The Story of the National Road

As briefly discussed in class, the first major public highway built in the U.S. is known as National Road, or Cumberland Road. It was constructed over the period of almost two decades, beginning in 1811 around Cumberland, Maryland and ceasing development in Vandalia, Illinois in the 1830’s. Interestingly enough, over half a century earlier, a military road was constructed along similar lines under the command of General Braddock and George Washington between 1754 and 1755 during the French and Indian War. Even though it was a highway prior to the creation of automobiles, National Road remained quite busy throughout the 19th century. However, the creation of railroads and constant expansion further west led to less usage of the road. In fact, by 1912 it officially became part of the National Old Trails Road.

Starting in the 1920s, however, federal aid led to improvements on the road, finally allowing automobiles to traverse it without damaging its integrity. Before the end of the decade it merged with U.S. Route 40. Unfortunately, the creation of interstates around the country, especially Interstate 70 in the 1960s, made the old, historic road obsolete. The road is still accessible, and some people take it to enjoy the views, which include a look back into the early history of the United States. In its heyday, the road was so widely used that small towns were created alongside it, and many of these 19th century buildings still stand. The importance of the National Road in the move westward during the earliest decades of the United States, though, will never be forgotten.

Word Count: 265


For more detailed information, feel free to follow the links below. 


Gimpel Chapter 9: The End of an Era

This final chapter from “The Medieval Machine” discusses the various reasons as to why what we now call the Middle Ages went into such a dramatic decline in a short amount of time. The first half talks about the multitude of cults, famines, epidemics, economic depressions and popular uprisings which over the course of roughly 150 years completely dismantle civilizations around Europe. The most notable result of all these factors would be the immense loss of human life that occurred over time. In the mid-14th century alone, having already endured various famines across the continent, Europe suffered a loss of anywhere from 35 to 40% of its population due to the spread of the Black Death.

Image result for medieval map

The second half of this chapter takes a turn, and argues that above all else, war caused the final blow to the true collapse of the Medieval world in Europe and elsewhere. Across Europe during the declining portion of the Middle Ages, wars were being rages so frequently that for 100 years, generations of children born in France never experienced a peaceful existence. Over time with the introduction of gunpowder-based weapons, civil technological development became stagnant until the modern industrial revolution while military technological development continued well beyond the Medieval Era.

What Gimpel is trying to relay is that while so many other contributing factors led to the sudden decline of Medieval civilization, the overarching theme that never went away was the tendency to fight constant wars. Yes, while the Black Plague may have caused European progress to go dormant until the Renaissance period, it’s most dangerous epidemic, the need to fight each other, would remain a prominent issue for centuries to come.

Written by: Giuseppe Vitale

Word count: 279

If you would like to know more about the details and impact the Great Famines of the early 14th century or the Black Death had on Medieval Europe, feel free to check out the informative website below. 

Speaking of the Black Death, the CDC unsurprisingly has vastly information on the disease, its history, symptoms, and modern outbreaks of it if you are interested.