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Revolutionary France 1789

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Understanding the French Revolution

After the French Revolution broke out in 1789, Louis XVI tried to flee France but he was captured and imprisoned by the revolutionaries. By 1792 foreign armies were threatening to invade France to restore Louis XVI to his throne. 516 young Frenchmen answered the call to protect France and as they marched from Marseilles to Paris they sang their favourite war song, (composed by Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle). When they entered Paris on 30 July 1792 it was named La Marseillaise. It 1795 it was officially recognized as a national song. Many years later it became the National Anthem of France.





Revolution in Europe 1830 - 1848

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Painting by Eugene Delacroix - Liberty Leading the People

Understanding the 1830 and 1848 Revolutions

In June 1832 anti-monarchist republicans rebelled against the new French monarchy which had been created in July 1830.  Although the new king, Louis-Philippe, possessed more liberal ideas than his autocratic predecessor, Charles X, French republicans were not happy with the idea of a monarchy. These events inspired the French novelist and poet, Victor Hugo, to write his 1862 novel, ‘Les Miserables’​




World War II 1939 - 1945

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Understanding World War II

World War II was a global military conflict from 1939 to 1945, which was fought between the Allied powers of the United States, United Kingdom, and Soviet Union against the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan and their respective allies. Among the causes of World War II were Italian fascism in the 1920s; Japanese militarism and invasions of China in the 1930s;  and more especially, the political takeover, in 1933, of Germany by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party with its aggressive foreign policy.

Napoleon's Russian Campaign 1812

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Napoleon's Retreat from Moscow

Painting by Adolph Northen

Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812 with an army of 600 000 men. The Russians adopted a ‘scorched earth policy’, (destroying crops and livestock as they retreated eastwards) preventing the French army from feeding off the land. When Napoleon finally entered Moscow he found a deserted city. Napoleon and his army eventually left Moscow with the Russian winter approaching and his bedraggled and defeated army struggled home.

The 1812 Overture, is a concert overture written in 1880 by Russian composer Tchaikovsky to commemorate Russia's defence of its motherland against Napoleon's invading Grande Armée in 1812.



The Crimean War 1853 - 1856

 Detail from “The Relief of the Light Brigade” by Richard Caton Woodville.  Courtesy of the National Army Museum, London

Battle of Balaclava

The Crimean War was a military conflict fought from October 1853 to February 1856 in which the Russian Empire lost to an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, France, Britain and Sardinia. The immediate cause involved the rights of Christian minorities in the Holy Land, which was a part of the Ottoman Empire. Wikipedia

The Charge of the Light Brigade 






The Vietnam War - 1960s to 1975

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Understanding the Vietnam War

  Protest music from Vietnam War

The Vietnam War refers to the period when the United States and other members of the SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organization) joined forces with the Republic of South Vietnam to contest communist forces, comprised of South Vietnamese guerrillas and regular-force units, generally known as Viet Cong (VC), and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). The United States of America, possessing the largest foreign military presence, essentially directed the war from 1965 to 1968.


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Ayanda Qomfo
Rhodes Main Library
Level 3 Humanities & Education
Tel: +27 46 603 7340

World War I 1914 - 1918

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(Painting)L’Enfer (Hell) by Georges Leroux, 1921

Understanding World War I

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World War I began in 1914, after the assassination of the Austrian Archduke, Franz Ferdinand, and lasted until 1918. This event caused the existing alliance system to come into play : Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (the Central Powers) fought against Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan and the United States (the Allied Powers). World War I was an unprecedented catastrophe - H.G. Wells dubbed the phrase “the war to end all wars” hoping that the horror of this Great War would persuade mankind to abandon war as a manner of solving political disputes.​


Happy Xmas (War is Over) by John Lennon

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John Lennon and Yoko Ono spent a lot of time advocating and promoting peace in the 1960s and early 70s.  In 1969 they put up billboards in major cities around the world that said “War is over! (If you want it)”.  Two years later they used this slogan as the basis for their song, Happy Xmas (War is Over). This song was written with a strong anti-war message.