Friday, October 31, 2014

Congress of Vienna: How to Not Lose Power AGAIN

Every ruler throughout time has had to find a way to maintain their power so they can continue to make an impact. Whether it be by force, acting as a strict monarch as Machiavelli describes in "The Prince", or by acting as a leader that the people like and want to support. In class, we recently studied the Congress of Vienna, a 19th century meeting between the leaders of every great European country. At this meeting, the main topic of discussion was how they would get back their power that had been previously taken from Napoleon Bonaparte, and how they would protect it from threatening forces. In class we analyzed readings and used padlet to collaborate on what decisions and precautions we thought these European leaders should take in order to maintain their power. Towards the end of class, Mrs. Gallagher revealed the decisions that were really made at the Congress of Vienna.

Check put our use of padlet to learn share our ideas/ opinions about the Congress of Vienna:

At the Congress of Vienna, the reactions of major European powers after defeating the threat of Napoleon formulated into a few concepts, one of them being the prinicipal of legitimacy. This principle stated that people formerly in power would gain back their rights to rule. Klemens Von Metternich, the Austrian monarch who threatened to impose war on Napoleon if he did not give up his conquest, issues the principal of legitimacy because he wants distribution of power to go back to the way it was before Napoleon. Like other European rulers, he establishes his rightful power to rule over his country. By 1815, the Congress of Vienna finished their meetings. As a result, Napoleon was viewed as the enemy, and former European rulers regained their power without threat.

Although the Congress of Vienna may have been extravagant and long winded, it was important because the powerful people at it made choices that helped them get rid of Napoleon and protect their own power as rulers. With Napoleon on the downfall, leaders at the Congress of Vienna reacted by establishing principles such as that of legitimacy. They felt desperate to protect their power because it had been taken from them for so long, so some of their decisions were a little extreme. One way that these leaders could have reacted that would have resulted better for their people would be by passing laws that they all agreed upon, so that the people wouldn't feel completely dominated by these "legitimate rulers", and would feel like they had a say. I believe that those in power should be willing to sacrifice some of it in order to help their people and do what's best for the general population. Overall the Congress of Vienna resulted in former rulers regaining their power, and Napoleon losing his, but perhaps these rulers could have gained their power back in a way that better took into consideration the opinions of their people.

To learn more about the congress of Vienna, be sure to check out this interactive map! 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Class Throwdown: 19th Century Ideology

Ideology is the "ideas and manners of thinking characteristic of a group, social class, or individual." In honors history 10, we studied what that lengthy definition really means, and learned about the three major ideologies of the 19th century--conservatism, nationalism, and liberalism. By first brainstorming the modern definitions of these words, we got an idea of what we would be learning about. But as you may guess, these definitions have evolved since 200 years ago. In the spirit of a competitive political debate, the class split into groups to make 1 minute presentations on each 19th century definition of one of these ideologies. Next class we would go head to head and compete to see who had crafted the most creative and informational presentation!

My group chose to tackle liberalism-- the revolutionary ideology seeking a government based on merit as opposed to social standing. By making a common craft video, we were able to include this definition along with a few examples of liberalism in action. From watching our video, it can be gathered that liberalism wiped out the old social order of absolute monarchy for a period of time. When Napoleon ruled France and conquered countries like Prussia and Austria, he acted as a liberalist. Napoleon provided education to lower class parties who had never had access in the past, as well as overthrew the French directory. By getting rid of previous power figures and providing education to everyone, Napoleon worked to make France more of a meritocracy, aligning himself with liberal ideals. During his peak, Napoleon acted as a liberalist, but in a few years, conservatists would take over in an attempt to restore Europe’s previous social order. To learn more about liberalism, check out our common craft below!

In class we watched other students’ videos and skits to collect the definitions of conservatism and nationalism. Through funny chatterpix featuring talking M&Ms acting out nationalism, we learned that this is the ideology associated with a country’s natural unity. Nationalism is what lead established nations like Britain to push for expansion as a whole, and dispersed countries like Germany to seek unity and a native ruler. Next we learned that conservatists value tradition and monarchy from an animated video of Edmund Burke, the “father of conservatism”. In Burke’s book, “Reflections on Revolutions in France”, he reacts the same way most european elites do to the French Revolution, arguing against reform and a new social order. By the end of class I felt like watching and making our quick videos had given me an understanding of all three european 19th century ideologies. All that was left was deciding who had the best presentation!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Why Your Grandmother Isn't Really A Luddite

Luddites destroying machines in a textile mill, 1812.

