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Friday, June 21, 2024

Canada's Political and Economic Challenges in the Late 20th Century

Canada is the world’s second-largest country in terms of geographic area and possesses a vast wealth of raw materials. Although much of its territory especially in the north is unsuitable for habitation, Canada is also one of the world’s most highly developed countries. In general, Canadians enjoy a relatively high standard of living and a quality of life envied by many people around the world. Nonetheless, Canada confronted difficult political and economic challenges during the late 1900s.

Led by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Canada’s Liberal Party controlled the government throughout the 1970s. Trudeau was committed to preserving Canada’s federal union, and he emphasized constitutional issues during his years in office. A recession led many Canadians to call for significant economic reform in the early 1980s. In 1984 the Progressive Conservative Party won a general election. To improve the economy, the new government under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney pursued the privatization of various industries, the deregulation of business, and reform of the tax structure. But if economic problems had led to the rise of the Conservative Party in the 1980s, they contributed to its downfall in the 1990s.

A deepening recession in the early 1990s contributed to a major shake-up in Canadian politics. Facing a crisis of confidence, the Conservatives decided to replace Mulroney as their party leader. They chose Kim Campbell to take his place, and she became

Canada’s first woman prime minister in mid-1993. Within a few months, however, the Conservatives suffered catastrophic defeat in a general election. The Liberal Party won control of the government for the first time since 1984. In late 1993, Jean Chretien, who was the leader of the Liberal Party, took office as prime minister.

Chretien faced many of the same problems that had confronted his predecessors. Many Canadians called for constitutional reform at the federal level. French Canadian separatism and relations with the United States were two of the most important issues.

Separatism. Although the majority of Canadians are of English-speaking descent, people of many cultural backgrounds make Canada their home. Native Americans make up one important segment of Canada’s population. Many immigrants have come to Canada from South and East Asia as well as from Europe. In one of Canada’s 12 provinces, Quebec, French-speaking Canadians form the majority of the population. Approximately 80 percent of Quebec’s inhabitants claim French as their first language.

Throughout Canada’s history, Quebec’s French- speaking population has struggled to preserve its distinctiveness, both in its language and in its French- based traditions. During the 1960s a separatist movement gained strength among the French-speaking population of Quebec. French Canadians sought special recognition for their language and heritage. They also demanded a greater role in both provincial and national government and protections against discrimination. French Canadians gained a notable victory in 1969 with the passage of the Official Languages Act. This act made both French and English official languages of Canada.

Many French Canadians remained unsatisfied, however. The Parti Quebecois favored the complete separation of Quebec from Canada. In 1976 it won control of the provincial government. Four years later, in 1980, it held a referendum on separation, but the people of Quebec voted by a majority of 60 percent to remain a part of Canada. Nonetheless, French Canadian demands for special status for Quebec persisted through the 1980s and into the 1990s.

In 1987, Canadian leaders met at the resort of Meech Lake. There they agreed to accept Quebec as a “distinct society” within Canada. Had Parliament and all of Canada’s provincial legislatures ratified the Meech Lake Accord by 1990, it would have become part of the Canadian constitution. Many Canadians, however, believed that the accord gave too much power to Quebec. The agreement failed to win the unanimous endorsement necessary for implementation.

The failure of the Meech Lake Accord reinvigorated separatist sentiments. In 1995 the issue of separation for Quebec was once again put to a referendum. Once again the separatists lost but only by the narrowest margin. Quebec remained part of Canada, but with 49.4 percent of the vote in favor of separation, the issue was far from settled.

Relations with the United States. Most Canadians live within several hundred miles of the border with the United States. This border is the longest undefended international frontier in the world. Indeed, relations between Canada and the United States have become very close during the 1900s. As the century drew to a close, the flow of trade across the Canadian- U.S. border remained the heaviest bilateral trade traffic in the world.

Despite the general friendliness between the two countries, however, Canada and the United States have experienced periodic friction. Disputes over fishing rights in the Atlantic and the Pacific continued to occasionally afflict their relations into the 1990s. By far the greatest strains have resulted from Canada’s uneasiness over American involvement in its economy.

