It is remarkable that most men read little History. Even scholars, whose business it is to read, complain of its dullness. This fact may suggest that it is not rightly written for
it should, should it not? Correspond to the whole of the mind, to whatever is lovely and powerful. No man can think that this all-containing picture if seen in good light could
be devoid of interest. …
There can be no true history written until a just estimate of human nature is holden by the historian. The eye of those who have written our annals is not fixed at a point of
sufficient elevation to command the whole prospect of humanity. They magnify appearances, measure by vulgar standards; and in their solicitude to expose the events which have
made the most noise omit the most pregnant and silent revolutions. Every body can see when a coronation takes place, or can write down the result of a battle; but a change in
the philosophy of the learned class, a loss of religious faith in the majority of a nation, which are revolutions and which prescribe the course of affairs for centuries
to come, not everyone can see. …
… We arrive early at the great discovery that there is one Mind common to all individual men; …
… To this universal mind all men are born. … What Plato has thought he may think. What a saint has felt he may feel. What has at any time befallen any man, he may understand. He that
purges out of his thought every vestige of personal limitation and respires the air of pure truth will speak or write or do what is durable, what is intelligible to all times and countries. …
… Of this one mind, History is the record. Of this mind the events of history are the work. Its constitution is illustrated by the entire series of days. Man is explicable by nothing
less than all his history. Without hurry, without rest, the human spirit goes forth from the beginning to embody every faculty, every thought, every emotion which belongs to it, in
appropriate events. But always the thought is prior to the fact. All the facts of history preexist in the mind as laws. Each law in turn is made by circumstances predominant, and
the limits of nature give power to but one at a time.
Imagine hope to be removed from the human breast & see how Society will sink, how the strong bands of order & improvement will be relaxed & what a deathlike stillness would
take the place of the restless energies that now move the world. The scholar will extinguish his midnight lamp, the merchant will furl his white sails & bid them seek the
deep no more. The anxious patriot who stood out for his country to the last & devised in the last beleagured citadel, profound schemes for its deliverance and
aggrandizement, will sheathe his sword and blot his fame. Remove hope, & the world becomes a blank and rottenness.
(Journal entry made between October and December, 1823)
In all districts of all lands, in all the classes of communities thousands of minds are intently occupied, the merchant in his compting house, the mechanist over his
plans, the statesman at his map, his treaty, & his tariff, the scholar in the skilful history & eloquence of antiquity, each stung to the quick with the desire of
exalting himself to a hasty & yet unfound height above the level of his peers. Each is absorbed in the prospect of good accruing to himself but each is no less contributing
to the utmost of his ability to fix & adorn human civilization.
(Journal entry of December, 1824)
Our neighbours are occupied with employments of infinite diversity. Some are intent on commercial speculations; some engage warmly in political contention; some are found
all day long at their books …
(This dates from January - February, 1828)
Like water on a lotus leaf, or a mustard seed on the point of a needle, he who does not cling to sensual pleasures - him do I call a holy man.
He who in this very life realizes for himself the end of suffering, who has laid aside the burden and become emancipated - him do I call a holy man.
He who has profound knowledge, who is wise, skilled in discerning the right or wrong path, and has reached the highest goal - him do I call a holy man.
He who holds aloof from householders and ascetics alike, and wanders about with no fixed abode and but few wants - him do I call a holy man.
He who has renounced violence towards all living beings, weak or strong, who neither kills nor causes others to kill - him do I call a holy man.
He who is friendly amidst the hostile, peaceful amidst the violent, and unattached amidst the attached - him do I call a holy man.
He whose lust and hatred, pride and hypocrisy have fallen off like a mustard seed from the point of a needle - him do I call a holy man.
Dhammapada V. 401-407
…the pleasures that come from the world bear in them sorrows to come. They come and they go, they are transient: not in them do the wise find joy.
But he who on this earth, before his departure, can endure the storms of desire and wrath, this man is a Yogi, this man has joy.
He has inner joy, he has inner gladness, and he has found inner Light. This Yogi attains the Nirvana of Brahman: he is one with God and goes unto God.
Holy men reach the Nirvana of Brahman: their sins are no more, their doubts are gone, their soul is in harmony, their joy is in the good of all.
Because the peace of God is with them whose mind and soul are in harmony, who are free from desire and wrath, who know their own soul.
Bhagavad Gita 5: 22-26
Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said:
"Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times."
Then Jesus said, "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear." …
… Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?
The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop - some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.
He said to them, "Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear."
