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Understanding History, the Past and
the Present - to anticipate the Future?


Insights into the understanding of History
How far can we anticipate the Future?

"How can we understand our present or glimpse our future if we cannot understand our past?
How can we know who we are if we don't know who we were?"
Stephen Fry


"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."
Carl Becker, 1873-1945, U.S. historian

Human Nature and A Philosophy of History


The very first lecture in a series on The Philosophy of History, delivered in Boston, Massachusetts, by Ralph Waldo Emerson, begins with these sentences:
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. …

Later we read such things as:
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; …

… 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.


In what is perhaps Emerson's most famous essay - 'History' - we read such things as:
… 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. …

This essay was published some ten years after Emerson had been significantly influenced by the views of Victor Cousin:
"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." …
Victor Cousin
Introduction to the History of Philosophy

Even before he had read Cousin's Introduction to the History of Philosophy Emerson had expressed views suggesting that he saw Human Beings as tending to be personally motivated in three evident ways:
Our neighbors 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 quote from Emerson is reminiscent of utterances from other "leading voices of intellectual culture" - Socrates and Plato:

In his major work, The Republic, Plato describes an Ideal State where some people are producers, some are defenders and a few are philosopher-rulers.

At one point Plato reports Socrates as saying:
  … 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, … or the love of knowledge, … or the love of riches …

Some of Shakespeare's writings suggest that he, too, recognised the existence of such 'behavioral-motivational?' "Tripartism".
There's neither honesty, manhood, nor good fellowship in thee.
William Shakespeare: Henry IV (Pt 1), Act I, Scene II


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"The first glance at History convinces us that the actions of men proceed from their needs, their passions, their characters and talents; and impresses us with the belief that such needs, passions and interests are the sole spring of actions."
Georg Hegel

How, and Why, the Europe of the Middle Ages featured Kings, Churchmen, Noblemen, Traders, Artisans and a numerous Peasantry


In southern England in the later part of the ninth century A.D. King Alfred the Great authorised, and may have personally contributed to, a translation of Boethius' work "The Consolations of Philosophy."
Whilst this translation is not today held to be fully accurate it was published under the royal authority of Alfred as King of Wessex.

Some context to King Alfred's kingship being a very real threat then posed by a numerous Viking, or Norse, settlement across much of northern, central and eastern England that had proved only too capable of launching raids against, and even overthrowing, several of England's Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
King Alfred was a successor, at age twenty-one, to three of his older brothers, who had been Kings in their turn, and who had themselves reigned in times of worrisome encroachments by such Norsemen.

"… you know that desire for and possession of earthly power never pleased me overmuch, and that I did not unduly desire this earthly rule, but that nevertheless I wished for tools and resources for the task that I was commanded to accomplish, which was that I should virtuously and worthily guide and direct the authority which was entrusted to me. You know of course that no-one can make known any skill, nor direct and guide any enterprise, without tools and resources; a man cannot work on any enterprise without resources. In the case of the king, the resources and tools with which to rule are that he have his land fully manned: he must have praying men, fighting men and working men. You know also that without these tools no king may make his ability known."
Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources

Much of Western Europe featured dynastic rulers, church hierarchies, "ennobled lords", and large numbers of agricultural laborers, artisans and traders for MORE THAN one thousand years after the Fall of the Roman Empire in the West until well into the nineteen-hundreds.

The foundations for such a societal division of roles were laid down, and built upon, circa 400-700 A.D.

The resulting Ruler / Cleric / Nobleman / Laborer-Artisan-Trader societal dispensations might be held to have arisen from the "Tripartite" practicalities of Human Existence, but such division of roles proved highly resilient allowing such societal arrangements to endure, (with some limited adaptations), for very many centuries.

These, ENDURING, societal arrangements can be suggested of as - arising societally from Human Nature - and "that there exist in each of us the same generic parts and characteristics as are found in the state."

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Can we view such dynastic feudalism as being - credibly - an adaptation away from those times when Human Beings lived in tribes?

Where tribes had been 'less formally' led by their accepted chiefs, coalitions of tribes - perhaps under-pinned by inter-marriage of chiefs' children - might tend to adapt towards recognition of dynastic 'kingship.'

As the extent of the territory controlled by such kingdoms increased, as religion came to gain prominence in people's lives, and as defense of the kingdom called for castles - mounted knights - together with relatively sophisticated chain-mail and weaponry - could situations arise where dynastic rulers were held to be responsible for attempting to offer justice and protection to the people they ruled? With religious hierarchies and systems of feudal nobility, ideally, supporting "God's anointed" rulers in their efforts to offer justice and protection to the people they ruled?


