Thursday, April 18, 2013

April 19, 1916 - Neiu Nederlanders back Americans

In response to unrestricted submarine warfare by the Germans, American President Woodrow Wilson delivered on April 18, 1916, an ultimatum that continued attack on American ships would provoke war.  The next day, Neiu Nederlander President Theodoor van Rosevelt traveled to Washington to show his agreement.  If the US went to war, the American Dutch would bravely join them.

The two nations had grown up alongside one another as Europeans colonized North America.  The English threatened to eliminate the Dutch from their holdings of New Amsterdam when four frigates occupied the harbor.  Director-General Peter Stuyvesant, after considering ceding the land in hopes of retaking it, decided to head off a Second Anglo-Dutch War and refused.  After firing on the city, the frigates were rebuffed and returned to England empty-handed.

Since that time, New Amsterdam quickly expanded.  Jews ousted from Brazil as Portugal retook Dutch conquests flooded into the city, and immigrants from all over the world were accepted.  The economy flourished as pelts were harvested from the upper Hudson and established shipping.  When the twin states of New England and Great Virginia declared independence from Britain, the Dutch granted support first financially and then through its impressive navy.  When Napoleon conquered the Netherlands in Europe, Neiu Nederlands announced its own independence.

Relations between Neiu Nederlanders and Americans were amicable.  They were particularly close with New England due to ties in shipping and manufacturing, although relations were at times strained while the United States to the south determining water rights of Lake Erie.  When New England broke off trade with the US over slavery, the Nederlanders maintained a lucrative neutrality.  The sudden surge of trade brought about a new golden age, which led to a great deal of corruption that responded in a powerful Progressive Movement, headed by the young Theodoor van Rosevelt.

Rosevelt was part of the wealthy and politically influential family that had begun with Claes Maartenszen van Rosevelt, who purchased a large farm on Manhattan Island that would translate into enormous wealth as the city grew.  Theodoor was born in 1858 and struggled through his childhood suffering from asthma.  He overcame the disease by determination and exercise with seeming limitless energy, features that would define his life.  After his education, Theodoor traveled extensively to the American West as well as Dutch holdings in the Caribbean and South America.  He returned and entered civil service, soon becoming Director of the Navy where he built a canal through Panama and led the Great White Fleet on its tour around the world.  By 1910, he was elected President.

When war erupted in Europe, Rosevelt hoped to join quickly and use the impressive New Dutch fleet, but business was too good trading through the neutral Netherlands.  Despite his extensive campaigning, it wasn't until the Americans threatened Germany that he finally gained the agreement of shipping interests who disapproved of attacks by uboats.  In 1917, unrestricted submarine warfare resumed, and a joint declaration of war was announced.  Thanks to Rosevelt's anticipation, New Dutch troops joined the front almost immediately.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Guest Post by Marko Bosscher: April 12, 1968 - Soviets Win Space Race

In 1961, when Yuri Gagarin left earth's atmosphere it was the pinnacle of human achievement, a mortal man had entered a realm hitherto beholden to the gods. It was also a blow to American pride, and just over a month later John F. Kennedy announce an ambitious program to restore that pride: The US would put a man on the moon within a decade.

For several years it seemed that it would be a one horse race. However behind the scenes Sergei Korolyov, the Soviet Union's mysterious "Chief Designer", had already started work on designs for manned flights to other planets. By the time the Soviet Union officially announced plans in 1964 the OKB-1 design bureau headed by Korolyov had already created a heavy rocket capable of reaching beyond the low Earth orbit used by the Vostok program.

The impetuous Khrushchev had actually instituted two programmes, one for moon orbits and one for the actual moon landing, each headed by it's own designer. After Brezhnev had taken over power the moon program was streamlined and Korolyov made head of the entire program. And although two separate tracks were maintained for the orbits and the landing Korolyov's leadership unified the efforts.

