The Story of Mankind
THE SCENE OF OUR HISTORY IS LAID UPON A LITTLE PLANET, LOST IN THE VASTNESS OF THE UNIVERSE.
"What is the use of a book without pictures?" said Alice.
For Hansje and Willem:
When I was twelve or thirteen years old, an uncle of mine who gave me my love for books and pictures promised to take me upon a memorable expedition. I was to go with him to the top of the tower of Old Saint Lawrence in Rotterdam.
And so, one fine day, a sexton with a key as large as that of Saint Peter opened a mysterious door. "Ring the bell," he said, "when you come back and want to get out," and with a great grinding of rusty old hinges he separated us from the noise of the busy street and locked us into a world of new and strange experiences.
For the first time in my life I was confronted by the phenomenon of audible silence. When we had climbed the first flight of stairs, I added another discovery to my limited knowledge of natural phenomena—that of tangible darkness. A match showed us where the upward road continued. We went to the next floor and then to the next and the next until I had lost count and then there came still another floor, and suddenly we had plenty of light. This floor was on an even height with the roof of the church, and it was used as a storeroom. Covered with many inches of dust, there lay the abandoned symbols of a venerable faith which had been discarded by the good people of the city many years ago. That which had meant life and death to our ancestors was here reduced to junk and rubbish. The industrious rat had built his nest among the carved images and the ever watchful spider had opened up shop between the outspread arms of a kindly saint.
The next floor showed us from where we had derived our light. Enormous open windows with heavy iron bars made the high and barren room the roosting place of hundreds of pigeons. The wind blew through the iron bars and the air was filled with a weird and pleasing music. It was the noise of the town below us, but a noise which had been purified and cleansed by the distance. The rumbling of heavy carts and the clinking of horses’ hoofs, the winding of cranes and pulleys, the hissing sound of the patient steam which had been set to do the work of man in a thousand different ways—they had all been blended into a softly rustling whisper which provided a beautiful background for the trembling cooing of the pigeons.
Here the stairs came to an end and the ladders began. And after the first ladder (a slippery old thing which made one feel his way with a cautious foot) there was a new and even greater wonder, the town-clock. I saw the heart of time. I could hear the heavy pulsebeats of the rapid seconds—one—two—three—up to sixty. Then a sudden quivering noise when all the wheels seemed to stop and another minute had been chopped off eternity. Without pause it began again—one—two—three—until at last after a warning rumble and the scraping of many wheels a thunderous voice, high above us, told the world that it was the hour of noon.
On the next floor were the bells. The nice little bells and their terrible sisters. In the centre the big bell, which made me turn stiff with fright when I heard it in the middle of the night telling a story of fire or flood. In solitary grandeur it seemed to reflect upon those six hundred years during which it had shared the joys and the sorrows of the good people of Rotterdam. Around it, neatly arranged like the blue jars in an old-fashioned apothecary shop, hung the little fellows, who twice each week played a merry tune for the benefit of the country-folk who had come to market to buy and sell and hear what the big world had been doing. But in a corner—all alone and shunned by the others—a big black bell, silent and stern, the bell of death.
Then darkness once more and other ladders, steeper and even more dangerous than those we had climbed before, and suddenly the fresh air of the wide heavens. We had reached the highest gallery. Above us the sky. Below us the city—a little toy-town, where busy ants were hastily crawling hither and thither, each one intent upon his or her particular business, and beyond the jumble of stones, the wide greenness of the open country.
It was my first glimpse of the big world.
Since then, whenever I have had the opportunity, I have gone to the top of the tower and enjoyed myself. It was hard work, but it repaid in full the mere physical exertion of climbing a few stairs.
Besides, I knew what my reward would be. I would see the land and the sky, and I would listen to the stories of my kind friend the watchman, who lived in a small shack, built in a sheltered corner of the gallery. He looked after the clock and was a father to the bells, and he warned of fires, but he enjoyed many free hours and then he smoked a pipe and thought his own peaceful thoughts. He had gone to school almost fifty years before and he had rarely read a book, but he had lived on the top of his tower for so many years that he had absorbed the wisdom of that wide world which surrounded him on all sides.
History he knew well, for it was a living thing with him. "There," he would say, pointing to a bend of the river, "there, my boy, do you see those trees? That is where the Prince of Orange cut the dikes to drown the land and save Leyden." Or he would tell me the tale of the old Meuse, until the broad river ceased to be a convenient harbour and became a wonderful highroad, carrying the ships of De Ruyter and Tromp upon that famous last voyage, when they gave their lives that the sea might be free to all.
Then there were the little villages, clustering around the protecting church which once, many years ago, had been the home of their Patron Saints. In the distance we could see the leaning tower of Delft. Within sight of its high arches William the Silent had been murdered and there Grotius had learned to construe his first Latin sentences. And still further away, the long low body of the church of Gouda, the early home of the man whose wit had proved mightier than the armies of many an emperor, the charity-boy whom the world came to know as Erasmus.
Finally the silver line of the endless sea and as a contrast, immediately below us, the patchwork of roofs and chimneys and houses and gardens and hospitals and schools and railways, which we called our home. But the tower showed us the old home in a new light. The confused commotion of the streets and the market-place, of the factories and the workshop, became the well-ordered expression of human energy and purpose. Best of all, the wide view of the glorious past which surrounded us on all sides, gave us new courage to face the problems of the future when we had gone back to our daily tasks.
History is the mighty Tower of Experience, which Time has built amidst the endless fields of bygone ages. It is no easy task to reach the top of this ancient structure and get the benefit of the full view. There is no elevator, but young feet are strong and it can be done.
Here I give you the key that will open the door.
When you return, you too will understand the reason for my enthusiasm.
