Month: December 2016

The Collapse of Austria-Hungary

The House of Habsburg had been one of the most powerful dynasties in Europe for the past 500 years. Starting in with only a small canton in Switzerland in the 900s, over the centuries the dynasty has held titles such as King of Portugal, Spain, Austria, and even Holy Roman Empire. But by the the early 20th century, the Habsburgs had lost much power throughout Europe, only controlling the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Austria-Hungary controlled large swaths of land in Central and Eastern Europe. However, the empire was declining in power. Their army was less advanced than other European nations, and there was growing nationalism throughout the culturally-diverse Austria-Hungary.

Habsburg domains in 1700

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, tensions were building in Europe. The powers across the continent had created alliances with the goal of keeping each other in check. In the 6 years before World War I, the collective military expenditures of the major European countries increased by 50% as Europe prepared for war. Pressure continued to build, and Europe soon would reach its breaking point.

On June 28, 1914, the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was visiting the city of Sarajevo, the capital of the Austrian region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Meanwhile, six Yugoslav nationalists were preparing to assassinate the Archduke. As Ferdinand’s motorcade passed through the city, one assassin hurled at grenade toward him, missing although 20 onlookers were injured. More assassins were waiting ahead, but the motorcade sped past them before they could react.

The Archduke, although shaken, continued with the day. He halted his plans to visit the people injured during the explosion at the Sarajevo hospital. After he left, his convoy turned down the wrong street, where Gavrilo Princip, one of the assassins, was coincidentally standing with a pistol in hand. He aimed and fired towards Ferdinand, killing both he and his wife.

The government of Austria tried to use the Archduke’s murder to their advantage. They correctly suspected that Serbian officials were involved in the assassination. On July 23, they sent the Serbian government the July Ultimatum, ten demands that were created to be unacceptable, in an attempt to start a war. Serbia refused to accept the ultimatum, and on July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war. Serbia’s ally, Russia, began to mobilize their army against Austria-Hungary and its ally, the German Empire, who demanded Russia stop. Russia refused, causing Germany to declare war. This long chain reaction eventually led to Russia, France, the United Kingdom, many other European nations, and eventually the United States, known as the Allies, fighting against Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria, known as the Central Powers.

European alliances at the outbreak of World War I

From the beginning of the war, Austria-Hungary was immediately in a bad position. They were unable to sustain themselves agriculturally, and the nations that once provided most of their food, Russia and Romania, were now their enemies. The war had decreased their wheat harvests even further, spreading hunger throughout the nation.

Austria-Hungary at the beginning of World War I

The Austrian military wasn’t faring well either. They had experienced multiple defeats against the Russian army, forcing them to depend on Germany for assistance. Things became even more difficult in 1915 when Italy joined the allies and created a new front on Austria-Hungary’s southern border. The Austro-Hungarian army began to have supply shortages, making it difficult to fight.

In 1918 protests arose across the nation, calling for food and peace. Soon the Austro-Hungarian army and navy began to experience mutinies, lessening their power in the war even further. The nation became more divided as the culturally different regions of the empire saw support nationalist movements significantly rise. The last realm of the Habsburgs was collapsing. By October, all hope was lost for the empire. On the 14th, the Austrian foreign minister, Stephan Burián von Rajecz, asked the allies for a truce based on Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points. On October 16, the Austrian Emperor Karl issued a manifesto that would give the regions of Austria-Hungary more autonomy and their own national council, and allow the Polish regions to join a Polish state.

Four days after von Rajecz sent for a truce, the US Secretary of State Robert Lansing respond by essentially saying that the Allies would not consider a peace deal unless Austria-Hungary recognized the complete independence of the Czechs, Poles, Slovak, and South Slavs. This reply was the demise of the Austrian Empire, as peace would not happen unless the whole empire was dissolved. By the end of October, each of these nationalities declared independence, and the Habsburg monarchy was no more.

Italian Colonies In Africa

One of the nations to colonize the continent of Africa during the Scramble for Africa was Italy. There were three Italian colonies in Africa, each of which had an interesting past.

