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HIS109Y1 Lecture Notes - French Revolution, Autarky, Middle Ages

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Kenneth Bartlett

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Feb. 7th, 2011
Science & Progress
Scientism & progress became ideas that began to inform almost every aspect of
life in the 19th century, became ideas connected to western civilization
Idea that tomorrow will be better than today, & every generation will be improved
The world is not better because of divine intervention or improvement in
mortality on our behalf, but rather due to science
Idea that we control our own destinies
Many political movements have stated implicitly or explicitly that the future will
be brighter due to progress
Background: Pre-Enlightenment Era
Any improvement in the human condition was left to the next world, this life was
a testing ground – indicator of whether or not we would be rewarded or not
Things would only get better if God made it better
Renaissance said to an extent that we are responsible for ourselves
No evidence that God pays attention to what is done on earth
In the middle ages whatever rebellions that there were against institutions were
restorative – a way in which to get back to the divine plan
The Reformation for example, was a way of getting back to the Old Testament
The series of conditions that God established that were no longer obeyed made the
world an unhappy place
Change in this world was seen as evil & wrong because God’s plan was already
there, & we would be punished
Change meant you were moving away from what was considered to be just: evil, &
eternal absolutes had to be obeyed, if not, it was considered heresy
The Renaissance – rather than going back to the apostolic church, they went back
to antiquity looking towards the examples of the Romans & Greeks
Looked to the past for inspiration, & wondered about the future
Changed the patterns of western European thought, motivated by scientific
Accepted the fact that forces of nature were comprehensible
The relegating of superstitions, that which was divinely revealed, the
unanswerable forces of God and the devil, of fortune and curse gave men &
women a new belief in human destiny (e.g., no longer would individuals think
that crops wouldn’t grow if they didn’t say a set of prayers)

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Superstitions were being exploded by science, proved to not be the way that the
universe works, evidence does not support this {superstitions}
Elements of the Enlightenment imagination made humans think that they could
make the world better
Challenged the things that they believed to be based on superstition, that which
was irrational, things that could not be proven using reason
Allowing of human agency to operate – French revolution unleashed baggage of
the European mind
Elements driven by a measure of human influence because they understood the
elements that drove them
Complete faith in reason, meaning that reason will change the world
Natural law, & laws of nature are benign, & a happy rational society will develop
The application of reason in the 19th century was largely scientific
Scientism that forces us to be rational & reasonable, as well as the universal
application of scientific inquiry to everything
Improvement of life on earth, because humans can control it
Change reflections of the progress made in Europe was a consequence of the
Industrial Revolution
There were better, cheaper goods, everyone was included – meaning the very
poorest could have those goods as well
More wealth for more people – wealth not just taken by the industrialist and
those with traditional power
Improvement in diets, people lived longer, better communications allowed for
people to stay in touch with one another – {e.g. access to dominant aspects of
society for remote places}
Production of a better world so to speak
European society had problems, obvious conditions included the desperate
situation of the extremely poor, & industrial working class
Change or progress meant that you could do something, not God’s will, change &
progress can be addressed by human means
Had to establish how to deal with these problems {of the poor particularly} – how
much to tax the rich, help the poor, etc.?
Big questions were those of the nature of society
Progress could be achieved by activating utopian laws
Social and political thinkers seen to believe that in fact change will happen, it is
our responsibility to make it better, direct society towards the positive and good

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Aftermath of WW1 – progress was challenged, questioned how they could believe
in human reason or the value of technology
19th century Europe from the perspective of a member of the middle class in any
nation: for them it was hard to believe that progress wasn’t there, & that science
didn’t provide solutions to every problem
Science and reason created a world that made us happier, healthier, & freer –
Europeans wanted to institutionalize this
Prelude to Imperialism
Technology: mechanized industry shaped the progress of Europe in the 19th
1815–1914 the European population increased by 2 and a half times
Explosion of population meant there was an explosion in demand of goods, & the
ability to produce more goods meant that prices fell, & individuals could get more
As economies exploded, and the needs to produce more goods to satisfy needs,
made Europeans realize that the continent was insufficient -> causing them to
looks elsewhere (thus, Europe ceases to be a closed economy)
By the middle of the 19th century {1850-1870}, Europe entered a world of
international trade, & of multinational corporations
Imperialism (political manifestation of this order), had arrived
Everything had industrialized & mechanized by the 1870s, wealth and power of a
nation determined by economic output
Warfare was also mechanized
Italy & Russia considered to be 2nd powers not because of imperfection, but
because their industrial bases were not sufficient to fulfill their ambitions and
Power in terms of mechanized warfare put in terms of economics
Idea that nations were great because of their industrial power and economic base
arises {e.g. Belgium is small, but was powerful because it created an empire and
had an economic base}
A result of successful capitalism
There is competition for empires, & the economic predominance that they would
provide began to complicate European politics {N.B. especially between the great
powers: Germany & England}
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