Poet Angelou, Astronaut Ride 1st U.S. Women on Quarter Coins
May 10, 2021
Maya Angelou on a QuarterSally Ride on a Quarter
Author Maya Angelou and astronaut Sally Ride will be the first two women featured in the American Women Quarters Program, appearing on the reverse of the 25-cent coins, the U.S. Mint announced. Angelou was a poet and civil rights activist perhaps most well-known for her 1969 autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Ride was the first American woman to fly into space, aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983. Those two sets of coins will appear in circulation beginning in 2022. A total of 20 women will similarly appear during the next four years.

Medieval Chapel Restoration Includes Masked Stone Figure
May 10, 2021
St. Albans masked figure The now-completed restoration of a century-old chapel shrine includes an update: a masked stone figure. The Shrine of St. Amphibalus is at St. Albans Cathedral, in Hertfordshire, England. The cathedral itself dates to Norman times and is the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in the U.K. A combination of public and private money (including a contribution from the Lottery Heritage Fund) financed the restoration, which begin in 2019 but was halted for several months by the COVID-19 pandemic. Resumption of the restoration work included the addition of a stone figure wearing a face mask.

U.S. Sprinter Gatlin Headlines Olympic Test Event
May 9, 2021
-"Justin Thousands of athletes have taken part in a dozen test events with an eye toward the 2020 Olympics, delayed a year by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the most high-profile participants in the latest test event was American sprinter Justin Gatlin, the five-time Olympic medalist in the 100 meters and 200 meters. Gatlin won the 100-meter test race, in a time of 10.24 seconds, edging out Japanese runners Tada Shuhei (10.26) and Koike Yuki (10.28).


Green Mountain Boys Seize Strategic Fort
On May 10, 1775, Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys seized Fort Ticonderoga, a strategic defensive work on Lake Champlain. It was a significant victory that was achieved without a battle and gave the upstart Continental Army some much-needed good news in their struggle to defend their Declaration of Indepence from Great Britain.

Landing at Jamestown
On May 14, 1607, the first settlers from England landed in what is now Jamestown, Va. This was the first permanent English settlement in North America. Jamestown went on to become a major center of learning, political activity, and slave traffic.

The History and Political Development of France

The Gauls
VercingetorixSome of the earliest known residents of what is now France were the Gauls, a polyglot people who inherited Celtic traditions and struggled for existence in much of what is now Western Europe–against the Romans, notably, but against other peoples as well. One of the most famous of the Gallic commanders was Vercingetorix (right), who fought a determined campaign against the Roman general Julius Caesar. That famous general defeated Vercingetorix and then subjugated Gaul. The Gauls enjoyed Roman "protection" and even thrived under it for a time but were eventually the target of other invaders. The Vandals ravaged Gaul in 406. Four years later came the Visigoths, on their way to sack Rome. A still reeling Gaul had to contend with Attila and the Huns a few decades after that. Ultimately taking over with lasting authority were the Franks.

The Franks
Battle of Tours The most famous early Frankish leader was Clovis (left), a powerful warrior with a magnetic personality, able to inspire his fellow Franks to join him on a campaign of conquest. He soon was in control of nearly all of what is today France. Another famous Frankish leader was Charles Martel ("Charles the Hammer"), who led European forces to victory over an invading Muslim army at the Battle of Tours (right), which many historians consider to be a turning point in history. Later came the most Frankish leader of all, Charlemagne ("Charles the Great"), who ruled alone from 771, when his brother died. Charlemagne (left) earned his famous name by conquering most of Italy and most of Germany, creating an empire the likes of which hadn't been seen in Europe in a few centuries. He and his descendants came to be known as the Carolingian Dynasty.

The Capetian Dynasty
Hugh CapetA later famous King of the Franks was Hugh Capet (left), who founded a dynasty of his own, prevailing at a time of great unrest throughout Western Europe. Various descendants of Charlemagne made certain claims to the Carolingian reputation, and Capet had to struggle long and hard to finally take control. His dynasty lKing Philip IV of France asted nearly 400 years. Following him on the throne a century later was Louis VII, who famously led a large contingent of troops invading the Holy Land during the Second Crusade but might be more famous as the first husband of the dynamic and famous Eleanor of Aquitaine, whose dowry strengthened the hand of England's King Henry II. Another dynamic Capetian was Philip II, known as Philip Augustus, who engaged in titanic struggles with two of England's kings, Henry II and John and eventually retook nearly all of what those two monarchs had seized from France. The most well-known of the late Capetians was Philip IV (right). Philip it was who established the Auld Alliance, a long-running mutual defense pact with Scotland against England, and set up France's first Parlement. Philip it was who moved the papacy to Avignon, where it stayed for generations. Philip's sons succeeded him on the French throne. It was the death of his youngest son, Charles IV, without an heir that precipitated a succession crisis that brought on the Hundred Years War.