Italy’s colonial story began with Somaliland, modern day Somalia. In the late 1870s and 1880s, expeditions of Somaliliand were organized by influential figures in Italy. By 1888, Italy signed a treaty with the Sultanate of Hobyo, making it an Italian protectorate. The Majerteen Sultanate, the main rival of the the Sultanate of Hobyo, did the same a year later. In these treaties, Italy agreed not to interfere with the sultanates’ governments, in exchange for some economic concessions.


The Hobyo and Majerteen Sultanates

At the same time, Italy was colonizing Eritrea, a strip of land separating Ethiopia from the Red Sea. In the late 1800s, Eritrea was controlled by Egypt, but after a war with the Ethiopian Kingdom, the region was in chaos. Italy first settled the area in 1882, and began annexing more and more land as time went on. In the confusion and fracturing of Ethiopia following the Ethiopian emperor’s death in 1889, Italy formally established the colony of Eritrea. Later that year, Italy signed a treaty with King Menelek of the Ethiopian Kingdom of Shewa, in which he stated he would acknowledge Italy’s control over the region in exchange for access to arms and economic aid. King Menelek was successful in uniting Ethiopia, and Eritirea was firmly under Italian control.



Italy’s final colony was Libya, in Africa’s north. Italy had claims in Libya since the end of the Russo-Turkish War and the Congress of Berlin, in which European powers decided the future of the Balkans and how it would be divided, along with other parts of the dissolving Ottoman Empire. During the congress, there were thoughts of giving control of the Libyan city of Tripoli to Italy, although this never happened. Fast-forward three decades to 1911, and much of the press in Italy begins a campaign to invade Libya, which they describe as plentiful in natural resources and barely defended. Italy was initially split on the idea of an invasion, but in the end of September, the Italian government declared war. After a year of fighting and thousands of deaths on both sides, Italy was victorious and annexed Libya.

Italian attack against the Ottoman Empire

The Trail of Tears

It wasn’t called the Trail of Tears for no reason.

Since the founding of the United States, there were some who wanted to remove Native Americans living in the Southeast and resettle them across the Mississippi River. After their removal, there would be more land for white Americans to cultivate crops, such as cotton and tobacco.

Throughout the early 1800s, support for this idea began to grow. In the presidential election of 1828, Andrew Jackson, a strong advocate for the removal, was elected president. In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act and the president signed it days later.

The Indian Removal Act would force the Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, and Seminole tribes, called the Five Civilized Tribes because of their adoption of Western cultural aspects, to move west of the Mississippi, to “Indian Territory” in modern day Oklahoma. Although the act stated that all treaties with the Native American tribes must be fair, and they must not be intimidated into signing them. But Jackson overlooked this aspect of the Indian Removal Act, threatening some tribes with invasions.

The Choctaw were the first to leave in 1830, having to walk hundreds of miles, some even in chains along the way. As many as 4,000 died of disease.

The Creek tribe was forcibly relocated by the end of 1837. Out of the 15,000 who make the journey, 3,500 died on the way.

Members of the Chickasaw tribe emigrated or were forcibly moved between 1837–1847, making it the last tribe to be completely moved from their homeland. On the way between 200–800 of the 4,000 tribe members taking the journey passed away.

In 1838, only 2,000 of the 22,000 Cherokee living in the South had emigrated to the Indian territory. This caused the new president, Martin Van Buren to send in soldiers to accelerate the speed of their removal. Once the army arrived, the Cherokee were forced into stockades, while they watched their homes being looted. They then walked upwards of 1,000 miles, with disease killing many. By the time they reached Oklahoma, over 5,000 Cherokee were dead.

Map of the locations of tribes before the Indian Removal Act and the routes they took to reach Oklahoma.

The Seminole tribe on the other hand, was unwilling to give up without a fight. They refused to leave, commencing the Second Seminole War. The Seminole were greatly outnumbered, but were able to hold back the Americans and win battles using surprise attacks. But eventually they succumbed to defeat. Most of the Seminole population was killed by battle and disease, and more were killed while being relocated to the Indian territory.

