The Alhambra Decree Is Issued (1492)

Fourteen years after Ferdinand II and Isabella I, the “Catholic Monarchs” of Spain, established the Spanish Inquisition to discover and punish converted Jews—and later Muslims—who were insincere, they issued the Alhambra Decree, an edict ordering the expulsion of all Jews who refused to convert to Christianity. Any Jew who did not convert or leave by the deadline faced execution. Non-Jews found sheltering or hiding Jews had all of their belongings seized. When was the edict officially revoked? Discuss

Joseph Haydn (1732)

The principal shaper of the Classical style, Haydn was an Austrian composer who exerted major influence on his contemporaries, including Mozart, and future composers. The first great symphonist, he composed 106 symphonies and virtually invented the string quartet. By his later years, he was recognized internationally as the greatest living composer. He composed important works in almost every genre. What legendary composer was a student of Haydn? Discuss

The Plague Riot

In the spring of 1771, an outbreak of bubonic plague swept through Moscow. Authorities instituted a number of policies in an attempt to contain the epidemic, but the severe measures were unpopular with the general public. Factories and stores were shut down, and the economy was essentially at a standstill. Fearful, and faced with acute food shortages, the people took to the streets in an uprising that would later be known as the Plague Riot. What was done to the bell that mobilized the rioters? Discuss

Hymen Lipman Patents Pencil with Attached Eraser (1858)

In prehistoric times, lumps of colored earth or chalk were used as markers. The so-called lead pencil—a rod of graphite encased in wood—first came into use in the 16th century. However, it was not until the 19th century that the eraser was added—an innovation that earned Hymen Lipman a patent in 1858. In 1862, he sold his patent to Joseph Reckendorfer for $100,000. What happened to Reckendorfe’s patent 13 years later? Discuss

Francisco Goya (1746)

Goya was a Spanish painter and printmaker whose work profoundly influenced 19th-century European art. He started out designing tapestries for the royal manufactory of Santa Bárbara and was appointed painter to Charles III in 1786. By 1799—under the patronage of Charles IV—he had become Spain’s most successful and fashionable artist. Goya’s works address all aspects of Spanish life, including the political and social turmoil of his day. Why did his art come under the scrutiny of the Inquisition? Discuss


The Sumerian civilization was the world’s earliest civilization, developing at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in lower Mesopotamia in about 3500 BCE. The Sumerians had a well-organized communal life and were adept at building canals and irrigation systems. Unfortunately, the evaporation of irrigated waters led to increased soil salinity and greatly reduced agricultural yields, weakening the predominantly agricultural civilization. What form of writing did the Sumerians invent? Discuss