Learning about history is enjoyable and enlightening. Little is new in the world around us. The study of history reveals in its figures all of the human tendencies that we observe in people today. It helps us understand where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.
Busy lives, however, do not lend themselves well to a serious study of history. This list of historical high points is designed to orient readers to important historical movements, lives, and events. Here is the second half of the list that was begun in my article titled High Points In History – Ancient Egypt To The Ottoman Empire:
11. Protestant Reformation (16th century A.D.)
The Protestant Reformation was a split from the Roman Catholic Church that was led by Martin Luther in the 16th century. It began with Luther’s opposition to some of the church’s doctrines, especially the sale of indulgences. Luther’s and other reformers’ efforts concluded with the establishment of protestant churches in Europe. Pope Leo X excommunicated Martin Luther from the Catholic Church in 1521.
12. Age of Enlightenment / Age of Reason (1650 – 1790 A.D.)
The Age of Enlightenment (Age of Reason) was an intellectual movement in Europe that sought to use reason to reform society. It originated in the 17th century with thinkers like Spinoza and Locke and continued into the 18th century with Rousseau and Voltaire. The movement greatly influenced the leaders of the American Revolution.
13. The Industrial Revolution (1790 – 1860 A.D.)
The Industrial Revolution began in the late 18th century and extended past the middle of the 19th century. Originating in England, it drove changes in manufacturing and agriculture and eventually spread around the world. The first Industrial Revolution extended into the first half of the 19th century and rolled into a second Industrial Revolution around 1850. The development of steam power played a significant role in these changes.
14. American Revolution (1775 – 1783 A.D.)
The American Revolution took place in the last half of the 18th century and resulted in the independence of the thirteen colonies of North America from the British Empire. In 1776, the colonies formally severed ties with Britain through the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Important figures of the time included James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, John Adams, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and others.
15. French Revolution (1789 – 1799 A.D.)
The French Revolution was one of the bloodiest revolutions in history. It began with the convocation of the Estates-General in 1789 and ended when Napoleon Bonaparte came to de-facto power in 1799. King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were tried, convicted of treason, and put to death by guillotine in 1793. The “Reign of Terror” lasted for two years after Louis XVI’s death and took tens of thousands of lives.
16. Napoleon (1769 – 1821 A.D.)
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military commander whose influence came on the heels of the French Revolution. He won many battles and is considered to be one of history’s greatest military commanders. He ended lawlessness in post-revolutionary France, and ironically, became a tyrant. Even so, he is responsible for the drafting of the Napoleonic Code, which served as a model for civil-law countries around the world. His career ended with his defeat at Waterloo, and he died in exile on Saint Helena in 1821, probably of stomach cancer.
17. American Civil War (1861 – 1865 A.D.)
The American Civil War was fought between a group of 11 southern slave states (Confederacy) and 25 states that supported the federal government (Union). After four bloody years of war, the Confederacy’s General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union’s General Ulysses S. Grant in Appomattox Court House, Virginia. During the war, Abraham Lincoln served as president of the United States, and Jefferson Davis was president of the Confederacy.
18. World War I (1914 – 1918 A.D.)
World War I was a major war concentrated in Europe. Although the catalyst for the war was the assassination on June 28, 1914, of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the conflict began with the Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia on July 28. The war was an exceedingly bloody conflict—more than 15 million people died, and millions more were wounded. Out of the war came the formation of the League of Nations, which was an international organization designed to prevent further global conflicts.
19. World War II (1939 – 1945 A.D.)
World War II began in 1939 with Germany’s invasion of Poland and ended in Europe on May 8, 1945, and in the Pacific on August 15 of the same year. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1941, and the United States’ bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki took place in August of 1945. The allies invaded the European mainland at Normandy, France, on June 14, 1944 (D-Day). Important figures of the war include Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Emperor Hirohito, and a number of key generals. The conflict resulted in 50 to 70 million fatalities and was arguably the bloodiest war in history.
20. The Cold War (1945 – 1991 A.D.)
The Cold War was a period of tension between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and its allies that began in 1945 and ended with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. President Ronald Reagan made his famous speech at the Berlin Wall in 1987, wherein he exhorted Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” Gorbachev was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and is the author of perestroika (reconstruction) and glasnost (openness).
This list (both articles) of twenty historical high points is in no way exhaustive. Many other people and events have had great importance in history.
My intention in presenting these historical markers is to identify important points that will orient the reader and provide references that will make further study more meaningful. Knowing something about history helps one understand current political and economic events.