Highlights. Low lights. The twists and turns of social, political, and cultural history gathered in one fun and fascinating title! The Handy History Answer Book: From the Stone Age to the Digital Age takes a riveting walk through the ages, looking at the most important events of the past 5,000 years, including wars, disasters, pandemics, births, lives, and more. It supplies context to the past with a wealth of information on invention, philosophy, science, politics, culture, sports, business, law, media, and religion.
A concise guide to all things historical, this feast of facts and compelling stories recounts the revolutionary ideas, acts, and inventions that changed the world. It surveys significant people, times, and events worldwide, with a special focus on U.S. history from its beginnings to the present. Fully revised and updated, this new edition of The Handy History Answer Book answers over 1,600 of the most frequently asked, most interesting, and unusual history questions, including …
If “History doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes” (as Mark Twain is reputed to have said) then The Handy History Answer Book is a lyrical and poetic treat. Clear, concise, and straightforward, this informative primer is a resource for brushing up on the events, terms, and history-makers many of us remember from school but can’t completely recall. Wide-ranging and comprehensive with nearly 250 illustrations, this information-rich tome also includes a helpful bibliography and an extensive index, adding to its usefulness. A perfect companion for history buffs of all ages.
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The Tribal Peoples of Europe
Who were the Celts?
The Celts were an Indo-European people who by 500 B.C.E. had spread across what is now France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the British Isles, and by 200 B.C.E. they had expanded as far as present-day Bulgaria and Greece. When the Romans conquered much of Europe (about 300 B.C.E.), many Celts were absorbed into the Roman Empire. However, those Celts living in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, southwest England, and Brittany (in northwestern France) were able to maintain their cultures, and it is in these regions that people of Celtic origin still live today.
Their society was divided among three classes: commoners, the educated, and aristocrats. They formed loose federations of tribes, raised crops and livestock, used the Greek alphabet to write their own language, and were among the first peoples in northern Europe to make iron. They never formed one united nation, however, so that when Roman armies swept across Europe, the Celtic tribes were overrun.
How were the Gauls related to the Celts?
The ancient Gauls were a Celtic people who occupied the country of Gaul (an area that today consists of France, Belgium, Luxembourg, part of Germany, and part of the Netherlands). The Gauls were led by priests called Druids.
Over several centuries the Gauls fought the Romans, and then, under Julius Caesar, the Romans conquered all of Gaul with the defeat of the chief of the Gauls, Vercingetorix, in 52 B.C.E. Gaul became part of the Roman Empire. Very likely a million or more Gauls were killed or died of disease and famine under the conquest of Julius Caesar. Perhaps a million more were enslaved. Julius Caesar described the military campaign in his Commentāriī dē Bellō Gallicō (Commentaries on the Gallic War).
Who were the Huns?
The Huns were a nomadic central Asian people, who in the middle of the fifth century C.E. moved westward and conquered the local peoples. Unified by the ruler Attila the Hun in 434, the Huns gained control of a large part of central and eastern Europe. The Italian countryside was ravaged in the process, and many people sought refuge on the numerous islands in the Lagoon of Venice; the settlement later became the city of Venice. With the death of Attila in 453, the subjects of the Huns revolted and defeated them.
Who was Attila the Hun?
While Attila (c. 406-453) may have possessed some of the worthwhile qualities of a military leader, the king of the Huns was no doubt a ruthless and fierce figure. He is believed to have ascended through the ranks of the Hun army, coming to power as the leader of the nomadic group in 434. By this time, the Huns (who originated in central Asia) had occupied the Volga River valley in the area of present-day western Russia.
At first, like his predecessors, he was wholly occupied with fighting other barbarian tribes for control of lands. But under Attila’s leadership, the Huns began to extend their power into central Europe. He waged battles with the Eastern Roman armies, and, after murdering his older brother and co-ruler, Bleda, in 445, went on to trample the countries of the Balkan Peninsula and northern Greece, causing terrible destruction along the way. As Attila continued westward with his bloody campaigns, which each Hun fought using his own weapons and his own savage techniques, he nearly destroyed the foundations of Christianity.
But the combined armies of the Romans and the Visigoths defeated Attila and the Huns at Chalons (in northeastern France) in June 451, which is known as one of the most decisive battles of all time. From there, Attila and his men moved into Italy, devastating the countryside before Pope Leo I (c. 400-461) succeeded in persuading the brutal leader to spare Rome. (For this and other reasons, Leo was later canonized, becoming St. Leo.) Attila died suddenly—of natural causes—in 453, just as he was again preparing to cross the Alps and invade Italy anew.
Who were the barbarians?