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Is it perhaps reasonable, all things considered, to strongly suspect that the underlying tripartism suggested by various philosophical and literary figures is to a greater or lesser extent, “The Cause” of “An Effect.”

This effect being no less, no more, and no other, than contributing very considerably to the ways in which some societies - of the European Middle ages - presented themselves to the world of their day!

Such societies being peopled by a church clergy that was often supported by considerable wealth largely accumulated through donations, bequests and the revenues earned by selling produce from the vast estates of the church, a numerous feudal nobility complete with their armed “retainers,” and a much wider society composed of lay persons who worked in a variety of roles hoping to earn their livings and, through their actions and their skills, providing for the material wants and needs of society as a whole.

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The administrative life of the French kingdom came to feature royally-sponsored assemblies, both at provincial level and kingdom-wide, where representatives associated with a “First Estate” of Churchmen, a “Second Estate” of Nobles, and a “Third Estate” of everyone else, were typically present.
Such kingdom-wide assemblies came to be referred to as Estates General.

Similarly the administrative life of the English state featured a Parliament where an “Upper House” - of Lords - was comprised of Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal and there was a “Lower House” - of Commons - comprised of influential “Commoners”.

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In his seminal work "The Three Orders" Georges Duby begins with an introduction which is entitled "The Field of Inquiry."

These are the opening sentences :
"Some are devoted particularly to the service of God; others to the preservation of the state by arms; still others to the task of feeding it and maintaining it by peaceful labours. These are our three orders or estates general of France, the Clergy, the Nobility, and the Third Estate."

These words are quoted as appearing in a work by a Parisian jurist named Charles Loyseau entitled Traité des Ordres et Simples Dignitez.
This work was first published in 1610 and Duby states that it "was immediately recognized as highly useful and continually reissued throughout the seventeenth century."

Key topics about to be considered on this Web page include:

How, and Why, the Europe of the Middle Ages was transformed towards becoming Modern Europe with the emergences of Capitalism, Liberalism, Constitutionalism, Nationalism and Socialism.

How Europe blundered into a catastrophic First World War - in the aftermath of which multinational Empires such as Austro-Hungary were fragmented by their constituent peoples being enabled to pursue courses of self-determination.
Another potentially transformative outcome of that Great War being the Russian Revolution, through which a Communist Party led by Vladimir Lenin gained power, leading to post-war situations in many non-Communist states where left-leaning citizens could look to Communist Russia for inspiration and support - often to the alarm of their more conservatively-inclined fellow citizens.

Some perceptive quotations about History and The Future.


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As the centuries rolled by systems of dynastic sovereignty, featuring clerical hierarchy - systems of titled nobility - and numerous "commoners" were variously challenged by such things as a "Dutch Revolt" against Habsburg sovereignty, a British "Glorious Revolution" against absolutist "Stuart" kingship, a Corsican movement for independence from Genoa, an American Revolutionary War, (of Independence from Great Britain), and most tellingly of all - by a French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Period of European history which lasted from circa 1789 to 1815.


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George Washington, serving as an officer in the Virginia militia, was involved in an incident on the frontiers of the "British" and "French" presences, (as colonial powers), in the interior of the North American continent in 1754.
A period of active hostility, known in North America as the French and Indian War, was an early engagement in conflicts that went on to be actually contested widely by Britain and France across the globe as a Seven Years War between 1756 and 1763.
Sometimes spoken of by historians as a “world war”, it featured many deaths and injuries and was very, very, draining of financial resources.

France had expensively participated in the Seven Years War, had engaged in an extensive modernisation of her naval forces and provided substantial and notably costly aid to the ‘American Patriots’ in events associated with an American Revolutionary War, (before and after 1776 A.D.), - all of which led to a most burdensome accumulation of debt on the part of the French royal state.

It so happened that crops and herds in France were adversely affected by extreme weather in the seventeen-eighties, that was itself very possibly a result of significant volcanic activity in Iceland. Such lessening of agricultural production raised food prices and depressed the ability of the French population to feed and clothe themselves let alone pay their taxes.

A financial crisis ensued where the king eventually accepted the necessity of convening an Estates General.

No such an Estates General had been convened for more than one hundred years previously and this one was only being called to assemble because of the depth of the crisis in the finances of the kingdom.
It was accepted by the Royal authority that the upcoming Estates General would follow historical precedent in featuring voting "by Order" where each of the three historically recognised "Estates", would consider issues separately and advise the king’s ministers of the majority positions reached within that Estate.