In early 1967 when both the Americans and Soviets were gearing up for the actual moonflights disaster struck in both camps. In January a simulated launch sequence for the American Apollo project went disastrously wrong and a fire broke out killing the astronauts. And in April the parachute failed to open on a Soyuz vehicle as it returned to earth. The crash killed the cosmonauts, which included Vladimir Komarov who commanded one of the two teams selected for the moon landing.

The unmanned orbit of the moon in May of that year went ahead as scheduled, but the manned orbit was delayed until August of that year as the teams were restructured and the Soyuz crash investigated. The success of the manned orbit, and the earlier success of landing a Luna-9 capsule on the moon's surface gave the Soviets the confidence to push on with their effort. The Soviets also, erroneously, believed that the US would attempt a landing in 1968 so it would be vital to maintain the intended schedule.

After several unmanned flights of the Soyuz-7 vehicle the first manned launch was performed in April 1968. And in June the two-man crew launched an unmanned landing vehicle from lunar orbit. The moon landing was given the go-ahead and crews were prepared for the mission, the first crew would be cosmonauts Leonov Makarov and a reserve crew of Popovich and Voronov would be on standby.

It was a tense time for all involved, especially for Korolyov who was aware that an Apollo launch was scheduled for October. If all went according to plan the Soyuz-7 would be in lunar orbit in september, narrowly beating out the Americans (in fact the Apollo launch was a test flight, the Americans would not attempt a landing on the moon until the next year). The September launch did go ahead and on the 25th the landing module separated from the Soyuz7 command module and headed for the moon.

After a seemingly interminable period of radio silence a message finally came through "Cosmonaut Leonov reporting from the surface of the moon." Words that would immediately be spread across the globe. Leonov dedicated his mission to Yuri Gagarin the space pioneer who had died earlier that year.


In reality: Korolyov died in surgery in 1966 which was a serious setback for the moon program, which also fell out of political favor. The N1 rocket that was supposed to take the cosmonauts to the moon would also prove a failure, never even making it out of earth orbit.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Guest Post by Marko Bosscher: April 5, 1272: Alexander Nevsky defeated at the Battle of Lake Peipus

Novgorod was under heavy pressure from both the East and the West. In the east the Golden Horde loomed, while Novgorod was repeatedly invaded from the west during the Northern Crusades. And when the Teutonic Order invaded once again Alexander, elected Prince of Novgorod, marched against them with a substantial army. Meeting the Teutonic forces, led by Hermann the Prince-Bishop of Dorpat, near the bank of Lake Peipus. Hoping to draw the knights into a disadvantageous position Alexander withdrew across the narrow strait connecting Lake Peipus with neighbouring Lake Pskovskoe.

Lake Peipus is unusually shallow for it’s size and is frozen throughout winter, thawing out only at the end of April. The lake thus formed a solid surface for the combatants that 5th of April, but the heavily armoured mounted Teutonic Knights were at a disadvantage when having to charge across the ice. Although the knights drew up in wedge formation Hermann called of the assault when he saw the strength of the Russian position, deciding instead to go around it to find a better approach.

Seeing the Teutonic forces move towards the east bank of the lake Alexander sent out his own cavalry in an attempt to provoke Hermann into an attack. The lighter Russian cavalry was swift enough, even on the ice, to freely harass the Estonian infantry that made up the bulk of Hermann’s force. But rather than being goaded into a frontal assault on the Russian position Hermann lined up his infantry in a defensive position, while sending most of his knights to the shore to move around the enemy position.

What was intended by Hermann to be a temporary position, to hold of the harassing cavalry in anticipation of an assault on Alexander’s position, would become the focal point of the battle. Alexander seeing the opportunity to attack the outnumbered Teutonic forces, and worried about the knights working his flank moved his troops on the ice as well. Leaving behind only a token force to delay the knights moving against them. The battle soon developed into a furious melee as the remaining knights prevented the Russian cavalry from outflanking the Teutonic troops.

