History Made Simple

This is the post excerpt.

History Made Simple is a history blog that can help students in 4th grade through College.  HMS can also help teach their parents a thing or two.  If you are interested in history or simply want to learn more history but don’t know where to turn, look no further.

The focus of this blog will be United States history, European history, and a bit of World history thrown in for good measure.

Why is history important?

History is important for students because no matter what subject a student decides to major in at college, history classes will be mandatory at some point.  History is intertwined in all humanities majors and it shows up in many others.

History is important for everybody because having a grounding in history makes one a better citizen of his or her country and a better citizen of the world.

Have fun.  Learn history. Be a better student. Be a better, more well-rounded person.


The Path to the Rise of Islam

READER’S NOTE – The purpose of this writing is to familiarize the reader with some broad outlines of basic political history that allowed the Islamic religion and state (inseparable concepts) to become a world power in such a short amount of time. This is obviously not a comprehensive study of the subject, it is simply a broad outline. Pierre Briand for instance wrote a 1,000+ page study of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. Will Durant inked over 1,000 pages covering the aspects of the Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I assume the reader has a rudimentary understanding of the first two. The concepts of Islam will be laid out in a later essay.

This essay covers over 1600 years, from the 11th century B.C.E. to the 7th century C.E. “B.C.E.” stands for ‘before common era,’ while “C.E.” stands for ‘common era,’ a simple replacement for before Christ, and “Anno Domini,” ‘the year of our lord.” Since the BC / AD dating system of numbering years has been adopted by most people around the world, at least in their dealings internationally, the B.C.E. / C.E. name change was imposed since most people around the world do not center their religion around Jesus Christ.

This outline deals with the Eastern Hemisphere land comprising of much of Europe, northern Africa, western and central Asia, and the Middle East, which is a modern name given to much of the land of around modern day Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Israel, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Oman, Iran, etc.
There are many ancient civilizations that paved the way for the modern world. There were civilizations considered ‘ancient’ when the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians first started their civilizations. While leaving out more civilizations than one can count, we shall cover the Israelites, the Achaemenid Persian Empire, The Roman Empire, the Greek civilizations (never an ‘empire’ per se) the conquests of Alexander the Great, the Parthian Empire, the Sassanid Empire, and the Byzantine Empire which will all lead to an understanding of the Islamic conquest of the 7th century C.E. Great books, both old and modern, have been written about each of these empires, such as the Bible, Herodotus’ ‘Histories,” Gibbon’s ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,’ etc, hence this essay will cover these people in brief.


The ancient nation of Israel has its written roots in the first five books of the Bible, called the ‘Torah’ in Hebrew or the ‘Pentateuch’ in Greek – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – and the additional books of the Old Testament – Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, etc.
The early parts of the Bible tell wonderful tales of beginnings of the Israelites, from the beginnings of the world and the life of Abraham (hence the term “Abrahamic Religion”) to the slavery in and then Exodus from Egypt. The Jewish laws are given, land is conquered, and a civilization is established.
The apex of ancient Israel came with the famous kingships of David and his son Solomon. The low point comes with the Babylonian captivity when the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II conquers the divided Jewish kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
The Jewish civilization is integral to this essay because from this culture came the first great monotheistic religion, or the first ‘Abrahamic’ religion of Judaism. Without Judaism there is no Christianity or Islam. The transmission of this culture is the root of Judeo / Christian “Western” culture and Judeo / Islamic culture in Muslim countries.
Clearing up some misnomers, the word Persian comes from the word / region “Fars” in a land they called “Iran” or ‘Land of the Arians.’ The history of the Arians is complicated, incomplete, and does not belong in this essay. The ‘Persian’ language of ‘Farsi’ comes from the word ‘Fars.” I will use the word Persian instead of Iranian since Iran itself is a nation-state and the scope of these empires goes well beyond Iran’s modern borders.
The Achaemenid Persian empire is the most famous empire of the Persians. The famous leader Cyrus II ‘The Great’ consolidated his rule over the Medes and the Persians and formed one of the world’s great early empires. Cyrus came on the scene in the mid to late 6th century B.C.E. Much of what we know about Cyrus and the Achaemenid empire comes from Greek sources, most famously the ‘Histories’ of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, who wrote his famous work in the early part of the 5th century B.C.E. The names of Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius, and Xerxes are made famous by Herodotus. The Persian empire bordered the Hellenistic (Greek) city-states so familiarity with this empire by the Hellenes makes sense.
Little is known about the policies or conflicts that the Achaemenid empire had in its eastern sphere. There is no treasure trove of writings that have been found. It is known that Cyrus and his successors conquered vast swaths of territory and created a complicated culture and government that included a system of roads and an incredibly organized army with state of the art supply features.
Cyrus famously conquered the city of Babylon and the neo-Babylonian empire in 539 C.E. He liberates the Jews of the area, descendants of those conquered by the Babylonians in the previous century. Cyrus allows them to return to their land and he sets aside funds to help rebuild the Jewish temple that was destroyed by the Babylonians. There is no non-Jewish figure in the Bible who is as adored as was Cyrus. He is mentioned nearly two dozen times.
The Achaemenid Persian empire lasted until the defeat of Darius III by Alexander the Great of Macedon (pronounced Mak-eh-don). The later Parthian and Sassanid Persian empires are heirs to the great Achaemenid empire.


