Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bodyguards of the Pope: The Swiss Guards

Swiss Guards
On Sunday, April 28, 2014, Pope Francis would unveil the two new saints of the Catholic Church – Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII. The St. Peter’s Basilica would surely be crowded by the by thousands of faithful, waiting to see personally the announcement of the two new saints. Pope Francis would be the head of this ritual. And when the Pope expose himself to the crowds of people in the Vatican City, a group of colorfully dressed men with morions for a head gear with feathers would be seen standing near to the Pope.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Symbol of Lebanon in the Ancient World

Lebanese Flag
Lebanon is a country located in the Middle East. It is surrounded by Syria to the north and east; by Israel to the south; and the vast expanse of the Mediterranean Sea to the west. Its flag has three horizontal stripes, two red stripes with a white stripe in the middle. At the center of the flag lies a cedar tree. But why a cedar tree placed in the middle of the flag of this Middle Eastern country?

Sumerian Economy

A mosaic from the city of Ur showing the activities 
of Sumerians such as weaving, herding, and farming

Laid in one of the most fertile regions in the ancient world and using this to their advantage to the fullest, the Sumerians established an organized, bountiful, and directed economy.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Briggs Plan: Containment of the Communists

New Villages - Product of the Briggs Plan (Credits: National Army Museum)
The world, after World War II, faced a new war, a war between two ideologies, between communism and democracy – the Cold War. Malaysia was among the nations ravaged by the new Cold War. As communist threats rose, the British had to act to contain it at the most efficient way. As the communist held influenced over the Chinese squatter’s hearts and minds, the British had to contain it in order to win. Their answer was the Briggs Plan.

German Customs Union - Zollverein

Proclamation of Wilhelm I as Emperor of the German Empire
Palace of Versailles, 1871 – Prussian King Wilhelm I was proclaimed the first Kaiser of the new united German Empire. After a decade of fighting, finally, Prussia succeeded in unifying a long time divided nation. Unification was indeed brought by “blood and iron.” But unification seem to had been brought closer by economic ties brought decades before the pronouncement the German Reich in Versailles. Similar to the Hanseatic League of the Medieval Ages, the Zollverein brought economic unity between numerous German States.

The Zollverein was a customs union formed by several German States during the 19th century. This meant that trade between members states were free and liberal. Alongside, a uniform customs policy would also be enacted by its members. Its economic implication brought energy in trade and ushered the rise of industrial Germany. But perhaps its political implication, it allowed Prussia to prepare for its conquests to unify all of Germany.

The Zollverein began during the early 1800’s when the idea of free trade began to spread to mainland Europe. During the time of the Napoleonic Wars, several German state began to liberalized and stimulate their local trade by abolishing internal tariffs. Internal tariffs involved the payment of a certain percentage of the price of a product once in crossed a region of the state. This caused for distribution of local goods to slump and dragged down the rise of local products. Many states saw the hindrance of local tariffs and one by one, some states began to abolish this system. In 1807, Bavaria abolished its internal tariffs. A year later, Wurttemberg followed and then four years later, the German state of Baden removed it as well.

However, the most celebrated abolishing of internal tariff was made in May 1818, when the leading German Kingdom of Prussia decided to abolish its internal tariffs. But what made the Prussia’s decision was also incorporating free trade with its neighboring German states.  Many intellectuals welcomed and rejoiced upon the decision of Prussia. The famous German economist Friedrich von List that promoted free trade hailed the decision. Also, the Finance Minister of Prussia, Friedrich von Motz, supported the idea of free trade among German states and even played a role to the formal creation of the Zollverein in 1833.

Prussia welcomed and invited some of the German states to join their customs union during the 1820’s. Some took notice of the promise of prosperity and vibrant state if they joined Prussia. Some were harassed by Prussia in order to join their customs union. Infrastructure development was offered by Prussian diplomats to other German states to persuade them to join. Little by little, other German states joined Prussia.

