The key components of any successful society
The parable of the four generations
The Western legacy an historical overview
A flowchart of the West's moral-spiritual legacy
A timeline of major events in very ancient Western history (13,000 - 500 BC)
A timeline of major events in Western history (500 BC - 1850 AD)
The student syllabus
The world map test


The material from this section, Western Cultural History to 1850, comes primarily from or is at least deeply inspired by Volume One of my two-volume printed series, A Moral History of Western Society, published in 2024.   The books, however, lack all the pictures posted on this website ... and this website actually goes into even greater detail on matters from time to time!

More about these books can be found at my other website,  America - The Covenant Nation.

The textual material that follows in the next four sections below is drawn directly from that work,
Volume One, pages 1-30


The necessity of strong moral foundations for any successful society

I find it very easy to identify with the ancient Aristotle, who in the 300s BC was forced to watch his beloved Athens, even all of Greece, fall into highly self-destructive social folly.  Being the inquisitive individual that he was, Aristotle decided to take a close look at numerous societies of his day – and those even of previous ages – to see what he could discover about the cause of the rise and fall of societies.  He wanted to know what made them work most successfully.  And he wanted to know what made them fail.  He wanted to know what made them be birthed, grow, even become strong … and then, almost as a matter of inevitability, go into decline and even collapse.  Sometimes they made comebacks from low points in their existence … and were able to put the age of folly behind them and rise again to some kind of social strength – although deeply changed by the experience. 

In fact, in his own days, he was able to watch the young Alexander, a Macedonian that had taken up the Greek social cause (largely against Greece's constant enemy, Persia) … and bring Greek culture not only to grand restoration, but in fact to what seemed like at the time even global dominance. This meant a lot to Aristotle, not only because he loved his Greek or Hellenistic society and culture deeply … but because Alexander had himself once been a student of Aristotle's. 

What mattered most importantly in all of this was what it was that Aristotle finally concluded from all his studies … and his own personal investment in the whole Greek dynamic.  Most amazingly (to modern Americans at least) he concluded that what made for a truly "good" society, was not the social form or shape by which it went at life, whether a society governed by a single person, or a society governed by a privileged few, or one even governed widely by the citizens themselves.  What mattered most were a society’s moral foundations – and ability of those foundations to hold a society on a healthy course of life. 

In other words, a government of one could be a society governed singly by a king (good) or a tyrant (bad).  It could be a society governed by an aristocracy (good) or an oligarchy (bad).  Or it could be a society governed by a constitutionally guided citizenry (good) or an emotionally manipulated citizenry (bad – like the Athenian democracy had become).

So social morality found in the hearts of its people, but especially on the part of those most responsible for making a society's vital decisions – not some carefully-designed governmental structure – was understood by Aristotle to be the most important factor in building a strong society.  

And in this matter, I have long been very, very inclined to agree.  Indeed, this is why I composed this very work before you:  A Moral History of Western Society.  It's about the moral dynamic that shaped the various periods of Western history … the good times – and the not so good times.

Wise leadership

But also, and very clearly – to Aristotle as well as to me – whether or not a society would find itself going down a good road or a bad road depended not only on the moral foundations by which the members of that society directed their lives.  It depended also on the leadership it was able to enjoy in the process … or have to suffer under.  Like Alexandrian Greece, the leadership of one single individual can make all the difference in the success or failure of a society … for such leaders possess enormous power to inspire people to remain true (or not) to the moral imperatives that have long shaped and motivated their societies.

A grander sense of social purpose

But societies do not just exist.  They exist to serve some larger social purpose ... from families all the way up to great empires.  Without that sense of larger purpose any society would soon find itself wandering through life wondering whether this or that was more important to pursue, which road it should take in the face of a rising challenge, or even whether it was important or not to do anything at all ... and simply fall into a deadening sense of routine.  Most tragically, a society does not long survive the loss of that larger sense of social purpose.

A guiding sense of divine appointment or "covenant" with God

My personal and quite detailed knowledge of America's own history – published as an earlier three-volume study,  America the Covenant Nation
1 – also has made it very clear to me how vitally important it was that America had founded itself in the early 1600s on the idea that it was designed to serve the larger world as a "Light to the Nations," a "City on a Hill."  Thus whatever "good purpose" America might feel justified its existence, it was acutely aware from its very founding in the early 1600s that this had better be focused very carefully on the sense of what God – and not mere human ambition – demanded of it. 

Thus it was that (until fairly recently) America went forward in its growth over the decades and even centuries very, very prayerfully in facing the many challenges that continually rose before it ... from the days of America's first Founding Father John Winthrop (early 1600s), through its Constitutional Founders George Washington and Ben Franklin (late 1700s), and its Saving Father Abraham Lincoln (mid-1800s) ... all men of prayer – keenly aware of how much their work as American leaders was sustained and directed by God's own hand – as they took on the nation's huge challenges.

Sadly, as America has reached the grandness of great wealth and power (since the mid-20th century), it has increasingly lost the sense of that need for such a divine relationship ... supposing that it now possesses all the "natural" human knowledge needed to keep the country – and the West that it leads – moving forward down that road of great wealth and power.  It no longer needs the "superstitions" of the leaders of those earlier generations. 

Thus "modern" man is self-supposed to be much more "realistic" and much more "progressive."  As far as morality goes, he is now "free" to live by any inner directives that he chooses.  All is well because social harmony is supposedly a natural instinct of everyone … provided that the social institutions that a person lives in and under are well-designed.  For this, society needs only the brilliance of educated leaders ("Sophists" they were termed in Aristotle's days) to do that very designing. 

As anyone who has studied history closely knows quite well, this kind of "Idealistic" thinking is itself worse than "superstition."  It is pure folly ... self-destructive folly.  And Western history since the arrival of the 20th century is full of examples of such folly – much like Aristotle's 3rd century BC.  Most sadly, such folly continues today because modern Sophists continue to demand the implementation of their Idealistic dreams … at the cost of the horrible death of thousands of innocent people.

Consequently, I have undertaken this written work to put the recently abandoned social perspective of our forefathers back in place … by examining the Western "narrative" describing the rise and fall of generations past – focusing on these four elements:  social morality, social leadership, social purpose, and divine appointment as the four key elements in a society's success or failure.

1America, The Covenant Nation – A Christian Perspective, Bloomington, Indiana: Westbow Press, 2020 … in three volumes:  (1) Securing America's Covenant with God: From America's Foundations in the Early 1600s – To America's Post-Civil War Recovery in the late 1800s; (2) America's Rise to Greatness under God's Covenant: From the Late 1880s to the end of the 1950s; and (3) The Dismissing of America's Covenant with God: From the Early 1960s to the Present.  See for details.


In my days as a university professor, and in the subsequent writings I have authored about America's own social dynamics, I have told a parable about a society as it developed across four generations – a parable I now want to put before you, the reader of this particular work.  This narrative has long seemed to me to summarize all of this political, social, cultural and spiritual dynamic that goes into the rise and decline of any society.

It is the story of four generations of a leading, guiding, governing family – and of the society they are supposed to be directing ... and that society's rise and fall across those four generations. It is a tale well worth retelling here as we dig into the question of Western society's own social dynamics.

The First Generation

In this story, a small society forms around the mastery or leadership of a very strong-willed individual, a young man who climbs out of very tough – actually brutal – circumstances.  And in overcoming those circumstances he achieves a self-discipline in the face of dangerous challenges, one which so strongly impresses a gathering circle of young warriors that he is able to turn this group into a similarly disciplined band of conquerors.  The warrior-leader is very generous to those who would follow his lead bravely, against even the most dangerous of challenges.  But he could also be equally unforgiving of those who would fail to live up to his very precise warrior code or his high expectations of a very brave performance in carrying out the warrior duties of those who would dare join him.  

But what drives this leader is not just some hunger to force others under his direction for the sheer joy of it.  That can come to certain people as a big ego-high.  But usually that same urge will blind and ultimately destroy such wannabe leaders.  No, what drives this First-Generation leader is vision, a higher vision or sense of call that comes from some source other than the approval of the immediate world around him.  It comes typically from a sense, even at a very early age, that Heaven itself has a special commission for this young man to build a society that will serve the greater will of Heaven, God, Providence, Allah, Zeus, Tian – or whatever name is given to this Higher Power.  It is the ability of our young warrior to keep his eyes on this higher call that allows him not to fall victim to the flattery of those who would try to use him for their own personal gain.  He is immune to such human willfulness.  Thus such vision – with its call to bold action as well as an unshakable resolve to keep himself and others under the inflexible moral discipline required to see that vision come to reality together – makes him the powerful leader that he is.

He also occupies a special place in history because his arrival on the social scene is timed with developments well beyond his own political-social designs.  In fact, he himself is no such political-social designer.    Instead, he is an individual fully capable of taking on fearsome challenges immediately in front of him as they arise to confront him on an almost daily basis.  He does not design life, like some lofty intellectual working at a desk and living in a bubble of beautiful ideals and wonderfully rational plans designed to achieve utopia.  His world is tough, messy, and unpredictable.  But he is fearsomely brave as he pursues this political-social call placed on him by the very power of Heaven.  He resolves simply to keep moving forward, even in the face of the most discouraging circumstances.

And thus it is that this man of valor is able to inspire others to join him on this path of overcoming – and ultimately this path of social conquest.  He is thus able through sheer doggedness to produce social greatness.

And in our parable, that conquest would include even the great civilization just over the next mountain range, a civilization that is in deep trouble because it is no longer led by such powerful leaders as our First-Generation founder.  This once-great civilization has fallen into deep moral decay, one that inevitably comes along with the rise to power of the Fourth and final Generation.  This civilization finds itself caught at this point in time in the throes of social collapse.  It is ripe for conquest by some kind of rising power outside itself.  And that is where the First-Generation leader finds himself and his men headed in history.

Timing is, of course, also key to success in history.

The Second Generation

The son (the Second Generation) of the original founder-warrior will also have grown up in tough circumstances, though only because of the disciplined social environment established by his father, not because of a threatening political world immediately around him.  By the time he is a rising young man, much of that has already been cleared away by his father's early successes.  However, the father's grand vision, in which he understood rather clearly the ultimate destiny of his small but growing society, has had the father over the years preparing his son to take up the responsibilities that one day will be passed on to him.  The First-Generation father therefore has had his Second-Generation son train and join him in battle, learning the responsibilities of leadership.  There is, after all, a world to be conquered by both of them, father and son.

And that conquered world one day will need to be administered by a competent ruler.  But it will fall to the son, not the father, to be just that individual.  Anticipating this, the father perhaps will have, early along the way, sent his son off to live and study for a number of years within that larger civilization, one that is destined to be ruled by his own rising dynasty.  This certainly occurred in the case of Philip II of Macedon, when he sent his son Alexander off to Greece to study under Aristotle.  As a result, the son will know and understand the ways of the larger world that one day will be his responsibility to rule.

The son will also know of the Heavenly Commission upon which his society was originally founded by his father, though perhaps only secondarily, through what his father has told him about it.  The son will respect that Higher Power and will take its ruling principles into account in his governance.  But he will also be shaped by his knowledge of the political codes and moral rules of the society he is about to inherit, its wise counselors, its civilized ways.  All of this will come as a blend of the son's own vision and self-discipline. He is more the person of Reason, like the civilized world he has come to know, than of dangerous risk-taking, something required by the social conditions his father grew up in.

Typically, the era of the Second Generation will be understood by historians as constituting the political height of that society or civilization, the one created or restored through the conquering efforts of the First Generation, and the considerable administrative talents of the Second Generation.   