Many Canadians were especially unsure about free trade. They voiced particular concern after the announcement of the United States-Canada Free Trade Agreement in 1988. The agreement proposed to eliminate almost all tariff barriers between Canada and the United States. Opponents feared that the agreement would reduce Canada to the status of an economic colony of the United States. The debate over free trade grew even more heated in the early 1990s, when the possibility of adding Mexico to the 1988 agreement was raised just as the Canadian economy went into a major recession. In the end, however, Canada joined with the United States and Mexico in 1992 to sign the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. This agreement went into effect on January 1, 1994

Expanding Horizons: The Next Era of Space Exploration

Looking Beyond Planet Earth
The successful mission of the space shuttle Discovery in October 1988 reaffirmed the American commitment to space exploration that had faltered some two years before with the loss of the Challenger and its crew of seven. President Ronald Reagan underscored this rekindled commitment when he declared that the United States fully intended to expand human activity beyond Earth into the solar system. In the 1990s, progress toward cooperation with Russia in reaching these goals has been impressive.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has already begun planning journeys to the farther reaches of the solar system. The first step involved the construction of a space station, a permanently manned outpost in orbit. The space station is designed to serve as a base for scientific observation and experimentation, a refueling station, and a base for launching other satellites or spacecraft.

The first successful experimental space station was launched by the United States in May 1973. Called Skylab, it remained in orbit for nearly a year. During that time, the astronauts made observations of the Sun and conducted experiments on how the body responds to zero-gravity conditions on extended missions. From 1974 to 1982, the Soviet Union also orbited a series of smaller space stations. In 1986 the Soviets launched a new space station called Mir, designed to be the core of a permanent manned orbiting facility. Between 1995 and 1998, in a sign of Russian-American cooperation, Mir hosted a series of NASA astronauts as crew members.

Both American and Russian scientists also want to explore other parts of the solar system, however. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, both nations sent out deep-space probes. It was during this period that the Viking landings on Mars; the Voyager fly-bys of Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus; and the Venera explorations of the surface of Venus were accomplished.

In July 1997 the Mars Pathfinder descended to the surface of Mars. Fascinating photographs of the Martian surface were transmitted back to Earth, and a rover vehicle called Sojourner moved over the Martian surface.

In the past, historical events and the personalities engaged in them were confined to the surface of Earth. However, the plans of the space programs of both the United States and Russia ensure that a new history will soon unfold in a new geography that of the planets that lie in the vastness of space far beyond our own world.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Egypt Under Sadat: From War to Peace at Camp David

Egypt under Sadat
Nasser died in September 1970 and was succeeded by Anwar Sadat. Under Sadat’s leadership, Egypt and Syria secretly planned a war against Israel that began on October 6, 1973. Although the Arabs were successful at first, Israeli troops pushed them back and crossed the Suez Canal to occupy Egyptian land. The Israelis, however, suffered severe losses during their drive into Egypt.

As had been true after the Six-Day War, all sides had reason to seek a compromise settlement. U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger began an intensive campaign of shuttle diplomacy moving back and forth from Israel to Egypt and Syria to try to obtain an agreement. He eventually achieved two settlements, one between Israel and Egypt and one between Israel and Syria. Thereafter, the movement toward peace seemed to run out of steam. In November 1977, however, Sadat surprised the world. He went to Israel to speak in person to the Israeli parliament and to Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin.

Sadat’s action opened a new dialogue between Egypt and Israel, which the United States openly supported. Many months of delicate negotiations followed, aided by the direct support of President jimmy Carter. In September 1978, Carter invited the two leaders to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. After meetings and negotiations there, Sadat and Begin agreed on the framework for a peace settlement. The Camp David Accords were followed by a peace treaty that Egypt and Israel signed in March 1979.

Egypt and Israel had achieved a great break through, but many people doubted it would end the Arab-Israeli confrontation. Most Israelis supported the peace with Egypt, but many resisted the idea of a process that might lead to a Palestinian state. The Camp David Accords led to division within the Arab world as well. While Sadat had many supporters, his opponents claimed that the Egyptian leader had sold out the Palestinians to regain Egyptian territory. In 1981 a group of Egyptian radicals assassinated Sadat, darkening hopes for peace in the Middle East.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Germany after World War II

By the late 1960s, West Germany had become a significant economic power in Western Europe. Even so, the country still faced certain political problems. Access to West Berlin and relations with East Germany, the Soviet Union, and other communist countries posed difficult foreign policy challenges.