The term refers to any of the Germanic tribes that, beginning about 400, repeatedly attacked Rome, eventually conquering it and dividing the territories of the Western Roman Empire into many kingdoms. The Germanic tribes included the Goths, the Vandals, the Franks, the Lombards, the Angles, and the Saxons.
What is the origin of the word “barbarian”?
The word comes from the ancient Greeks. It possibly referred to the language of people the Greeks did not understand: their language sounded to their ears like “bar…bar….”
Who were the Goths?
The Goths were divided into two groups: a western group known as the Visigoths and an eastern group known as the Ostrogoths. Thedoric (c. 454-526) became the ruler of the Ostrogoths in 493, and it was under his leadership that the group invaded northern Italy.
In 378 the Visigoths rebelled against the Roman authorities. On horseback, they fought the battle of Adrianople (in present-day Turkey), destroying a Roman army and killing Rome's eastern emperor, Valens (c. 328-378). The Visigoths’ introduction of the cavalry as part of warfare determined European military, social, and political development for the next thousand years.
The Visigoths moved into Italy, and under the leadership of their ruler, Alaric (c. 370-410), sacked Rome in 410, an event that signaled the beginning of the end for the Roman Empire. The Visigoths moved into Gaul and then the Iberian Peninsula (present-day Spain and Portugal). The city of Toledo was established as their capital. Roderick (or Rodrigo), the last Visigoth king, was defeated and killed in 711 during a battle with the Muslims (Moors), who invaded from northern Africa and the conquered most of the Iberian Peninsula.
Who were the Vandals?
Around the year 100 C.E. the Vandals had settled in what today is Poland. In time, they were threatened by the Huns, and so the Vandals moved west overrunning Gaul (present-day France), Spain, and northern Africa, where they eventually settled. In 455, led by the powerful King Genseric, the Vandals ravaged Rome. Their pillage was so thorough that the word “vandal” would be used to describe anyone who willfully destroys property.
Who were the Franks?
The Franks were yet another Germanic people. Their most important early king was Clovis I (c. 466-511). Under this cruel and cunning king, the Franks soon controlled much of Europe, including the land that is today France, Belgium, and Germany. (In case you have not guessed it, France is named after the Franks.) Under the influence of his wife, Clotilde, Clovis converted to Catholic Christianity. Soon, most of his people would also convert.
Who were the Lombards?
The Lombards, too, were a Germanic tribe who moved from the area that today is Germany, and then moved south into what today is Austria, and then into much of Italy. In 754, Pope Stephen II (714-757) appealed to the powerful Franks for help. Under the rule of Pepin III (called Pepin the Short; c. 714-768) the Franks defeated the Lombards. The northern region of Italy, Lombardy, is named for them.
Who were the Angles and Saxons?
The Angles were a Germanic tribe that settled in England, where they joined the Saxons (also a Germanic-speaking people). Together they became known as Anglo-Saxons. The name “England” comes from the older name Englaland meaning “Land of the Angles.”
Who were the Vikings?
The Vikings, also called Norsemen, were fierce, seafaring warriors who originated in Scandinavia (today the countries Norway, Sweden, and Denmark). Beginning in the late 700s they raided England, France, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Russia, and Spain. They also reached Greenland, Iceland, and even North America long before the Europeans. (Ruins of a Norse settlement were found on the northeastern coast of Newfoundland, Canada.) The Viking raiders were greatly feared.
What was the importance of Viking ships?
The Viking ship was designed to sail on open oceans on rough seas, yet the boats had a shallow draft, which meant they did not go that deep into the water and could sail in shallow waters. Thus, not only could Vikings raid and plunder coastal settlements and cities, they could also go up rivers and raid cities far from the coast. All major cities were built on rivers. For example, the Vikings in 845, led by the chieftain Ragnar, sailed 120 ships over 200 miles up the Seine River to attack and plunder Paris.
The Vikings converted to Christianity around the year 1000, about the same time that the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden were established. Under the Danish leader Canute, Vikings conquered England in 1016 and ruled it as part of Denmark until 1042.
Who were the Normans?
The Normans were Vikings who in the mid-800s invaded northern France, ousting the Franks. The region came to be known as Normandy. In 1066, the Norman duke William (the Conqueror; 1027-1087) sailed across the English Channel, and in the Battle of Hastings defeated the army of king Harold Godwinson to claim the English throne.
Table of ContentsAbout the Author
01. Exploring History
02. Ancient Civilizations in the West
03. Ancient Civilizations in Africa, Asia, Australia, Pacific Islands, and the Americas
04. Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution in Europe
05. Exploration and Colonization
06. War and Conflict
07. Religion and Religious Movements
09. Science and Invention
10. Medicine and Disease
11. Government and Law
12. Politics and Social Movements
13. Economics and Business
14. The Great Disasters
15. Culture and Recreation