Between 1750 and 1800, the Ashanti (Asante) Empire would remain the predominant power in West Africa. Further campaigns to the north cemented its authority among non-Akan peoples, and trade with the western powers along the coast continued to be extremely important. However, two important changes were taking place in the Gold Coast region that emerged as a threat to the Asante kingdom. Along the coast, the Fante people developed a robust confederacy that acted as a trade intermediary between the European coastal forts and interior kingdoms. Although technically Asante subjects, the Fante were another Akan tribe with a strong independent streak who chafed under Asante rule. By the start of the 18th century, the Fante became openly hostile to the power of Kumasi.
The other significant development was the increasing power of British agents in West Africa. Founded in 1752, the African Company of Merchants was chartered by the British Government to engage in profitable trade in the Gold Coast region. This included the purchase and transport of slaves. Over time, the African Company expanded their authority to a number of coastal forts previously held by other European powers. By the start of the 19th century, British trading agents only significantly competed with the Dutch in the region (though the Danes still had a coastal presence at Accra, the future Ghanaian capital). The main British fortress was at Cape Coast Castle; to their west, the Dutch held Elmina.
The African Company of Merchants, and then the British government, would come to ally themselves with Fante confederacy against the Asante. This was a slow development, fraught with frequent misunderstandings between British agents and Asante ambassadors. Indeed, many British officials, deeply impressed with Asante society and the sophistication of the kingdom, wished the Asante to continue their preeminent position in West Africa. Tragically, the two countries would come to blows. In the Asante-Fante War of 1806-1807, first blood would be drawn between British and Asante.
The Asante Kingdom was the most powerful state in West Africa for over 200 years. With a tradition of monarchy centered around the Golden Stool, the Asante came to prominence during the reign of Osei Tutu (r. 1680-1717) and his immediate successors.
By Nick Richwagen
Today the Ashanti (Asante) people number about 7 million, and inhabit central Ghana centered around the city of Kumasi. Their king, the Asantehene, continues to exert powerful social and cultural influence within Ghana, and his position is protected within the Ghanaian constitution. Ashanti kingship is similar in many respects to the chieftaincy system practiced by other Akan peoples, however the Ashanti distinguish themselves in their historical importance in the region. From the 17th to 19th centuries the Ashanti Kingdom was one of the most prominent states in the African continent, controlling territory outside the sphere of modern Ghana; at its peak the Asantehene ruled around 3 million people. Understanding the history of Ashanti is necessary for understanding the Gold Coast region and the broader history of Africa.
In the 19th century, the Asante came into conflict with the British, and after a series of brutal wars the Asante Empire was annexed by the British Empire in 1902 as a protectorate. Like the Zulu, the Asante were one of the few African kingdoms able to exert effective resistance against colonial European powers. This article discusses the origins of the Asante and their rise to dominance among the Akan peoples of West Africa.
Livy is known as a moralizing historian, and in his War with Hannibal (History of Rome: Books XXI-XXX) his belief in Roman values shows in his narration. Livy believed that human character and the moral character of history outweighed historical accuracy. Livy was interested in stories of right and wrong and the triumph of virtue. He highlighted heroic Roman leaders and singled out their virtues, such as with Quintus Fabius, who nobly delayed the Carthaginian advance through Italy to buy the Romans time. Livy valued Roman virtues such as piety, bravery, and honor, and condemned weaknesses of character as leading to ruin. Like any pious Roman, he placed great stock in omens. Numerous omens exist in Livy’s history, both good and bad, that foreshadow events to come. Livy’s writing is best understood through a deeply moralistic, pious lens.
This is the second calendar year since our website started back in August 2015. I thought it might be helpful to do an overview of the different subjects we have so far covered. In descending order from the most recent:
An examination of the political life of Athens, and its position in the larger Greek world, from the end of the Peloponnesian War through the Hellenistic Period.
In all so far, our two contributing authors have written five posts with more planned projects in the near future.
Although readership is still small, we are averaging one view every other day and have seen growth in views every month since last September. We are currently looking for more contributors, if anyone might enjoy writing about a history related topic for zero compensation. In interested, please comment or email one of the authors.
This is an ongoing project to complement my reading of John Keegan’s The First World War (2000), as well as Michael Howard’s The First World War: A Very Short Introduction (2003). I have also made use of other literature and resources throughout the project (see Useful Resources below).
Every year 1914-1918 has a paragraph summary detailing the events of each month. This article is for the first half of the conflict, 1914-1916. Each year of the war also has a table, divided into sections for the Western Front, the Eastern Front, the Southern Front/Balkan Campaign and the multiple Turkish Fronts fought against the Ottoman Empire.
Particular attention is spent on the largest battles of the war: Verdun and the Somme (1916), and Passchendaele (1917). The first two of these will be covered here.
1914: The War Begins
The Great War began in July 1914, after decades of military buildup and tension between the great powers of Europe. Conflict was set off by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary and nephew of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph. In retaliation, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28th. The next day, Austrian forces began shelling Belgrade, the Serbian capital. Alliances between the great powers and the invasion of Belgium brought Germany and Austria-Hungary into conflict with Russia, France, and the United Kingdom by early August.