The Third Generation

The grandson/son of the two preceding generations will be personally familiar only with life as lived within the palace that he was raised in.  He will know well the stories of the great valor of his grandfather, although such knowledge will have more the nature of folklore than reality to him.  He will see and experience directly the blessings of his father's well-administered social-legal order.  It certainly will have already benefited the son greatly.  And thus he will be entirely devoted to the idea of completing and securing the full development of that perfect social order.  He will spend his time in his royal chambers working on that perfect design, working closely with his highly-educated advisors on the specifics of a proposed legal order he wants them to put into place by royal decree.

Along with the proposed legal order, his own vision typically will include the perfecting or beautifying of the visible features of the civilization he has inherited: the beautification of the palace dwellings; the building of magnificent homes for his huge administrative staff; the upgrading of the public places such as the all-important central market and the houses of worship; the development of public parks and places of leisure (mostly for the privileged urban classes).

Of course all of this will come at a great cost, especially to those least able to fend off the tax collectors, who fleece the poorer classes to pay for these extravagant projects, projects which will bring little or no benefit to the lower social orders.  Restlessness and even occasional revolt will from time to time upset this utopian social order that Generation Three is attempting to put into place.  And our ruler will be uncomprehending as to why such turmoil is accompanying his efforts to perfect his people's world.  But that is because he lives largely in a social-intellectual-moral bubble of his own making.  He is far removed from the hard realities of the larger world around him.  Most importantly, he has lost touch with those he is expected to govern.  He no longer relates to his people as a moral compass or spiritual guide for them.  Trouble brews.

The Fourth Generation

Having grown up in a world of total privilege – and being surrounded by flattering supporters looking to be brought into that world of privilege – our Fourth-Generation leader will have lost touch completely with the hard realities facing his society, the challenges that as society's governing authority he is expected to address and resolve.  But he lives in a world of massive disinformation (who would dare to contradict the presuppositions of the Great Ruler).  He is clueless as to his responsibilities.

Not only is there a total loss of dedicated discipline to his governance, there is not even any particular direction to it.  He is a person of no particular vision, except to hang on to all the entitlements coming his way as Great Ruler.  He is bored, listless, and dangerous, not only to those immediately around him but also to himself.  Thus he is also a great danger to the society he is expected to lead.  He indulges in every known diversion possible, being able (he believes) to afford them all: gambling, drugs and alcohol, sex (in various ways), wild spending sprees (for nothing in particular), cruel games (including the torture of individuals he does not particularly care for), and so on.

And as for the general moral order of the society he is supposed to be leading, it now finds itself in a state of collapse.  Hungry gangs wander the streets, violating persons and property as they see the urge to do so.  It is dangerous for women and children to go to market for the day's needs, or even to enter the streets at all.  Extortionists come around to exact the price of protection on the defenseless people.  The social order is simply collapsing.  And as for the people's affection for their government, its Great Ruler in particular, there is none.  They wish him dead, and would support anyone inclined to cause that to happen.

And that brings us back to the First Generation, for that is where such help is to come from.  And thus the cycle begins all over again.


The West's narrative or historical record or story of this kind of rise and fall of its many great societies is long … and reaches way back thousands of years.  But most thankfully, Western history is a well-recorded narrative concerning this process of social rise and fall.  So it is that in this study we propose to make a fairly complete picture of how the "Western Narrative" actually developed through good times – and times not so good – politically, socially … but especially morally.

The Greek legacy

At a time period I like to call the "Axial Age" (the 500s BC)2 – because of the deep changes that hit a number of world cultures at that time – a group of Greek philosophers were beginning to look past their own older vision of the universe – a world directed by gods and heroes – to consider a basic material or natural order that seemed to underpin all things.  As life settled down and prosperity increased, this natural "order" of things became more and more obvious – at least to some of the thinkers or "philosophers" of Greek Ionia.  But as these philosophers contemplated this natural order, they arrived at two distinctly differing conclusions as to how this order worked.  And this division of opinion on the matter helped produce in part a philosophical dualism that still exists within the West today.

One group – Thales, Anaxagoras and Democritus, and others – claimed that this order was basically just material and naturally inherent in all life itself.  Creation was a complex system of various materials (such as earth, wind, fire and water … or even atoms!) which interacted with each other in rather fixed or mechanical ways to produce the world that we find around us.  These "materialist-mechanists" were the ones who laid the foundations for the secular viewpoint within Western civilization.

But another group – founded principally by Pythagoras (but promoted principally by Plato 150 years later) – asserted that the source of this order was to be found beyond the rather disorderly visible or material world itself.  Instead, the source of this order was to be found in some eternal, perfect, or transcendent/heavenly realm which inspires or directs the more unstable or imperfect visible world that we see around us.  This higher world is the mainspring of the oneness, of the order, of all things.  Ultimately this kind of thinking helped pave the way for the spread of mystical theism (belief in a supreme deity or God) through Western civilization.

However, despite all this grand intellectual speculation, the Greeks ultimately went down a tragic path intellectually and temperamentally … a path always designed to lead any society into a spiritual sickness – a sickness that afflicts societies jaded by too much wealth and power and too little moral restraint to use that wealth and power humanely.

Decline.  The Greeks too (at least some of them) had a sense of failed righteousness – though they had no particular remedy to the situation … except over time to become existentially cynical. At best, this produced a movement called Stoicism – which belied Western optimism and took on qualities of Eastern quietism (such as Buddhism). 

The problem was material success itself.  In fending off quite handily the aggression of the neighboring Persian Empire, a period of peace came to Greece – with Athens the leading city in this new Greek world.  But political and economic greed crept into the Athenian social dynamic … against some of its own better citizens (political jealousy) and against its allied Greek city-states (moneys sent to Athens by its allies for the purpose of mutual defense against Persia being used instead to beautify Athens itself).  Ultimately Athens' allies rose up in revolt (with help from the city-state Sparta) and several wars resulted (the Peloponnesian Wars) … which worked out disastrously for Athens – but for the rest of the Greeks as well.

The Alexandrian legacy.  Then the grand military-political success of Alexander the Great (300s BC) revived Greek spirits.  A young Alexander was able to reunify the Greeks in order to go on the offensive against the persistent Persian threat … succeeding masterfully in the process in crushing the Persian Empire – and bringing the much-expanded Greek world back to unity.  However he would soon die – and his vast empire would be divided up among various Greek generals (founders of major dynasties). 

But the Greek world would remain rather united anyway.  Indeed, the Alexandrian enterprise made the Greek language and culture the dominant feature throughout much of the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern world.  But it was a world whose moral foundations were now based on the power of its military-based dynasties … not on the moral fiber of the Greek citizenry itself. 

Ultimately, the Alexandrian world would soon be overridden politically by the Romans (100s BC).  Yet despite Roman rule, much of the Alexandrian cultural legacy would continue (for a very long time) to underlie all of Eastern society.

2On our Western or Christian calendar, BC stands for "Before Christ," indicating the years prior to the approximate year of Jesus Christ's appearance on earth as a baby born in Bethlehem – occurring a little over two thousand years ago.  Likewise, the years since that event are designated as happening AD, or anno domini, or "the year of our Lord."  More "modern" minds have changed the BC and AD designations to BCE and CE, that is, "Before the Common Era" and the "Common Era" … trying to cover over the fact that our shaping of events, however you want to designate them, was deeply centered on the all-important event of the birth of Jesus Christ.  What is tragic is that the "modern" church has even fallen into the use of these "non-Christian" designations … in order to appear to be more "progressive."  This is another very sad example of moral abandonment by the very institution created to keep the Western moral foundations intact in the face of human folly.

The Roman legacy

The Romans, who took over the Western political-military program from the Greeks a century or two before Christ, were an odd combination of traditional polytheists and skilled materialists.  Their minds did not fuss much with higher thought such as the Jews and Greeks engaged in.  For the longest time they were content to stay with their older gods … and do their most inventive thinking in the material world around them.  Here they proved themselves to be geniuses.

Political greatness as a Republic.  But they would do so also politically … building not a democracy like the Greeks, run on the whims of the citizenry (led by manipulative politicians) but instead on a very fixed set of laws (the Roman Constitution) which forced political dynamics to stay within precise boundaries.  And wisely, in expanding the Roman realm, instead of simply conquering their neighbors, they invited them into the Roman realm as fellow citizens. 

Rome eventually becomes an Empire.  But the Republic faced the huge problems of a vastly expanding population … without an equal growth in the economic resources to support that population (no more easy conquests).  Conquests continued … more for political than social-economic reasons – undermining the morale of the Roman citizen-soldier whose ever-longer terms of military service brought no apparent rewards.  Eventually mercenary troops were brought in to serve the various generals (imperators or emperors) … increasingly made up of mercenary troops drawn from the various Germanic tribes pushed up to Rome's northeastern borders.

And although Rome would continue to call itself a Republic, by the year 1, it was in fact a society run largely by the military generals – the emperors.  Thus the Roman "empire" drifted into existence … and the emperors became ever-greater in social stature – even godlike.  Some of these emperors were very capable political leaders.  Others were not – especially those that seem to come along in the 200s AD. 

Rome thus found itself in decline, morally and thus socially as well.  It was finding that Eastern worldviews were making great inroads into Roman culture – despite the efforts of emperors to block and destroy these invading viewpoints on life.

The Jewish legacy

Divine faith versus human works.  One of these worldviews was coming from Judaism (and subsequently its stepchild Christianity) which saw a basic dualism in life … between a "rational" or materialistic approach to existence – and a mystical approach (keeping covenant with God).3  Indeed, in the Jewish Bible this dualism forms the very central theme of the whole … starting from the very beginning of its historical narrative, reaching back in time before time itself was even counted with any accuracy.  This dualism indeed constitutes the key dynamic in the very opening episode of those Scriptures, with the story of the primal couple, Adam and Eve, and the matter of having to choose between two options in moving their life forward. 

Were they going to continue to build their lives on a vital faith in the mystical powers of God himself?  Or would they choose to "eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of  Good and Evil," which the Satanic tempter, in the form of the Serpent, assured them that by doing so they would take on such knowledge that they themselves would become like God, possessing importantly the power to design their own lives, according to their own personal plans?  They chose the latter option.  And most tragically, the story did not end well.

So, this matter of where we are to place our greatest faith has been at the heart of Western society's own story, from its very beginning.  Is it to be on ourselves and our ability to control the surrounding world, or is it to be on a God who goes before us so that in faith we can move forward into an unfolding world?  In fact, this is a story of a moral-spiritual debate that reaches back countless centuries (thousands of years most probably) even before the coming of Christ.   Indeed, this debate within the West seems to have reached a point of clarity five to six centuries earlier – during the 500s BC "Axial Age" – on a number of fronts.

Previous to that Axial Age of the 500s BC, life was understood in polytheistic terms:  life was primarily the result of a number of contending gods who laid claim to particular powers or particular areas of jurisdiction.  These gods tended to be whimsical, violently passionate, and at times even lined up against each other in fierce competition.   But life was also filled with heroes, men and women who faced the gods, faced overwhelming struggles – and yet survived, even rising victorious in the struggle.  Life therefore was viewed as some kind of dynamic between the gods of heaven and the mortal heroes of the earth – a dynamic that ultimately did produce some kind of sense of order to life.

The Ancient Jews, who strongly favored the mystical side of the great cosmological debate, saw life in terms of personal and collective righteousness which their own God YHWH (we will translate this as "Yahweh") demanded of them.  But they also had their earlier heroes (Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David, etc.) and the stories or epics surrounding them as examples they should follow.  And they also had their God-given system of law.  And together – God, heroes, and the Law – these produced a strong sense of order in Jewish life.