These days, the term “Luddite” is used to refer to a parent who still uses a walkman, or an aunt who doesn’t know the difference between an IPod and a desktop computer. But “Luddite” isn’t just a catchy term for those members of our society who aren’t prone to technology; Luddites were a group of 20th century artisans against the misuse of technology during the Industrial Revolution. When new machines were invented and cotton mills sprung up everywhere, artisans lost their customers and thousands of people were forced to take up the poor quality of life that comes with working at a mill. Luddites tried to stop the negative impact that new factories were causing by attacking and destroying them. Following their mythical leader, “Ludd”, they bashed new machines until they were damaged beyond repair. With their destructive behavior and violent threats, Luddites affected the lives of every class of people. Below is a mock letter written from a skilled weaver during the Industrial Revolution that shows how he may have felt about the Luddites:

Dear Cousin,
You’ll never believe the sites I have witnessed or the experiences I have been a part of over the last few years. Ugly factories have gone up all throughout my once beautiful country of England. Our cities have become overpopulated with mill workers, and colored brown by the pollution they make in their work. Worse even, I have lost significant business with the rise of textile factories that produce a thousand cloths in the time it takes me to weave one by hand. But I’m not the only one taking the hit from technological advances. Other artisans have trouble finding customers, and mill employees work long, tiring hours for hardly any pay. It seems the whole of England is suffering from the new factories that have taken over—all except the greedy mill owners who pocket all the money we lose in this corrupt system!

Thankfully, I’m not the only one who wants to put a stop to misused technology. An intimidating group called the Luddites has been wrecking machines at nearby factories, and it is rumored that they have more up their sleeves. I don’t want to start trouble, but I don’t like the direction our country is headed. In support of the Luddites cause, I plan to join them on their next attack. Getting rid of England’s factory system will benefit us all!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Napoleon: Tyrant, Hero, or Both?

Born over 200 years ago, Napoleon Bonaparte it still thought of a one of Europe’s most influential leaders today. As a French monarch, he lead a military dictatorship that conquered more than 12 important cities and countries, including Moscow and Berlin—major European cities. Although remembered as a tyrant, Napoleon made a positive impact on Europe’s social, economic, and political systems.

A map of the land conquered by Napoleon and the countries in alliance with him.
During his reign of power, Napoleon completely changed the social structure of Europe. One of the major ways he did this was by establishing a meritocracy in which people were given jobs based on skill rather than status. This, in a sense, limited the importance of titles or wealth, because roles in society were no longer determined by these factors. Napoleon also abolished serfdom and nobility, pleasing the poor but making nobility angry, like Madame de Stael.  In her opinion, Napoleon treated dignity, virtue, and religion as “the eternal enemies of the continent.” A less well-off citizen likely would have spoken of Napoleon differently, praising him for giving everyone rights to education and equalizing the social classes. By his defeat at Waterloo in 1815, Napoleon had made Europe’s social order easier to climb and less harsh towards the poor.

Just like Europe’s social structure was impacted by Napoleon, so was its economic systems. During his reign, Napoleon established the bank of France and balanced its budget for the first time.  He also controlled prices and encouraged industry throughout Europe by building roads and canals that made trade easier. Although Italy took a hit when stole their money, for the most part Europe benefited economically from Napoleon because he got industry going.

Perhaps even greater than napoleon’s impact on Europe’s social and economic systems, was the difference he made politically. Napoleon was eager to conquer as much territory as possible, and as stated by 37 year old Ida M. Tarbell in France’s McClure's Magazine, “the whole tendency of his civil and military system was to concentrate power in a single pair of hands.” In an effort to accomplish this, Napoleon forced men to fight under his control. He ended up extremely successful, and military members like Marshal Michel Ney worshiped him as their rightful “sovereign” because they benefited from his military success. Although church and nobility suffered reduced power by being forced to follow the Napoleonic code, average men were finally given a chance at success and recognition by fighting for Napoleon.

Up until he was defeated from his position as French emperor in 1815, Napoleon worked to improve Europe’s social structure, economy, and political system. He equalized social classes, enabled industry growth, and raised the status of a working soldier by acting as a successful military leader.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Chocunism- The Study of Marx and Smith By Eating Chocolate

Early on a Monday morning, 25 sleepy teenagers walked into Honors History 10 and immediately perked up at the smell of Hershey chocolate.  Our eyes all widened as Mrs. Gallagher dropped 8 chocolate kisses on the first student’s desk and announced that we would get to eat our share at the end of the class. But when she proceeded to give only 2 kisses to the rest of us, cries rang out. “Why does Brian get more?” shouted one student. “Yeah, that’s no fair!” backed up the rest of the class. It was here that Mrs. Gallagher jumped in and explained that we would be acting out Karl Marx’s Theory of Communism by using chocolate as “money”, and playing games of ‘rock, paper, scissors’ to mimic trade and commerce.