An alternate history by Marko 'Lev' Bosscher
Alexander’s ploy failed however when the Teutonic Knights returned, having heard the sounds of battle carried on the wind (a `Zeichen Gottes` according to the knights own chronicler). The knights unexpectedly fell on the left flank of the army of Novgorod and panic swept across the battleline, quickly turning into a full rout. Only Alexander and the ‘druzhina’ (the “fellowship” or retinue, numbering a thousand of the best warriors) held and tried to fight their way back to their original position.

Badly outnumbered they never made it off the ice, Alexander fell among many of his men and the remainder surrendered after being completely encircled. The Teutons then marched South to take Pskov, which they had lost to Alexander the previous year. After receiving further reinforcement from the Livonian Order Hermann marched on Novgorod itself in the summer. It seemed that history would repeat itself as on the approach to Novgorod a Russian army marched to meet the Teutonic forces and oppose them in battle. But this Novgorod had not had the time to recover from it’s losses, the Battle of Lake Peipus had not only cost the Republic most of it’s seasoned warriors but also it’s most capable military leader. The army of Novgorod was swept aside by the invading knights.
But even before Hermann reached the city walls of Novgorod he was met by envoys of the Council of Nobles, and they made a fantastic offer. The republic of Novgorod would submit to the Teutonic Order on the condition that the Republic would continue to exist and maintain it’s current structure. It was a offer that Hermann could hardly refuse, but being a devout Catholic he could not allow Novgorod to remain Orthodox. He sent the envoy back with the message that he would only accept if Novgorod would only elect Catholic Princes, and marched on to lay siege to Novgorod.

Upon reaching the city Hermann found the gates open and messengers proclaiming himself the newly elected Prince of Novgorod. It was a devious political move as it effectively ended the war, but left the Teutons with an Orthodox country in their possession. It would only be the start of of political maneuvering that would see the Archbishop of Novgorod pledged allegiance to the Pope, but maintaining orthodox customs and traditions.

The Teutonic Order thus acted as the sword and shield of Orthodox Novgorod against it’s neighbours and the mongol horde. It was an uneasy alliance held together by Novgorod’s profitable position as gateway to the Baltic Sea and a slow conversion to Catholicism. But it ensured Novgorod’s continued survival into the late Middle Ages and it provided the Teutonic Order with the means to maintain the large armies that were it’s raison d’etre.

In reality, Alexander defeated the Teutonic Knights at the Battle of the Ice and went down in history as Alexander Nevsky, probably the most famous Russian warrior in history and granted sainthood by the Orthodox Church. Novgorod would thrive for several centuries, but would ultimately be annexed by the Grand Duchy of Moscow at the end of the 15th century. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Guest Blog Post: Sept 20, 1792: Prussians Win the Battle of Valmy

Near the northern village of Valmy in Champagne-Ardenne, the Duke of Brunswick's Prussian Regulars crushed citizen volunteers serving under French Generals François Kellermann and Charles Dumouriez.
A Concert of Europe
By Scott Palter & Pietro Montevecchio
This feat of arms was recognized as a triumph of German militarism that spared the continent from decades of misery. But of course the result was hardly surprising. Because in the war's early encounters, French troops did not distinguish themselves, and the invading forces advanced dangerously deep into France intending to pacify the country, restore the traditional monarchy, and end the Revolution. And after Valmy, the advance on Paris was unstoppable, and the new French government swept from power.

Determined to prevent a re-occurrence of such a revolution, the crowned heads of Europe held a peace conference. This included provisions for the partition of Poland and also the simplification of Germany into a North German League [Prussian dominated] and a South German league [Hapsburg dominated]. Also negotiated was the opening of a European University of Classical Music and Fine Arts, which the Habsburgs agreed to founded in Vienna. This imaginative idea for a "Concert of Europe" was the result of artists and musicians travelling between their respective Courts, because it was generally understood that the resulting collaboration of such individuals resulted in an influence more significant than their own personal innovations. By housing these individuals under one roof, it was hoped to use culture as a thread to weave the fabric of a new Common Europe Home.

