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 advance from the Old Stone Age (Paleolithic) to the New (Neolithic) was marked by certain major changes, found first in the Near East. One of these was the domestication of animals for food. Humans had tamed dogs and used them in the hunt long before. But when they kept goats, pigs, sheep, and the ancestors of our cows in pens, they could eat them when their meat was young and tender. without having to hunt them down when they were fully grown. Parallel with this went the first domestication of plants for food—a kind of wheat and barley.
Feudal practices varied from place to place and developed and altered with the passage of time. Nonetheless, certain general conceptions were accepted almost everywhere. One of the most significant was that of a feudal contract. The lord owed something to the vassal, just as the vassal owed something to the lord. When they entered into their relationship, the vassal rendered formal homage to his lord; that is, he became the lord’s “man.” He also promised him aid and counsel.
The communications revolution brought on by the printing press, the enormous significance of the book as a force for change, the simple fact that printing preceded the Protestant revolt on which the Reformation fed are all aspects of a profound shift in perspective that, perhaps more than any other change, defines the transition between medieval and modern.
By the end of the 1460s most of the Balkan peninsula was under Turkish rule. Thus the core of the new Ottoman state was Asia Minor and the Balkans. From this core, before the death of Muhammad II in 1481, the Turks expanded across the Danube into modern Romania and seized the Genoese outposts in the Crimea. They also fought the Venetians and landed forces in Italy. The limits of their expansion were marked by the great Hungarian fortress of Belgrade and the island fortress of Rhodes in the Aegean, stronghold of the Hospitalers.
The Byzantine Empire survived in the East with its capital at Constantinople until 1453. The emperors were absolute rulers chosen in theory by God and were responsible for preserving the traditions of Roman justice.
Byzantium was the buffer that cushioned Europe against frequent invasions from the north and east. The Byzantine armies and navies were well organized and led. The Byzantines also developed great diplomatic skill.
Once more, however, as in the time of Dreyfus, the republican forces rallied to meet the threat, and once more, after the crisis had been surmounted, France moved to the left.
The Arabs had overrun a vast collection of diverse peoples with diverse customs. Moreover, internal dissensions among the Arabs themselves prevented the establishment of a permanent unified state to govern the whole of the conquered territory. After Muhammad’s death, there was disagreement over the succession. Finally, Muhammad’s eldest companion, Abu Bekr, was chosen khalifa (caliph, the representative of Muhammad). Abu Bekr died in 634, and the next two caliphs, Omar (r. 634-644) and Othman (r. 644-656), were also chosen from outside Muhammad’s family.
The seventeenth century was dominated by France. During the reign of Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieu created an efficient centralized state. He eliminated the Huguenots as a political force, made nobles subordinate to the king, and made the monarchy absolute. Louis XIV built on these achievements during his long reign. Louis XIV moved his capital from the turbulence of Paris to Versailles, where he built a vast palace and established elaborate court rituals that further limited the power of the nobles.
By 1934 the fascists had pressed their campaign to the point where they could announce a set of ten “secular commandments” that emphasized their militarism, the idea of the garrison state, and the cult of the personality of it Duce (the Leader).
1. Know that the Fascist, and in particular the soldier, must not believe in perpetual peace.
2. Days of imprisonment are always deserved.
3. The nation serves even as sentinel over a can of petrol.
4. A companion must be a brother, first, because he lives with you, and secondly because he thinks like you.