Hendrik Willem van Loon.
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LIST OF COLORED PICTURES
- The Scene of Our History is Laid Upon a Little Planet, Lost in the Vastness of the Universe
- The Norsemen Are Coming
- The Castle
- The Medieval World
- A New World
- Buddha Goes into the Mountains
LIST OF HALF TONE PICTURES
- The Temple
- The Mountain-pass
- The Mediæval Town
- The Cathedral
- The Blockhouse in the Wilderness
- Off for Trafalgar
- The Modern City
- The Dirigible
LIST OF PICTURES AND ANIMATED MAPS
page 1.High Up in the North 1 2.It Rained Incessantly 4 3.The Ascent of Man 5 4.The Plants Leave the Sea 6 5.The Growth of the Human Skull 9 6.Pre-history and History 11 7.Prehistoric Europe 15 8.The Valley of Egypt 23 9.The Building of the Pyramids 25 10.Mesopotamia, the Melting-pot of the Ancient World 30 11.A Tower of Babel 34 12.Nineveh 35 13.The Holy City of Babylon 36 14.The Wanderings of the Jews 39 15.Moses Sees the Holy Land 41 16.The Phœnician Trader 42 17.The Story of a Word 45 18.The Indo-Europeans and Their Neighbours 46 19.The Trojan Horse 48 20.Schliemann Digs for Troy 49 21.Mycenæ in Argolis 50 22.The Ægean Sea 51 23.The Island-Bridges Between Asia and Europe 52 24.An Ægean City on the Greek Mainland 54 25.The Achæans Take an Ægean City 55 26.The Fall of Cnossus 56 27.Mount Olympus, Where the Gods Lived 59 28.A Greek City-State 63 29.Greek Society 67 30.The Persian Fleet is Destroyed Near Mount Athos 75 31.The Battle of Marathon 76 32.Thermopylæ 78 33.The Battle of Thermopylæ 78 34.The Persians Burn Athens 79 35.Carthage 89 36.Spheres of Influence 90 37.How the City of Rome Happened 92 38.A Fast Roman Warship 97 39.Hannibal Crosses the Alps 99 40.Hannibal and the CEF 101 41.The Death of Hannibal 103 42.How Rome Happened 105 43.Civilisation Goes Westward 107 44.Cæsar Goes West 114 45.The Great Roman Empire 116 46.The Holy Land 121 47.When the Barbarians Got Through With a Roman City 126 48.The Invasions of the Barbarians 128 49.A Cloister 133 50.The Goths Are Coming! 134 51.The Flight of Mohammed 139 52.The Struggle Between the Cross and the Crescent 143 53.The Holy Roman Empire of German Nationality 147 54.The Home of the Norsemen 151 55.The Norsemen Go to Russia 152 56.The Normans Look Across the Channel 152 57.The World of the Norsemen 153 58.Henry IV at Canossa l65 59.The First Crusade 170 60.The World of the Crusaders 171 61.The Crusaders Take Jerusalem 172 62.The Crusader's Grave 173 63.The Castle and the City 179 64.The Belfry 182 65.Gunpowder 183 66.The Spreading of the Idea of Popular Sovereignty 185 67.The Home of Swiss Liberty 188 68.The Abjuration of Philip II 189 69.Mediaeval Trade 199 70.Great Nowgorod 202 71.The Hansa Ship 204 72.The Mediæval Laboratory 209 73.The Renaissance 210 74.Dante 212 75.John Huss 220 76.The Manuscript and the Printed Book 222 77.Marco Polo 225 78.How the World Grew Larger 227 79.The World of Columbus 230 80.The Great Discoveries. Western Hemisphere 233 81.The Great Discoveries. Eastern Hemisphere 234 82.Magellan 237 83.The Three Great Religions 243 84.The Great Moral Leaders 249 85.Luther Translates the Bible 257 86.The Inquisition 263 87.The Night of St. Bartholomew 268 88.Leyden Delivered by the Cutting of the Dikes 269 89.The Murder of William the Silent 270 90.The Armada is Coming! 271 91.The Death of Hudson 273 92.The Thirty Years War 275 93.Amsterdam in 1648 277 94.The English Nation 280 95.The Hundred Years War 281 96.John and Sebastian Cabot See the Coast of Newfoundland 284 97.The Elizabethan Stage 285 98.The Balance of Power 299 99.The Origin of Russia 303 100.Peter the Great in the Dutch Shipyard 308 101.Peter the Great Builds His New Capital 310 102.The Voyage of the Pilgrims 318 103.How Europe Conquered the World 321 104.Sea Power 322 105.The Fight for Liberty 323 106.The Pilgrims 324 107.How the White Man Settled in North America 325 108.In the Cabin of the Mayflower 327 109.The French Explore the West 328 110.The First Winter in New England 329 111.George Washington 331 112.The Great American Revolution 332 113.The Guillotine 337 114.Louis XVI 339 115.The Bastille 342 116.The French Revolution Invades Holland 347 117.The Retreat from Moscow 355 118.The Battle of Waterloo 358 119.Napoleon Goes Into Exile 359 120.The Spectre Which Frightened the Holy Alliance 364 121.The Real Congress of Vienna 367 122.The Monroe Doctrine 385 123.Giuseppe Mazzini 395 124.The First Steamboat 407 125.The Origin of the Steamboat 408 126.The Origin of the Automobile 409 127.Man-power and Machine-power 414 128.The Factory 416 129.The Philosopher 427 130.Galileo 429 131.Gothic Architecture 437 132.The Troubadour 442 133.The Pioneer 447 134.The Conquest of the West 451 135.War 457 137.Animated Chronology 467 142.The End 472