But tragically, the Romanov Family was on a visit to the Viennese University in July 1914 when the Republican Terrorist Gavril Princip and his Black Hand Gang assassinated Tsar Nicholas II in cold blood. This "shot heard around the world" then triggered a catastrophe that the architects of the post-Valmy Conference had so desperately sought to avoid.


In reality, the battle was considered a miraculous event and a decisive defeat for the vaunted Prussian army. After the battle, the newly-assembled National Convention was emboldened enough to formally declare the end of monarchy in France and the establishment of the First French Republic. Valmy permitted the development of the Revolution and all its resultant ripple effects, and for that it is regarded as one of the most significant battles of all time.

Friday, April 5, 2013

April 5, 1081 - Alexios Komnenos Executed

Still considered by many the eastern Roman Empire, Byzantium fell into renewed chaos in the second millennium after centuries of rule reestablished by military strength of Justinian, Maurice, and Heraclitus.  Justinian had pushed the empire to its zenith in the sixth century, and other great emperors worked to hold onto its expansive territory.  However, the cost in manpower and resources gradually weakened the empire as Arab strength grew.  The Macedonian dynasty of Basil the first restored much of the declining Byzantine strength, but the death of Empress Theodora, childless at 76, left the empire without clear leadership in 1056.  Her successor Michael VI abdicated to become a monk, and his successor Isaac I abdicated after nearly being struck by lightning, leaving rule to the wealthy Doukas family.  They bloated the bureaucracy with highly paid but ineffectual leadership, undercutting the soldiers, who began to rebel on the frontiers.

In 1074, rebellion broke out in Asia Minor, which was put down by Alexios Komnenos.  The Komnenoi were a successful military family, and Alexios fought bravely in wars against the Seljuk Turks and in putting down rebellions in the Balkans.  During the political turmoil, generals Nikephoros Bryennios and Nikephoros Botaneiates revolted simultaneously, and Botaneiates successfully overthrew Michael VII Doukas in 1078.  He effectively politicked for religious and public support and offered Bryennios the position as junior co-emperor.  Bryennios refused and was subsequently defeated by Alexios, blinded, and forcibly retired.

As Nikephoros III Botaneiates, he attempted to establish a new court, but his efforts only worsened the confusion.  The established bureaucracy became alienated and even more ineffective while Botaneiates' co-emperor John Doukas and the old court began plots to overthrow Botaneiates.  They concentrated their efforts on Alexios, who had continued to serve as a heroic general in the West and prepared to battle against invading Normans who fought to return the rule of the deposed Michael VII.  Empress Maria of Alania, former wife of Michael VII and then wife of Botaneiates, adopted Alexios as her son and sent him to raise an army along with his natural and adoptive brothers.  His mother, Anna Dalassena, escaped the suspicious palace guard and sought sanctuary at Hagia Sofia.  The guards attempted to bring her home, but she exclaimed falsehoods of a plan to blind Alexios and his brother, whom she said had fled the city so that they might continue to serve the emperor.  Although they tried to quiet her, she swore that she would only leave the church if Botaneiates gave his cross to her along with the vow that he would do no harm to her family.

Botaneiates became suspicious of her theatrical appeal and refused to give such a vow.  He sent agents to find Alexios and his brother, who were indeed raising an army.  They were brought back to Constantinople on April 1, imprisoned, and executed.  Anna Dalassena hid in Hagia Sofia, which Botaneiates surrounded in a "siege" that prevented food other than sacrament to enter.  Embarrassed, she was forced to leave the church and resigned to the convent of Petrion.  Botaneiates set about rooting out the rest of the conspirators, which crippled the government in a crucial time.

The Normans under Duke Robert Guiscard continued their invasion of Byzantine lands after securing Sicily and Malta from the Muslim forces to the south.  Using the political instability as a pretense, his forces conquered southern Italy and began an invasion of the Balkans with papal blessing.  His army overwhelmed Botaneiates' defenses at Dyrrachium and moved toward Constantinople.  Botaneiates attempted to defeat the army in the field, but his armies were repeatedly crushed, and the loot won by the Normans kept dissension at a minimum.  Finally, in 1085, Robert sacked Constantinople and ended the Byzantine Empire.

