This, the first railway accident in history, was symbolic of the new age to come, which benefited many, brought destruction to some, and transformed society far more rapidly than anyone had predicted.
At Milan, Augustine abandoned the Manichaean faith and fell under the spell of Ambrose, the bishop of Milan. Better educated than Augustine, a superb preacher, indifferent to the demands of the flesh, Ambrose stimulated Augustine to reexamine all his ideas. And Augustine’s mother, who had followed him to Milan, eagerly drank in Ambrose’s words “as a fountain of water.”