Judaism actually founded in Babylonian captivity (500s BC).  When the Jews of the tribe of Judah, as the last surviving tribe of the original 12 Hebrew or Israelite tribes, were led off to captivity in Babylon in the early 500s BC, they had a serious question facing them.  Who or what had failed them?  Had their tribal protector Yahweh failed them in competition with the Babylonian god Marduk?  Was Marduk greater than Yahweh?  Or had Yahweh simply abandoned them because they had failed miserably in maintaining the covenant of faith and the standards of righteousness required of them by Yahweh?  It had been, after all, centuries since they had produced any heroes of significant stature to lead them in the paths of righteousness; prophets, such Isaiah and Jeremiah, had also warned them that their lack of keeping covenant with God was going to draw Yahweh' s wrath?  
Or was it that Yahweh was the God of all nations, that even the Babylonians were part of his ruling hand – and that God had sent the Babylonians to discipline the Jewish remnant of God's own covenant people Israel, as Isaiah had previously stated and as Jeremiah reiterated – much to the discomfort of the  Jews?

Jewish monotheism.  In the end, the Jews came to see the situation posed in the last- mentioned terms:  Yahweh was the only God, the Creator of the universe, the Judge of all. There was no Marduk.  But there was plenty of Divine judgment to be faced.  Yahweh had used the Babylonians to punish the Jews for their failure to maintain his righteous covenant.  And with that, the Jews turned urgently to keeping covenant with God by studying and practicing God's Law revealed to their people through previous heroes and prophets (most importantly Moses).  This is when the ancient stories of their former "greats" handed down verbally by generation after generation were most earnestly collected and put in written or Scriptural form, the foundation of the Judeo-Christian Bible.

Messianic Judaism.  But also, as a key part of this covenant, they also came to find themselves waiting for a new hero, a Messiah or "Anointed One," to come to them, one who as the heroes of old (particularly David, who had lived centuries earlier, in and around the year 1000 BC) would lead them personally to a greatness under Yahweh – a greatness that would bring the world to worship God at Zion (Jerusalem).  They would then be reconstituted as an entirely priestly people, serving the world as God' s holy priesthood. 

That was certainly to happen ... but just not in the way they expected.

3The Hebrew word for "God," El, is similar to the Arabic Allah (the God).  We recognize El in the term El Shaddai (God Almighty).  It is also found in Elohim … which is actually the dual form of El, thus literally "gods" … though clearly it is used in the Hebrew to signify one God – the one and only God.
     Concerning the personal name for God – in biblical scripture written as the tetragram YHWH – there is much uncertainty.  So holy was the personal name of God – never ever to be "taken in vain" (or simply used carelessly or wrongly) – that it was never pronounced.  In the Jewish writings only the four consonants YHWH were recorded, and thus the vowels are unknown to us today.  Was the name to be pronounced something like "Yehovah" or "Jehovah," or was it "Yahveh" or "Yahweh"?  What exactly was the name to sound like?  In any case, when the Jews read the name aloud, they typically substituted another name in the place of YHWH … usually Adonai ("My Lord") but also Elohim or El Shaddai.
     There is also much uncertainty about the original meaning of the tetragram itself.  YHWH could possibly mean "I am what I am" or "I am the creator" or "I am the one who is above all that is" … in the sense that God himself has no beginning or end, though creation itself, which his God’s own handiwork, does have finite qualities.  In other words, YHWH is the one who stands far above that which merely "is" … that is, above the very universe that materialists are so caught up with in believing that "things" themselves are the ultimate reality – falling far short of the Judeo-Christian understanding of ultimate reality.

The legacy of early or "Scriptural" Christianity

Undoubtedly, the most important – and totally life-changing – of these various worldviews was Christianity.  As the Romans headed off strongly in the secularist direction, the Christians – as inheritors of the Jewish vision of life – headed off strongly in the theistic direction.  Their view was that Jesus was indeed the long-awaited Jewish Messiah – though more along the lines of a prophet like Moses than of a soldier like David.   Jesus had come to open the way to a new world … one that lived in total love with the God of Heaven – and thus also with each other.

In his own life and death, Jesus opened the way for those who chose by deep faith to rely on a very personal God – whom Jesus termed as Abba (Father) – as opposed to relying on their own human reason and in the workings of the materialist-mechanist or secular social systems that human reason seeks to build.
This put the early Christians at distinct odds with everything that the Roman Empire stood for, especially at odds with the notion that the Empire – and its semi divine emperors at its head – ought to be the object of veneration of every member of the Empire.  Christians refused to offer sacrifices to the emperors, claiming that such a privilege belonged to God alone – and suffered harsh persecution for their stand. 

This also put them at odds with their own Jewish community, not merely because Jesus was not the kind of Messiah that they had been led to expect but because Jesus taught a Godly righteousness drawn not from the faithful observance of the Jewish law but instead from the heart, from personal compassion towards others, and from an total devotion to God as personal "Father" (a matter of great blasphemy to the Jews)

The synthesis: Imperial Christianity or "Christendom

During almost three centuries of persecuted existence, Christian "martyrs" (or "witnesses") revealed themselves to fellow Romans as possessors of an amazingly high moral character and personal bravery long missing in Roman life.  So impressive was their Christian faith that eventually (early 300s AD) the Christian faith was taken up personally by the Roman rulers themselves.   Within a few generations it even became the official religion of the Roman empire.

However, both the faith and the Empire were significantly changed in the process of Christianity becoming thus officially "Romanized."  Christianity joined Roman law to become the moral ethical underpinning of the Empire.  Jesus Christ was moved up alongside the emperors in status to become Christus Rex (Christ the King), friend and supporter of the emperors – and at this point a lofty figure quite removed from the common Christian. The latter now looked to the Virgin Mary and the saints for more intimate or personal spiritual support.

In turn, the empire saw itself as defender of the Christian faith through its formal offices – including the military.  Out of this new amalgam arose the firmly established Roman Catholic Church in the western half of the empire and the equally firmly established Orthodox Church in the eastern or Byzantine half of the empire. 

In short, while the Roman Empire took on certain theistic dimensions, the Christian faith gave up some of its pure theism in favor of a politically stronger, more secular religious position.4

4"More secular religious position" may sound like a contradiction in terms, because in today's world, secularism is treated as simply "scientific fact" – not "religion."  Actually, secularism is no less a religion than any other "worldview" or system of belief that instructs people about why life exists as it does ... and what the people are to do to make the most of such a life.  And the attack by modern Secularists on Christian "superstition" – or anciently, "mysticism" – is hardly a new thing … going all the way back to the times of the ancient Greeks.  Such secularism is no more "progressive" today than it has ever been.

The "Middle Ages"

But the synthesis of Roman Empire and Christian faith did not shore up the sagging Roman system, which finally crumbled – at least in the West – under the pressure of Germanic tribes who were pressing for resettlement within the Roman lands.  Though the Germanic tribes only wanted to possess the Roman order, not destroy it, their tribal touch only collapsed what little was left of the old imperial system.

However, two developments within Christianity helped keep the Christian faith intact in the West even as the empire collapsed there.  One of these was the belated conversion of the Irish to Christianity.  These Irish converts in turn infused the faith with new vigor and sent missionaries from the outer islands of Ireland and Britain into the midst of the Germanic settlements, both in England and on the Western European continent.  Their brand of faith was of the very theistic variety: personal and Christ-centered.

The other development as Rome was collapsing was the influx into the ranks of the church of good Roman patrician blood, which gave the Catholic church sufficient political expertise to thus be able to stave off the Roman collapse, at least with respect to the Roman church itself.  Notable were the Roman popes Leo (mid-400s) and Gregory (late 500s) – who rebuilt the powers of the religious hierarchy centered on Rome.  From Rome then went forth Catholic missionaries, drawing the Germanic tribes into the last standing institution of the old Roman imperium: the Roman Catholic Church.  The Franks (in the future France), under Clovis (c. 500), adopted in whole the Roman version of the faith.  England, facing two versions of Christianity, finally decided to follow the Roman rather than the Irish variety.  Thus a tendency of Christianity toward political or secular order rather than a personally theistic spirit won out in the end (mid-600s).  But even then, it was a feeble version – invested with huge doses of pagan superstition and subject to the political whims of its Germanic rulers.

The Muslim intervention (600s/700s).  In its weakened political condition, Western Europe in the 700s found itself vulnerable to new intruders: the Muslims who had also just overrun most of the Roman Empire in the East (630s-640s) … although in a way the Muslims revitalized – even as they transformed – the Eastern or "Byzantine" Empire into a quite prosperous Muslim order, rather than collapse those lands into poverty as the Germanic tribes had done in the West. 

And these Muslims had achieved this grand success by simply building on the simpler Christian faith of many of the Byzantine commoners … especially among the Semitics (Syrians, Palestinians and Arabs) most of whom had difficulties understanding the mystical character of the Trinitarian faith (God in three co-equal persons:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit) that Greek minds so readily grasped.  The Semitics tended to be Unitarians (only one God – the Heavenly Father … with Jesus attaining divine status only in completing his work on earth).  Islam's founder, Muhammad, in fact was really only something of a Christian Unitarian … adding some key works of his own as the last of the Judeo-Christian prophets – thus "completing" the line of prophets. And Islam could be even more tolerant of dissenting religious groups – such as the Eastern Christians – as long as they accepted Islamic political ascendancy – and paid the required tax (the jizya).

The brief Carolingian revival in the West.  But very significantly, the Franks under Charles Martel not only turned back this Muslim tide when it tried to enter deeply into Western Christian territory, but his grandson, Charlemagne, even began the consolidation of Christian Western Europe under his personal rule through what is today France, Germany and Italy (most of Spain, however, was lost to Muslim domination for centuries).

Charlemagne was crowned Emperor in Rome in 800, and one might have believed that somehow the ancient Roman Christian Empire had come back to life in the West.  But it was Germanic and not Roman ways that directed Charlemagne's Empire – and in accordance with Germanic custom ("Salic Law"), Charlemagne's lands were divided equally among his grandsons – and the impetus toward the reorganization and unification of the West was lost.

Viking domination (800s-1000s).  Soon the Vikings or "Northmen" were taking up from the Germanic tribes in assaulting Western and Northern Europe – except that their hand was even more violent.  This spun these regions of Europe back into two more centuries of "Dark Ages."  But here and there these Northmen (or Normans) settled into conquered Europe and were eventually drawn into the Christian order, giving it new blood – of the military variety. 

The crusades (1100s/1200s).  By 1100 their military talents were being put to use in a counter assault against Islam, carrying Christian "crusaders" all the way to Syria, Palestine and Egypt.  This marks the beginning of the period of revival of Western culture, one which has continued down to the present day.

Growing East-West contacts.  Though in the end the crusades proved to be a military failure (the Muslims pushed the Crusaders back out of the East during the 1200s) the Muslims indicated a willingness to replace Western efforts at conquest of the Muslim East with Western efforts at trade instead – and pilgrimage – as long as the Western Christians were willing to behave themselves!  So a new relationship was established between the Christian West and the Muslim East, one which proved to be a major benefit to the West.

Also, and very importantly, the Muslim East (or actually to the West's great benefit, the Muslim South in Spain) had carefully preserved the ancient writings of the Greeks – writings that the Western Christians had previously destroyed because they were pre-Christian and thus "pagan."  Aristotle and Plato had been known to the West; but now also other ancient Greek philosophers, mathematicians, and scientists came to light – as well as the Muslims' own contribution to learning (such as their Arabic numerals and their advanced methods of mathematical calculation known as al–jabr or algebra.)  

The High Middle Ages (1200s-1300s).  A period of peace began to settle in within the West itself during this time – which allowed the West to come into its own revival in Christian learning.  Actually, this had begun even as early as the late 1000s but reached a highly sophisticated level of during the 1200s.  This new learning produced on the one hand a rich spirituality or "Mysticism" (led in part by the Franciscans) and on the other hand a deep revival of intellectual order known as "Scholasticism" (led in part by the Dominicans).  The first of these emphasized a deep personal relationship with a loving God (theism) and the other tended to emphasize the benefits of a close examination of God's created order (the secularist instinct).  The old dualism thus showed its on-going hold on the Western mind even after centuries of dormancy.