Possibly the most famous empire of all time, the Roman Empire had humble beginnings. The timeline of the Roman Empire begins in myth, the founding of Rome on the 7 hills by the brothers Remus and Romulus (hence the name “Rome”) and in bitter reality with the conquest of Constantinople by Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II “The Conqueror” in 1453.
Much has been written about Rome and the reader would be wise to at least study some of the basic works that explain the history and the cultural legacy of such an important empire. A political summary would go as follows: The ‘age of kings’ lasted from the founding to 510 or 509 B.C.E. This is a quasi-mythical era in which seven kings ruled Rome in succession. Rome would slowly expand, absorbing other city-states around it. By the 4th century B.C.E. Rome did not even control the entire Italian peninsula, much less become a world power. It was not until the ultimately victorious wars against Mediterranean rival Carthage that Rome would become a power on the world stage. (The famous Punic Wars were named so due to the Latin word for Phoenician, ‘Punica,’ which was the lineage of the Carthaginians.)
In 146 B.C.E. the Romans sealed the victory against Carthage. At the same time they put down rebellions in Greece and and began to conquer much of the territory there. While claiming to be a ‘republic’ Rome was ever expanding. Greats like Pompey and Caesar captured great amounts of territory before the technical age of Empire under Augustus. In the age of Empire, Trajan expanded Rome to its territorial peak.
Eventually the Empire began to decline. There are many theories about the reasons for this. Whatever the reason, steppe people from the plains of Asia made their way west due to a myriad of reasons from being moved off of their land by more powerful tribes to simple want of different land. These people, coupled with Germanic tribes along Rome’s Danube frontier began to invade the western portion of the Roman Empire. Ultimately the western empire collapsed in 476 C.E. with the final emperor Romulus Augustulus deposed.
The Roman Empire survived in the east in its capital of Constantinople, named after emperor Constantine who ruled in the early 4th century C.E. Constantine is famous for being the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire. The empire at first persecuted Christianity as a threat to the polytheistic religion of the state. After Constantine, pagan religion was discarded for the monotheism of Christianity.
The eastern Roman Empire that survived after the fall of the western empire is today called the Byzantine Empire, named after the Greek city of Byzantium, where Constantinople was eventually built. The empire was still referred to as the Roman Empire. The language was Greek as opposed to Latin, and the religion was a different version of Christianity than that of Roman Catholicism.
The Byzantine Empire would steadily shrink in size after the rule of Justinian. By the time of the siege of Constantinople in 1451, the empire barely covered anywhere outside of the city itself, having been encroached by Turkish Ottomans for about 400 years. (Turkey is an anachronistic term before the Turkish conquest. The Turkish people originally came from the aforementioned steppe of Asia.)
The fall of Constantinople in 1453 did mark the end of the Roman Empire. What the empire gave to Western Civilization is incalculable. The spread of Roman law and culture and the later spread of Christianity are a huge inheritance. We will revisit the Byzantine Empire when the rise of Islam is explained.


Alexander the Great’s conquest of modern-day Greece, Egypt, the Middle East, parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan is one of the most incredible stories in ancient history. The Greco-Roman writer Arrian wrote about Alexander’s exploits in his “Anabasis Alexandri.” The larger than life personality of Alexander and his brave if not foolish exploits on the battlefield are not the subject of this essay. What is most important is what happened to these conquered lands when Alexander died.
Alexander III of Macedon took over where his father, Philip II left off. Were it not for his assassination in 336 B.C.E. the world could possibly know Philip as “The Great.” No matter the details of the assassination, Alexander now controlled the realm of his father. Alexander consolidated his control over what we call Greece and then proceeded to conquer the world. While he didn’t conquer the world, he did conquer a ridiculous amount of territory in a very short time. His realm included all or parts of modern day Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan (Alexander reached “India” but not the modern nation-state of India.) Alexander puts an end to the Achaemenid Persian Empire with his victory over Darius III. He conquered Egypt as the Achaemenids did under Cyrus the Great’s son Cambyses II two centuries earlier.
Famously, Alexander’s army forced the conqueror to turn back upon reaching modern day Afghanistan. Upon reaching the city of Babylon Alexander was overcome with some malady – health problems, a sickness, poison, nobody is certain – and died in 323 B.C.E. Alexander failed to leave even a spoken will. There is legend that on his deathbed when asked about his legacy he said to leave the empire to the strongest. This obviously can not be ascertained but the results are similar. There was war and a parsing out of the empire among Alexander’s generals.
The two most famous generals, Seleucus I Nicator and Ptolemy were the first rulers of the Seleucid Empire – much of central Asia, Persia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Afghanistan, parts of Pakistan, Turmenistan – and Ptolomaic Egypt respectively. (Ptolemy’s account of Alexander was a main source of Arrian’s “Anabasis Alexandri.”) Much of the Seleucid Empire was gobbled up by Rome in the mid 1st century B.C.E. Ptolomaic Egypt’s last Pharaoh was Cleopatra, who along with Marc Antony, was defeated by future 1st Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar in 30 B.C.E.