In the 1820’s other German states decided to form their own customs union to compete with the of Prussia. In 1820 a customs union was attempted to be formed by the German states of Wurttemberg, Baden, Bavaria, Hesse-Darmstadt, and some Thuringian states. The negotiations went into deadlock. But the idea of a separate customs union was still sought by Wurttemberg and Bavaria and proceeded with the negotiations for the formation of the Southern German Zollverein in 1828. At the central region of Germany, another customs union was formed. The German states of Hanover, Brunswick, Nassau, and Hesse-Darmstadt decided to form their own Central German Trade Union in 1828 also.

Eventually, Prussia wanted to expand its customs union as it also meant prestige and economic growth for the Kingdom. Negotiations for the merging of the three unions, from 1828, underwent with the two other customs union. In 1829, a Prussian Zollverein and the Southern German Zollverein concluded a trade treaty. It was a first step towards the final combination of the three Zollverein in 1833. The Deutscher Zollverein was finally established. However, there remained some resistance from Prussian economic aggression. Hanover, Brunswick and Oldenburg ceded from the Central German Union in order to form their separate customs union – the Steuerverein. The resistance of the Steuerverein continued for several decades. Other little German states had no match for Prussia and its Zollverein and decided to join. By 1840’s, twenty eight out of thirty four German States were members of the Zollverein. A decade later, being surrounded and isolated by the Zollverein, the Steuerverein surrendered and in 1854 it joined the Zollverein.

The Zollverein created a huge common market at the center of Europe. It orchestrated infrastructure development through its members, including roads and railways. It fostered future industrialization. Trade was promoted through the establishment of a uniform currency based on the Prussian Taler during the 1850’s. Standards of weight and measurements were issued. 

Prussia utilized the Zollverein into its political ambitions. During the early years of the Zollverein, Austria as part of the union was being discussed in Vienna. The chancellor, Metternich, was hesitant to the membership of Austria. Under economic implication, Austria could be placed under the influence of Prussia that used its currency as the most widely used in the union. For political implication, Austria joining the Zollverein meant that it was conceding to Berlin in the leadership race of Germany. So Austria never joined the Zollverein.

Meanwhile, in Berlin, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck used the Zollverein in unifying Germany. He saw that economic integration was important for political integration to follow. He also saw the Zollverein as a way to influence other German states into recognizing Prussia as the future leader of a unified Germany.

In 1871, after the Franco-Prussian War, the German Empire was proclaimed. Many German states were hesitant in being part of the empire and losing their identity and their sovereignty. So an imperial and centralized government had to come slowly. Alongside political autonomy still being retained, some economic autonomy was also given. Thus, the Zollverein continued to flourish even under the period of Imperial Germany.

The customs union Zollverein would remain existent until the early 20th century. It would then meet its end as the Great War became unfavorable for imperial Germany. Alas, after the signing of the treaty of Versailles, the monarchy of Wilhelm II was deposed, along with him was the dissolution of the Zollverein.

See also:
Delian League: The Athenian Empire
Hanseatic League: Economic Group of Germany
Holy League: The Victors of Lepanto
Kalmar Union
Schmalkaldic League
Swabian League


Anmer, C. & D. Anmer. Dictionary of Business and Economics. New York: The Free Press, 1984. 

Hodge, C. (ed.). Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800 – 1914. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2008. 