Robert died after a few years' rule in Constantinople, and the Norman kingdom there collapsed under Seljuk attack.  The ruling Seljuk emperor, Alp Arslan, had established a frontier of feudal "beyliks" (states) after defeating the Byzantines in Anatolia in 1071 at Manzikert.  When the Seljuks splintered after the death of Malik Shah, Kilij Arslan founded the Sultanate of Rum in Asia Minor, pushing westward with the Emir Chaka of Smyrna until the Normans retreated back to Italy and Sicily.  Muslim control rolled westward across the Balkans, butting up against Christendom's strongest center in Italy.  Many talked of a united Christian force to drive back the Turks, but the most that Pope Urban II was able to manage was a bolstering of defenses for Italy and a push to retake lands along the North African coast to affirm Spain's Reconquista.

Meanwhile, trade flourished between the Italian city-states, such as Venice.  With the Byzantine stranglehold on east-west trade removed, the Muslims gained great influence shipping good westward.  Trade with Kiev at the north of the Black Sea brought Islam to Russia, where it made great advances overriding the Orthodox Christian beliefs adopted in the century before.  Constantinople continued being one of the main hubs of the world, and Europe continued as a rich market for Islamic traders for centuries to come.  Christian kingdoms, meanwhile, expanded southward and across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World there.  While Europe underwent a Renaissance in the seventeenth century, many great minds traveled to the libraries of Constantinople to study, keeping the Islamic world apace with innovations in medicine, mathematics, and science.


In reality, Alexios successfully overthrew Nikephoros III Botaneiates.  Having taken the vow that he could do no harm to the family and facing Alexios' army that bribed the city guard to enter Constantinople without a fight, Nikephoros had no choice but to abdicate.  Alexios began the Komnenian dynasty, which revitalized the empire for a time.  Perhaps most notable for history, Alexios pleaded for aid from Urban II in fighting the Seljuk Turks as Christian allies, which culminated in the Crusades.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

April 4, 1841 - Harrison Announces Slavery in Territories

After recovering from an illness believed to be pneumonia, US President William Henry Harrison announced a new policy on the issue of slavery in the federal territories.  No new slaves could be born in the territories, but slaves could be brought in from existing slave states.  The compromise alleviated the fears of abolitionists, primarily Northerners, about the direct expansion of slavery and brought great excitement to slave-holders, primarily Southerners, who gained a valuable new export.  Harrison hoped it would be a transition into legalizing slavery overall in the territories, but it actually contributed to the end of slavery in America.

Harrison was born in Virginia on February 9, 1773, the last president born before the Declaration of Independence.  He was well educated at the Presbyterian Hampden-Sydney College, where he began to take part in the Great Revival sweeping the young nation.  When word came that young William was beginning to participate in abolitionist meetings, his father put him into medical school in Philadelphia.  Harrison disliked medicine and, upon his father's death, took Virginia Governor "Lighthorse Harry" Lee's advice to join Army.

Because of his rugged discipline and skill in command, Harrison quickly rose through the ranks.  In 1795, while stationed in Ohio (then America’s western frontier), Harrison eloped with Anna Symmes, and the two would have ten children together.  According to historical study, Harrison also had six children through his slave Dilsia, all of whom were sold to avoid scandal as his career changed from the military to politics.

Harrison resigned as a lieutenant in 1797 and became the Secretary of the Northwest Territory, often acting as governor during the appointed official's long absences.  Using his business of horse-breeding and the platform of cheaper land prices as encouragement for expansion in the territory, Harrison was elected to Congress in 1799.  After Harrion's display of leadership in passing the Harrison Land Grant, President John Adams appointed him as Governor of the Indiana Territory.  He worked to prove up the territory quickly and was granted the authority to make treaties with the local Indians.  Many of Harrison's plans involved indentured servitude and the legalization of slavery in the territory, which would supply the manpower to improve the land all the sooner.  As Indiana became increasingly abolitionist, Harrison's proposals for slavery were ended.