The Parthian Empire is little known outside of history circles but it was an important and powerful empire that gave the Roman Empire a good bit of trouble on it’s far eastern border. This empire existed from the mid 3rd century B.C.E. to the first quarter of the 3rd century C.E. The Parthian Empire came to life as a rebellious province of the Seleucid Empire. This empire was basically Iranian in composition with obvious Hellenistic influences in culture and government.
The successor to the Parthian Empire, the Sasanian Empire, lasted until 651 C.E. Both the Parthian Empire and the Sasanian Empire are largely heirs of the Achaemenid Persian Empire in culture, religion, and government. The Sasanian Empire was the final Iranian empire to exist before the rise of Islam.


The rise of Islam occurred in the early part of the 7th century C.E. out of Mecca and Medina in modern-day Saudi Arabia, or simply ‘Arabia’ at the time. The two powerhouse empires were the Roman Empire which we shall call the Byzantine Empire and the Sasanian Empire. These two empires were constantly at war with each other aside from a peaceful time period in the 6th century C.E.
As among countries today, there was constantly games of influence, direct wars, wars by proxy, gaining and switching alliances, etc. The Byzantine and Sasanian Empires were always jockeying for position. While areas of its periphery were important, Arabia was largely ignored by both empires. After all, there had never been a real power in the area that was a threat to either entity. Each empire was trying to outdo the other and by the early part of the 7th century C.E. these empires were exhausted.
As they say, nature abhors a vacuum. Well, so does politics. The Sasanian empire bordered much of Arabia to the north and east. When the Muslims moved north the Sasanian Empire was totally vulnerable. The Byzantine Empire to the north west was not as vulnerable in its entirety, but its eastern periphery was generally up for the taking. The Muslims were able to put an end to the Sasanian empire in 651 C.E. and conquer much of the eastern realm of the Byzantine Empire. Christian forces would not be a presence in much of these places until the Crusades of the 11th through 13th centuries.
Islam also spread west along the former Roman provinces in north Africa – modern day Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco – all the way to the Strait of Gibraltar (a now Arabic name denoting the area of modern-day Morocco and Spain that is separated by a very narrow waterway leading into the Mediterranean Sea.) Muslims would conquer much of the Iberian Peninsula beginning in 711 C.E. and make their way nearly to Paris where they were defeated by Charles ‘The Hammer’ Martel, grandfather of Charlemagne, in 732.
Muslims were able to conquer the entirety of the Byzantine Empire, but it would take over 800 years to do so and it would be done by the Ottoman Empire, a Turkish-led Muslim Empire that was a player on the world stage until the end of World War 1 in 1918.
The beginnings of Islam will be covered in a future essay. The time period will be much smaller than above. This essay will not cover a long portion of Islamic history, simply the beginning of it with the Prophet Muhammad through the Shia – Sunni split.

I did not use a specific resource for this essay. This is generalized knowledge from past study and reading. I referenced some maps in Bernard Lewis’ “The Middle East – A Brief History of the Past 2000 Years” to ensure I was correct in labeling certain geographic points.

To understand modern history, one must have a rudimentary understanding of ancient history. I would read a book on each of the empires mentioned above. I definitely recommend Lewis’ “The Middle East.”
The Landmark version of Herodotus’ “Histories,” Arrian’s “Conquests of Alexander” (Anabasis Alexandri) and Julius Caesar’s Complete Works are phenomenal resources.

Hardcore History by Dan Carlin is phenomenal. Tides of History by Patrick Wyman is great. Shields High is a new pod by Buck Sexton that is very listenable.

Why they changed it, I can’t say…..

What is the deal with the name changes of cities over time?  New students of history can get quite confused when a city has had more than one name.  I am not talking about nicknames like “The Big Apple” or “The City of Light.” I am referring to actual name changes over the years.

The popular song “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” by They Might Be Giants comes to mind (actually a remake, but TMBG made the song famous.)

“Istanbul was Constaninople now it’s Istanbul not Constantinople…

If you have a date in Constantinople she’ll be waiting in Istanbul…

Why did Constantinople get the works? That’s nobody’s business but the Turks…

Even old New York was once New Amsterdam. Why they changed it I can’t say…People just like it better that way…..

It is a fun song but the lyrics are true.  You can’t go to Constantinople, it doesn’t exist.  The name is now Istanbul.  Why is that?  Well, this city is only one of many that have changed names over the years due to another culture, state, or empire controlling the city.  Borders have been quite fluid in many areas of the world. Names are bound to change.  I will share a few famous ones with you in no particular order.

Istanbul – formerly Constantinople, and before that, Byzantium. –  Constantinople was named after Roman Emperor Constantine in the early 4th century (300s).  The name Byzantium comes from the Greeks who named the city a long time before Constantine.  The present-day name of Istanbul comes from the Muslim Turks who conquered Constantinople in 1453 – the official death of the Eastern Roman Empire, which is often called the “Byzantine Empire” (hence “Byzantium”)

New York City – formerly New Amsterdam.  – Back in the 1600’s in North America there were two real powers vying for supremacy, the British and the Dutch (the French on a smaller scale.)  There were a couple of Anglo-Dutch wars over territory.  The Dutch, at one time, held the area of the Hudson River down to present-day NYC.  This area was called “New Amsterdam” as Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands.  When the British took control of the area they re-named it New York City, the “York” coming from James, Duke of York, who would go on to become James II, King of England.

