collection of important historic events.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Corsican Squire

As an Emperor, Napoleon never attached much importance to his origins. However his rich Corsican heritage was always instrumental in his political campaigns as he placed his siblings onto Europe's thrones. Napoleon was born in Ajjacio the small capital of Corsica on August 15th, 1769. Only a year before his birth, Corsica became a French territory by treaty from the Genoese. France was still governed by a monarchy , that of Louis XV and not Louis XVI who was dethroned by the French Revolution.
Napoleon was baptized with the name of a cousin that had died in the Corsican struggle for independence led by Paoli. Carlo Buonaparte, Napoleons father was one of Paoli's lieutenants. The formal verification of his lineage showed that he came from a Florentine noble family which can be traced back as far as the eleventh century. The struggle against French rule was a disaster and Paoli was forced into exile in England. If Carlo had followed with his family, Napoleon might have been brought up in England. Napoleons mother was Maria Letizia Bonaparte Romolino, married to Carlo at age 14. Although the Bonapartes were considered minor nobility, they were quite humble. They only owned a couple acres of land a farm and a townhouse in Ajjacio. Letizia forever was very influential in Napoleons life. She was a woman of great beauty but far greater character. Carlo was also handsome and charming but weaker and much more extravagant. Letizia mothered 13 children to Carlo, but only 8 survived. The young couple attracted much attention in the islands social scene. The Napoleons had many influential close friends, so close that often rumors of Napoleons legitimacy arose. Strong Corsican family tradition made this highly improbable, the Corsican family was a close one and a loyal one. One notable family friend, Marbeuf was able to help Carlo secure a French military education for Napoleon. In 1779, Napoleon arrived in France to attend the royal military school Brienne, one of 12 established by Louis XVI's minister of war. Napoleon was nine a this time and didn't speak French. He quickly learned French and spoke it with a deep rich accent. He remained quite hostile , passionate with strong Corsican patriotism. It would be another 8 years of strict military training until Napoleon returned to Corsica. As Emperor he once said to his soldiers who complained about promotions of noble descent soldiers; "Am I after all a noble, I, a poor Corsican squire?"

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Paris 1968

In May of 1968, a series of violent riots engulfed the streets of Paris. The turmoil of the period eventually caused the collapse of Gen. De Gaulle's government. De Gaulle had led France through WWII. Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was in power from January 1959 until the student riots led to his downfall in April 28th, 1969. De Gaulle earned his way to the top of the French government through a successful military career. His government was highly criticized for the handling of the North African french colonies. De Gaulle's government was unable to control the rioting and bloodshed in Algeria. Back on the mainland, his government was unpopular for its heavy-hand mandate. While the written press and elections were free, the state had a monopoly on television and radio broadcasts. The students were disillusioned by the lack of employment and poor workers unions. They wanted to change France morally, modernize it. Some, wanted anarchy. The students not only wanted to change France but the world. Women marched in pursuit of rights.French society was traditionalist. The students embraced leftist ideals and sought economic equality. The violent riots caused De Gaulle to flee Paris. He sought refuge in Germany were it is believed he met with military chief Massu who controlled part of occupied Germany. He wanted military intervention to shut down all protest. However, eventually he was forced to accept many reforms which in part led to his stepping down.
On May 6th the union of university teachers called a march to protest against the police invasion of the Sorbonne. More than 20,000 students, teachers and supporters marched towards the Sorbonne, still sealed off by the police, who charged, wielding their batons, as soon as the marchers approached. While the crowd dispersed, some began to create barricades out of whatever was at hand, while others threw paving stones, forcing the police to retreat for a time. The police then responded with tear gas and charged the crowd again. Hundreds more students were arrested. The following day the workers of Paris joined the protest, meeting with rioters at the arc de triumph. The rioting continued through the month of May. Over a million people marched in violent protests. The riots eventually led to De Gaulles retirement the next year.