The king seems to have expected that the Estates General would obligingly endorse increases in taxation to meet the financial crisis.
Many Third Estate representatives, (at that time the Third Estate actually comprised some ninety-eight per cent of the population), hoped for, or even expected, some degree of political reform which would allow the broader population of France more of a voice in affairs.
In the event the higher Clergy and the Nobility proved to be reluctant to consent to such reforms preferring that the First, Second and Third Estates should each continue to be able to advise the royal administration of the results of their own Estates' independent processes of deliberation.

In the lead-up to the selection of representatives to the Estates General the king had authorised the selection of about as many individual representatives on behalf of the Third Estate as would be selected to represent the First and Second Estates combined.
From the initial convening of the Estates General in early May, 1789, "Third Estate" representatives declined to comply with official procedures of accreditation which were intended to be followed by the various Estates meeting separately and voting "by Order".

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The financial crisis, the difficulties surrounding its resolution, and the calling of the Estates-General were widely discussed by the French public and the Royal authorities found it necessary to tolerate public debate on such issues.

Very many pamphlets and newsletters were in circulation and one by Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès, a fifty-year-old who held a clerical post as vicar-general in the diocese of Chartres, attracted particular attention.

Sieyès' pamphlet What is the Third Estate? first appeared early in 1789 and voiced the frustrations being felt by the Third Estate in relation to the degree of influence it was being accorded in the French state's attempting to find a resolution to its financial difficulties.

Estates-General traditionally interacted with the French Crown as "Orders," with each of the three Estates of the Realm making their separate submissions by Order, (Par Ordre), to the king.

In the seventeen eighties the Third Estate constituted more than ninety-five per cent of the population, and collectively paid a clearly evident majority of the taxation then being raised.
In the lead-up to the meeting of the incoming Estates-General reluctance was being expressed by persons supportive of the voice of the Third Estate being accorded a hearing, as the Third Estate submissions to the Crown could seem to be counteracted by the submissions handed-up by each of the historically privileged Clerical and Noble Estates.

Sieyès' pamphlet supported the view that the three Estates should actually meet collectively, and agree eventual submissions of their overall positions on issues to the Crown. Such agreement being arrived at by head, (par tête), rather by Order.

Some very brief selections from Sieyès' pamphlet follow:


What is the Third Estate?

The plan of this book is fairly simple. We must ask ourselves three questions.

What is the Third Estate? Everything.
What has it been until now in the political order? Nothing.
What does it want to be? Something.

We are going to see whether the answers are correct...We shall next examine the measures that have been tried and those that must still be taken for the Third Estate really to become something.

Chapter 1. The Third Estate Is a Complete Nation

The Third Estate then contains everything that pertains to the nation while nobody outside the Third Estate can be considered as part of the nation. What is the Third Estate? Everything.

Chapter 2. What Has the Third Estate Been Until Now? Nothing

Chapter 3. What Does the Third Estate Want to Be? Something

Third and Last Claim of the Third Estate: That the States-General Vote, Not by Orders, but by Heads

Nobody can deny that in the coming States-General the Chamber of the Third Estate will be fully competent to convoke the kingdom in extraordinary representation. Therefore, it is preeminently the duty of the Third Estate to explain the falsity of France’s constitution to the citizenry. It is its duty to expostulate that since the States-General is composed of several orders, it must necessarily be ill-organized and incapable of fulfilling its national tasks; at the same time it is its duty to demonstrate the need to provide an extraordinary deputation with special powers to determine, by clearly defined laws, the constitutional forms of the legislature.
Until then, the order of the Third Estate will suspend, not of course its preparatory proceedings, but the exercise of its actual power; it will take no definitive decisions; it will wait for the nation to pass judgment in the great contention between the three orders. Such a course, I admit, is the most straightforward, the most magnanimous, and, therefore, the best suited to the dignity of the Third Estate.
The Third Estate can therefore view itself in either of two ways. The first is to regard itself simply as an order; in that case, it agrees not to shake off completely the prejudices of archaic barbarism; it recognizes two other orders in the state, without however attributing to them more influence than is compatible with the nature of things; and it shows all possible regard for them by consenting to doubt its own rights until the supreme arbiter has made its decision.
From the second point of view, the Third Estate is the nation. In this capacity, its representatives constitute the whole National Assembly and are seized of all its powers. As they alone are the trustees of the general will, they do not need to consult those who mandated them about a dispute that does not exist. If they have to ask for a constitution, it is with one accord; they are always ready to submit to the laws that the nation may please to give them, but they do not have to appeal to the nation on any problem arising out of the plurality of orders. For them, there is only one order, which is the same as saying that there is none; since for the nation there can be only the nation.