Kitchen, M. A History of Modern Germany: 1800 to the Present. Maryland: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Andrew Carnegie: Steel Man and Philanthropist

Andrew Carnegie
The modern world has seen developments in communication with smart phone flooding the market. Most people now live in cities with skyscrapers appearing over the skies. Weapons of war developed rapidly with new modern tanks and fighter planes liter the battlefield. All of these developments owed to one material – Steel. During the 19th-century, steel was just at its infancy. However, many saw potential with these new material. One man that made a huge profit out of it and began to produce it in large quantities, paving the way for a new modern industrialize America.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hwarangs: Boy Band of Silla Kingdom

Boy bands had become a part of the well-known and popular Korean Wave or Hallyu. Groups, such as TVXQ, Super Junior, Exo, Infinite, and many others had captured the minds and ears of many fans.  Most the members undergone rigorous training and developed their artistic talents. But back in the time of Korea’s Three Kingdoms Period, one boy band only dominated Korea. But instead of dancing, singing, and other artistic talents, this boy group gave also importance to military prowess. This group of young and brave boys were known as the Hwarangs.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Kalmar Union

Queen Margaret
Unions formed by marriage were usual in the past. They were mostly formed by marriage of one ruling royal family to another. With marriage a strong alliance and relation would be formed. It was also another way for a strong kingdom to place a strong influence over another lesser royalty. One of the most well-known union formed by marriage was a Baltic union called the Kalmar Union.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Royal Road: Highway of Persian Empire

Darius I by a Greek Painter
Roads are an important part of a kingdom, nation, and an empire. It allows economies to move, politicians to connect, and people to travel. It also directs the communications between city centers and isolated communities. Proper and good quality of roads could mean development for many. In history, road meant stagnation or domination. Empires relied on roads to connect far flung areas to the capital. It allowed armies and messengers to march and ran swiftly to their destinations. Among the greatest builder of roads were the Persians.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Economy of the Gupta Empire

Chandragupta II
India occupies a large area of Asia. It is characterized as a sub-continent for its large territory. Alongside of its vast and wide ranging terrain it was gifted with many rivers that made its soil fertile for various wide of crops. It allowed subsistence and even wealth to its farmers. It allowed wide ranging of economic activities which had and would sustain various empires in history.  The most famous of these empires was the Mughal Empire that reign through the 16th to the 19th century. But even before back there were other powerful empires that had capitalized on the natural wealth of India. One such empire was the Gupta Empire.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hanseatic League: Economic Group of Germany

Lübeck - center of the Hanse
A united German States was not formed until the establishment of the German Empire in 1871 under the leader of Prussia, its King Wilhelm I, and its brilliant Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. In present Germany before the 1871, several small German states were established and ruled by local princes. During the Middle Ages, the Holy Roman Empire existed under the control of the Germans, but the Empire was fragmented by Princes who owned lands and treated it like their own smaller kingdom. The closest form of united Germany was a mercantile organization known as the Hanseatic League or otherwise known as Hanse.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Delian League: The Athenian Empire

Parthenon by Lusieri Giovannia Battista
In the era of globalization, regional and world organizations are trending. In Pacific, there exist the organizations of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation or APEC and Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN. In the west, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO and the European Union or EU dominated the groupings in the western hemisphere. During the ancient times, regional organization or groupings also existed. In Greece, such groupings includes the Athens led organization known as the Delian League.

Vauban: Greatest Siege Engineer

Sebastien de Vauban
France is a great power in the world. During the 17th century, France dominated the whole continent. Culturally, economically, and militarily, it was one of the advance countries in Europe. At its peak, King Louis XIV, the Sun King, presided over the period of great military conquest, cultural development, and economic rise and depression. During his reign, France played a major role in many wars. Many generals, soldiers, and also, engineers were decorated. Among the most renowned engineer and general was a Sebastien Vauban.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Thatcher: First Female Prime Minister of UK - Part 4

G7 Group Photo
As she sought to change the affairs of his country domestically, she also made sure that Britain would also play key roles in the international issues, one of which was an issue that would bring the downfall of the Iron Lady. When Thatcher was prime minister, the Cold War was in its last stage. Also the issue of European integration was being widely discussed. The issue of European integration was so widely spoken that it caused a split within Thatcher’s Conservative Party. The split caused a rebellion that would cause the end of the Thatcher era.