London – formerly Londinium – Obviously the Roman Empire played a huge part in history.  I will use London as the prime example of a Roman city that has survived to the modern day.  Londinium was created by the Romans after Rome secured what is roughly the southern half of the modern United Kingdom in the 1st Century.  The city eventually became simply “London.” London is the capital of the United Kingdom.  Other examples – Vienna was Vindobona, Regensburg was Radasbona, Le Mans was Vindinium, etc.

There is a large list of Roman – modern European names at


Marseilles – formerly Massalia – Prior to the peak of the Roman age, a major player in the Mediterranean were people we call the “Greeks.” They called themselves “Hellenes” but that is another story. – The Greeks controlled more than just the area of and around modern Greece.  They controlled hundreds of Islands and lots of miles of coastline around modern Turkey. They also colonized many areas around Europe, all the way west to the Atlantic Ocean, both north and south of the Mediterranean Sea.  The example of the southern French city of Marseilles was formerly a Greek colony named Massalia.  Beirut was Laodicea, Naples was Neapolis, and Varna and Odessa were both named Odessos.

A good list of Greek – Modern cities can be found at


Ho-Chi-Minh City – formerly Siagon – This former capital of South Vietnam was named after the Viet Cong leader who outlasted U.S. Occupation during the Vietnam War.

Beijing – formerly Peking – formerly many other names… – The impossibly complicated history of China does not get any easier when it comes to names.  The names most Americans associate with famous Chinese cities are “Americanized.” Still, the names have changed over the years.  Beijing, for instance, used to be called Peking, which was simply the Romanized name of Beijing.

Mexico City – formerly Tenochitlan – The Aztec culture basically created Tenochitlan out of lake Texcoco. The word “Mexico” is of native, not of Spanish origin (the Spanish completely changed the culture of most of Central and South America with the arrival of Hernando Cortez in 1519.) The city was eventually renamed Mexico City or Ciudad Mexico.


What other cities had different names throughout history?

Tunis (Formerly Carthage)

Baghdad (Formerly part of Babylon)

Mosul (Formerly Nineveh)

Medina (Formerly Yathrib)

There are hundreds of names of cities and areas that have changed over time.  Google some of these places.  Find an map of the old Roman provinces or a map of the old empires throughout history.  You will be surprised at what you find.



20th Century History Quiz

Let’s see if you know some of these questions about the 20th Century, the most momentous century in human history (until this century…)

  1. What country did the Soviet Union invade in 1979?
  2. What were the years of the Korean Conflict?
  3. Who was president at the beginning of WWII? Who was president at the end of WWII?
  4. As First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill was a proponent of what type of fuel for the Royal Navy Fleet?
  5. What president was impeached during the 20th century?
  6. What president was neither elected as vice president or as president?
  7. The 17th parallel divided what two entities (now a single country)?
  8. The 38th parallel generally divides what two countries still?
  9. What was the full name for the “Nazi” party in Germany (English translation)?
  10. In what year did the U.S. become officially involved in WWI?
  11. In what year did the U.S. become officially involved in WWII?
  12. What is the name for the largest amphibious invasion in world history? Where did it occur?
  13. Saddam Hussein invaded what country in 1990?
  14. Berlin, Germany was divided into east and west after WWII.  What major country backed Eastern Germany?
  15. What country’s government did the C.I.A. now famously overthrow in 1953, leading to U.S. control of their government, via the Shah, until 1979?
  16. In what year did the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.) officially become a country?
  17. What Japanese cities were the targets of two nuclear bombs dropped by the United States?
  18. In what country was Adolph Hitler born? (name the country then, name the country today)
  19. The Suez crises of 1956 was a major international issue.  In what country is the Suez (canal) located?
  20. Former military officer Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play for a modern professional sports team beginning in 1947.  What MLB team did he play for? (City / Team)
  21. In what city was Dr. Martin Luther King assassinated in 1968?
  22. In what city was President Kennedy assassinated in 1963?
  23. How many states have come into the Union during the 20th century? (Hint – OK was the first, HI was the last.)
  24. Apartheid was a policy made famous in what African country?
  25. President Theodore Roosevelt ordered a portion of the U.S. Navy to go on a world tour showing American military might.  What was the name given to this fleet?
  26. What was the name of the Serbian nationalist who shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand in the city of Sarajevo in 1914?
  27. Who was the leader of the Communist Chinese in their civil war? Who was the leader of the Chinese nationalists?
  28. Who was the leader of the North Vietnamese communists? What is the former name of the city that now bears his name?
  29. Who was the leader of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia?
  30. What was the name of the first Soviet satellite sent into orbit?