By the 1300s this stirring intellectual curiosity had begun to shift its total focus away from God and was casting it more and more on human life – even just ordinary human life.  So also was a deepening interest in the cultural offerings of the pre-Christian pagan Roman past.  Things Roman (and not just Roman Christian) and Greek were beginning to fascinate the West – particularly the Roman and Greek achievements in art, architecture and literature (both poetry and prose).  Secular humanism was stirring.

The Renaissance and Reformation (1400s/1500s)

The Renaissance.  In the West, attitudes of the Christian church toward these new secularist developments were actually favorable, with the church even being a major patron of this revived spirit of secular-humanism (even elements of paganism).

Also, the Western church had never been averse to holding political power – and soon it began to demonstrate that it was not averse to holding big portions of economic power or wealth either.  By the 1400s popes and bishops vied with newly rising industrialists, merchants, bankers – plus a new breed of national princes and kings – in gathering up the fruits of a fast unfolding secular order of power, wealth, art – and moral abandon.

Part of this came from the vastly expanded trade running across the Mediterranean to the Muslim East … particularly by way of a number of powerful Italian city-states (Venice, Genoa, Florence … even Papal Rome as well) … which thus made Italy something of a base camp for this Renaissance. 

But by the beginning of the 1500s, the scene shifted away from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic and the key monarchies located along its shores:  Portugal, Spain, France, the Netherlands, England principally.  And their wealth came from discovering the path south around Africa to the wealth of the Far East … but also the path across the Atlantic to the New World or America … where the vast plunder in Indian gold made Spain the wealthiest power of the 1500s – by far.

Luther's Protestant "Reformation."  By the early 1500s this secular spirit growing in the Roman Catholic Church – and the Spanish Holy Roman Emperor as powerful protector of the Church – was about to find itself in opposition to two major social groups.  One was the piety of the traditional rural order which was growing increasingly offended at the secularism or materialism of their holy church.  The strongly theistic reformer Martin Luther demanded that reforms be undertaken within the secular church to restore it to the theistic purity of the early church, as founded by Jesus and the Apostles – clearly outlined in Holy Scripture … the Bible now widely available thanks to the discovery of the printing press … and the quickness by which the Vulgate Latin version was translated into the languages of the European commoners – a highly illegal act on the part of these "Protestants" in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Calvinists.  Another theistic social group, which found its voice in John Calvin, was the fast-rising urban society which had no place in the old rural feudal order – and which saw itself as better able than the feudal order to realize the ideal community life of early Christianity.  This latter group, though pious in its theistic affections for God, happened also to command considerable intellectual and material or secular resources which could not be easily coopted back into the feudal Catholic Church – nor easily subdued by the power of the fast-rising national princes of Spain, France and England.
By the 1600s Europe was plunged into bitter war on a number of fronts – as all of these old and new forces vied for mastery of the European culture and soul.

The stirrings of "modern" culture

The path to the European Enlightenment.  By the late 1600s two things were happening which would shift European culture away from the theistic agenda of the Reformation: the first was the sheer exhaustion from all the warring over the theological differences between Catholics and Protestants – over the issue of which religious group held the Truth.  The feeling began to grow up among Westerners that the Truth would never be found through bloodshed.  Toleration of differing religious opinions seemed to be more high-minded than all this sectarian squabbling.

The second thing was the rapid expansion of science (termed at the time "natural philosophy") and its seeming ability to explain all manner of natural events, whether in physics, chemistry or human anatomy.  Science had already in the 1500s started to challenge traditional theism in the West over the issue of whether the earth was or was not the center of the universe.  All theological tradition said that it had to be – for Scripture clearly places the earth as the center point of God's creation.  But astronomers such as Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler offered powerful mathematical theories that undermined the church's traditional position. 

As the 1600s progressed, social and natural philosophers such as Descartes, Spinoza, Newton and Locke began to speculate and design theories about a physical reality which seemed to function quite apart from the issue of God.  This new science began to put the pieces together of a great mathematical puzzle which needed no particular involvement of God to make it all work.  At best God could be congratulated for having set the whole mechanism in motion – long, long ago.  But now that it was up and running, it no longer gave evidence of further involvement of God in the process.  The universe seemed to run simply under its own fixed or eternal physical or "natural" laws.  Thus it was that modern science was born.

The colonization of the Americas.  During the 1500s there had been some effort by the Portuguese and Spanish to bring their American territories under greater control by encouraging the settlement of their people in these lands of the New World ... thereby extending Europe's feudal social system to America.  And the Portuguese and Spanish Catholic Church supported this endeavor by sending accompanying priests and missionaries – and building churches where they could.  And economically speaking – as well as morally or spiritually – it all seemed to work out fairly well (for the Europeans at least) … especially in the face of an expanding population back at home in Europe.

Not wanting to be left of out this enterprise – as the lands to the north of the Spanish holdings looked as if they might offer the same opportunity – the French, Dutch, English and even Swedish sent off various individuals to lay claim to North American territory … in the hopes of establishing similar settlements of their own there. 

The French sent priests and a small number of settlers to the habitable regions furthest north in "Canada" … and then down along the Mississippi River valley.  But it proved not to be a grand success.

The English sent settlers in the late 1500s to an Atlantic middle-region of North America … which turned disastrous, and slowed the English enthusiasm for a while.  But in the early 1600s the hope of discovering Indian gold – thus securing for themselves a higher position in the English feudal order – sent a new group of men off to "Virginia" … they too having a very hard time of it – and dying in vast numbers in wave after wave of new arrivals.

The New England experiment as a "covenant" society.  But curiously to the north of Virginia – in a region that came to be termed "New England" – a very different type of English society was established.  It was not intended to be based on anyone's dream of "striking it rich in America" … but rather on the intent of breaking from England to plant a new Protestant society (Calvinist style) in America – free from the persecutions these "Puritan" Protestants were experiencing in England under their king. 

And the experiment was vastly successful … avoiding the ongoing dying times that had afflicted Virginia.  Some 20,000 English flocked to New England in the 1630s and early 1640s to become part of this new society – covenanted to live with God the way the Israelites had themselves once covenanted to live with God.  And this covenant would become the key moral foundation of what was to become a very outstanding and quite powerful "Christian America."

By the early 1700s, secularism seemed to be elbowing theism aside in the West.  Those who continued to hold theistic views of the universe were looked upon by the newly "enlightened" thinkers of the day as being either deeply self-deluded or just simple-minded.  Universities once largely given to preparing ministers for their pastoral calls were now shifting the focus of their studies to the exploration of the secular world and the truths of "natural philosophy" (science) which undergirded a growing sense of a natural or secular order standing behind everything.

Theism and secularism turn on each other.  By the early 1700s, secularism seemed to be elbowing theism aside in the West.  Those who continued to hold theistic views of the universe were looked upon by the newly "enlightened" thinkers of the day as being either deeply self-deluded or just simple-minded.  Universities once given heavily to preparing ministers for their pastoral calls were now shifting the focus of their studies to the exploration of the secular world and the truths of "natural philosophy" which undergirded a growing sense of a natural or secular order standing behind everything.

The ultimate victory for secularism over theism finally began to register itself in terms of a shift in the sense of the nature and purpose of Western societies and governments.  Whereas the old Catholic feudal order and the newer Protestant commonwealths had justified their existence in terms of God's own will and pleasure, by the late 1700s political communities were being refashioned around purely secular principles in which man – not God – was the justifier of the enterprise.  Political reformers (Rousseau, Condorcet, Hume, Smith, Kant and others) were calling for reform of the political, economic and social systems of their days … reform according to "rational" principles of governance – principles designed to enhance human stature, not the stature of God.

The Protestant "Great Awakening."  But theism was by no means dead.  Protestant pietism on the European continent and a spirit of Protestant revivalism in England and America (known in America as the "Great Awakening') stirred the theistic passions of many Westerners just prior to the mid-1700s.  Though within a generation this passion had once again subsided, it left in its wake nonetheless a strengthened church and a resolve among Christians not to let the fires of their faith flicker out.

Unitarianism/Deism.  Not all Protestant Christians had approved of these emotional outpourings – especially those of a more "reasoned" faith.  Unitarianism / Deism was very strong in the "colder" part of Christendom.  Unitarianism and Deism stood halfway between pure secularism and theism – acknowledging God as the source of the blessings of creation and Jesus as the master moral teacher of mankind.  But this viewpoint also tended to see Christianity as a moral responsibility rather than as a personal spiritual passion.  It dismissed much of the fervency of those swept up by revivalism and looked with disbelief and disdain on all the tales of miraculous events as key to the faith – either at that time or even previously, in Biblical times.  Unitarianism and Deism ultimately believed in a practical reality facing the Christian which was best approached through reason and science.  It was well on its way toward pure Secularism.

English America breaks from its British monarchy.  The fact that English Americans had made themselves politically self-governing virtually from the founding of their colonies many generations earlier decided the English king George III to break that spirit of independence … lest it infect his subjects back in England as well.  But the endeavor proved to be disastrous for George's oppressive armies (1775-1782) – and George had to face up to the humiliation of a people successfully rising against their monarch … something unheard of in history.  But the Americans themselves understood that the God they had covenanted with was highly responsible for this grand change in the course of history.  Then with this success, American leaders gathered in 1787 to draft the ground rules (their Constitution) establishing a new Republic.

The French Revolution (1789 to the late 1790s).  This American success in turn was soon to serve to inspire the "enlightened ones" in France to attempt the same popular uprising against their Bourbon King.  And there were also some deep cultural spiritual ingredients also involved in this French decision.  But these would go in a moral-spiritual direction quite opposite the one that had guided "revolutionary" America.

In Catholic France – and then elsewhere on the European Continent – the French Revolution which broke out in 1789 took a more militant attitude toward theistic Christianity, blaming such "superstition" for having undergirded centuries of political tyranny in Europe.  French militants spread the accusation that Christian piety had dulled the spirits of the people in the face of feudal tyranny, by keeping them willingly submitted before traditional political authority because of the belief that this Old Regime had been ordained by God.  Christianity was also accused of weakening the people's resolve to improve their lot in this life through political revolution and the rule of human reason … by deflecting their hope instead toward an afterlife – something Enlightenment philosophers viewed as dangerously superstitious escapism.

Reaction.  Ultimately, such French Secularism destroyed its own moral credentials through the blood bath produced by the Paris guillotine – as French intellectuals, after having slaughtered the former ruling class, turned on each other in their quest to "rebuild" France around amore "rational" order, an order they seemed to be unable to agree on.  Indeed, their use of "reason" merely deepened their mutual opposition.  Soon they took to slaughtering each other (the murderous "Reign of Terror in the early-mid 1790s).  This was a very ugly display of intellectual arrogance, and social blindness.
Then, the cultural imperialism undertaken by Napoleon in the early 1800s – in order to refocus French militancy away from France itself and outward, toward France's neighbors – ultimately stirred up anti-French nationalism around Europe.  This reaction to French haughtiness in fact also induced much of Europe to cling even more closely to its traditional Christian Order.  Thus, after the defeat of the French in 1815, Europe returned to the safety of older theistic views on life.  This coincided in America with wave after wave of yet another round of religious revivals (including the birthing of Mormonism) that swept across the country in the early 1800s. 

The industrial revolution.  But Secularism was soon rescued by the ongoing industrial revolution — which produced unprecedented wealth, even eventually for the humbler classes, without the apparent aid of God.  Human reason and effort alone seemed to be the necessary force behind this wondrous material development in the West.  But unlike the French Revolution it needed to find no cause against Christianity.  The newly emerging industrial culture paid lip service to theistic Christianity – while in fact putting its greatest energies behind secular development.