The House of Valois
France's King Charles VIIPicking up the slack in the wake of the demise of the Capetians was Valois, a descendancy that ruled France for a few centuries in the early Middle Ages. It was King Charles VII (left) who established the French standing army, a development that helped the country win the centurylong war with England. Another element of that victory came in the inspiration and deeds of the "Maid of Orleans," Joan of Arc. Other well-known Valois rulers were Louis XI, known as the "Universal Spider" for his plentiful intrigues, and Louis XII, known as the "Father of the People." Religious tensions dominated much of the later Valois reigns, punctuated by struggles between Catholics and Huguenots.

The House of Bourbon
King Henry III of FranceKing Louis XIV of France It was a Protestant king, Henry III (left), who founded the House of Bourbon. He was the first but not the most famous of the Bourbons, a dynasty the lasted for centuries. Perhaps the most famous of all French monarchs was Louis XIV (right), the famed "Sun King," who reigned for decades and was the architect of so much of early modern French society, thanks in no small part to his country's success in a series of wars, notably the Thirty Years War. He was the son of Louis XIII, whose able ministers included the iconic Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin. By the time that Louis XIV, his grandson was in line to succeed him. This was Louis XV, who presided over a devastating defeat in the Seven Years War, a part of which was fought in North America and came to be known as the French and Indian War. This king also gave way to his grandson, Louis XVI, who quite literally lost his head during the French Revolution.

The French Revolution
It was at turns gradual and speedy, triumphant and tragic, sustained and dramatic. French society for centuries had been stratified into social and economic classes. Feudalism had given way to the Ancien Régime, which divided the people of France into Three Estates. Making up the First Estate were the clergy, the religious leaders of the realm. Nobles and royals excluding the monarch made up the Second Estate. Those Storming of the BastilleGuillotine two Estates together made up about 2 percent of the population for much of this period. The rest of the population comprised the Third Estate. This included not only commoners and peasants but also slightly wealthier people like businessmen who made respectable but large incomes. This division into Estates came in handy when the king needed to summon the people for advice, as in the use of the Estates-General, which dated to 1302. Kings summoned this group occasionally to approve new taxes. In the 18th Century came the growth of the ideas of the philosophes, Enlightenment thinkers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire. Forming the basis of much of this thought and discussion was the philosophy of René Descartes. Ideas of equality flew in the face of the stratified society preferred by the monarch and the nobility, as ultimately personified by Louis XVI and his extravagant wife, Marie Antoinette. Enough people had had enough by the closing years of the 18th Century that a mob stormed the Bastille (left), setting off the Revolution. A new legislative body, the National Constituent Assembly, issued the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and then the Constitution of 1791. King Louis XVI tried to flee the country but was caught and placed uner arrest. He was eventually convicted of treason by the Assembly and executed, along with his wife. Gripping the country by this time was the Reign of Terror, personified by the Committee of Public Safety and its most prominent member, Maximilien Robespierre. The guillotine (right) efficiently disposed of hundreds of so-called "enemies of the state." In the wake of all of this internal upheaval, France went to war with various other European nations, starting with the War of the First Coalition and continuing on through a handful of subsequent coalitions. French troops met with varying degrees of success for nearly two decades. Rising to prominence was a young officer named Napoleon Bonaparte, who came to dominate the European scene. Largely at Bonaparte's direction, the Directory gave way to the Consulate, ending the Revolution.

Napoleon crossing the AlpsThe Napoleonic Era
He rose from humble beginnings and achieved lasting fame and recognition. Famed as a military commander and a political leader, famed as the husband of Joséphine, Napoleon achieved greatness for France but also brought about great sorrow. He and the Grand Armeé had great success–at Austerlitz and Borodino and Jena–but also suffered great defeats–at Trafalgar, in Russia, and at Waterloo. He redrew the political map of Europe, particularly with the Confederation of the Rhine and Continental System, a progenitor of the European Common Market that was designed to exclude the U.K. from European trade.

The Last Monarchs of France
July Revolution of 1830Napoleon III Napoleon was defeated and exiled, twice. The new ruler of France was Louis XVIII, whose prestige and authority benefited from a decade of prosperity but suffered in a time of famine and want. His son, Charles X, had a hard of it and was replaced during the July Revolution by Louis Philippe. This was the time of the Romantic era in Europe. A series of revolutions in 1848 featured one in France, and the king fled the throne in favor of another republic, led by President Louis Napoléon Bonaparte. In 1851, he became Emperor Napoleon III. His rule had varying degrees of success and failure. The most notable of the latter was the disastrous defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, in which he himself was captured. France's defeat was the death knell of his time on the imperial throne. Indeed, he was the last monarch of France.

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Social Studies for Kids
copyright 2002–2021
David White