The Great Events by Famous Historians, Volume 17 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 532 pages of information about The Great Events by Famous Historians, Volume 17.

The Reform Bill of 1832 had been only a small step in the direction of popular government; but it opened the way for further reform.  Almost immediately upon its granting, began what was known as the Chartist movement, an agitation kept up among the lower classes for a “charter” or more liberal constitution.  This soon became associated with a demand for freer trade.  The importation into England of bread-stuffs, especially corn, was heavily taxed, and thus the poorer classes were driven almost to the point of famine.  The failure of the potato crop did at last produce actual and awful famine in Ireland.  Her peasants still speak of 1847 as “the black year” of death. [Footnote:  See Famine in Ireland.]

Hundreds of thousands of the poorer classes starved.  Then began a stream of emigration to America.  Under pressure of such facts as these, the English “Corn Laws” were repealed, and gradually Great Britain assumed more and more positively the attitude of “free trade.” [Footnote:  See Repeal of the English Corn Laws.]


Yet despite all the internal difficulties that thus convulsed Europe in the middle of the nineteenth century, the period is also notable for the rapid expansion of European influence over the other continents of the Eastern Hemisphere.  “Earth-hunger,” the same passion that had swayed the United States in its Mexican contest, plunged the Powers of Europe also into repeated war.  France extended her authority over the nearer African States of the Mediterranean.  Indeed, one of the main causes for the rebellion of 1848 against Louis Philippe was the enormous cost in men and money of these African campaigns, undertaken against the truly remarkable Mahometan leader and patriot Abd-el-Kader. [Footnote:  See The Fall of Abd-el-Kader.]

England tightened her grip on India, and extended her authority over the broader lands around it.  The hopelessness of Asiatic resistance to European aggressiveness and military force was once more made evident in the widespread rebellion of the Indian natives in 1857.  In quick succession, over vast and populous regions, both the people and the rajas rose against British rule.  In the triumph of their first momentary victories they committed savage excesses which made pardon hopeless.  Yet neither their numbers nor the desperation to which they were driven enabled them to hold their own against the mere handfuls of resolute Englishmen, who soon subdued them. [Footnote:  See The Indian Mutiny.]

England’s influence was also extended over Afghanistan and Southern Africa.  Livingstone, most famous of missionaries and explorers, crossed the “dark continent” from coast to coast in 1851. [Footnote:  See Livingstone’s African Discoveries.] In that same year gold was discovered in Australia, and English adventurers flocked thither.  The world grew small to European eyes. [Footnote:  See Discovery of Gold in Australia.]

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The Great Events by Famous Historians, Volume 17 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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