Karl Marx.  Not all voices of the industrial revolution, however, were so respectful of Christianity.  In the mid-1800s, Marx, in explaining the servile condition of the European worker under the new industrial leaders, blamed Christian hypocrisy – in much the same language that the French Revolution had used.  Marx called Christianity – and its belief in a better afterlife for the weak and downtrodden – as the "opium of the masses," dished out to them to keep them dumbed down and submissive.  He called not only for the overthrow of these new industrial leaders in a grand workers' revolution, but also for the elimination of this Christian superstition.

In counter to any theistic understanding of the human social order, Marx counter-proposed a purely Secular or Materialist interpretation of society and its historical development.  He claimed that forces inherent in the material means by which societies produced their own wealth (land holding, slave labor, capitalism) produced dialectical or opposing class interests whose historical conflicts actually progressed societies to an ever-higher social state or condition.  Thus it was (to Marx anyway) that Materialist forces, not a divine hand, moved history ever-progressively. 

Ultimately, he boasted that his theory was scientific Socialism, not theistic superstition.

Charles Darwin.  This was coupled in the mid-1800s with an even more devastating indictment of the traditional theistic interpretation of life's dynamics.  Darwin tackled the entire question of the origins of all biological life – including human life.  He came up with a theory that claimed that life had progressed over the long run of the earth's history from simple life forms to very complex life forms.  This progression had occurred, Darwin claimed, through genetic accidents in reproduction – accidents which would give a non-normal creature a slight advantage over its cousins in its adaptability to newly arising changes in the environment.  This better-adapted creature would eventually establish itself as a new species.  And thus, over the long run of history, one specie produced another more complex specie – which would eventually produce yet an even more complex specie – until through a process of biological evolution the whole biological panorama of the present had come into being.  Even human life emerged through this process – emerging from less complex biological life, indeed emerging recently in this long biological history as a better adapted ape.

The impact of Darwin's theory was that it in no way necessitated the hand of a Creator God.  It ran on its own as a completely self-sustaining process, simply through the accidents of history.  God was a meaningless concept in Darwin's theory of biological evolution through natural selection.

This was a devastating challenge to theism – for which, to many Westerners, theism seemed to have no adequate response.

Progressivism, nationalism and imperialism

Progressivism.  This Marxist-Darwinist "evolutionary" or "progressivist" view of life, of human history, had a tremendous impact on the intellectual moral character of Western society in the latter half of the 1800s.  Darwinism, in its social form, undercut deeply Roman Christendom's long-standing political-social doctrine of noblesse oblige, whereby the wealthy and powerful had a moral responsibility to care for the humbler or poorer classes.  Darwinist "Progressivism" claimed that it was the very heart of nature – and crucial to all historical progress – that the strong not be burdened in any way by the plight of the poor.  It was the destiny of the strong to rule – to take history forward – and the destiny of the weak to be cast out in the struggle for survival.

This "ethic" helped justify the huge wealth that was being amassed in the hands of the new industrial-commercial-financial elite – at the cost of the working poor, who were forced to work long hours for the rich with only the barest of compensation for their contributions to the industrial age.  But this is also what gave Marx the inspiration for his theory that history would advance to its next and final stage when the industrial worker realized his true strength and revolted against the ever-smaller industrial capitalist class (the capitalists highly competitive urge towards monopoly driving each other to ruin and thus ironically reducing their own ranks in number) – producing a revolution of the newly strong (the rising working class) over the weakening former dominators (the dwindling capitalist class).

Nationalism.  But this competitive or Darwinist ethic not only set the European "working class" against the European "propertied class," it also set European nation against European nation.  Darwinism produced an ever-growing instinct or spirit of each European nation, aggressively moving to prove itself historically superior to its neighbors.  For France and England, this nationalist competition already had a long history.  But it served in the 1800s to soften the class lines within the French and English nations as the lines of one nation against the other hardened.  Thus it was allowed – even encouraged – to develop, through the creation of "Romantic" national history, poetry, operas, anthems, etc. ("jingoism"), as a means of preserving social harmony within Europe's increasingly self-aware national units.

This urge also drove the Germans and Italians – who had long been divided internally into a number of fiercely competitive smaller states – to create the new nation-states of Italy (1860) and Germany (1870).  It also stirred ethnic minorities within the remaining European multi-ethnic empires to demand the same national independence.

The nation and its quest for glory came to command the full, overriding loyalty of its members – even to the extent of a call to die gallantly in war for the nation's rightful place in the sun.  Complements of Romanticism's ability to stir the hearts of still rather theistic European commoners, the nation became celebrated as the supreme instrument of God's will on earth – as well (to the more noble intellectuals of society) as the ultimate source of all material well-being, justice and right-mindedness here on earth.  Indeed, Westerners were creating a new god of sorts:  their beloved nation – whether England, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Bulgaria, America or elsewhere.

Imperialism.  This hotly competitive national spirit flung itself outward into the larger world – uniting imperial armies, industrialists and traders, and Christian missionaries in the effort to extend the influence of their sending nations among the "pagans and heathens" of the world.  The West was on the move, impelled by zealous forces which seemed to have no limit to their ambitions for mastery or dominance in the world.  The British pushed for global commercialism, headquartered in London; the French pushed for a global French language and culture, headquartered in Paris.  The Americans pushed for constitutional democracy and commercialism, mostly focused on its neighbors to the south ... and quite beneficial to the American business world!  And the Germans and Italians, coming lately to the game, struggled to find imperial colonies for themselves to rule, in a demonstration of Germanic or Italian greatness.  And the Russians and Austro-Hungarians looked to grab pieces of their Muslim neighbor, the Turkish Ottoman Empire, in their own program of imperial expansion.
But by the end of the century they had run out of "overseas" territories to grab in this Darwinian contest.  It was inevitable that these different sending forces would ultimately clash with each other – right at home in Europe itself – in a most ferocious sort of way.

The 20th and 21st centuries

Violent war.  The first half of the 20th century saw the inevitable clash of these nationalist forces – in two world wars and in the startup of a "cold war" which drew most of the world into a vortex of unprecedented violence.  These nationalist urges which had their origins in the West not only dragged the rest of the world into the violence as victims, but eventually infused the same nationalist zeal among non-Westerners.  Everyone, it seems, wanted a place in the sun for their beloved national or cultural communities – as if the forces that directed the universe itself depended on the ultimate victory of one or another of these communities.

Standing behind the outrageous level of violence of 20th century wars was the power of modern materialist science.  Man had learned to control, even unleash, enormous powers – both to create and to destroy.  Long range artillery could reduce towns and cities to rubble; air power could do the same.  With the discovery of the nuclear bomb – and the missile that could send these bombs from one side of the earth to the other – cities could potentially even be disappeared in a single flash.  Gone were the days of the heroic warrior.  In the warrior's place stood the anonymous engineer who from the safety of his or her headquarters could conduct terrible war without the enemy having any idea of who or what was coming their way.

Thus it was that clearly any kind of actual shooting war must now be avoided ... at all costs.

Western Europe goes "international."  Consequently, most Europeans now tended to be very suspicious of nationalist appeals … and quite decided to build as much as possible a post-war Europe on the basis of multinational executive authorities.  Thus they were glad to join America in the creation of the multinational defense force NATO.  But they also put their strategic industries, coal and steel, also under multi-national authority.  And soon they simply moved to join their economies … and even their workforces into a single economic zone – the European Community.  And Europe prospered … at least in the Western half of the continent.

The Soviet Empire.  But Eastern Europe found itself (since 1945) under occupation by Stalin's Russian or Soviet troops … giving the dictator Stalin the opportunity to put into place his own ideas as to how the Eastern half of Europe was to move ahead.  He was careful to place Eastern European countries under the authority of Communist leaders he himself picked and directed … leaders that seemed to have little ability to inspire the societies they controlled.  Supposedly Eastern Europe now lived according to the Marxist vision (secular and very anti-Christian).  But in fact, it was merely whatever Stalin deemed it should be politically, economically, and socially. 
When Stalin eventually died, his legacy was passed on to Soviet leaders Khrushchev and then Brezhnev … who continued the dictatorship.

Cold War America.  America understood that it was called on to protect what it could of Western Europe (and the rest of the world, for that matter) from Stalin's expansionist instincts.  This was the basis of the Marshall Plan of economic assistance to Europe (1947 and after) and NATO (1949).  Beyond that, America simply encouraged Western Europe to move ahead with its multinational impulse, America seeing in this the advance of the grand cause of "democracy" … the political philosophy which had been driving America forward (its own form of nationalism) since the beginning of the 20th century. 

No shooting war with its arch-rival Soviet Russia was ever involved.  But something like a chess game was going on between these two superpowers … a move of either America or Russia to put itself in a position of influence in some new part of the world quickly answered with a countermove by its opponent.  Thus a "Cold War."  And of course, each move was justified morally by the idea that the action undertaken by the superpower was either in advance of "Free World Democracy" (America) or "The People's Democratic Republic" (Russia).  But such moves in fact seldom resulted in progressing "democracy" … of whatever variety.  These were actions taken in accordance with the political and economic interests of the superpowers themselves!

The Soviet Empire collapses.  Finally (1980s), Soviet premier Gorbachev felt called on to reform Soviet society along more truly democratic lines, freeing speech, economic opportunity … and whatever the people themselves might want from society.  The only problem was this set a bad example to the East European Communist dictatorships ... which found themselves unable to fend off revolts of their citizens when the latter also demanded such reforms.  One by one these East European dictatorships fell … and with it, the Soviet Empire in East Europe. 

But Russia itself did not fare well under the reforms, confusing a Russian citizenry not all acquainted with the responsibilities of self-rule.  Gorbachev was followed by Yeltsin, who tried to hold things together … though even huge sections of the Soviet Union itself simply declared independence from the Russian center.  Putin would then take over … and attempt to rebuilt a Russia along more familiar lines.  But the days of Russia as a superpower were definitely over.

America stumbles.  Meanwhile in America, there was much celebration over the fall of the Soviet system.  But America was actually having its own troubles … its Cold War unity being replaced by an ever-stronger contention between its political "Left" (Democrats) and "Right" (Republicans) … a battle shaping up among the generations and also among the different regions of the country over which worldview America is supposed to be living by.  Republicans tried hard to hang onto older American moral-cultural traditions … whereas Democrats saw those traditions as horribly evil on so many fronts (race and ethnicity, sex, religion, urban vs. small-town mentalities) and did what they could to progress or "change" America.

The latter group, the Democrats, had to their advantage, younger generations who sought personal freedom and status rather than conformity to any larger social responsibilities (marriages, family, jobs) … and were quite content to see the older American worldview cut away.

In this they had the Supreme Court as their best political ally, needing only 5 of the Supreme Court's 9 members to completely rewrite the legal foundations of the country – power which even Congress itself could not command.  Indeed, the Supreme Court had somehow managed to make itself America's chief law-making body.

Not surprisingly, the very disciplines of Congressional politics itself underwent decay … as national politics became a matter solely of one side defeating the other side … and the all-critical political "center" cut out of the dynamic completely. 

And with Trump playing president as some kind of celebrity rather than experienced statesman (and his Mussolini-like call for his "troops" to march on the Capitol to block the Congressional presidential vote) and Biden seeming to be nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party and its particular political agenda – and with no one else seeming to be able to come to prominence against these two political figures – it is hard to see how America is going to get up from its huge political stumble … and continue its superpower responsibilities as an international referee in the world's political games.

China on the move.  At the same time Gorbachev's Russia was moving to make democratic reforms (the 1980s) so too was a post-Mao China under Deng Xiaoping doing the same … although with much better success.  There was still enough of an entrepreneurial mentality among key components of Chinese society that in fact the Chinese economy was able to boom at a huge 10% annual rate of economic expansion, year after year.  Thus China moved quickly from being merely another Third World country … to something of a superpower itself.  In fact, under the premiership (another dictatorship?) of Xi Jinping, China has been moving rapidly to make itself not only a true superpower … but the sole superpower on earth – presuming that a deep decline politically, economically (and in every other respect) awaits America now that it is on the path it has chosen for itself (an unpayable national debt, no sense of any unifying purpose, a lack of strong moral leadership).  The Chinese recognize a Fourth-Generation society when they see it!