In all, almost 61,000 Native Americans were relocated to the Indian territories. Ravaged by disease, cruel soldiers, and little food, as much as 25% of them, or 15,000, died along the way.

A Quick Summary of the Bangladesh Genocide

Before the 1970s, Bangladesh and Pakistan were one nation. Bangladesh at the time was called East Pakistan and Pakistan was West Pakistan. Although East Pakistan had a different culture, different language, and has a larger population, most of the power was in the hands of West Pakistan.

Independence movements began to arise in East Pakistan as the divide grew deeper. Eventually, this culminated in the Bangladesh Liberation War between March 26 to December 16, 1971. Under the guidance of Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon stood by West Pakistan in the war, sending support their way.

In the beginning of the war, West Pakistan launched Operation Searchlight, and effort to take control of Bengali cities and eliminate all human obstacles. But with this would come the massacre of millions of civilians.

Operation Searchlight marked the beginning of the Bangladesh Genocide, which would end up slaughtering as many as 3,000,000 Bengali citizens. 10,000,000 Bengalis refugees to India to escape the violence, and 30,000,000 more were internally displaced. Islamic militias with West-Pakistani support raped between 200,000–400,000 women in Bangladesh in a genocidal rape.

At the time, average US citizens were unaware of the genocide, but the Nixon administration was. Richard Nixon saw Pakistan as an ally against the Soviet Union, and condoned their actions even after the war. The US government continued to send economic and military aid to Pakistan as the war went on. Nixon was even advised by his aides, most notably Kissinger, to try to suppress reports of the genocide taking place.

Although the Bangladesh Genocide was not directly committed by the United States, I believe this qualifies since much of it could have been prevented. Because of the Nixon’s refusal to acknowledge Pakistan’s actions towards the Bengali people, thousands, if not millions of lives were lost.

A map of Africa Before the Scramble for Africa

Africa Before the Scramble For Africa

Little of Africa had been mapped before the 19th Century, excluding the Islamic kingdoms in the north. If you tried to explore the vast continent 200 years ago, you would find it would be difficult to travel across, due to both natural and human obstacles. Scorching deserts, dense jungles, rivers, and mountains and other natural barriers made it difficult to traverse, even without any human interference. You would encounter tribes and kingdoms, some peaceful, others not.

Before the Scramble for Africa, most of Africa was still not in the grasp of foreign powers, although some regions were.

  • The Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire, originally from modern-day Turkey, spread out of Asia and into Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and parts of Sudan.

  • Morocco

The Kingdom of Morocco controlled much of northwest Africa, just south of mainland Spain.

  • Spain

Spain had control of the cities of Ceuta and Melilla, both of which were surrounded by Morocco and the Mediterranean Sea. Spain still owns Ceuta and Melilla today.

  • France

France conquered Algeria in 1830, half a century the Scramble for Africa. Throughout the mid-1800s, France began to travel up the Senegal River, constructing forts and subjugating kingdoms. They also began to establish control of the Ivory Coast.

  • Portugal

Portugal first discovered their future colonies of Angola and Mozambique in 1482 and 1498, respectively. Trading posts were first formed in Mozambique immediately after it was discovered. Angola wasn’t settled by the Portuguese for another 75 years, until 1575.

  • Great Britain

Great Britain had begun to colonize many regions across the African continent, including the Gambia, Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast (modern-day Ghana), Lagos (now the capital of Nigeria), and they had set up many trading outposts and forts in other parts of Africa. But their largest colonies before the Scramble were South Africa. The British conquered the Cape Colony of South Africa from the Dutch during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars to prevent it from falling into French hands. They held on to it after the wars ceased, and it grew larger as colonists moved to the Cape Colony from Europe.


A map of Africa Before the Scramble for Africa
A map of Africa Before the Scramble for Africa

By 1870, Africa was still relatively uncharted. But wait another decade and the Scramble for Africa would begin.