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By mid-June most of the Third Estate representatives had accepted the idea that the traditional proceedings of an Estates General should be replaced by an inclusive Assembly where all representatives, regardless of “Estate”, would participate in deliberating together, and voting jointly on issues "by head," in efforts to settle upon a majority position.

The financial crisis continued, those who sought reforms considered that the king might suspend the Estates General / National Assembly and seek to impose his own measures - with the backing of the army.
The situation moved towards more revolutionary change after Parisians stormed a fortress-prison known as the Bastille, and tore down a customs wall in Paris, (where taxes and duties were routinely imposed on key commodities such as salt entering the city), in July, 1789.

France was declared to be a Republic "One and indivisible". King Louis XVI was required to undertake to uphold a Constitution that was to be devised in relation to the future governance of France.

[It came about that the formation of such a “National” Assembly was reluctantly assented to by King Louis XVI after, (given the impasse over such things as accreditation), most of the representatives of the "lower" clergy, (who typically had "Third Estate" family backgrounds), and a number of "reform-inclined" nobles, (including the Marquis de Lafayette who had been prominent in the recent French involvement in North America), joined in with the Third Estate in supporting the formation of such an assembly.

The National Assembly, in recognition of its undertaking the framing of a Constitution, restyled itself as the National Constituent Assembly. Before and after such restyling the Assembly held its sessions under an Emblem suggestive of support for - the Law and the King.]

Whilst initially seeming to be on a course towards "Constitutional Monarchy" events subsequently took a more "revolutionary" turn, as persons in favor of reform found cause to believe that such reform was on the point of being very directly opposed by powerful interests - domestic and foreign, and a French Revolutionary Era ensued in France and subsequently spread widely across Europe.
It was during these times that relatively conservatively-inclined Assembly members tended to take seats to the right, and Assembly members who were prepared to support what they saw as being progressive change tended to take seats to the left, giving rise to accepted notions of political 'right' and 'left'.

The sovereignty of the people was proclaimed in France and legislation was passed authorizing that elections of representatives to future “National” Assemblies were to be held on the basis of a clear majority of adult males qualifying as having voting rights.


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During the earlier years of the French Revolution the leadership of that movement, which aspired to bring Liberty, Egality and Fraternity to the French people, began to impose the French language, (as spoken in Paris and its environs, and, as such, the everyday medium of communication for only about one-in-ten of the population of France), on the whole country despite the fact that many other tongues and dialects had previously flourished, and had regionally become everyday mediums of expression, across the French realms over several centuries of dynastic rule.
In pre-modern, dynastic, times such linguistic diversity, (in circumstances of minimal geographical or social mobility and very limited availability of formal education and mass media), did not unduly disrupt or complicate the existence of the state. The French language co-existed with such diversity as the language of the elites, of many persons in Paris and its surroundings, of administrative communication with the provinces and as a language familiar to doctors, lawyers, many churchmen and women, prosperous bourgeois families, etc..
Standard French had also become the shared language of cultured Europe and was then the language of diplomacy and an internationally accepted language of scholarship and of many forms of cultural expression.

In revolutionary times such historically embedded regional languages and dialects as Occitan, Breton, Basque, Franco-Provençal, Corsican, Alsatian and Catalan were increasingly seen as possibly underpinning forms of dissent, or actual regional assertions of sovereignty. Such languages and dialects were stigmatised by the governing authority as forms of patois and were condemned as being obstacles to the progress being promoted by would-be societal reformers based in Paris.
Italian and German were also seen as being "problematic" mediums of communication in certain border regions.

Where dynastic sovereignty had been accepted as being somewhat "divine," and had been historically enduring, emergent "national" sovereignty was seen as being less secure because it required on-going popular consent.

"Federalism and superstition speak Bas-Breton; emigration and hatred of the Republic speak German; the counterrevolution speaks Italian, and fanaticism speaks Basque. Let us break these instruments of shame and error."
Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac (a prominent member of the Committee of Public Safety, 1794)


In 1794 the revolutionary leadership paid quite a bit of attention to the French language’s actual situation and what it meant in a revolutionary context.
It authorised the acceptance of a report by Henri Grégoire, which was presented under the title, "Report on the necessity and means to annihilate the patois and to universalise the use of the French language."

Grégoire's report suggested that, from the revolutionary states point of view, (and to the practical benefit of patois speakers), people would more easily be able to understand the law and the ideas of the revolution and thus be more prepared to participate in politics and the state.
There could well be an expansion of trade networks and commerce inside the state and the widespread dissemination of practically useful knowledge related to science and agriculture.

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Such unprecedented linguistic policy was not the only novelty settled upon by the leaders of the French Revolution.