Looking to the future.  Where that leaves the Western world at this point remains a huge question.  Western Europe seems quite content simply to enjoy the fruits of a truly multinational economic system.  Politically, it seems to feel no particular need to have some grand purpose beyond the simple enjoyment of these economic achievements.  But where that would put Europe in relationship with a weakening America and an ever-stronger China is not exactly clear.

For America, it seems that the only serious possibility for a comeback is to find itself once again on the same road that, over the centuries, led to its 20th century greatness.  There was truly a moral reason behind what America was ultimately able to shape itself into.  It didn't just happen by accident or by some natural or inevitable process.  It came down a very strongly Christian path, under the leadership of Christian men who understood very clearly the call placed by God on the nation they were called to preside over.

But getting America to understand this challenge in this manner will never be achieved by human reason.  It is human reason that got America in this fix in the first place.  Truly, like Israel of old – and like America itself at various points in its history – it is time for the nation to call on God to guide it out of the moral morass it has fallen into. 

Thankfully, it takes only a few good souls to ignite the fires of religious revival – as America's own history demonstrates.  So … let us look beyond Washington for some kind of deliverance (that's just not going to happen) and instead to Christian leaders … truly "born-again" individuals committed to restoring the great Western – and American – legacy, the legacy that once led the Christian West to greatness.

Indeed, let our call be "Maranatha" … may the Lord come!




13,000 BC Retreat of the last ice age begins the Holocene (recent) Epoch
10,000 BC Flint knives used in Palestine in reaping wild grains
9000 BC End of the last Ice Age; domesticated sheep in the North Tigris valley
7500 BC Fortified Jericho settlement — cultivated cereals
7000 BC Fertility cult in Asia Minor (Turkey) indicates use of domesticated cattle
Earliest pottery invented in the Middle East
6500 BC Copper in Asia Minor — used for ornamentation
5000 BC Copper in Mesopotamia (land of the "two rivers" in modern Iraq)
Sumerians settle lower Mesopotamia
3700 BC Rise of the city-states in Sumer:  Ur, Uruk, Lagash, Kish 
Wheel-made pottery, sailboats, animal-drawn plows 
Bronze in use in both Sumer and Egypt
3500 BC Two separate kingdoms in Egypt along the lower and upper Nile
3200 BC Sumerian cuneiform writing used to keep royal records
3100 BC Hieroglyphics (pictorial writing) in Egypt
3000 BC The rise of the unified Egyptian state governing vast reaches of the Nile; 
Wheeled vehicle used in Sumer
2550 BC Beginning of pyramid building in Egypt
2360 BC Sargon the Great of Akkad (central Mesopotamia) rules the bulk of the Middle East
2000 BC The beginning of the Aryan migrations from southern Russia: 
   to India (Hindus), to Asia Minor (Hittites) and to Greece (Myceneans)
   somewhat later to Central Europe (the Celts)
Possibly the time when Semitic migrations from Arabia occur 
   Abraham migrates from Ur to Palestine?
The rise of the Greek-speaking Minoan state in Crete; palace at Knossos
The powerful Middle Kingdom of Egypt
Sumer in decline
1800 BC Hammurabi:  law-giver and ruler of Babylonian empire (based in central   Mesopotamia)
1700 BC The Hittite Empire emerges in central Asia Minor (modern Turkey); 
  Hittites use the new secret metal:  iron
The Semitic Hyksos overrun Egypt 
Hebrews (Jacob and Joseph and his brothers) settle in Egypt — perhaps under
   Hyksos protection
1550 BC Egyptian power restored 
The Hyksos expelled from new Egyptian Empire (Hebrews enslaved?)
1450 BC Cretan (Minoan) civilization collapses — probably as a result of devastating
   volcanic or earthquake activity
1390 BC The "Golden Age" of Egypt begins under pharaoh Amenhotep III
1350 BC Akhenaten, son of Amenhotep III, tries to establish monotheism in Egypt
1275 BC Ramses II the Great pharaoh of Egypt
Moses leads the Hebrews from Egypt?
Aryan Medes and Persians invading Iran
Assyrians from the north extending their power over Mesopotamia
1250 BC Troy besieged by the Greeks
1200 BC The period of the Israelite Judges begins
The Hittite empire collapses
1100 BC Beginning of the Dorian and Ionian invasions of Greece
1070 BC The Philistines conquer Israel and settle the coastal plains
1000 BC David rules a united Israel from Jerusalem
Germanic (Aryan) tribes migrate to the Rhine River
961 BC Solomon succeeds his father David to the throne of Israel
922 BC Upon death of Solomon, Israel splits into two kingdoms:  Israel (Northern) and
   Judah (Southern)
850  BC Assyrian power in the ascendancy again:  attacks Israel (Northern kingdom)
800 BC  Traditional date for the writing of Homer's Epic poems:  the Iliad and the
   Odyssey (but modern scholars place the date closer to 700 BC)
Aryans establishing the Hindu caste system over the Indian population
750 BC Israel (Northern Kingdom) at height of prosperity under Jeroboam II
The traditional date for the founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus
722 BC Sargon II of Assyria overruns Israel (the Northern Kingdom); takes 27,000 Israelites captive; destroys Israel
650 BC Beginning of period of rule of Greek city-states by tyrants (dictators)
626-609 BC Wars of independence by subject nations of the Assyrians; Assyria collapses
605 BC Rise of Babylonian power under Nebuchadnezzar II (to 561 BC)
594 BC Solon in Athens reforms the severe laws of Draco, setting up democratic rule
586 BC Nebuchadnezzar II sacks Jerusalem and carries the population of Judah into captivity
559 - 529 BC Cyrus II, the Great, king of Persia; overruns Asia Minor (546) and Babylon (539);
   allows the Jews to return to Judah, ending the "Babylonian Captivity"
500 BC Persia rules from Egypt in the West to the Indus River in the East (Darius I,
   king:  521-486).
Athens has confirmed its commitment to democracy against a Spartan effort
   to restore aristocratic rule in Athens (507)
Etruscans are at the height of their power in northern Italy
But Rome is under Republican government and in control of the whole of
   Latium (west-central Italy)

FROM 500 BC TO 1850 AD

A printable PDF copy of the 4-page CENTURIES chart
A printable PDF copy of practice test 1
A printable PDF copy of practice test 2
A printable PDF copy of practice test 3
In order to get a full-page PDF printout:
     click on the "download" arrow in the upper right-hand corner of the PFD document;
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Rise of Greek philosophy in Ionia + Southern Italy / Jewish culture in the East
Secularist-Materialists: Thales (early 500s), Anaximander (early 500s), Anaximenes (mid-500s)
Transcendentalist-Mystics: Pythagoras (mid to late 500s)
Solon reforms Athens' constitution along democratic lines (early 500s)
Cleisthenes reforms Athens along more fully democratic lines (late 500s)
Jewish prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah and their disciples refine monotheistic Judaism
Golden Age of Greece + Hellenic culture / the "Age of Pericles" in Athens
Athenians under Themistocles and Miltiades defeat Darius at Marathon (490)
Persians more decisively defeated at Salamis (480 BC) and Platea (479 BC)
Mystics: Heraclitus (early 400s), Parmenides (early 400s)
Materialists: Anaxagoras (mid 400s), Democritus (late 400s - early 300s) 
Sophists: Protagoras (mid 400s)
Socrates (late 400s)
Pericles turns the Delian League into an Athenian empire (ca. 460-430 BC)
Athens and its allies fight Sparta and its allies in the Peloponnesian Wars (431-404 BC)
    destroying Athens, devastating the rest of Greece and ending the Golden Age of Greece
Decline of Classic Hellenic-Athenian Greek culture / Rise of Alexander and Hellenistic culture
Plato (early 300s) and Aristotle (mid 300s)
Cynics/Skeptics: Diogenes (early 300s), Pyrrho of Ellis (late 300s), 
Macedonian/Greek Alexander the Great conquers from the Nile to the Indus (334-323 BC)
Hellenistic (mixture of Greek + Eastern) culture is thus born
At his death, Alexander’s empire is carved up into separate kingdoms, the largest of which were:
    Egypt (the Ptolemies), Syria and the East (the Seleucids) and Macedonia-Greece (the Antigonids)
Meanwhile after Rome was burned by the Gauls (387 BC) it recovers — and begins its gradual 
    expansion in northern Italy against the Etruscans, Gauls and Samnites
Hellenistic culture cynical, passive and scientific; Rome fights Carthage
Cynics: Crates (early 200s); Epicureans: Epicurus (late 300s - early 200s); 
Stoics: Zeno of Citium (early 200s)
Scientists: Aristarchus (early-mid 200s) and Archimedes (mid-late 200s)
Rome seizes the Greek kingdoms of southern Italy and Sicily in the Pyrrhic War (280-275 BC)
Roman-Carthaginian Punic Wars: 1st (mid 200s); 2nd (late 200s: Hannibal nearly victorious)
The Rising Roman Republic defeats Carthageand Macedonian Greece
The 3rd Punic War (mid 100s): Carthage is destroyed (146 BC); 
Greece is also defeated (146 BC) but its culture is respected and absorbed by the Romans
Marius reforms the Roman army, offering poor Romans professional status as full-time soldiers (107 BC)
50s BC Julius Caesar + Roman Army lay the foundations for the military-run Roman Empire