When the Shawnee under Tecumseh and his brother The Prophet began to create a confederation of tribes in 1810, Harrison came to national attention.  Tecumseh argued that Harrison's treaties with the Miami people did not apply to the other tribes, meaning that Harrison had purchased substantially less land than the Treaty of Fort Wayne stated.  Harrison disagreed, and Tecumseh threatened to kill anyone who settled the new land.  War broke out, and, in 1811, Harrison defeated Tecumseh at Prophetstown near the Tippecanoe River, earning his nickname "Old Tippecanoe."  The War of 1812 swiftly followed, and Harrison again defeated Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames alongside his British allies, defending the Ohio region from incursion.

After the war, Harrison's political career continued, including a stint as envoy to Gran Colombia, where he came into a feud with Simon Bolivar over freedom.  He felt Bolivar would become a dictator over an anarchical people while Bolivar wrote, "The United States [seems] destined by Providence to plague America with torments in the name of freedom."  In 1840, Harrison successfully campaigned to become president on the Whig ticket, creating many of the public relations activities used in politics today, include a jingle,

     "Old Tip he wore a homespun coat, he had no ruffled shirt: wirt-wirt,
     But Matt he has the golden plate, and he's a little squirt: wirt-wirt!"

He portrayed himself as a poor frontiersman and his opponent Martin van Buren as a stodgy rich man, though Harrison himself had been born wealthy and continued to be so.  Harrison also mastered reversing attempted attacks on his campaign.  When the smear rumor spread that Harrison was an old coot who would "sit in his log cabin drinking hard cider" all day, he spread the image of himself as a man of the people, which became popular.  Democrats also played on his age, nicknaming him "Granny Harrison."  To show that he was still a fit man despite being 68, Harrison gave a two-hour inaugural address standing in the rain without a hat.  He became ill afterward but proved himself in recovering and contributing to the Whig cause.

With Harrison as president, Henry Clay hoped to promote many of his ideals in the American System.  Clay initially was overly forward, to which Harrison responded, "Mr. Clay, you forget that I am the President."  Instead, Harrison and Daniel Webster controlled the Whigs and encouraged development of the West.  Many of Clay's ideals did come into play such as the renewal of the National Bank and the funding of internal improvements such as roads and canals, but tariffs proved too divisive.  Harrison championed Western settlement, including the expansion of slavery for rapid economic improvement.

His plan of importing slaves and freeing newborns as they came of age brought about the custom of transporting pregnant female slaves back to the South.  The action was deemed barbaric (especially by Southern slave-owners whose own property would be more valuable if only they could produce slaves), and it became illegal to transport a slave "with child."  Outcry arose over Congress legislating on "property", but political precedent was established as the Constitution regulated interstate commerce.  As anti-slavery factions began to gain power in Washington, further control over the transport of slaves under interstate law was enacted such as health screenings.  The acts culminated in the liberation of Dred Scott when his case was brought forth by another citizen in 1857.

With slavery increasingly restricted to local markets, a balloon in the slave economy began with the price of slaves skyrocketing to four and even six times the 1850s value.  Investors eventually looked elsewhere, such as tenant farming, and the price collapsed.  Slave-holders cried for government assistance, demanding that a public fund be created to liberate slaves by purchasing them, often for slightly more than market value.  Democratic President Stephen Douglas did so with his Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, and, by 1866, slavery itself was put to an end.


In reality, Harrison died after only thirty-two days in office.  As more and more territory came into the United States, the intensity of the expansion of slavery question increased.  Many, such as Stephen Douglas, hoped popular sovereignty would solve the issue of slaves in the new territories, but it turned violent, such as the wars of Bloody Kansas.

Guest Post by Dirk Puehl: March 29, 1638: New Sweden

the first two Swedish ships, the "Fogel Grip" and the "Kalmar Nyckel" landed at the site of today's metropolis Kristinastad and established the first Swedish settlement in the New World. With 600 settlers following to strike roots soon after, the new colony was soon at loggerheads with the Dutch settlement of Nieuw Nederland. 