Jesus' teaching ~ as set out in St Mark's gospel Chapter 4
...can we possibly refuse to admit that there exist in each of us the same generic parts and characteristics as are found in the state? For I presume the state has not received them from any other source. It would be ridiculous to imagine that the presence of the spirited element in cities is not to be traced to individuals, wherever this character is imputed to the people, as it is to the natives of Thrace, and Scythia, and generally speaking, of the northern countries; or the love of knowledge, which would be chiefly attributed to our own country; or the love of riches, which people would especially connect with the Phoenicians and the Egyptians.
This then is a fact so far, and one which it is not difficult to apprehend.
No, it is not.
But here begins a difficulty. Are all our actions alike performed by the one predominant faculty, or are there three faculties operating severally in our different actions? Do we
learn with one internal faculty, and become angry with another, and with a third feel desire for all the pleasures connected with eating and drinking, and the propagation of the
species; or upon every impulse to action, do we perform these several actions with the whole soul …
Socrates' teaching from Plato's Republic Book 4
"I have been reading 7 or 8 lectures of Cousin - in the first of three vols. of his philosophy. A master of history, an epic he makes of man & of the world - & excels all men in giving effect, yea, éclat to a metaphysical theory. Have you not read it? tis good reading - well worth the time - clients or no clients."
What is the business of history? What is the stuff of which it is made? Who is the personage of history? Man: evidently man and human nature. There are many different elements in history. What are they? Evidently again, the elements of human nature. History is therefore the development of humanity, and of humanity only; for nothing else but humanity develops itself, for nothing else than humanity is free. … But if there can be in history no other elements than those of humanity, and if we can possess ourselves of all the elements of humanity by anticipation, before we enter into history, we shall have gained much; for in beginning history, we shall know that it can have neither more nor less than certain elements, although these may clothe themselves in different forms. Assuredly we shall have made great progress towards the attainment of our object, when we shall know beforehand all the pieces which compose the machine whose play and operation we would study.
Moreover, when we have all the elements, I mean all the essential elements, their mutual relations do, as it were, discover themselves. We draw from the nature of these different elements, if not all their possible relations, at least their general and fundamental relations. ...
We must begin with seeking the essential elements of humanity, and proceed by deriving from the nature of these elements their fundamental relations, and from these the laws of their development; and finally we must go to history and ask if it confirms or rejects our results. If it confirms them, if experience reproduces the speculations of thought, it will follow in the first place, that we have entered upon a path which leads somewhere, ... and, in the second place, we should no longer have systems, schools, and epochs merely, in juxtaposition in space, and succession in time, - a simple chronology; but that we should have a chronology in a frame superior to its own.
History would no longer be a series of incoherent words, succeeding each other in a certain order we know not why; it would become an intelligible phrase in which all the words, presenting some idea, would form together one whole, which would completely express some definite meaning.
Victor Cousin - Introduction to the History of Philosophy, translated by H. G. Linberg, Boston: Hilliard, Gray, Little and Wilkins, (1832), pp. 101-104
… We, as we read, must be Romans, Greeks, Barbarians, priest and king, martyr and executioner, or we shall see nothing, keep nothing, learn nothing. …
… the first observation you make, in the sincere act of your nature, though on the veriest trifle, may open a new view of nature and of man …
Of the universal mind each individual man
is one more incarnation. All its properties consist in him. Each
new fact in his private experience flashes a light on what great
bodies of men have done
… Every revolution was first a thought in one
man's mind, and when the same thought occurs to another man, it
is the key to that era.
We are always coming up with the emphatic facts of history in
our private experience, and verifying them here. All history
becomes subjective; in other words, there is properly no history;
only biography. Every mind must know the whole lesson for itself,
-- must go over the whole ground. What it does not see, what it
does not live, it will not know.
Fault lines opened up where a dynasty had ruled over
disparate peoples due to inheritances of dynastic sovereignty and where newly assertive disparate peoples pressed for the establishment of sovereignty of the people to apply
to themselves as a localised state or people.
Given disparities in material prosperity, living and working conditions, and educational and economic opportunity, between rich and poor some persons began to voice socialistic aspirations
seeking to improve material conditions in which poorer persons lived their lives.
Initiative in sponsoring changes began to increasingly lie with aspirant peoples, [and Human Nature?], rather than with established authorities such as dynastic houses, churchmen and aristocracies.
Such politcal, economic and social currents as Liberalism, Constitutionalism, Capitalism, Socialism, Nationalism and aspirations towards full Democracy and the Sovereignty of the People increasingly challenged the traditional
functioning of Europe's (hitherto) dynastic states.