1. Afghanistan, 2. 1950–53, 3. President Franklin Roosevelt; President Truman 4. Oil,       5. President Clinton (Nixon was not impeached, he resigned), 6. President Gerald Ford,   7. North and South Vietnam, 8. North and South Korea, 9. National Socialist German Worker’s Party, 10. 1917, 11. 1941, 12. D-Day or “Operation Overlord” – in Normandy France, 13. Kuwait, 14. Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.), 15. Iran, 16. 1917, 17. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, 18. Austro-Hungarian Empire, today Austria, 19. Egypt, 20. The Brooklyn (Trolley) Dodgers, 21. Memphis, TN, 22. Dallas, TX, 23. Five states OK, NM, AZ, AK, HI,                      24. South Africa, 25. “The Great White Fleet”, 26. Gavrilo Princip, 27. Mao Zedong, Chiang Kai Shek, 28. Ho Chi Minh; Saigon, 29. Pol Pot, 30. “Sputnik”

RISE OF NAZI GERMANY, The Basics – Also “Dunkirk” movie review

It has been along time coming since my last post.  Sorry about that.  I have been busy in my job lately.  That doesn’t mean that I have been slacking on my studying.  On the contrary, I have been watching a really great documentary and reading a really incredible book, both of which I will write about shortly.

I want to focus on NAZI Germany since the whole country is going nuts about the events in Charlottesville NC.

I was going to write a movie review of “DUNKIRK.”  The review is shortened…. Here is is…

Dunkirk” is freaking awesome, go and see it!  It is an incredible piece of film.  The three different points of view – escaping Allied soldiers – RAF pilots – private boat captains – make this a masterpiece.  It is not a “shoot-em-up” war movie.  It is a thoughtful film on the realities of what these people went through.  A+, go see it!

Long story short, Dunkirk is a city in northern France.  The Nazi war machine was kicking serious butt against the English and French.  The Nazis pushed the Allied forces all the way up to northern France, which is separated from the UK by the fairly narrow English Channel (one side can see the other on a clear day).  What makes Dunkirk so famous is the evacuation of Allied troops from France to England, allowing the Allied forces to fight another day.

This incredible evacuation, by the Royal Navy and by British private citizens, was simply incredible.  It happened at the end of May / beginning of June in 1940, a full year and half before the United States entered the war on the side of the Allies.  Dunkirk was amazing, but as Prime Minister Winston Churchill said in regards to “Operation Dynamo” (the codename for the evacuation) that a war is not won by evacuation.

I will say that “Dunkirk” would have ended better with the ACTUAL speech by Winston Churchill.  It is my favorite political speech of all time.  You can see it here on YouTube… The famous part of the speech is when Churchill speaks about the fact that the UK “will fight on the beaches….”


Now, on to discussion on NAZIs.

I am not going to go nuts on the Nazi subject.  I will just try to introduce it to you.  The events in Charlottesville have brought the subject to the forefront.

In my opinion it would be nice if people didn’t spout off about things that they have no clue about.  If you don’t even know the relative dates of the Civil War you should probably not be speaking with assurance about the causes of the war or the motives of the sides involved.  The same goes with the Nazi movement, most people don’t know about it outside of Hitler was bad, really racist, killed millions of Jews and others, and started a war in Europe that reached the nearly the entire continent and into Northern Africa. (The alliance with Japan and the alliance of the US and Australia and New Zealand made it a truly “World War.”)

Here is a quick education about Nazi Germany. –

After WWI, in which Germany was defeated, the Treaty of Versailles was imposed on them. This treaty basically said that Germany was the cause for the War (“War Guilt Clause”) and that Germany should pay reparations and not be allowed to arm themselves.

Kaiser Wilhelm II, king of Germany, was deposed.  A new republic was declared, called the Weimar (VY-MAR) Republic.  This unstable republic lasted only until Hitler came to power.  Hitler’s reign is called the “3rd Reich.”  – The 1st Reich was generally the German portion of the Holy Roman Empire, Otto I being the first emperor.  The 2nd Reich is the time of the beginning of the country of Germany, from 1871 until the end of WWI and the formation of the Weimar Republic.

HITLER – Adolph Hitler was born in Austria.  He was relatively uneducated, and he was unable to attend art school in Vienna nor architecture school. He eventually became a tramp. While in Vienna Hitler read voraciously, mostly extreme literature that would be wound up in the Nazi “ideology.”

When WWI came, Hitler left Austria in order to fight in the war for Germany.  Yes, Germany and Austria-Hungary were allies with each other, but Hitler detested the Austro-Hungarian empire because it was a multi-national empire consisting not only of German Austrians, but of Hungarians, Czechs, and other Slavic peoples.  Hitler dreamed of a state consisting of pure Germans.

Hitler apparently served bravely in the German military as a runner – a very dangerous job – earning an Iron Cross and a top rank of Corporal.  Hitler heard about the end of the war in a hospital, recovering his eyes from being gassed on the front lines.  Hitler was angry and devastated.  He turned this anger into a search for power.

Hitler went from a Corporal in the German Army to the dictator of Germany in less than 15 years.  This is an incredible rise to power, unseen in the history of the world.  It is nothing less than amazing.  Hitler may have been uneducated, but he was incredibly capable in the areas of political organizing and political public speaking.  He used his abilities to spread his ideology and raise his party to prominence and finally dominant rule.


Nationalsozialistische Deutche Arbeiterpartei, (say that 3 times fast) or NSDAP, translated into National Socialist German Worker’s Party or “Nazi Party” in English. It was not necessarily “socialist” although there was a serious socialist element within the party that Hitler did not really embrace.  – Note – our political history and beliefs in the United States is so different from other places that it doesn’t really make sense to place Nazi ideology, or much ideology in Europe in general, on our political scale.  For instance, Nazis are not “left” because of their socialist elements, they are not “right” because of their nationalism.  Nazi is more totalitarian, like the Soviet communists, in my opinion.