Thatcher: First Female Prime Minister of UK - Part 3

Thatcher riding a tank
In 1982, the Thatcher government was very unpopular and on the brink of defeat in the upcoming elections. Many blamed her policies to be the cause of the 1980 recession. Suddenly, an event at the Southern Atlantic would turn her faith. An invasion would bring Thatcher another term and proceed to her plan of a country of capitalists.

Thatcher: First Female Prime Minister of UK - Part 2

Thatcher's 1979 Cabinet
For about 20 years after entering the Hose Common, Margaret Thatcher rose to position Prime Minister, being the first woman to do so in the western hemisphere; and as she took the responsibilities, she faced a lot of challenges. With Britain being economically uncompetitive, unproductive, and in the brink of bankruptcy, Thatcher brought reforms, regardless of their popularity rate.

Thatcher: First Female Prime Minister of UK - Part 1

Margaret Thatcher was a chemist
It is over a year after the passing of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Even after her premiership and passing, she continued to polarized opinions about her policies. But what happened during the Premiership of Thatcher? What happened that made people to be divided over her period?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Nicknames of Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher is one of the most controversial figures of the 20th century. She was the Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1979 up until 1990. Her policies, which became known as Thatcherism, earned her respect, but also, criticisms. One way of insulting or praising her was giving her names.

Yataro Iwasaki: Founder of Mitsubishi

Yataro Iwasaki
The world in the 19th century had seen the rapid growth of industries and technology. Political changes as well as boundaries changes occurred during this century which would define the following one hundred years. In Europe, new nation were forge by blood or iron. Machinery had replace many manual jobs and increase the supply of once scarce goods. Ideologies, such as communism and socialism, began to appear and questioned the status quo. In Asia, the whole 19th century would be characterize by submission or resistance to the western powers. India had become a jewel in the British crown. The Europeans had sliced into their own colonies the whole of Southeast Asia. In East Asia, resistance to the “foreign devils” became stronger. But some men in the region had envisioned of learning from the westerners and applying those lesson to their own country. This idea became most prominent in the region of Japan, where men like Yataro Iwasaki would build the industries that would lead their Empire to the world stage.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Viscount de Mauá: Story of Success and Tragedy

Irineu Evangelista de Sousa, Viscount of Mauá
During the 19th century, Brazil had a rising economy. It had an export led economy with agriculture as the most dominant sector. The agricultural economy of Brazil brought huge changes to the country. Because of export crops, such as coffee, infrastructure developed alongside with progress in the society. Many Brazilians began to profit from the growth of the Brazilian economy. Among these of Brazilian entrepreneurs was the rich, but tragic man, the Viscount of Mauá, Irineu Evangelista de Sousa.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Economy of Pedro II's Empire

Pedro II
Today, Brazil is a major power in the South American continent. It will host the 2016 Summer Olympics and in 2014, it will host the FIFA World Cup. Much of Brazil's wealth could be credited with its export of numerous raw materials. From coffee, to rubber, and even steel are dollar earners for Brazil. Much of its agricultural exports started during the time when Brazil was an Empire under Emperor Pedro II.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Richard Arkwright: Father of the Factory System

Richard Arkwright
Factories build the modern world. It is from these establishments where many of our needs and wants are built. From our pillows, to our toothpaste, to our cellphones and cars, all of these are built in a factory. The start of the factory system was said to have begun in England during the 18th century, the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

De Medici and French Cuisine

Catherine de Medici
The French Cuisine is characterize by many as classy and full of finest. The story of Francois Vatel exemplified the dedication of the men of the past for their profession. But the high quality of the French cuisine was, according from many, began during the 16th century. It was said that an Italian girl brought the characteristic of fine dining and new ingredients to the French Kingdom.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools' and Gregorian Calendar

Pope Gregory XIII
April Fools' is a day in the year where jokes and hoaxes spread widely. It becomes a trending topic in Twitter in April 1. But April fools origin could be traced back to the 16th century.