Even though the Dutch did not take violent action while the Thirty Years' War raged in Europe and the mother country was threatened, matters changed after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Nya Sverige (New Sweden) would have been a short-lived episode if King Charles XI had pursued his policy of strength in the eastern Baltic regions. 

With profits from fur trade coming in and the old Swedish chancellor Oxenstierna having a focus on consolidating the economy, the new course of the Swedish Empire became quite obvious. Following victories over Denmark and control of the Kattegat and Skagerrak passages into the North Sea and the Atlantic, as well as an agreement of more or less exporting people from Poland and Lithuania - instead of warring on them - to tackle the colony's main problem, the lack of manpower, soon established a busy traffic between the north eastern American seaboard and Scandinavia. The Dutch saw their position in the Americas almost indefensible when war after war followed with the English in the second half of the 17th century and decided to sell their possessions rather than have them fall into English hands and ally with the Swedes.

Nya Sverige meanwhile had expanded to the Stora Sjoarna (Great Lakes) region in the west and drove a wedge between existing French and English settlements in the North and South of the continent, and the great colonial conflicts of the early 18th century between the three European major powers were already foreshadowed, when Swedish settlers drove away the French explorers Jolliet, Marquette and La Salle from the Mississippi River valley and founded the local capital of Gustavia (after the governor Gustav Johansson Prinz). The War of Spanish Succession finally brought hostilities to the Americas in earnest, with the French and Spanish on one and the Swedes and the English on the other, with the excellent Swedish troops making all the difference in the North of Louisiana, leaving France with the area south of the Arkansas River after the Peace of Utrecht.

Growing ideas of absolutistic rule in the late 17th and early 18th century in the Swedish Empire under Charles XI and Charles XII, colonial taxation and the competition with the English in North America marked the uneasy situation of Nya Sverige until the 1750s when the Amerikanska Kriget or American War determined the new development the continent was about to take.


In reality,  New Sweden was conquered by the Dutch in 1655, during the Second Northern War, and incorporated into New Netherland.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Guest Post by Marko Bosscher: March 26, 1610: The Defenestration of Prague

The Catholic Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II intervened in the War of the Jülich succession by occupying the small, but strategically located, protestant United Duchies of Jülich-Cleves-Berg it seemed that would be the fuse to light the keg.

Ever since the reformation the German states had been a powder keg. Lutheranism was widespread, especially in the Northern states, while Calvinism had also gained a foothold, but many of the rulers as well as large parts of the population remained catholic. The Treaty of Augsburg had made Lutheranism legal, but had not resolved the underlying problems as it tied the religion of each territory to the religion of it's ruler.

A combined French-Dutch army was prepared to invade the United Duchies and oust Rudolf, who appealed to his kinsman Philip the Third the emperor of Spain. Philip, who had arranged a truce with the Dutch a year before reluctantly agreed that troops from the Southern Netherlands would come to come to Rudolf's aid.

In the event the invasion of the United Duchies was called off, because the French King Henry IV was assassinated in Paris.

In the meantime Rudolf had been increasingly marginalized by his own brother Matthias who, in the wake of the long and unsuccessful war against the Turks, had forced him to cede Austria and Hungary. 

Seeking to maintain at least the Kingdom Bohemia, as well as his now largely ineffectual title as Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf nominated Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria as his heir. Hoping that Spanish backing would prevent Matthias from making a further move against him.

Apart from making many of the Habsburgs, with the possible exception of Ferdinand, unhappy the news also led to riots in Prague. When Rudolf used his army to suppress the riots his brother intervened and had him locked up and forced him to abdicate.

When Ferdinand sent his envoys to Prague they were however badly received, in fact they were thrown out the window (the so-called defenestration of Prague). Although still smarting from the slight by his brother Matthias was appalled by the insult to royal power and marched on Bohemia suppressing the revolt and installing Ferdinand as king. 

