CURRENT EVENTS

G-7 Vows Include COVID-19 Relief, Climate Change Initiatives
June 13, 2021
Leaders of the world's seven largest industrial nations, the G-7, vowed to send 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine to poor countries and to take large steps toward addressing climate change. The pandemic plan also included plans for trimming to 100 days the time needed to develop and license COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and to improve early warning systems for combating the next global health crisis. The leaders also affirmed their commitment to making greenhouse gas emissions a net of zero by 2050, partly by eliminating the use of coal power to a large extent, and to overall limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees. However, the leaders did not agree on timelines for achieving such goals.

National Geographic Grants Southern Ocean Official Status
June 13, 2021
Southern Ocean map The National Geographic has officially recognized the Southern Ocean as one of the world's major bodies of water, putting it alongside the traditional four of Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic. The Southern Ocean is the large body of water that encircles Antarctica to 60 degrees south latitude. The area, sometimes called the Antarctic Ocean, includes the Drake Passage and the Scotia Sea and is home to the world's largest ocean current, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.

IN DAYS GONE BY

Magna Carta: Inspiration for Modern Governments
Magna Carta was a 13th-Century pact between a king and 25 of his most powerful subjects to cooperate more fully in the future. Neither side kept their word, but the resulting agreement is widely regarded as one of the inspirations for the U.S. Constitution and for British common law and civil liberties. A group of barons had had enough early in 1215 and took up arms against their king. This was not exactly a new phenomenon, but it had a new result. The barons captured London in May and then captured John himself at Windsor a few weeks later. The barons presented John with a list of demands that became Magna Carta. John affixed his royal seal to a list of these demands on June 15.

The Battle of Petersburg
Battle of Petersburg

The fortifications at Petersburg The Battle of Petersburg was the last major battle of the American Civil War. Punctuated by a monthslong siege, the battle ended in a Union victory and, a week later, the surrender of Confederate top commander Robert E. Lee and effectively the end of the war. In a rare success, the Union command outfoxed the Confederate command and, on June 12, got its troops across the James River unopposed and on the road to Petersburg, erecting a 2,100-foot-long pontoon bridge to do so. On June 15, the first fighting began.


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