Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Learn Our History Today: January 18

On January 18, 1778, an English explorer named James Cook discovered the Hawaiian Islands.  The first European to discover the islands, Cook first sailed past Oahu and landed on Kauai two days later.  He named the islands the Sandwich Islands after the earl of Sandwich, John Montague, who was also one of his patrons.

Hawaiian natives welcomed Cook and his crew with open arms.  they were fascinated by Cook’s ships and their use of iron.  It’s believed that the Hawaiians saw Cooks’ visit as a religious phenomenon, and Cook and his crew were welcomed as gods.  The Europeans took advantage of their warm welcome as long as they could, but when one of Cook’s crewmembers died, it was clear they were just mortals and their jig was up!

Also on this day in 1919, the world leaders met in Paris, France, to begin negotiations that marked the end of World War I.  The six month-long conference culminated with the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, exactly 5 years to the day of the event that led to the beginning of the first world war.  That event, of course, was the shooting death of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Throughout the Post-World War I conference, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson struggled with his concept of ‘peace without victory’ and strove to make sure that the major losers of the war—the Central Powers—were not treated poorly.  Wilson was met with resistance from the prime ministers of France and Britain who attested that Germany should be punished to ensure its weakness, thereby justifying the cost of the war. 

In the end, Wilson compromised on the treatment of Germany so that he could get his pet project started, which was the international peacekeeping organization called the League of Nations.  Germany wasn’t invited to the conference until May, and they were deeply disturbed by the Treaty, which forced them to forfeit territory, pay substantial repatriations and—under Article 231—accept sole blame for the war. 

As anger and resentment festered in Germany, extremist Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party (Nazi) took advantage of the country’s bitter emotions to gain power, which, for the most part, led to the very thing the organizers of the peace conference in Paris wanted to avoid...World War II.

One of the very first Learn Our History episodes is called Origins of World War II.  Why not give your kids the facts and make it fun for them to learn US History.  Visit today to take advantage of a special buy one, get one free offer and get your kids started on a lifetime appreciation of history!

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