Transformative changes in society resulted in demands being made by peoples, who might be said to have - at this time in history - more socio-political-economic power than their forefathers,
which resulted in absolutist kingdoms and empires being reconstituted, [in line with Human Nature?], as constitutional
monarchies or republics whilst break-away provinces or regions might seperately become constitutional kingdoms or republics.
Thus over many decades Europe, and the far-flung "colonies" that had been widely established by Europeans, were open to successive changes which transformed absolutist kingdoms and empires
into more localised constitutional monarchies and republics where peoples tended to migrate from countyside to town and where, increasingly, persons understood to be supportive of
socialism were returned to democratic assembles.
Said democratic assemblies also tending, in more recent times, to be supportive of efforts to facilitate economic activity in order to raise material living standards and to provide opportunities for gainful
The opening paragraphs of Emerson's key essay - 'History'
read as follows:
There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is
an inlet to the same and to all of the same. He that is once
admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole
estate. What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has
felt, he may feel; what at any time has be-fallen any man, he can
understand. Who hath access to this universal mind is a party to
all that is or can be done, for this is the only and sovereign
Of the works of this mind history is the record. Its genius is
illustrated by the entire series of days. Man is explicable by
nothing less than all his history. Without hurry, without rest,
the human spirit goes forth from the beginning to embody every
faculty, every thought, every emotion, which belongs to it in
appropriate events. But the thought is always prior to the fact;
all the facts of history preexist in the mind as laws. Each law
in turn is made by circumstances predominant, and the limits of
nature give power to but one at a time. A man is the whole
encyclopaedia of facts. 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 his manifold spirit to the manifold world.
This human mind wrote history, and this must read it. The
Sphinx must solve her own riddle. If the whole of history is in
one man, it is all to be explained from individual experience.
There is a relation between the hours of our life and the
centuries of time. As the air I breathe is drawn from the great
repositories of nature, as the light on my book is yielded by a
star a hundred millions of miles distant, as the poise of my body
depends on the equilibrium of centrifugal and centripetal forces,
so the hours should be instructed by the ages, and the ages
explained by the hours. Of the universal mind each individual man
is one more incarnation. All its properties consist in him. Each
new fact in his private experience flashes a light on what great
bodies of men have done, and the crises of his life refer to
national crises. Every revolution was first a thought in one
man's mind, and when the same thought occurs to another man, it
is the key to that era. Every reform was once a private opinion,
and when it shall be a private opinion again, it will solve the
problem of the age. The fact narrated must correspond to
something in me to be credible or intelligible. We as we read
must become Greeks, Romans, Turks, priest and king, martyr and
executioner, must fasten these images to some reality in our
secret experience, or we shall learn nothing rightly. What befell
Asdrubal or Caesar Borgia is as much an illustration of the
mind's powers and depravations as what has befallen us. Each new
law and political movement has meaning for you. Stand before each
of its tablets and say, `Under this mask did my Proteus nature
hide itself.' This remedies the defect of our too great nearness
to ourselves. This throws our actions into perspective: and as
crabs, goats, scorpions, the balance, and the waterpot lose their
meanness when hung as signs in the zodiac, so I can see my own
vices without heat in the distant persons of Solomon, Alcibiades,
It is the universal nature which gives worth to particular men
and things. Human life as containing this is mysterious and
inviolable, and we hedge it round with penalties and laws. All
laws derive hence their ultimate reason; all express more or less
distinctly some command of this supreme, illimitable essence.
Property also holds of the soul, covers great spiritual facts,
and instinctively we at first hold to it with swords and laws,
and wide and complex combinations. The obscure consciousness of
this fact is the light of all our day, the claim of claims; the
plea for education, for justice, for charity, the foundation of
friendship and love, and of the heroism and grandeur which belong
to acts of self-reliance. It is remarkable that involuntarily we
always read as superior beings. Universal history, the poets, the
romancers, do not in their stateliest pictures -- in the
sacerdotal, the imperial palaces, in the triumphs of will or of
genius -- anywhere lose our ear, anywhere make us feel that we
intrude, that this is for better men; but rather is it true, that
in their grandest strokes we feel most at home. All that
Shakspeare says of the king, yonder slip of a boy that reads in
the corner feels to be true of himself. We sympathize in the
great moments of history, in the great discoveries, the great
resistances, the great prosperities of men; -- because there law
was enacted, the sea was searched, the land was found, or the
blow was struck for us, as we ourselves in that place would
have done or applauded.