Year 1 Jesus is born in Judea
Octavius Augustus Caesar builds up Imperial Rome 
1st century AD The Roman Empire matures and Judaism goes into the diaspora
Rome burns, destroying 2/3s of the city (64); Christians are subsequently blamed and persecuted
Jewish Revolt against Rome (67-70) 
    Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed (70) — and the Jews banished from Jerusalem
Rome reaches the height of her power
The "Good Emperors" Trajan (98-117), Hadrian (117-138), Antoninus (138-161) and
    Marcus Aurelius (161-180) bring Roman expansion and its wealth to its greatest extent
200s Rome in a state of material and moral decline
For 50 years, 25 emperors are made and unmade in rapid succession by a venal Praetorian Guard
Diocletian (285-305) tries to restore Roman discipline — and the purity of "original" Roman society
    including the elimination of the detested "foreign" Christian religion
300s Christianity adopted as the official religion of Rome; but the material decline continues
Emperor Constantine (312-337) makes Christianity legal (313); he helps formalize "Nicene" or Trinitarian
    Christianity; he moves the imperial capital to Byzantium (Constantinople)
The Arian controversy over the nature of Christ develops — producing a lasting split within the faith
Emperor Theodosius (379-395) makes Nicene (anti-Arian) Christianity the sole religion (late 300s)
Meanwhile Ulfilas spreads Arian Christianity to the German Goths + from there to other German tribes
The Romans permit the Visigoths to cross the Danube to escape the Asian Huns (376)
But Visigothic-Roman tensions build, the Goths revolt, and the Roman army is crushed at the Battle of
    Adrianople (378).  Obvious to all, Rome can no longer defend itself.
400s Rome in an advanced state of decay and collapse — especially in the West
Visigoth chief Alaric conquers the city of Rome in 410 (Ravenna is actually now the Western capital)
Germans spread quickly throughout the Western empire: Visigoths + Suevi to Spain, Vandals to
    North Africa, Franks + Burgundians to Gaul or "France," and Saxons + Angles to Britain or "England"
Patrick travels to Ireland (mid 400s?) - to help convert Ireland to Nicene Christianity
Leo I (bishop or "pope" 440-461) greatly strengthens Rome as the center of Western Christianity
Clovis (King of the Franks) unites much of Gaul and Western Germany (late 400s/early 500s);
    he converts from paganism to Nicene Christianity (late 400s)
500s Roman (Byzantine) Emperor Justinian (527-565) attempts to restore the Roman Empire
But: constant warfare with Persia and the expense of partial Roman reconquest in the West
    drain physical strength from Byzantine Rome
Also: theological splits and assaults on Christian "heretics" drain moral strength from Byzantine Rome
Roman Christianity in the West is strengthened by Benedict (Italian monastic reformer), Pope Gregory
    (developer of Catholic Christianity), Irish missionaries Columba (to Scotland) and Columbįn (to
    Burgundy, Switzerland and Northern Italy) and Roman missionary Augustine (to the Anglo-Saxons)
600s Muhammad’s Arabs conquer huge portions of Eastern (Byzantine) Rome + all of Persia
A series of Byzantine-Persian wars (613-630) devastates and exhausts both empires
Muhammad (630) unites the tribes of Arabia around his Arian religion, Islam
Muslim Arabs overrun much of the Byzantine Empire:  Syria (634), Jerusalem (637), Egypt (641)
The Persians are completely mastered (633-641) — though they take up dissenting "Shi'ite" Islam 
Celtic missionaries continue their work in bringing Germanic West Europe to Nicene Christianity
But the Synod of Whitby (664) replaces Celtic Christianity with Roman Christianity in England
700s Spain lost to Islam; Rise of the Carolingian Franks; Muslims fail to capture France
Muslim Arabs cross from North Africa to conquer the Visigothic kingdom in Spain (711-718); 
But they are stopped further north by Frankish general Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours (737)
Muslims retreat back into Spain and establish an Islamic Umayyad dynasty there (for 700+ years)
Charles Martel establishes the Carolingian dynasty in France.
800s Charlemagne's Empire established — then breaks up; Vikings begin their terrible raids on Europe
Charlemagne conquers and unifies France, Germany, and Lombardic Italy; he is crowned emperor in 800
A revival of sorts stirs within Western Christendom
But his warring grandsons divide up and weaken his empire (The Treaty of Verdun: 843)
Viking raids are a regular feature of life in Europe — throwing it back into very dark times
900s The height of the Viking Age
Viking attacks are constant along the Irish, English, French and Dutch coasts; Swedes invade Russia
But Viking (Norman) leader Rollo is permitted (911) by the King Charles to settle the French coast
     The Normans are quickly Romanized — and brought into Western political-military service
Viking (Rus) leader Vladimir of Kiev converts to Byzantine Christianity (988); he dominates East Europe
1000s The first stirrings of a Western revival (which lasts all the way into the 20th century!) 
Viking King Canute (or Cnut) unites England, Denmark, Norway and parts of Sweden (early 1000s)
    bringing some degree of stability to Northwestern Europe 
Saxon England is conquered by French Normans at Hastings (1066) — 
    bringing it more closely into European affairs
Benedictine monk Anselm of Canterbury stirs the fires of renewed Christian scholarship (late 1000s)
Pope Urban calls the 1st Crusade (1095) to "liberate" the Holy Lands from Muslim Turks
1100s The Christian West breaks out of its political and intellectual confines
The 1st crusade is a success — with Christian kingdoms established in the Holy Lands (1100)
Western scholarship develops under French monks Abelard, Bernard, and Lombard
Height of the Church-State "investiture controversy" as Roman Popes and (German) Holy Roman 
    Emperors compete for dominance in the newly rising Europe
Saladin manages to retake for the Muslims much of the Crusader gain in the Middle East (later 1100s) 
But new waves of crusaders arrive (the 2nd crusade) — though they prove unable to oust Saladin; 
    However East-West commerce begins to replace crusading in importance
Venice begins its rise as a rich and powerful commercial-maritime city-state (late 1100s)
1200s The High Middle Ages
Muslim Arabs drive out the last of the crusaders at the end of the 1200s
    but allow commercial + intellectual relations to continue
Venice establishes a vast commercial empire around the Eastern Mediterranean
Genoa, London, Paris, the city-states of Flanders and the Hansa cities of North Germany also prosper
Age of northern (Gothic) cathedrals and cathedral schools (future universities)
Age of Scholasticism and Aristotelian thinking (Dominicans, especially Aquinas)
But also a strong strain of Christian mysticism thriving (Franciscan "Spirituals')
1300s The Closing of the High Middle Ages + beginning of the "Renaissance"
The Black Death (mid 1300s) and the Pope's "Babylonian Captivity" at Avignon, France (1309-1378)
    undermine Christianity’s moral/political hold and help bring an end to the Middle Ages
Fine arts and literature begin to stir with the Italian artist and architect Giotto (early 1300s), 
    the Italian writers and poets Dante (late 1200s/early 1300s), Petrarch + Boccaccio (early 1300s)
    and the English writer Chaucer (late 1300s)
1400s The height of the Renaissance: great material/intellectual progress in Western Europe
Commercial families of urban Italy (such as the Medici of Florence under Cosimo and Lorenzo) 
    and princely/kingly families in Northern Europe (such as the Valois of France under Louis XII 
    and the Tudors of England under Henry VII) come to political prominence
Humanist art, architecture, industry, commerce in Italy and Flanders reach levels of ancient Rome
Beginning of the Age of Exploration — in the quest of a direct route to the wealth of East Asia
Eastern Christendom or Byzantium finally falls to Turkish Muslims (1453) —  even as Muslim Spain is 
    losing out to Christian Spain (the last Muslim state in Spain, Granada, finally falls in 1492)
1500s The Age of Spain:  secular wealth strengthens rising classes and undercuts Church + Empire
Luther and Calvin develop Protestantism as a separate Christian branch
    Lutheranism appeals to N. European princes/kings seeking independence
    Calvinism appeals to Northern European urban commercial class seeking independence
Very Catholic Hapsburg Spain under Charles I (1506-1556) and Philip II (1556-1598) rules supreme
    in Europe based on plundered wealth from Mexico (Cortés) + Peru (Pizarro)
The Hapsburgs try to stamp out Protestantism — but the Turks under Suleiman divert them from this 
    task when the Turks lay siege to Habsburg Vienna (1529)
England under Henry VIII (1509-1547) and Elizabeth I (1558-1603) and 
    France under Francis I (1515-1547) and Henry IV (1589-1610) continue to rise politically
Defeat of the Spanish Armada by England (1588) brings the beginning of the decline of Spanish power
1600s Europe torn by religious strife; turns to secular science as an alternative path to Truth
Thirty Years War (1618-1648) leaves continental Europe spiritually exhausted
The first English settlements are established in the "New World" — early 1600s
    Virginia is settled by company-sponsored fortune hunters aspiring to become "aristocrats"
    New England is settled by Puritan refugees seeking to build a community pleasing to God 
    Middle Colonies are settled by diverse groups, including Quakers, Mennonites and Catholics
    (joining the Protestant or Reformed Dutch of New York and Swedes/Dutch of Delaware)
England torn by Civil War between Royalists and Puritans - mid 1600s;
    Cromwell establishes a short-lived Puritan Commonwealth in England (1650s)
France under Absolutist King Louis XIV (1643-1715) brings French culture to a  position of dominance
    in Europe, but drives out France's industrious Huguenots (he revokes the Edict of Nantes in 1685)
English Parliament overthrows James II's effort to become an absolutist king like Louis XIV
    (The "Glorious Revolution" — 1688-1689)
Newton and Locke lay the foundations of modern science — birthing the "Enlightenment" (late 1600s)
1700s Age of Enlightenment, Royal absolutism and the early stirrings of democracy
Royal families of Europe (Russia, Prussia, Austria, England) mimic French royalty
But Absolutist  hold of French monarchy itself slips as royal wealth dries up
French philosophes (Voltaire, Diderot, Condorcet, etc.) call for a rule in France of Human Reason
    — or Human Instinct, untainted by traditional social conventions (Rousseau)
English Absolutist "wanna-be" George III drives English colonies to rebellion (1770s) — 
    by which the colonies ultimately (mid 1780s) secure total "American" independence
American democratic traditions produce a model constitutional democracy (later 1780s)
But in France democratic impulses collapse France into a chaotic Revolution (1789)
    which spreads to the rest of Europe through French Revolutionary armies
The French "Reign of Terror" (1792-1794) shocks Europe
1800s: 1st quarter French Nationalism stirs to life other nationalisms in Europe
Napoleon takes charge of the French Revolution (1800) and challenges the rest of Europe
Hegel lays out the case for all history evolving through the work of a Weltgeist (World Spirit)
Napoleon and France are defeated (1815) 
     and attempts are made to restore the Old Order (Ancien Régime) of church and royal state...
     but French nationalism has stirred up political activism among Europe’s commoners
America’s War of 1812 has fueled a spirit of American nationalism "Romanticism" gives the spirit of
     nationalism a passionate spirit

2nd quarter
The industrial revolution begins to create new and deep social class tensions
 Wealthy middle class industrialists take command of politics in England (1830)
 Victoria becomes queen — and symbol of mighty Victorian England (1837-1901)
 Americans push westward and overrun the Mexican lands to the West (1840s)
 There is a commoner uprising against aristocratic rule in Austria, Germany and France (1848)


A printable PDF copy of the 4-page STUDENT SYLLABUS

Working from A Moral History of Western Society Volume One
Questions to consider in doing the readings

1st Quarter The Classical and Middle Ages
Unit 1 - pp. 1-30 (Introduction and Overview)

Why is a sense of social purpose so important to any society?  What was it that the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle observed as making for a good society ... but also a bad society?  Why does leadership of a society seem to vary widely over the generations?
Unit 2 - pp. 31-52 (The Ancient Greek Legacy)

How was it that the Greeks began to move from the idea of the cosmos or all of life and existence being controlled by the actions of gods living atop Mount Olympus – to the idea that there is some kind of basic order that underlies all existence?  How did Thales and the other Ionian materialists (the "Miletus Triad") understand the makeup of the cosmos and the way it worked?  How did Pythagoras hold a quite different idea of the cosmos and how it operates?  What philosophers came up with the idea of the Logos?  What was it all about?  How did Democritus's philosophy contribute to the Materialists' understanding of the cosmos and human life?

What were the good points – and the flaws – involved in Greek democracy?  Who were the Sophists and what was their impact on Athens? How well did Socrates fare under Athenian democracy?  What were Plato’s thoughts on the subject of the perfect Republic?  How did Aristotle depart from his teacher’s idealism to add greatly to materialism?

Unit 3 - pp. 52-71 (Alexander and the Hellenistic Legacy)

What was the cause of the foolish wars (the Peloponnesian Wars) that devastated Greece, and started its decline?  How did the Cynic Diogenes take a much less optimistic view about man's abilities to understand and manage life?  How were the Skeptics even more pessimistic?  How did Epicureanism and Stoicism take the understanding of life down different paths?

How was it that Alexander came to the rescue of Greece culture ... but transformed it greatly in expanding the Greek world the way he did?  Why did his empire divide into major empires of their own? How did Greek science flourish under the Alexandrian impact? 

Unit 4 - pp. 72-107 (Ancient Rome)

What were the key ingredients involved in the grand political expansion of Rome?  What was the process that produced the transformation of Rome from a republic to an empire?  What was it that began the decline of the Roman Empire?  What were the "reform" efforts undertaken to pull Rome out of its quite obvious decline?

Unit 5 - pp. 108-127 (The Jewish Legacy)

How was it that the American understanding of the ancient Jewish covenant played a key role in the founding of America?  How did/does the story of the fall of Man (Adam and Eve) play such a strong role in the Western understanding of human nature ... and its challenges?  Why is the long Biblical narrative of a people's successes and failures considered to be a very important source of lessons about life ... lessons useful for all people?

How was it that Judaism became a religion very, very different from the religions practiced widely around the ancient world?  How did this free up the Jews to carry their religion far from their "home base" at Jerusalem?  What problems hit Judaism hard with the Alexandrian Greek success in their Jewish world?  What kind of a "Messiah" were they expecting ... that would deliver them from this alien Greek (subsequently Greco-Roman) world? 

