The reading notes record thoughts from things I read. 這網誌是我的一些閱讀後的思考和摘要記錄。My website 我的網頁:

Wars that Changed the World

Wars that Changed the World
Charles Messenger


Evolution not as Charles Darwin saw it does not follow a smooth path.  There are many kinky events which could change the direction of evolution abruptly.  Similarly, the evolution of civilizations does not go smoothly one book at a time.  There are kinky events along the way that could change the course of history.  In Charles Messenger’s book, these events were human created wars.  The book gave a focused analysis of 25 wars which were considered significantly enough to have changed the world.  I chose four of them below which I think are interesting and have some factors which are less known.

Charles Martel against the Moors (AD 731-9)

Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, Western Europe was divided among three kingdoms: Visigoths in Spain, Franks in France and Lombards in Italy.  When the Islam was born in the 6th century in the Arabian Peninsula, it quickly spread through the Levant, Asia Minor and North Africa.  It was only stopped from spreading into Europe by the Byzantium.  But the Moors in North Africa advanced into Spain by sea and moved upward to France.  The tactic was to try to take Constantinople from the rear.

Charles Martel of the Frankish kingdom was the main force in Western Europe in the 8th century which stopped the Moors and kept them in Southern Spain for several centuries.  He was crucial in keeping Islam out of Europe and saved Christianity.

The success of the Moors transformed Andalusia of Spain with Islamic culture.  Its architecture affected European design from then on.

Charles Martel granted his land to his sons and let them rule independently while pleading loyalty to him.  This in effect created the feudal system which remained as a major form of governance for many centuries to come.

The Crusades (AD 1071-1254)

The Crusades starting from the 11th century was a series of campaigns by the Christians aiming to regaining Jerusalem from the Muslims.  The significant ones are the Fourth and the Seventh Crusades.

The Fourth Crusade was planned to capture the Dalmatian coast of the Balkan Peninsula.  However, the Crusaders were then diverted in 1204 AD to besiege Constantinople and then sacked it, to the surprise of the Orthodox Church Christians.  The Byzantium took refuge in Asia Minor and could only return and regain Constantinople seventy years later.  This unethical event of the Catholic Christians marked the permanent separation of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

The Seventh Crusade was a failure.  It was the campaign which revealed that regaining Jerusalem was not possible.

A major legacy of the Crusades was the creation of the military religious orders, which transformed Christians into soldiers; notably the establishment of the Knights Templar, Knights Hospitaller which were also known as the Knights of St John, and the Teutonic Knights.  They all developed into power centres vying for wealth and into war machines.

Spanish conquest of Mexico (AD 1519-39)

The 16th century was the Age of Exploration when the Europeans discovered America.  Among the numerous efforts of colonization, it was the Spanish conquest of Mexico led by Hernan Cortes which had the most far reaching consequences for the American culture.

The conquest was not easy, with Spain being so far away, strong resistance by the local Aztec people, and so few Spanish soldiers against a large population.  But the advance in weaponry gave the Spanish the upper hand.

As a result of victory and the wish to push Christianity, the Aztec empire, together with her religion, culture and history were completely destroyed.  The Aztec civilization was almost out of existence.  Even modern archeology effort has great difficulties in knowing the details of the Aztec culture until today.

Thirty Years War (AD 1618-48)

These were purely religious wars originating from the rise of Protestantism, and the split of Catholics and Christians.  At that time, Germany was a collection of princedom states under the overall umbrella of the Holy Roman Empire, with the emperor elected among them.  The north and east states opted for Protestantism, while the south and west states remained Catholic.  The wars started when some states expelled the corrupted Catholic bishops, and the German states engaged each other in war.

The war spread to Denmark in 1625.  Denmark formed an alliance with England and France to help the northern states of Germany for fear that any Catholic victory could undermine her interest.  Sweden entered the war in 1630, defending her interest from both sides.  The wars entered the France-Swedish alliance stage in 1635, with the alliance gaining the upper hand against Spain.  At last, in 1648, the Peace of Westphalia was signed, with the Holy Roman Empire declaring amnesty.  All German states were granted autonomy, with Catholic and Protestantism states given equal status.

The Thirty Years War was a complicated war involving all states in Europe for a very long time.  The result was the demise of the Holy Roman Empire.  The victims who suffered most were the general population.  In the most contested areas, as much as two-third of the population perished.