We have the same interest in condition and character. We honor
the rich, because they have externally the freedom, power, and
grace which we feel to be proper to man, proper to us. So all
that is said of the wise man by Stoic, or oriental or modern
essayist, describes to each reader his own idea, describes his
unattained but attainable self. All literature writes the
character of the wise man. Books, monuments, pictures,
conversation, are portraits in which he finds the lineaments he
is forming. The silent and the eloquent praise him and accost
him, and he is stimulated wherever he moves as by personal
allusions. A true aspirant, therefore, never needs look for
allusions personal and laudatory in discourse. He hears the
commendation, not of himself, but more sweet, of that character
he seeks, in every word that is said concerning character, yea,
further, in every fact and circumstance, -- in the running river
and the rustling corn. Praise is looked, homage tendered, love
flows from mute nature, from the mountains and the lights of the
These hints, dropped as it were from sleep and night, let us
use in broad day. The student is to read history actively and not
passively; to esteem his own life the text, and books the
commentary. Thus compelled, the Muse of history will utter
oracles, as never to those who do not respect themselves. I have
no expectation that any man will read history aright, who thinks
that what was done in a remote age, by men whose names have
resounded far, has any deeper sense than what he is doing
The world exists for the education of each man. There is no
age or state of society or mode of action in history, to which
there is not somewhat corresponding in his life. Every thing
tends in a wonderful manner to abbreviate itself and yield its
own virtue to him. He should see that he can live all history in
his own person. He must sit solidly at home, and not suffer
himself to be bullied by kings or empires, but know that he is
greater than all the geography and all the government of the
world; he must transfer the point of view from which history is
commonly read, from Rome and Athens and London to himself, and
not deny his conviction that he is the court, and if England or
Egypt have any thing to say to him, he will try the case; if not,
let them for ever be silent. He must attain and maintain that
lofty sight where facts yield their secret sense, and poetry and
annals are alike. The instinct of the mind, the purpose of
nature, betrays itself in the use we make of the signal
narrations of history. Time dissipates to shining ether the solid
angularity of facts. No anchor, no cable, no fences, avail to
keep a fact a fact. Babylon, Troy, Tyre, Palestine, and even
early Rome, are passing already into fiction. The Garden of Eden,
the sun standing still in Gibeon, is poetry thenceforward to all
nations. Who cares what the fact was, when we have made a
constellation of it to hang in heaven an immortal sign? London
and Paris and New York must go the same way. "What is History,"
said Napoleon, "but a fable agreed upon?" This life of ours is
stuck round with Egypt, Greece, Gaul, England, War, Colonization,
Church, Court, and Commerce, as with so many flowers and wild
ornaments grave and gay. I will not make more account of them. I
believe in Eternity. I can find Greece, Asia, Italy, Spain, and
the Islands, -- the genius and creative principle of each and of
all eras in my own mind.
Some suggestions have now been made as to how it has come about that Human Beings - across historic time - have lived in tribes, city states, feudal monarchies, dynastic empires and kingdoms, and - more recently -
constitutional monarchies and republics.
Such theorising as to what has come to pass in Human history could potentially be held to be invalidated, in terms of relevance, by the onset of such dramatic, and in cases rather alarming,
WORLDLY OCCURENCES as:
The First World War
The Russian Revolution
The Rise of the Dictators - Mussolini and Hitler
The Second World War
The post WW2 Soviet Russian "Empire" in eastern Europe
The post WW2 Cold War between would-be liberal democracies and would-be communist states. NATO and the Warsaw Pact.
Western Europe post WW2. An Iron and Steel Community transitions into becoming a European Economic Community and then a European Union.
Reflections on such variously transformative, tragic, and even catastrophic, WORLDLY OCCURENCES now follow, (after some further historical background), in an effort to suggest that such
potential invalidation, in terms or relevance, does not, in fact, overwhelmingly operate.
The following two maps show something of the significantly transformative changes in the Political Map of Europe between 1815 and 2015.
Widespread instances of populist political (i.e. variously liberal, constitutional, national, and socialistic
) agitation across much of Europe in 1848 unmistakably revealed the presence
of the potential that public opinion was coming to have to challenge the traditional dynastically-sponsored social order that had been re-established after the French Revolutionary and
Napoleonic Wars of 1789-1815.
France itself had featured such re-establishment of monarchical tradition - with a younger brother of King Louis XVI assuming the throne as Louis XVIII, deeming Louis XVI's son, who had died whilst being held in
confinement and undergoing revolutionary indoctrination, to have been effectively King Louis XVII.