Hitler had many setbacks, most notably his “Beer Hall Putsch” in which Hitler naively tried to take control of the government with force in November of 1923 (not to be confused with the forming of the NAZI party at the Hofbrauhaus, a different beer hall, in 1920.)  Hitler was arrested after the Beer Hall Putsch and given a light sentence for what was really treason against the Weimar Republic. (Right-leaning trouble makers were given lesser sentences than left-leaning troublemakers at the time.)

Hitler dictated the first volume of his famous and rambling work “Mein Kampf” translated to “My Struggle” in English.  In this book Hitler lays out exactly what he wanted to do if he came to power.  Reminiscent of Osama bin Laden giving away his playbook in his fatwa against the US and nobody paying any attention, Hitler did basically the same thing.  Aside from putting “Ayrans” at the top of the human race and writing about race extermination (Holocaust anyone….?), Hitler outlined how he would fight the war if he were in charge.  He talks about “lebensraum” or “living space” that Germany would need.  This living spacehe land would come in the east at the expense of Russia (Hitler famously invaded Russia in 1941 with “Operation Barbarossa.”)

SUMMARY OF “MEIN KAMPF” – Hey, I am Hitler.  Germany got screwed by the Allies and stabbed in the back by traitors after World War I. I really, really, really hate Jews and other races that are inferior to Germans.  Here is my plan to make Germany the dominant country in Europe……

After Hitler’s release from prison the Nazi Party rose and fell and rose again in the complicated political scene in Weimar Germany – many parties vied for power, the U.S. would change reparations policies regarding Germany, the Great Depression was going on, different factions in different parties would stop party progress, etc.

Hitler’s party was seen as immature and very violent. It seems that not enough people took the Nazi party seriously enough until Hitler was in control of his own destiny and eventually in control of the entire government.

Eventually Hitler would become Chancellor of Germany in January 1933 and be both Chancellor and President in 1934.


There are people in several different related movements that adhere to something related to Nazi-ism, namely “White Nationalists” and “White Supremacist” movements such as the KKK and some extremists on the Alt-Right.  Ironically many of these people are from other races than that of pure Germans (if there is such a thing, which there is not.)  Also, many of Hitler’s thugs were homosexuals, something that these self-styled white supremacists abhor.

This movement takes a rough summary of beliefs of the Nazi Party.  White people are supreme, Jews and other races are inferior.  Some of these specific groups are violent, some are just talk.  All have a warped idea of Nazi-ism, which in itself had a warped idea of history and of race.


I hope that this really fast summary of a complicated topic will push you to do some research.  Before you call someone a Nazi, know what “Nazi” really means.  Before you fight “Fascism,” make sure you are not doing the same kind of violent actions that Hitler’s fascist thugs did.  And if you are a white supremacist, watch an episode of “Cops” or look up “Insane Clown Posse” and the idea of all whites being supreme should fall on its face.

If you are a big reader, take a look at “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – A History of Nazi Germany” by William L. Shirer.  It is a 1200 page book.

Also, take a look at “The Civil War” by Ken Burns.  This documentary is currently on Netflix.  It was created in 1990 but it is an incredible piece of work.  This topic obviously relates to the incident at Charlottesville as much as the topic of Nazis, but I don’t have all day to write about the Nazis AND the Civil War.  Ken Burns’ “Baseball” is also an incredible documentary.


U.S. Expansion – How the country became so large.

How did the United States grow from 13 separate British colonies along the Atlantic coast into one country that touches the Pacific Ocean?

The politics can be complicated but the general idea is relatively easy.  There were a few incidents that expanded U.S. lands in sizeable ways and two huge expansions.  We will cover the two large expansions.


The 13 colonies became states of a united country in 1776.  The current form of government was implemented in 1789.  Soon after that the country began to expand. The expansion of land was so large in the two major incidents to be discussed that the acquisition of Florida is considered small!  That may give you an idea of how much land the United States gained in these agreements.  (You probably know at least one of them.)  Some smaller land acquisitions:

Acquisition of Florida from Spain 1819.

Inclusion of Texas as a state 1845.

Gadsden Purchase from Mexico 1853.

Purchase of Alaska from Russia, 1867. (“Seward’s Folly”) – It should be noted that Alaska is absolutely huge, but it is not as politically important as what will be discussed below.


The two major incidents of expansion are the Louisiana Purchase and the land resulting from the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo after the US – Mexican War.


The city of St. Louis and the area of Louisiana was named after Saint Louis, or Louis IX, king of France, who lived from 1214 to 1270.  He really was a “Saint” as he was canonized (made into a Saint by the Catholic Church) in 1297.  “Louis” is pronounced “Louey.”

In regards to the area of Louisiana, it was owned by France, obviously.  It was a massive area consisting of a large number of today’s states in the Midwest and West.  This land was acquired under Thomas Jefferson’s presidency.  At this time France was headed by the famous Napoleon, a leader not shy on expansion himself.