At the start of August, Germany invaded Belgium in order to maneuver around the strong French positions along the Franco-German border. This began the Battle of the Frontiers. Stiff Belgian resistance prevented German forces from invading past the border until late August. Belgian fortresses, most importantly Liege and Namur, held the Germans back until the last fort surrendered on the 17th. French attempts to invade German Lorraine in mid-August ended in utter disaster. Pushing into France, the Germans were able to overwhelm seven French armies as well as the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).
Combat in 1914 often featured field armies maneuvering in open spaces to gain advantage. By the end of the year, this would no longer be a feature of the war on the Western Front.
Ancient Greek Political Thought and the model of Roman Government Influenced America’s Foundations
The founding fathers of the United States drew upon multiple sources for inspiration during the establishment of American government. The ideas of Enlightenment philosophers were extremely important; Voltaire, Montesquieu, and John Locke were figures whose ideas shaped the new nation. However, the founders drew not only upon Enlightenment philosophy for political inspiration but also looked towards the cultural heritage of the classical west. Philosophers from classical Greece proposed the separation of powers in government, an idea that the American founders adopted for their new nation. In addition, The Roman Republic (509-27 BC) served as a direct model of government for the writers of the constitution. The political thought of the ancient Greek and Roman world profoundly influenced the government of the United States of America.
I. Plato’s Mixed Government
II. Aristotle: Separation of Powers
III: Polybius and the Roman Republic
IV: Classical Education and Influence in Revolutionary America
In 1789, when the Estates-General was called by Louis XVI, only a small fraction of the delegates selected were members of the Jacobin club. However, by 1793 the most radical Jacobins had established a virtual republican dictatorship. How did this political minority experience such a meteoric rise? How did Revolutionary France transform from a constitutional monarchy into a republican dictatorship? The downfall of the revolutionary republic cannot be explained by any one factor. The execution of Louis XVI, war, political factionalism, and revolutionary fervor can all be attributed to the political gains of the Jacobin club. It is telling that within the National Assembly the extreme wing of the Jacobins would become known as the Montagnard, or the Mountain.
The Flight to Varennes and the Creation of the First French Republic
The end of the constitutional monarchy was critical to the rise of the Jacobins; the monarchy fell largely due to the Varennes flight. On the 20-21st of June 1791 King Louis XVI and his family attempted to flee France to the Austrian Netherlands. With the King’s flight and eventual arrest, debate ensued on whether or not France should remain a constitutional monarchy.
When public papers began printing the king’s declaration explaining his flight (where he denounced many revolutionary decrees) hundreds of political clubs began to be created across France; over 400 houses were affiliated with the Jacobin club. By mid July of that year popular opinion was decisively against the monarch, with only 1 in 6 provinces showing any sympathy towards the King. This is in stark contrast to the previous public opinion immediately after the king’s capture: citizens had been more inclined to believe that the King was ill-advised or kidnapped.
Most famously known for their invasion of post-Roman Britain, the Saxons are a tribe important to Western history. Their interaction with the Romans in late antiquity characterized them as opportunistic pirates and raiders, yet they would go on to be a founding element of English civilization. Later, the Saxon Wars (772-804) with Charlemagne would be critical to the Christianization of central Europe; these conflicts would also presage the Viking raids that would devastate the Carolingian Empire. Here, I hope to give an account of Saxon history from the earliest times with a focus on their life on the European continent, though some discussion will be spent on their invasions of England.
The Saxons: Early Sources
The Saxons are first mentioned with certainty in history from the writings of Ptolemy (100-170 AD), a Greek Egyptian born under Roman rule in Alexandria. Ptolemy, in his tenth chapter of Geographia(150 AD)¸ writes about the Germanic peoples inhabiting the lands east of the Rhine river (Rhenus), north of the Danube (Danubius), and west of the Vistula. This work was written during the reign of Marcus Aurelius.
Classical Athens is a common subject of study. Rising to prominence among the Greek city states, Athens exerted cultural and economic control throughout the Greek world. Home to many of the most famous figures of Ancient history, the classical city-state produced Pericles, Socrates, Plato and other famous individuals. However, after Athen’s defeat during the Peloponneisan War (431-404 BC), the city’s political history is often overlooked. Although no longer the center of a regional empire, Athens was still was an economic and cultural center of Greece. The following is a brief overview of Athenian political life after 404 and before the entry of Rome into the eastern Mediterranean.
Athens and Greece- from 404 BC to the Macedonian Invasion (356)
The Peloponnesian War resulted in the loss of Athen’s empire, and Sparta became the chief power (hegemon) among the Greek cities. For the next 50 years, Athens would struggle to regain her former political influence, bringing the city-state again into conflict with her arch-rival Sparta. After further conflict with a new Theban hegemony (362), all of Greece became vulnerable to a rising northern power.
Immediately after the war, Athens was forced into becoming a “subject-ally” of Sparta and had its democracy abolished. Sparta was always unhappy with Athenian democracy and sought to replace it with a more familiar form of government. The Spartan-approved Thirty Tyrants ruled Athens as oligarchs, though their reign was short lived- Athens was again a democracy by 403.