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Emerson, Transcendentalism,
and the Unfolding of History

  The Transcendental Idealism of Immanuel Kant was adopted and adapted by many other people in Europe and the Americas, one of the more interesting instances of these adoptions / adaptions being that of the New England Transcendentalists.

  Ralph Waldo Emerson was perhaps the most far-seeing of the New England Transcendentalists, he came to believe that all people share a 'commonality of mind' and that it is this mind that acts as a foundational pattern for historical developments.
"Mankind are so much the same, in all times and places, that history informs us of nothing new or strange in this particular. Its chief use is only to discover the constant and universal principles of human nature."
David Hume


You can find key insights, (from the Great Faiths, Plato, Socrates, Pythagoras, and Shakespeare!!!),
on several of our pages that give convincing support to this view of Human Nature!!!


"...man is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots,
whose flower and fruitage is the world..."

Ralph Waldo Emerson


"Whatever concept one may hold, from a metaphysical point of view, concerning the freedom of the will, certainly its appearances, which are human actions, like every other natural event, are determined by universal laws. However obscure their causes, history, which is concerned with narrating these appearances, permits us to hope that if we attend to the play of freedom of the human will in the large, we may be able to discern a regular movement in it, and that what seems complex and chaotic in the single individual may be seen from the standpoint of the human race as a whole to be a steady and progressive though slow evolution of its original endowment."
Immanuel Kant
Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View (1784)

Or to quote Emerson, from his famous Essay ~ History more fully:-

"In old Rome the public roads beginning at the Forum proceeded north, south, east, west, to the centre of every province of the empire, making each market-town of Persia, Spain, and Britain pervious to the soldiers of the capital: so out of the human heart go, as it were, highways to the heart of every object in nature, to reduce it under the dominion of man. A man is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots, whose flower and fruitage is the world. His faculties refer to natures out of him, and predict the world he is to inhabit, as the fins of the fish foreshow that water exists, or the wings of an eagle in the egg presuppose air. He cannot live without a world."

 
  "There is one mind common to all individual men....
....Of the works of this mind history is the record. Man is explicable by nothing less than all his history. All the facts of history pre-exist as laws. Each law in turn is made by circumstances predominant. The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn, and Egypt, Greece, Rome, Gaul, Britain, America, lie folded already in the first man. Epoch after epoch, camp, kingdom, empire, republic, democracy, are merely the application of this manifold spirit to the manifold world."

From Ralph Waldo Emerson's Essay ~ History

    Towards the end of his Essay "History" Ralph Waldo Emerson asserts that :-

  " every history should be written in a wisdom which divined the range of our affinities and looked at facts as symbols. I am ashamed to see what a shallow village tale our so-called History is".


 

 


"A man is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots, whose flower and fruitage is the world."
Ralph Waldo Emerson



"History is for human self-knowledge ... the only clue to what man can do is what man has done. The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is."
R. G. Collingwood



Emerson's call for a
"Transcendental Approach" to History
The Unfolding of History
1 The European Revolution of 1848 begins
A broad outline of the background to the onset of the turmoils and a consideration of some of the early events.

2 The French Revolution of 1848
A particular focus on France - as an Austrian foreign minister said "When France sneezes Europe catches a cold".

3 The Revolution of 1848 in Germany and central Europe
The Germanies - Germany - had a movement for a single parliament in 1848 and many central European would-be "nations" attempted to assert a distinct existence separate from the dynastic sovereignties they had been living under.

4 The "Italian" Revolution of 1848
A "liberal" Papacy after 1846 helps allow the embers of an "Italian" national aspiration to rekindle across the Italian Peninsula.

5 The European Revolutions - reactionary aftermath 1848-1849
Some instances of social and political extremism allow previously pro-reform liberal elements to join conservative elements in supporting the return of traditional authority. Such nationalities living within the Habsburg Empire as the Czechs, Croats, Slovaks, Serbs and Roumanians, find it more credible to look to the Emperor, rather than to the democratised assemblies recently established in Vienna and in Budapest as a result of populist agitation, for the future protection of their nationality.
The Austrian Emperor and many Kings and Dukes regain political powers. Louis Napoleon, (who later became the Emperor Napoleon III), elected as President in France offering social stability at home but ultimately follows policies productive of dramatic change in the wider European structure of states and their sovereignty.
The "anti-revolutionary" mindset
of the Dynastic governments
from 1815 until after the Crimean War
Italian Unification - Cavour, Garibaldi and
the Unification of Risorgimento Italy
Otto von Bismarck &
The wars of German unification
Italian unification map
Risorgimento Italy
Map of German unification
The Ems Telegram
The Zimmermann Telegram
President Woodrow Wilson
Fourteen Points Speech
Lenin's New Economic Policy
European Union Integration
Modern European History


Introductory quotations
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"Central" mysticism insights
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"Other" spiritual wisdom
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"Central" poetry insights
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"Other" poetry wisdom
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Spirituality & the wider world