At this time, the western border of the U.S. was at the Mississippi River.  Due to its strategic and economic location on the Mississippi River, the United States attempted to get the city of New Orleans from France.  Instead, the United States was able to buy the whole Louisiana Territory.  Napoleon knew he needed to focus on Europe and that he couldn’t really control this territory.  What really showed him this was the slave rebellion in France-controlled Haiti, which is located in the Caribbean.  The French could not control the situation.  Haiti soon became independent, and the first free black nation in the Western Hemisphere.

The opportunity to buy the Louisiana Territory came as a surprise to many, especially Jefferson.  The president did not really find anything in the Constitution enabling him to purchase the territory but that did not stop him. The huge area was purchased in 1803.


The next large expansion didn’t occur until over 40 years later.  The country of Mexico, newly independent from Spain in 1810, Mexico claimed all the land in North America formerly claimed by Spain.  Soon, the U.S. would claim much of the same territory. The acquisition of the Mexican Territory was accomplished by way of war.

The war with Mexico remains controversial.  California was a very large jewel that the United States wanted. The United States was expanding in population and power.  The Mexican territory was sparsely populated in relation to the eastern portion of the continent.  There was also a border dispute with Texas – Mexico claimed the Nueces River to the north, the U.S. claimed the Rio Grande to the south.

War erupted in 1846 with the U.S. claiming violence was committed against U.S. troops by Mexican troops in the disputed area between the two rivers.  Future president Abraham Lincoln made his famous “Spot Resolution” in Congress, urging President Polk to show the “spot” on which American blood was spilled.  (This was an anti-war speech.)

The war was generally popular.  The idea of “Manifest Destiny,” the idea that the U.S. was destined by God to stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific, was put into the national mind by newspaper editor John O’ Sullivan in 1945.  Mexico was standing in the way of Manifest Destiny.

The U.S. military soundly defeated the Mexican army.  Many Civil War generals from the North and South fought together as lower ranking officers in this conflict.  The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the war in 1848.


The map below shows in detail the areas of United States expansion with dates.  The map was taken from thomaslegion.net.







What Is Government, Really?

Government.  That is a word that encompasses a whole lot.  There are so many different kinds of government around the world.  The United Kingdom has a constitutional monarchy.  Iran has a Shia Islamic theocracy.  The United States has a republic or constitutional republic, or democratic republic, or ….

Even within the United States there are different kinds of government.  While the states have similar governments to each other there are large differences.  Counties within the states have governments.  Finally cities have their own level of government.

There have been brilliant writers discussing and debating the topic of government; Hobbes, Locke, Burke, Montesquieu, Adams, Hamilton, Madison, Lincoln, and hundreds more.  There are almost as many ideas about what a government should be (or if there should be one at all) as there are people in the world.

The topic of government can really be confusing.  It can also be divisive, especially when ideologies and politics are involved in the discussion.  “Trump is better than Clinton.””  “Clinton or Sanders would have been better than Trump.” “I voted for Trump but I liked Ted Cruz better…”  This can go on and on.  It really solves nothing.  Groups can talk in circles about this but nothing is really said to the “other side.”

While we may not agree on what government should do to us, for us, or agree upon who should run it, there is one thing that all sides can agree on.  That is the definition of government.

My description of government is going to be a bit weird to you at first.  It is not a “partisan” idea, but I admit that I took it from a libertarian (small “L” as in libertarian ideas, not the Libertarian Party.)  It is quite brilliant.  I have tried to think of another description but I can come up with nothing better.  This description should be agreed upon by everyone, from the most ardent anarchist to the person who wants government to control every aspect of our lives.

Here it is….

“Government is an entity that has a monopoly on the legal use of violence.”

“Wow,” you say.  “Violence?  What do you mean?”

Government, all governments, have a monopoly on legalized violence, meaning that the government can and will coerce people to act within a certain set of laws that have been previously defined.  This coercion, if taken to its ultimate conclusion, will result in physical violence.  By “violence” the government controls the actions of the citizens of the defined boundaries of the government.  For this article, the boundaries will be those set forth in the United States.

The obvious example of legal government violence is police action.  If someone murders one you love you can’t legally go and kill them or use force to imprison them in your house or some prison you built.  The government can use force to apprehend a murder suspect and if that person is convicted in a government court that person can be put in a government prison or killed by the government if the death penalty is legal in the area that the murder was committed in.  The police, court system, and prison system must coerce the suspect / convict with force but these state actors are all acting within the bounds of the law.  Simple enough?

Another obvious example is military force.  The military is obviously controlled by the government.  The military can be ordered to use violence to defend the United States, but more often than not, the violence projected by the military is used in a foreign land.  The U.S. government used violence to change the government in Iraq.  This military violence is not something that U.S. citizens could have done legally or at all.

A less obvious example is taxes – which partly pay for the people who can use legal violence like the police, military, FBI, and other government agencies.  Nobody literally puts a gun to your head and physically takes money away from you in the form of taxes but see what happens when you don’t pay your taxes.  You may be subject to penalties.  If the penalties are high enough the government may use physical force to arrest you or to take away your property or your freedom.

What about government roads?  That seems pretty non-violent.  Well, if you own a house or land within a proposed route for a government road you will be offered money to pay for your inconvenience and for your property (whether the amount is fair is another topic.)  If you refuse to move the government can take your property by force and possibly use force to charge you with crimes.