Unit 6 - pp. 128-153 (The Formation of Christendom)

How was it that Jesus was such a very different "Messiah" than the ones the Jews were expecting?  What were the key elements of Jesus's gospel (Good News)?  How did the crucifixion of Jesus plotted by the Jewish authorities most ironically "complete" Jesus's Messianic mission?  How did the events following Jesus's resurrection and then the follow-up anointing of his disciples on Pentecost by God's own Holy Spirit birth Christianity?

How did Christianity follow Judaism as being a religion based on a narrative or story ... rather than on the mechanics of priestly worship at some sacred altar?  Why did Christianity spread so quickly and widely around the Roman Empire ... despite efforts by the Roman authorities to destroy this new faith?  How did the Emperor Constantine's "conversion" to Christianity not only change Christianity's status in the Empire ... but also its basic character?

Unit 7 - pp. 154-185 (The European "Dark Ages")

How was it that political folly in Rome's imperial circles speeded Rome's decline?  How was it also that the Germanic tribes bordering Rome came to be a major factor in Rome's decline in the West?  How was it that Christianity survived in the West ... when little else of the Roman Empire did?  Why did Rome do a better job of surviving in the Eastern (Byzantine) half of the old Empire?  Why did the Irish become such a huge factor in Christianity's ongoing success in the West?  But how did ongoing wars in the East with Persia and Byzantine efforts to stamp out all but properly Orthodox Christianity (involving a heavy persecution of non-Trinitarian Christians making up huge sections of the Eastern Empire) produce a political collapse now in the East as well as the West?

Unit 8 - pp. 185-217 (Islam and the West during those Dark Days)

How was it that the Arab prophet Muhammad was so deeply influenced by Christian theology?  Why were subsequent Arab Muslim leaders (caliphs and their generals) so successful in spreading Muhammad's Islamic religion around the Arab, Byzantine and Persian world?  But how did the Islamic religion itself suffer a deep and bitter (and ongoing ... even to today) split between two religious factions?

How were the Carolingian leaders of Frankish Western Europe able to fend off Islam ... at least in the Western world north of the border with Spain (Spain remaining under Islam for many more centuries) ... and bring some degree of unity among the various Germanic tribes in Western Europe?  But how did this Carolingian Empire itself split into key political-cultural societies?  How did the Bishops of Rome (the Popes) manage to preserve at least a degree of religious unity in Western Europe?

But how did the Vikings of the North (thus Northmen or Normans) throw Western Europe back into a new round of Dark Ages?  Where did Anglo-Saxon England find itself during these days?  Why finally brought about the end of its political independence ... now tying it closely to the political developments on the European continent?

Unit 9 - Review ... and World Map Test


2nd Quarter The Modernizing of the West

Unit 1 - pp. 218-264 (The High Middle Ages -1)

How and why finally  (by the early 1100s) did Western Europe find itself on a political-cultural rebound ... starting up a growth that would continue all the way into the 20th century?  What role did the crusades play in this development ... politically, economically, and culturally?  Who were some of the feudal kings that played a big part in this development?  But how even more important for this growth was the development of the European merchant cities?

How did this development challenge Christian orthodoxy ... and how were the creation of the Fransciscan and Dominican monastic orders very different responses to this new dynamic?  How then did "Scholasticism" come to develp out of this new intellectual dynamic?  How did the West then find itself once again divided along deep Materialist-versus-Mystical lines of intellectual thought?

Unit 2 - pp. 264-291 (The High Middle Ages -2 ... and Renaissance -1) 

How did the 1300s bring Europe to something of an amazing cultural revival ... and then be hit mid-century by a devastating plague that wiped out huge portions of European society?  And how did a deep political split over the office of pope — and the rising threat of the Ottoman Turks to the East — threaten to undo further Europe's political-cultural rebound?

How did this rebound nonetheless soon resume ... and continue to impact the material-cultural development of Europe.  How did all of this challenge the Roman Church?  How did this bring forward amazing artists and writers ... focused strongly on human rather than religous themes in their work?

How did this also secularize greatly European politics at this time (focus political interest solely on power for power's sake) ... promoting an ongoing contest (the Hundred Years' War) between the Valois and Plantagenet families — ultimately serving merely to bring the Tudor family to power in England?

Unit 3 - pp. 291-324 (The Renaissance -2 ... and Protestant Reformation)

How meanwhile was power being amassed in the hands of the rising Habsburg Dynasty ... coming to hold that power across much of the face of Europe (the Netherlands, Spain, Southern Italy, Austria)?  How did the city-states or "republics" of Northern Italy attempt to stand their ground in this dynastic contest?  How did all of this political greed come to impact the papacy?

How did all of this facilitate the rise of the Turks in Southeastern Europe?

Yet also, how did all of this energy also inspire West Europe's exploration, settement, and dynastic claim to various parts  of the world ... across the Atlantic — as well as around the African coast, and even to points in East Asia?

Finally ... how did this finally (after failed efforts of earlier religious reformers) bring Luther in feudal Germany and Calvin in urban Switzerland to be able to challenge successfully the Roman papacy ... and thus found and build new Christian movements independent of Rome — even in the face of considerable Habsburg imperial and Roman papal opposition?  How did the Roman church finally decide to fight this "Protestant" development with its own "Counter-Reformation"?

Unit 4 - pp. 325-354 (The Development of the Dynastic State -1)

How did this bitter religious controversy also spill over into Europe's various dynastic contests ... as well as urban Europe's valiant efforts to secure its independence from just such dynastic authority?  How did this result ultimately in a long-fought ("Thirty Year's War") that exhausted Europe both politically and religiously?

How did the decision at Westphalia in 1654 finally resolve the matter ... by acknowledging Europe's dynastic rulers as "absolutist" authorities, able to dictate whatever political-religious points they wanted to put into place in their own realms?  But how did this also also mark the beginning of a new, very much more secular, attitude about life and its causes in general (the beginning of "The Age of the Enlightenment")?

How did Russia come to get involved in this European dynamic at this time?  How did Bourbon France find itself able to challenge Habsburg Spain as the dominant power on the European continent?  But how also did both the English and the Dutch come into greater power at this time? What did the overseas trade have to do with this development?

But how did growing Protestant instincts in England, particularly on the part of the Puritans, both spin off to America a huge Puritan settlement (New England) but also spark a civil war back in England itself?  How in turn would Puritan New England come to have a much greater impact on the shaping of on English America than would the more traditionalist (even semi-feudal) Virginia founded a bit earlier?

Unit 5 - pp. 354-391 (The Development of the Dynastic State -2)

Why was it that European intellectualism in the second half of the 1600s was in such a hurry to set the idea of surrounding life — the earth and even the universe itself — on a purely mechanical or materialist basis?

How did the political-religous civil war in England (not part of the Westphalia arrangement) ultimately have the same impact on England?   How did this include a new political compromise of sorts in England (the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688-1689)?  How also was Puritan America struggling to maintain its religious "purity" at this time?

How was it that France was able to come to a position of not only political but also cultural dominance during this same period (the second half of the 1600s)?  However, why was France not able to hold on to its dominant political position (though it still remained the cultural model for most of Europe) during the 1700s?

How was it that Prussia and Russia both found themselves playing a bigger role in the European scheme of things in the 1700s?

Unit 6 - pp. 392-415 (Enlightenment ... and "Revolution")

How was it that the cultural-religous dynamics of the late 1600s now played themselves out in the course of the 1700s?  What was the significance of the English and American "Great Awakening," of Rousseau's democratic Idealism, but also of English (or British) Pragmatism, at this time?  What about Kant's efforts to find a compromise between French Rationalism and British Pragmatism?  How did Lamarck move to put modern science on a purely Materialist basis?

Why did the American "Revolution" erupt?  Why did the colonials succeed in their rebellion against a powerful British king and his larger, more experienced army?  What happened when the French attempted to undertake a similar rebellion against their own French monarchy?  Why?  Why were the American "Revolution" and the French Revolution so very different in nature and outcome? 

Unit 7 - pp. 416-442 (The "Modernizing" of the West -1)  

How was it that the Napoleonic followup to the French Revolution — and the dynastic response to Napoleon's challenge — came to plant a strong nationalist mood among the commoners of dynastic Europe?  How did the literary Romanticism of the times deepen this mood ... especially among intellectual classes of the various German principalities?  How did efforts to bring into existence a unified German state go nowhere in the first half of the 1800s?  How were other "national" groups (eg. Belgians, Poles, Hungarians, Greeks, Serbs, etc.) likewise pushed to dream of their own national independence?

Meanwhile, what was developing over in the Americas ... Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico and Engish America itself?

Unit 8 - pp. 442-453 (The "Modernizing" of the West -2)

How, in the meantime, was the moving of life's dynamics to an explanation that everything was a result of "natural" (not divine) causes — from geological, to animal, to human development itself — increasingly the case?  How did Marx even "mechanize" man's own political development as a new — and supposedly most compelling — "social science"?

Unit 9 - Centuries Test 



A printable PDF copy of the World Map Answer Sheet

  1  Canada
  2  United States
  3  Mexico
  4  Cuba
  5  Haiti
  6  Dominican Republic
  7 Jamaica
  8  Guatemala
  9  El Salvador
10  Honduras
11  Nicaragua
12  Costa Rica
13  Panama
14  Colombia
15  Venezuela
16  Guyana
17  Suriname
18  Brazil
19  Ecuador
20  Peru
21  Bolivia
22  Paraguay
23  Uruguay
24  Argentina
25  Chile
26  Greenland
27  Iceland
28  Ireland
29  United Kingdom
30  Norway
31  Sweden
32  Finland
33  Denmark
34  Germany
35  Netherlands
36  Belgium
37  France
38  Spain
39  Portugal
40  Italy
41  Switzerland
42  Austria
43  Czech Republic (Czechoslovakia)
44  Slovakia
45  Poland
46  Lithuania
47  Latvia
48  Estonia
49  Russia
50  Belarus
51  Ukraine
52  Moldova
53  Romania
54  Hungary
55  Slovenia
56  Croatia
57  Bosnia
58  Serbia (Yugoslavia)
59  Macedonia
60  Albania
61  Greece
62  Bulgaria
63  Turkey
64  Georgia
65  Azerbaijan
66  Armenia
67  Iraq
68  Syria
69  Lebanon
70  Cyprus
71  Israel
72  Palestine
73  Jordan
74  Saudi Arabia
75  Egypt
76  Libya
77  Tunisia
78  Algeria
79  Morocco
80  Mauritania
81  Senegal
82  Guinea
83  Sierra Leone
84  Liberia
85  Ivory Coast
86  Mali
87  Ghana
88  Niger
89  Nigeria
90  Chad
91  Cameroon
92  Central African Republic
93  Gabon
94  Congo
95  Dem. Rep. of the Congo (Zaire)
96  Angola
  97  Namibia
  98  South Africa
  99  Botswana
100  Zimbabwe
101  Mozambique
102  Madagascar
103  Malawi
104  Zambia
105  Tanzania
106  Burundi
107  Rwanda
108  Uganda
109  Kenya
110  Somalia
111  Ethiopia
112  Sudan
113  Eritrea
114  Yemen
115  Oman
116  Kuwait
117  Iran
118  Turkmenistan
119  Uzbekistan
120  Kazakhstan
121  Kyrgyzstan
122  Tajikistan
123  Afghanistan
124  Pakistan
125  India
126  Sri Lanka
127  Nepal
128  Bangladesh
129  Myanmar (Burma)
130  Thailand
131  Laos
132  Vietnam
133  Cambodia
134  Malaysia
135  Indonesia
136  Australia
137  New Zealand
138  Philippines
139  Taiwan
140  China
141  Mongolia
142  North Korea
143  South Korea
144  Japan

  Miles H. Hodges