Ostpolitik. After his election in 1969, Chancellor Willy Brandt, a member of the liberal Social Democratic Party, tried to meet these challenges. Brandt believed that West Germany had to remain firmly allied with the rest of Western Europe and the United States. At the same time, however, he concluded that tensions between his country and the communist countries of Eastern Europe had to be reduced. Brandt’s effort to improve relations between East and West, known as Ostpolitik (German for “Eastern Policy”) resulted in West German treaties with the Soviet Union and Poland in 1970. Ostpolitik eventually led to the mutual recognition ot East and West Germany in 1973, and ultimately to the Helsinki Accords in 1975 (see page 609).

In 1974, Helmut Schmidt became chancellor of West Germany after Brandt resigned following the revelation that a member of his staff was an East German spy. Schmidt admired and continued Brandt’s Ostpolitik. He also pursued closer economic and political cooperation with Western Europe. In the early 1980s, however, the recession hit the West German economy. For the first time since the early postwar period,
West Germans faced the prospect ot rising unemployment coupled with widespread inflation.

Helmut Kohl. As in both Britain and France, economic troubles led to political change in the early 1980s. In 1982 the Christian Democrats regained control of the government after more than a dozen years out of power. Helmut Kohl, the new chancellor, charged that Schmidt and the Social Democrats had brought on the recession through high levels of government spending. The conservative Kohl promised to return the country to prosperity through policies similar to those of Prime Minister Thatcher in Britain and President Reagan in the United States.

Chancellor Kohl also made changes in West German foreign policy. He strongly reaffirmed West Germany’s commitment to the NATO alliance, though he criticized the deployment of American intermediate-range nuclear missiles in West Germany. Kohl worked to improve relations between West Germany and the United States. This relationship remained generally strong into the 1990s, although the reunification of Germany early in the decade created new anxieties among some of Germany’s neighbors in Europe.

Reunification. The reunification of Germany was perhaps Kohl’s greatest challenge. The process of reunification began almost immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Talks involving the two Germanies and the four victorious Allies of World War 11 Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States set October 1990 as reunification. Two months later Helmut Kohl, benefiting from the goodwill created by this significant change, was elected as chancellor of a reunified Germany.

Although initially seen as a hero, Kohl soon began to lose popularity. By the summer of 1991, unemployment was widespread in former East Germany, and much of the promised investment and reindustrialization was yet to be seen. Germans in the western part of the country also became disillusioned as the enormous costs of reunification became apparent. The reintegration of East Germany became an increasing burden on the German economy through the mid-1990s. Helmut Kohl, however, remained in office until 1998, when he was defeated in September by Gerhard Schroeder and his Social Democratic Party. Schroeder pledged to reduce unemployment and stimulate the economy.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Northern Europe after World War II

Northern Europe
The smaller but still highly developed nations of northern Europe enjoyed a general period of prosperity during the late 1900s. The small principalities of Monaco and Liechtenstein managed to maintain their sovereignty,^ while Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands worked to foster European unity.

Denmark, Iceland, and Norway, members of the NATO alliance, contributed vitally to Western Europe’s defense during the Cold War. Despite a sometimes heated dispute with Britain over fishing rights, the island nation of Iceland played a key role in the protection of the Atlantic shipping lanes. So did Norway, which benefited greatly from the discovery and development of North Sea oil in the 1980s.

Although Finland, Sweden, Austria, and Switzerland maintained good relations with the rest of Western Europe, each country remained neutral throughout the Cold War. Recession in the early 1990s, however, offered a strong incentive for these countries to strengthen political and economic ties with Western Europe. Finland, Sweden, and Austria all chose to join the new European Union, while Swiss voters narrowly decided to maintain their country’s traditional neutrality. On the domestic front, Sweden implemented free-enterprise reforms, steering away from its socialist policies of the past.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

European Cooperation after World War II

European Cooperation
The spirit of cooperation among the nations of Western Europe that had developed in the years after World War II continued to grow during the later part of the 1900s. Formal institutions, such as NATO and the European Economic Community, grew in both strength and membership. The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe left the structure and purpose of some of these organizations open to question. At the same time, however, it opened the possibility of an even wider union of European nations.
European Cooperation
The Helsinki Accords. In 1975, representatives of 35 nations, including the United States and the Soviet Union, met in Helsinki, Finland, to discuss the topics of security and cooperation in Europe. The meeting resulted in a series of agreements known as the Helsinki Accords. These agreements specified ways of improving economic and technological cooperation between East and West, endorsing the use of peaceful means rather than force to settle disputes between nations. The accords also settled a major Cold War issue by recognizing the legitimacy of certain boundaries in Eastern Europe that were established after World War II but were disputed by some countries. Perhaps the most important part of the accords, however, concerned the protection of human rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of worship. The Helsinki Accords called on all nations to respect the basic human rights of their citizens.