[N. B. Our coverage of the events of the European Revolutions of 1848 is rather extensive - in line with our view of their importance in efforts
to "Understand the Human Condition".]
- The European Revolutions of 1848 begin
- A broad outline of the background to the onset of the turmoils and a consideration of some of the early events in
Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Budapest and Prague.
- The French Revolution of 1848
- A particular focus on France - as the influential Austrian minister Prince Metternich, who sought to encourage the re-establishment of "Order" in the wake of the French
Revolutionary and Napoleonic turmoil of 1789-1815, said:-"When France sneezes Europe catches a cold".
- 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.
- The Revolution of 1848 in the German Lands and central Europe
- "Germany" (prior to 1848 having been a confederation of thirty-nine individually sovereign Empires, Kingdoms, Electorates, Grand Duchies,
Duchies, Principalities and Free Cities), had a movement for a single parliament in 1848 and many central European would-be "nations" attempted
to promote a distinct existence for their "nationality".
- Widespread social chaos allows the re-assertion of Dynastic / Governmental Authority
- 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 Romanians,
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 regained political powers. Louis Napoleon, (a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte), was elected as President
in France after seeming to offer social stability in the future.
Louis Napoleon later became the French Emperor Napoleon III, (as he deemed his cousin, a son of a political-dynastic marriage between Napoleon Bonaparte and an Habsburg Archduchess who had died of natural causes as a very young man,
to have been Napoleon II).
Some examples of the transformation of Europe
In 1815, after the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic period, (a period which had been followed by many instances of restoration of dynasties to their thrones), the Italian
Peninsula featured a number of sovereign states including:
- The Kingdom of Sardinia
- The dynastic House of Savoy was restored to sovereignty in Piedmont, Nice, and Savoy, and was given control of Genoa (putting an end to the brief proclamation of a restored Republic of Genoa).
- Sicily and Naples
- The Bourbon Ferdinand IV, King of Sicily, was restored to control of the Kingdom of Naples, but only after Joachim Murat, the king installed by Napoleon Bonaparte, rose up and supported
Napoleon in the Hundred Days prior to the Battle of Waterloo, after Napoleon's return from a brief period of exile on the Island of Elba which had followed on from earlier military reverses.
Ferdinand IV reassumed control of his former realms under the new title of Ferdinand I, King of the Two Sicilies.
- A Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom
- The Austrian Emperor gained direct control of the rich provinces of Lombardy and Venetia in the north of the Italian Peninsula.
The former Venetian Republic had been abolished by Napoleon in 1797. Lombardy at this time was largely composed of the former Duchy of Milan, and the former Duchy of Mantua.
- The Papal States
- The "States of the Church" were placed under the direct rule of the papacy and restored to their former extent - with the exception of the small "enclave" territories of Avignon and the
Comtat Venaissin, which were to remain part of France.
- The Grand Duchy of Tuscany
- The Grand Duchy of Tuscany was returned to the control of a junior "Habsburg-Lorraine" branch of the Hapsburgs.
- The Duchy of Modena
- The Duchy of Modena was returned to the control of a junior "Habsburg-Este" branch of the Hapsburgs.
- The Duchies of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla
- The Duchies of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla were given to Marie Louise, Napoleon's wife.
Marie Louise had been born a daughter of an Austrian Emperor. As an Austrian Archduchess, in her later teenage years, she had entered into marriage with Napoleon Bonaparte for political and dynastic reasons.
A marriage ceremony took place "by proxy" before she left Austria for France with an uncle, who had actually previously commanded Austrian armies campaigning against those of Napoleonic France,
standing-in for Napoleon during the proceedings.
A son born of this union was awarded the title "King of Rome" by Napoleon and was regarded by him as his heir presumptive. In the event Napoleon's downfall led to this child being raised
as a young Habsburg "Duke of Reichstadt".
- The Duchy of Lucca
- The Duchy of Lucca was created for the House of Bourbon-Parma, which would have reversionary rights to Parma after the death of Marie Louise.
Over the following years Cavour, as chief minister to the dynastic House of Savoy (Kings of Sardinia), found it possible to gain popular liberal-constitutional-national support in the Italian peninsula. This support
actually carried Cavour's policy further than the establishment of a "northern Italian" kingdom, (after winning the notably rich provinces of Lombardy and Venetia from a locally much disliked Austrian control),
that he himself seems to have initially intended.
The Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont, where Cavour had been chief minister, became foundational to an emergent "perceivable of as being relatively progressive" Kingdom of Italy (1860-1) at the
expense of several other dynastic states in the Italian peninsula which were seen, by liberal-constitutional-national opinion, as being "unprogressive".
In 1815, after the French Revolutionary Era,
Germanic Europe featured a number of sovereign states.
In the German lands, Bismarck as chief minister to the dynastic House of Hohenzollern, was similarly able to secure predominance, with local popular liberal-constitutional-national support,
for the Kingdom of Prussia as being foundational to a "perceivable of as being relatively progressive" German Empire (1870) - at the expense of several of the other dynastic
states of Germany and, notably, of the Austrian Empire.
Appointed to high political office in Prussia by King Wilhelm I, at a time of crisis between (semi-absolutist) Monarchy and (emergent but limited) Democracy, Bismarck had reason to accept
that "populist inspired" change was likely to be popularly
insisted upon in the German lands and, given the example recently provided by Cavour and Sardinia-Piedmont, opted to attempt to guide such change into developments towards Prussian-led
fulfilment of popular German-national aspirations in ways that would not be unduly damaging to the socially conservative traditions of the Kingdom of Prussia.
The consequences of quite widespread conflicts associated with the Unification of Germany, as sponsored by Bismarck, included a weakened Austrian Empire being subsequently
reconstituted as an Austro-Hungarian "Dual Monarchy" in 1867 and that the protection that France had been offering to the Papal States, against encroachments by the Kingdom of Italy,
The Kingdom of Italy forcibly seized the Papal States in 1870, (despite strong protests by the then Pope), and made the historic city of Rome its capital.
[Strains in relations between "Italy" and the Papacy were largely smoothed over in 1929 when the establishment an independently sovereign Vatican City State was formally recognised].
In order to attempt to feel secure - after the "Unifications" which had recently occurred of Italy and Germany - the Great Powers of Europe gradually aligned themselves in two blocs: a Triple Alliance
[Imperial Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and Italy] and a Triple Entente [France, Russia and Britain] in the hopes of arriving at an international security related Balance of Power.
The Ottoman Empire had fallen into a period of decline where it proved possible for "European oriented" peoples living close to, or within, its frontiers to aspire to acquire territories as the
Ottoman Empire continued to decline, or to break away from Ottoman control.
In 1908 the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy irregularly laid claim to the Ottoman province of Bosnia-Herzegovina, (which it had been administering with Ottoman consent since 1878), to prevent its being
reclaimed by "Young Turks" who had managed to assume governing powers in the Ottoman state - and who had a modernising agenda.
This irregular seizure was denounced by several long established and powerful European states and was particularly protested at by Serbian and other South Slav nationalists, who themselves
considered that Bosnia-Herzegovina might, in time, have been open to acquisition by themselves.
Imperial Germany, however, firmly stood in support of the Austro-Hungarian move to claim Bosnia-Herzegovina.
In 1914 the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Imperial and Royal titles was assassinated, together with his wife, in Sarajevo the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina by a teenage Serbian nationalist.
Several weeks later Austro-Hungary, alleging that Serbian officials assisted the recent assassinations in Sarajevo, opted to declare war on the Kingdom of Serbia. Imperial Russia, in large
part responding to pro-Serbian public opinion in Russia, opted to seek to defend "Slavic", "Orthodox Christian", Serbia against such actions.
Russian planning for war accepted that a conflict might arise with the "Triple Alliance" and active Russian mobilisation against Austria-Hungary was accompanied by such mobilisation of forces to
face Germany as was envisaged by the overall Russian planning for engaging in hostilities with the Triple Alliance. Despite Russian assurances that this mobilisation against Germany was only
precautionary the German authorities themselves opted to enact their own plans for conflict with the "Triple Entente" which envisaged an invasion, and defeat, of France to be followed by a longer
campaign against Russia.
Thus the German and Austro-Hungarian aspects of the Triple Alliance came to be in open conflict with the Russian and French aspects of the Triple Entente.
Other states subsequently became embroiled in what became known as the Great War or First World War. Britain protested a German decision to seek to invade France via neutral Belgium and opted
to attempt to defend France and restore Belgium - several territories overseas which had close ancestral and historic links with Britain opted to lend their support to Britain.
The circumstances at the outbreak of these hostilities were not such as to require the Kingdom of Italy, despite being a member of the Triple Alliance, to immediately itself engage in the conflict. Before
many months had passed the Kingdom of Italy was prevailed upon, through diplomacy, to align itself with the Entente powers and against the Austro-Hungarian and Imperial German "Central Powers".