Any law, if really broken down, involves the threat of force by the government against the individual.

This is not a critique of government, per se.  Understanding that government is the entity that has a monopoly on the legal use of force is vital to really understanding what government really is. When implementing a government or new laws under a government, people must be cognizant of the fact that there is an addition of the threat of force in their lives.

If you understand the basic idea of government you will be able to argue your points about government in a better and stronger manner.

I am not saying that the government is a violent entity.  I am simply pointing out the now obvious fact that a government cannot exist without having the option to legally use violence when it is in the best interest of the government to do so.  I would think that this is something that we can all agree on.  I bet that your teacher didn’t teach this to you in your civics class.government

More Than Just The Big Wars – U.S. Intervention Around The World

The subject of U.S. military and political intervention around the world is a very controversial subject.  Some say that the United States has a responsibility to keep the world stable by using military force to quell incidents in far off lands.  Others say that the United States should not be the policeman of the world and that it costs too much money.

The focus of this post is not to take one side or another on this issue.  This post is only serving to show the reader a few of the many events that have taken place throughout the history of the U.S. Most people in the U.S. have not heard of these events and how they relate to the modern geopolitical climate.

U.S. military policy is really more than just the “big wars” like WWI, WWII, Vietnam, etc.  There are dozens and dozens of times the U.S. has intervened around the world.  Sometimes the consequences of intervention were only local, other times this intervention had global implications.  The topics covered today are of the latter.

Today, I will focus on two countries, Iran and Afghanistan.  These countries are in the news a lot today.  The origins of U.S. intervention in these countries occurred during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, which will be covered in a later post.  These events also began in the presidency of Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) and ended in the presidency of Ronald Reagan (1981-1989).  The ramifications would affect presidents H.W. Bush, Clinton, W. Bush, Obama, Trump, and, most likely, many presidents to follow.

So, without further ado, here are some short summaries of the major events of U.S. intervention in Iran and Afghanistan…


Today Iran is hostile to the United States and its interests.  This has been the case since the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979.  This event marked a change in government from rule by a secular Shah to rule that amounts to a theocracy, or religion and government intertwined.  The religion of the ruling government in Iran is Shia Islam and the religious rulers are known as Ayatollahs.

In 1953 the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A) of the United States conducted a coup in order to place Reza Shah Pahlavi in control of the government at the expense of then-Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq.  Mossadeq worried the C.I.A. as he was claimed to have socialist and communist ties.  The wild C.I.A. program known as “Operation Ajax” was largely conducted by Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt.

Operation Ajax was very successful and the Shah was firmly in power until his health faded at the end of the 1970’s.  The Shah’s decline led to a power grab by radical Shia Islamists who have controlled the government ever since.  The anti-U.S. sentiment of the revolution led to the infamous “Hostage Crisis” in which 52 American diplomats were held for 444 days from November 4, 1979 until January 20, 1981 when President Reagan was sworn into office.


In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded neighboring Afghanistan in order to prop up the communist regime in power.  The Soviets brutally took hold of Afghanistan, fighting a menagerie of fighters who were often, in other times, hostile to each other.  Some of these fighters were moderate in their belief in Islam, many were quite radical.  In a very complicated situation some in the United States government saw a way to take a shot at the Soviet Union.

The mortal enemy of the United States, the Soviet Union supported communist troops in the Vietnam war.  Supporting the rebels in Afghanistan seemed to be a way to get some revenge against the USSR.  The C.I.A. began to give money and weapons different groups of the rebels.  The most important weapon was the Stinger Missile, which helped the rebels shoot down the lethal Soviet attack helicopters.

The support of the rebels did worsen the situation in Afghanistan for the Soviet Union.  Internal politics and economic woes had a lot to do with it as well.  The Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed not long after that.

This was in a time before Islamic terrorism was a huge deal in the world.  It was known that these radical Islamic elements could pose a future problem, but the USSR was a much bigger problem for the U.S. government so some in the government hedged their bets and went with the radicals.

Fast forward a decade and a half later, and you have these elements in Afghanistan that are causing huge problems for the United States.  Osama bin Laden, a Saudi-born son of a wealthy construction magnate, was well known to United States officials by the 1990s. He, and others from traditional Islamic regions went to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.  More than a few of these “Afghan-Arabs” would turn their fight towards the United States.

Afghanistan was generally ignored by the United States after the Soviet Union withdrew in 1989.  The Taliban, strict radical Islamists, took over the country and offered safe haven to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network after bin Laden was forced to leave Khartoum, Sudan due to pressure by the United States government.

The Islamic terror network al Qaeda is responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.  The United States military has been fighting in Afghanistan ever since.



These summaries on U.S. intervention in Iran and Afghanistan are the very basics that you should know.  You need to understand that these events happened and U.S. intervention was a major player in them.  You can interpret these events in different ways. These books are all great reads and are very informative. I highly recommend at least one of them.  Overthrow is the best overview of U.S. intervention if you don’t know what the heck I was talking about at all.  Kinzer does write in an anti-interventionist fashion but regardless of your politics, it is a vital book to own.

Ghost Wars by Steve Coll

Charlie Wilson’s War by George Crile

All The Shah’s Men and Overthrow by Stephen Kinzer

C.I.A.- Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner

Soviet Withdraw