Although the Helsinki Accords provided for no real means of enforcement, they proved to be an important symbolic step. By showing little interest in complying with the human rights aspects of the accords, the Soviets and other Communist bloc countries undermined their own credibility in the international community. The accords also formed an important foundation for the democratic movement that ultimately swept across Eastern Europe in the late 1980s. In the 1990s, following the collapse of communism, European nations worked to reaffirm their commitment to the principles set forth in the Helsinki Accords.

NATO. Although the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) remained the cornerstone of Western European security as the 1900s drew to a close, its policies and future role increasingly came into question. Friction between Greece and Turkey, both members of NATO, led to Greece’s withdrawal from the alliance in 1974. Greece eventually rejoined, but its relations with other NATO countries remained strained. The deployment of American nuclear weapons in Europe during the Cold War proved especially controversial. Some member countries refused to allow American nuclear weapons on their soil; others expressed serious reservations. At the same time, the United States demanded that other members agree to take on a larger share of the burden of defending Europe.
NATO’s future grew increasingly uncertain following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. With the military threat from the Eastern bloc diminished, NATO seemed to many people to have outlived its usefulness. Others pointed out that threats to European security still existed, and that NATO provided a framework to deal with problems like containing the civil war in the countries of what had been Yugoslavia, or a possible revival of Russian military power. Many countries of Eastern Europe sought to join NATO. Critics argued that any expansion of NATO eastward would require a burdensome commitment from current members and might provoke Russian hostility. In 1997, despite Russian objections, NATO leaders agreed to invite Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to join the alliance.

From EEC to EU. The late 1990s saw the evolution of the European Economic Community (EEC) into the even more closely knit European Union (EU). A general expansion of the EEC preceded this transformation.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the EEC grew from 6 members to 12. After lengthy negotiations, Britain finally joined in 1973. Ireland and Denmark also joined in that year. In 1981 Greece became a full member, followed by Spain and Portugal in 1986. In the early 1990s, Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined.

As the EEC grew, it made headway toward setting common practices for its members in taxation, credit, and labor and monetary policies. In 1993 the EEC countries implemented the Maastricht Treaty, creating the European Union (EU). Under the terms of the treaty, they dropped trade barriers among themselves, agreed to pursue closer cooperation in defense and foreign relations, and accepted the idea of a common currency.

The implementation of the Maastricht Treaty had not come easily, however, and many problems remained unresolved in the mid-1990s. Several members of the EEC worried that the EU would undermine their sovereignty. British leaders in particular voiced misgivings. In Denmark, voters barely chose to ratify the Maastricht Treaty, but in Norway they rejected membership in the EU. As the century drew to a close, the future of the EU remained unclear. Aligning the economies of Western Europe was proving especially difficult, and the EU remained divided over whether or not to admit Turkey and various Eastern European countries. The nations of Western Europe had nonetheless achieved a real degree of unity in a century marked by two world wars.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Hinduism, Buddhism and Ancient Indian Civilization

Hinduism and Buddhism. Two of the world’s great religions developed in ancient India  Hinduism and Buddhism. According to Hinduism, the world known to our senses is an illusion called maya, which betrays people, giving them sorrow and pain. People can be delivered from their suffering if they learn to identify maya. Because this learning takes lifetimes of experience, reincarnation the rebirth of the soul occurs to make it possible. According to Hinduism, the soul does not die with the body, but is reincarnated, or reborn, in the body of another being, either human or animal, and thus lives again. Ultimately, Hindus hope to end the repeated reincarnations and enable their souls to reunite with the universal spirit, Brahma.

Two major events in the theory in reincarnation are known as dharma and karma. Dharma is fulfillment of one’s moral duty in this life so that the soul can make progress toward deliverance from punishment in the next life. Karma is the positive or negative force generated by a person’s actions, which will determine that person’s status in the next life.

According to Hinduism, people who fulfill their dharma are rewarded with good karma and are reborn into a higher social group. People who do not live moral lives are reborn into a lower social group or even into the bodies of animals or insects.

The other great religion ot India, Buddhism, was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, who became known as the Buddha, or “the Enlightened One."


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