In October 1517, at Wittenberg in the German electorate of Saxony, the Augustinian monk Martin Luther drew up ninety-five theses for theological disputation and thereby touched off the sequence of events that produced the Protestant Reformation. Luther’s provocative theses were soon translated from Latin into German and, when printed, were read and debated far beyond the local academic and religious community for which he originally intended them.
Cotton had been known from time immemorial in Egypt, India, and China; it was introduced into Spain in the ninth century, but it was hardly known in England until the fifteenth century. Only in the seventeenth century was it introduced extensively from India, and then into other “divers regions,” including the southern colonies of English North America, and, in time, Africa. Empire thus made cotton the world’s best known, most important plant fiber.
Poland was clearly going to be Hitler’s next victim. The Germans regarded the Polish Corridor dividing East Prussia from the rest of Germany as an affront; so, too, was the separation from Germany of the free city of Danzig, German in language and tradition, on the edge of the Polish Corridor.
On March 23, 1939, Hitler took the port town of Memel from Poland’s northern neighbor, Lithuania. At the end of the month, the British and French responded by assuring Poland of aid in the event of a German attack.
American revulsion against war also took the form of isolationism, the wish to withdraw from international politics outside the Western Hemisphere. The country was swept by a wave of desire to get back to “normalcy,” as President Warren Harding phrased it.
During the twenty-year crisis between the wars, an already authoritarian government in the Soviet Union became a virtual dictatorship, though one of the left rather than the right. From 1914 Russia had been in turmoil. By 1921, with the end of civil war, industry and agriculture were crippled, distribution was near a breakdown, and the communist regime was perilously near the loss of public support.
England was split along lines that were partly territorial, partly social and economic, and partly religious. Royalist strength lay largely in the north and west, relatively less urban and less prosperous than other parts, and largely controlled by gentry who were loyal to throne and altar.
Parliamentary strength lay largely in the south and east, especially in London and in East Anglia, where Puritanism commanded wide support. The Scots were a danger to either side, distrustful of an English Parliament but equally distrustful of a king who had sought to put bishops over their kirk.
Augsburg’s total population at the height of Fugger power probably never exceeded 20,000. One set of estimates for the fourteenth century puts the population of Venice, Florence, and Paris in the vicinity of 100,000 each; that of Genoa, Milan, Barcelona, and London at about 50,000; and that of the biggest Hanseatic and Flemish towns between 20,000 and 40,000. Most Europeans still lived in the countryside.
By far the commonest way out of the dilemma facing the Social Darwinists lay in the notion that the struggle for existence really goes on among human beings organized in groups—as tribes, races, or national states.
Scientists and rationalists helped greatly to establish in the minds of the educated throughout the West two complementary concepts that were to serve as the foundations of the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century: first, the concept of a “natural” order underlying the disorder and confusion of the universe as it appears to unrefleeting people in their daily life; and, second, the concept of a human faculty, best called reason, which is obscured in most of humanity but can be brought into effective play by good—that is, rational—perception.
As the direct agent of God, the emperor was responsible for preserving the tradition of Roman law. Only the emperor could modify the laws already in effect or proclaim new ones. Thus he had on hand an immensely powerful instrument for preserving and enhancing power.