As the conflict continued expensively of life, limb, and treasure, peoples often tended to blame pre-war elites more than anyone else for the onset of the horrendous ongoing conflict.
German interests saw great advantage as being possible from supporting the transportation of the influential Communist revolutionary, Lenin, from Switzerland - where he had been living in exile - to Russia
where his ideological message might prove attractive to a disenchanted populace such that the Russian war effort would be weakened.
Such transportation was achieved by conveying Lenin, and several tens of other political exiles, in a "Sealed Train" such that he, and they, could claim not to have closely colluded with the Germans. (And such that German civilians
would not be exposed to Lenin's efforts at fomenting revolution.)
The Tsar, and the Russian "establishment" supported Russia's continued participation in what was proving to be a war that featured grievious losses of life and limb and much privation amongst
the civilian population. Lenin seemed to offer "Peace, Bread and Land" to the Russian people.
In 1917 revolutions occured in Russia such that Russia effectively withdrew from the war allowing the Germany and Austro-Hungary to concentrate their forces against France,
Britain and the United States of America, [which had entered the conflict in association with the French and British].
Despite this Germany, and her allies, came to recognise that the French, British and Americans were going to prevail.
A suspension of hostilities was arranged for November 11, 1918.
The Allied and Associated Powers required that the German Emperor go into exile and that Germany explicitly accept responsibility for the onset of the First World War.
It was accepted that peoples should enjoy rights of "self-determination" as to which sovereignty they would live under in the future. It
was anticipated that such processess of "National Self-determination" could well lead to the establishment of states, (often after emerging out of existing dynastic state structures),
with frontiers determined along "lines of nationality" and that there could well be resulting "National Minorities" to which it would be right and proper to offer credible assurances of a protected status within such newly "Self-determined" states.
In the hope of greatly lessening the possibility of the outbreak of ruinous widespread wars in the future efforts would made to replace "Balance of Power" arrangements with
"Collective Security" arrangements overseen by a "League of Nations".
The Habsburg ruler of Austria-Hungary abdicated his throne and it was accepted that the several constituent peoples of Austria-Hungary could establish localised states based on such
The French and British attempted to aid right-leaning "white" Russians such that the Russian "Bolsheviks", led by Lenin and others, would be deprived of power.
Whilst there had been an accumulation of aspirations towards change prior to the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 the societal transformations that occured during the Great War resulted in
the onset of new circumstances in which Human lives were to be lived. Relatively static societies where there was little geographic or social mobility and where people lived under dynastically
sponsored languages of state were transforming into relatively mobile societies where there could well be geographic and social mobility where numerous "national" languages were being upheld
within locally "Self-determined" states. Leftist political aspirations stood to gain support through alterations in public opinion and through support coming from such states as Russia.
Persons living their adult lives after 1918 found themselves as individuals, and as societies composed of individuals, having to address the implications of nationalistic, linguistic, territorial
and socialistic aspirations being expressed which could not as readily be expressed before 1914.
In the aftermath of the recent ruinous wars, and the demobilisation of millions of persons who hads been serving as soldiers, economic recovery did not soon follow. There was mass unemployment
and a "Red" Russian-backed Communist International, or Comintern, sought to aid hard-line socialists in other European states in gaining political power in those states.
It was in these circumstances that Benito Mussolini led a strongly anti-leftist "Fascist" movement in Italy such that he was enabled to attain a firm hold on power in Italy.
Runaway speculation in stocks and shares in the United States was followed by a "Great Crash" which ruined many over-committed speculators, and also brought down many banks, such that
even non-speculators were gravely affected. The purchasing power of the American public was dramatically curtailed. Whilst Germany had been attempting to meet steep reparations
payments that had been imposed on the German state as an outcome of the recent Great War the Great Crash brought about mass unemployment in Germany, and her export industries, and sharpened the rivalry
between leftism and rightism in Germany.
It was in such circumstances that an increasing number of persons looked to Adolf Hitler's National Socialist German Worker's Party as offering a credible alternative programme of government.
Amongst his policies Hitler proposed that it was desirable that Germany should forcibly seize "living space" for Germans "in the East".
In 1939 Hitler entered into an Non-Agression Pact agreement with Stalin's Russia which allowed him a better opportunity to seize lands from the post WW1 Polish state.
A Second World War ensued; one of the enduring outcomes of which was that, as Stalin's Russia eventually sent armies into several Eastern European states as Russia continued to
engage, (following a German invasion of Russia of 1941), with retreating German forces, several formerly independent [post WW1] central and eastern European states were brought under communist ideological tutelage and under direct Russian influence.
