The Sentence against Damiens (1757)


Having found Damiens guilty, the judges ordered him punished in a gruesome public spectacle, with the intention of repressing symbolically, through his body, the threat to order that the judges perceived in his attack on the King. Such punishment, characteristic of the Middle Ages and early modern period was much opposed by the Enlightenment view that crime would be better handled by... Read More »

The Soviet Union over the Next Four Years


In early 1989, shortly after President George H. W. Bush had taken office, the office of US ambassador to the Soviet Union Jack F. Matlock sent this message to the attention of the new National Security Advisor General Brent Scowcroft. The message details the strains placed on official Marxist-Leninist ideology by the the most recent economic reforms implemented by Gorbachev. Many of these had... Read More »

The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan


On 25 December 1979, the Soviet Union deployed its army in Afghanistan, in support of the Afghan Communist government against a group of Muslim opponents. For the next nine years, only the active military involvement of the Soviet Union maintained any political control in Afghanistan, primarily through their control of the capital city of Kabul and its airport. With a long-drawn out military... Read More »

Image of the website header reading "The Story of Africa: African History from the Dawn of Time"

The Story of Africa

Each segment provides a selection of quotes from primary sources that illuminate specific issues. There are many gems to mine. They range from original lyrical quotations that capture the arresting images of initiation rituals and political power.

The Strategy of Relations with European Socialist Countries


In the following memorandum to Alexander Yakovlev, one of Gorbachev's chief advisors, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) analyzes the effects of Gorbachev's reform program in Eastern Europe. The document reflects the complexity of the issues raised by the new Soviet policy. In the excerpt below, the CPSU assesses the current situation and identifies some of... Read More »

The Timişoara Proclamation, March 1990


Written on March 11, 1990, the Timisoara Proclamation, was a 13-point document that called for continuing to build on the victory over the communist dictatorship achieved in December 16-20, 1989. The Timsoreni expressed frustration that their efforts had been marginalized by the new regime in Bucharest although they alone had confronted the Ceausescu government courageously before others... Read More »

The Trial of Olympe de Gouges


The case against Olympe de Gouges is worth reading in detail because it is typical of the attacks on those who criticized the authority of the central government that gathered force in the fall of 1793 and continued up to July 1794, when Robespierre fell from power. Gouges, an advocate of increased popular consultation, criticized the National Convention, calling its members ambitious men.... Read More »

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The first groups of "brigands" formed in the west in mid–1792, in response most immediately to the call to all citizens to volunteer for the army. In this letter, a local government official, Choudieu, informs the National Convention that the detachment of soldiers it sent to the region has failed to dispel the brigands and asks for more forces, at just the moment when the Prussians have... Read More »

The Warsaw Pact


Following the final approval of the Paris Peace Treaties that ended World War II, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) planned to incorporate the new state of West Germany into their military alliance in the spring of 1955. From the Soviet perspective, this was another aggressive military maneuver. In response to NATO's German decision, the Soviet Union and its East European allies... Read More »

The White House evaluates Soviet Intelligence Capabilities


In the final months of his presidency, shortly before the official dissolution of the Soviet Union, George H. W. Bush instructed the leaders of the US intelligence community to completely reevaluate their raison d'être. Most American intelligence agencies, he pointed out, were conceived in the attitudes and priorities of the Cold War. Therefore, at Cold War's end, he argued, they were required... Read More »