The conflict served to further harden the divide between the Protestant Union and the Catholic League that had been formed in opposition. When Rudolf died the next year and Matthias became Holy Roman Emperor he started work on uniting the Habsburg lands by making Ferdinand the successor to his kingdoms. 

When Ferdinand succeeded Matthias in 1619 he almost immediately went to war against Frederick V, the Elector Palatine and leader of the Protestant Union. Although there was virtually no pretext for this war Ferdinand had secured the support of Philip of Spain, for whom the Palatine would offer a direct road into the rebellious Netherlands, and the non-intervention of the Poles. 

Although the members of the Protestant Union marshalled forces in support of the Palatine Frederick was quickly defeated by the Spanish Army of Flanders and Ferdinand's own not inconsiderable army. After subsequent defeats of the Army of Würtemberg and the Army of Brandenburg the power of the Protestant Union was broken and it's members defected in turn. 

Although peace negotiations dragged on for several years Ferdinand was able to secure exceedingly favorable terms at the Treaty of Prague. He was crowned king of the Palatine abolishing the ancient title of Elector and his kingdoms were inexorably tied to the Title of Holy Roman Emperor. The defunct Protestant Union was also formally abolished. 

While Ferdinand would not play any further role in the armed conflict his role was vital in the reconquest of the Netherlands. Allowing the Spanish to march reinforcements directly to the Dutch border and allowing simultaneous invasions from the South and the West. 

Although Ferdinand would spent most of his effort on combating protestantism in the lands directly under his control, his real legacy was in strengthening the Holy Roman Empire. His successors would build on his work, steadily decreasing the number of German states and increasingly centralising control in the capital Prague. As the power of Spain waned the Empire increasingly became the dominant European power alongside France.


In reality, Rudolf II conceded the kingdom of Bohemia to his brother, the Bohemian revolt only happened in 1618 when Ferdinand stood to takeover the the kingdom. And from there it quickly spread across Europe and leading to the 30 Years War which devastated much of Europe. The position of the Holy Roman Emperor was fatally weakened and Germany broken up in countless independent states.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Guest Post by Dirk Puehl: March 22, 1765: Repealing the Stamp Act

It might have been pure ignorance paired with a certain amount of overconfidence that made the British general Jeffrey Amherst act like he had an army of 10.000 behind him when he triggered the Great Indian War, because, actually, Amherst had no army to speak of. 

After the end of the Seven Years' War that brought Great Britain immense territorial gains but had cost a fortune, Lord Bute's Tory government had decided in 1762 to demote most of the large army still stationed in North America to cut expenses but to severe many officers' connections with the former Whig government as well. Bute had just survived a beginning political debacle due to a well aimed shot from the Secretary of Treasure Samuel Martin into the chest of the radical journalist John Wilkes during a duel and decided to root out any Whiggish tendencies wherever they might be found.

Besides the political hotbed, the cost of maintaining a large standing army overseas could probably not have been financed without additional taxation of the American colonies, such as a Stamp Act, in brief discussion in 1764 but finally dismissed for various reasons. However, the 2.000 soldiers Amherst had at his disposal were neither enough to much impress the French settlers in Canada who refused to swear their allegiance to King George to move places to their new settlements in Louisiana nor to lend weight or even credibility to the policy the British general pursued on the new Indian frontier. 

When various Cherokee and Great Lakes people, mainly the Ottawa chief Pontiac, decided they'd had it with Amherst's arrogance and bullying and attacked settlements and undermanned British forts, a large portion of the continents English speaking population from Illinois to the Ohio and the Appalachians was fleeing for the East Coast. The war raged on for two years with almost genocidal dimensions on both sides, the Native's forces more or less openly supported with materiel by France until finally fresh British regiments arriving in Boston and New York were able to at least stop Pontiac from invading the East Coast.

In 1766 The following Treaty of Fort Ticonderoga drove a coach and six horses through the British gains of the Seven Years' War, in the former French territories of North America and Canada where the rebellion of the Franco-Canadians already had begun. The impotence of King George to protect his American subjects was one of the main reasons for the American Rebellion 10 years later.

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