Karl Marx and Adam Smith were both philosophers in the late 1700s who saw the sharp divide between Great Britain’s rich and poor. Each came up with a different theory on how the poor could improve their wealth and general living. By progressing from capitalism, to socialism, to communism, our class reenacted Karl Marx's ideal theory of communism. Marx saw that when a country practices capitalism, giving citizens the right to private ownership of industry and competition, major class struggle develops. Most people end up dirt poor, like the “chocolate-less”, and only a few people end up fifthly rich. According to Marx’s theory, eventually the lower classes of a country will revolt and adopt the policy of socialism. In socialism, a country’s government will collect and redistribute goods to everyone equally, just like Ms. Gallagher eventually did in class. This creates a classless society where the majority doesn’t want to risk their chances of becoming poor again, and so the country eventually becomes communist. At this point, Marx says that government is no longer necessary because the classless society will willingly share everything in order to maintain equality. But Marx wasn't the only philosopher with a theory to help the poor. A few years before him, Adam Smith came up with the "Invisible Hand". This theory said that if citizens of a country are left alone to trade and compete, they will operate based on their own self-interest, causing fair businesses to succeed and the rest to fail. Business owners will realize that it is necessary to pay their employees higher wages so that they can afford to become customers in turn. Although this will take a LONG time and cause suffering along the way, the theory states that eventually the economy will grow on its own so that there is no sharp divide between rich and poor. Both Marx and Smith saw the harsh difference between the few rich people in Europe during the late 1700s, and the thousands of poor, hungry, poverty stricken people. Each philosopher devised a theory that he believed would best help the poor to eventually emerge from poverty.
For more on Marx and his Theory of Communism, check out BIO's video on YouTube!
For a brief overview of Smith's "Invisible Hand", watch this video clip by ouLearn on YouTube!
After reenacting Marx’s theory and learning about Smith’s, I feel torn when asked to choose which one best solves the problem of widespread poverty. Both theories sound good on paper, but neither has ever been known to work or occur in their pure form, so it’s hard to say if either will ever be successful. Marx’s theory results in communism, which has been practiced in countries like China and Russia. Although all classes are equal, the people who inhabit these countries are said to live very dreary and unhopeful lives because everyone is “the same”. Smith’s “Invisible Hand” theory also has its downfalls. Although the end result sounds more ideal than communism, it takes a very long period of struggle for his theory to be complete. Both Marx’s and Smith’s ideas aren’t perfect, and I feel like a better alternative is to combine the two. The invisible hand will take too long to work itself out, but its result is ideal. Perhaps some of Marx’s ideas, like a government to give guidance and support to the general population, could be incorporated to speed up the process. Marx and Smith both had good ideas for helping lower classes rise out of poverty, and by combining and tweaking them, they could work in reality.  


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Farmers, to Mill Girls, to Activists


This past week in Honors History 10 we’ve brought our study of the Industrial Revolution back home, as we discussed the Lowell Mills, just a 20 minute drive away. Just like in England, these mills featured new machines and an up and coming textile industry, but that wasn't all that was revolutionary about them. For the first time ever, women began working outside of their homes, leaving their family’s farms, and making a salary. During the industrial revolution, thousands of young American girls were sent to the Lowell mills to earn money for their families, and make their own living.

When the Lowell mills took off in the 1800s, young girls were the perfect employees for two reasons. Number 1: women and girls were considered less valuable than men, so their labor would be cheaper. And number 2: women were used to taking orders from men, so they would do what they were told. The only problem, was convincing the girls to come and work.

To encourage girls to leave their family farms and work in Lowell, mill owners had to make the mills sound very enticing. In the video “Daughters of Free Men”, a man comes to Lucy Hall’s house and describes the mills as a great opportunity in an effort to recruit her. Hall ends up moving to Lowell and working there after he tells her how the mills are more of an “academy” than a workplace.
Young girl leaves farm to work in Lowell.
Family is sad to see her go, but she is hopeful for a better life.

Like Hall, many other girls moved to Lowell after hearing about things like its “paternal system”, and effort to maintain morality. But most of the girls were let down when they arrived. No boarding house keeper could comfort them when their wages got cut, and  as for morals, they all disappeared when the workers held loud, unladylike protests against their unfair treatment.

Although girls suffered tough living conditions, and had to give up living with their families at a young age, their work at the mills has gotten us women where we are today. For those original mill workers, there was little benefit to their employment. But that first taste of independence that girls got by working in the mills away from their families, and finally being able to earn their own pay, is what would later motivate many of them to later become womens rights activists. Yes pay was low, living was uncomfortable, and women were treated poorly as workers in the Lowell mills. But, if it weren't for the Lowell mills, we could still be living in a world with even more male dominance in the workforce.