As the conflict continued America and other powers encouraged the establishment of an "United Nations Organisation" which it was hoped would prove more successful in its involvements in
international relations than the League of Nations had been.
In the hope of encouraging a stable transition of the economic activity of the several states that had been involved in the Second World War the Americans agreed to provide substantial
financial aid to such transitioning economies under the so-called Marshall Plan. Such aid was taken up by several western European states whilst Russia, and those states which were under its
influence, did not seek to accept such assistance.
After the agreement of a cessation of active hostilities between the previously contending powers in Europe an "Easter Bloc" supported by Stalin's Russian was in being. Before
long a "Cold War" rivalry between a Russian-led grouping of would-be communist states, and an American-led grouping of would-be relatively liberal and capitalist states, ensued.
This rivalry featured two competing systems of alliance - a western North Atlantic Treaty Organisation [NATO] - and an eastern Warsaw Pact.
Such rivalry was entered into widely across the globe with each power bloc seeking to weaken and contain the other. In these circumstances the eastern bloc and aligned states, from time to time, found it
possible to send aid to would-be "liberation" movements in former, but lapsing, European colonies, and in doing so hope to gain ideological fulfilment and strategic and political advantage.
In Western Europe post WW2 an Iron and Steel Community was devised, largely with the intention of helping to prevent future wars through an integration of key industries. This Iron and Steel Community
was built upon and transitioned into becoming a European Economic Community and then a European Union.
Whilst such dramatic political transformations were taking place other far-reaching transformations resulted in growths in populations, in trade and industry, and in urbanisation.
The sciences gained more credibility and religious faith was compromised for many by the emergence of the Theory of Evolution of Species attributable to Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace.
Thus descendants of Human Beings who, in earlier times had lived out their lives in tribes, city states, dynastic states and empires etc. found themselves experiencing rather different modes of
existence whilst still being personally individually endowed with an innate Human Nature which, in all probability, was not so very different from the innate Human Nature with which their ancestors had been
similarly personally endowed.
Circumstances had changed transforming, and delimiting, the range of possibilities as to how Human Lives could, and would, be lived.
Political parties seeking to win democratic elections in westernised states have found it particularly necessary to be deemed to be offering economic prosperity, and employment opportunities, to
Processes of democratisation, of fragmentation of Monarchies and Empires, and decolonisation, together with a need for labour and for key skills after the Second World War,
have resulted in situations which led to flows of migration into many western states such that they have become increasingly multi-cultural and multi-religious.
This tendency being added to by the recruitment of skilled persons from outside "the West" to support economic activity in Europe and America, and by the influx of persons seeking refuge
from diverse threats arising in troubled regions of the World.
Other pages on this site feature content which tend to demonstrate that the Spiritualities found at the heart of each of the Religions of the World actually shows remarkably close similarities across the
Faith Traditions of Mankind.
How far can we anticipate the Future?
"Men make their own history, but they do it under circumstances directly found, given and transmitted from the past."
"I believe that the more you know about the past, the better you are prepared for the future."
"The value of history is, indeed, not scientific but moral: by liberalizing the mind, by deepening the sympathies, by fortifying the will, it enables us to control, not society,
but ourselves -- a much more important thing; it prepares us to live more humanely in the present and to meet rather than to foretell the future."
It is difficult to know what is around the corner. If we take the Internet and economic globalisation as examples - the ways in which people shop, in which goods are distributed, and
where goods and merchandise are actually produced have been dramatically transformed - and that within less than fifty years!
An influential American historian would have us accept that:
"Civilization is a stream with banks. The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting and doing things historians usually record; while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry and even whittle statues. The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks. Historians are pessimists because they ignore the banks of the river."
That being said there do seem to be very real challenges which Humanity will have to cope with such as climate change [which may yet seriously affect food production and thus tend to displace populations], global population growth, exhaustion of [hitheto] key resources such as oil
and problems of pollution.
" … it isn't exactly political correctness that dogs history; it's more a pernicious refusal to enter imaginatively the lives of our ancestors. Great and good men and women stirred
sugar into their coffee knowing that it had been picked by slaves. Kind, good ancestors of all of us never questioned hangings, burnings, tortures, inequality, suffering
and injustice that today revolt us. If we dare to presume to damn them with our fleeting ideas of morality, then we risk damnation from our descendants for whatever it is
that we are doing that future history will judge as intolerable and wicked: eating meat, driving cars, appearing on TV, visiting zoos, who knows?"
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