For example the calendar was altered, (to mark the onset of the new age of revolutionary liberty), by the replacement of the Anno Domini, i.e. the Year of our Lord, ordering of time with the recognition of Year One, Year Two, etc., of the French Republic, the traditional naming of months was abandoned to be replaced by one where months were regarded as being ones "of wind," "of harvest," etc., and the historic provinces of France were abolished, because of perceived association with Feudality, and replaced by some eighty administrative Départements typically named after geographical features.

Citoyen, (i.e. Citizen), and Citoyenne replaced Monsieur and Madame as polite forms of personal address.
Usage of "Citoyen" and "Citoyenne" was moreover deemed to be politically correct - at a time when being seen to be politically correct could be a matter of life or death.

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Before many years had passed, (and after experiencing a “Reign of Terror” under Robespierre and a “Committee of Public Safety”), France became less revolutionary as interests that might be described as being relatively "liberal-constitutional," gained power.

France, and much of Europe, subsequently spent some fifteen years under the leadership of a successful general, who also showed considerable political and administrative talents, named Napoleon Bonaparte.

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Napoleon had been born on the island of Corsica. It is perhaps one of more 'fateful' happenstances of History that Corsican efforts to bring an end to Genoese control over their affairs led to the sale of Corsica, by Genoa, to France.

This transaction allowed Napoleon Buonaparte's father to secure a place for him in a military academy - fully recognised as being such - by the French state.
Napoleon entered this austere institution as a nine-year-old scholarship boy with a poor command of the French language and a thick Corsican accent. He was expected to live and study there for some five years with no personal interaction with his family in Corsica.
His military training led him towards direct involvement with French armed forces as a junior officer. Napoleon turned twenty years old in 1789. His military talents brought him to the notice of higher officials - with a course of promotions following.

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A so-called Constitutional Church had been authorised by the French authorities as the Catholic Church had, understandably, proved to be disapproving of the seizure of its immense property, (by the very heavily in debt French state), and the harassment of its priests.

Whilst campaigning in the north of the Italian peninsula in the late spring of 1800 Napoleon had a meeting with a cardinal to whom he suggested that reconciliation between France and the Catholic Church should be possible.

Such thinking led Napoleon to consider withdrawing support for the Constitutional Church which had been sponsored, after 1789, by previous French authorities, and to consider offering support to a recovery of a Catholic Church that was given recognition by the Pope:

Holcroft relates the following anecdote of Bonaparte:
"Volney had believed in his virtue, had been his friend, and admitted to his familiarity, and, being a sincere friend of freedom himself, continued its defender. He was one day endeavouring to convince the chief consul of the mischief he would do to mankind, by again conferring power on the priesthood, and burthening the people who were of a different creed with a general and unjust tax. Bonaparte replied – "Why do you mention the people? I do but act in this business according to their desire: a large majority of the people wish for the re-establishment of the church"’.
The Life and Campaigns of Napoleon Bonaparte: From His Birth Down to His Departure for St. Helena, J. W. Robertson, p. 308.

During these times Napoleon Bonaparte also said this to his Council of State :
"My policy is to govern men as the majority wish. That, I believe, is the way to recognize sovereignty of the people."
Napoleon, Vincent Cronin, Harper Collins, p. 212

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A Peace of Amiens was agreed in March, 1802, allowing for a cessation of open hostilities between France and Britain. The agreement of this Peace meant that English visitors now found it possible to visit Paris.

In late April, 1802, a decree of the French senate made it possible for many of those who had emigrated, (often because they were in fear for their lives), since the onset of the revolution to return to France.

John Gibson Lockhart made mention of what English visitors could witness in the Consular court maintained by Napoleon and his wife Josephine:
"To their great surprise they found the consular court already arranged, in many particulars, upon the old model of the monarchy, and daily approximating to that example, step by step. Josephine had restored, titles alone excepted, the old language of polite intercourse: Citoyenne had been replaced by Madame; and Citoyen was preparing to make way for Monsieur. The emigrant nobility had flocked back in great numbers; and Buonaparte, dispensing with the awkward services of his aides-de-camp in the interior of the palace, was now attended by chamberlains and other officers of state - chosen for the most part, from the highest families of the monarchy; and who studiously conducted themselves towards the Chief Consul exactly as if the crown of Louis XVI had descended to him by the ordinary laws of inheritance."
John Gibson Lockhart, The History of Napoleon Buonaparte, pp. 168-9

Also in 1802 Napoleon pushed for the establishment of a "Legion of Honor" whereby both soldiers and civilians could be honoured by the state for their efforts and their contributions to the good of the state. The old system of nobility that had been established under the kings of France had been abolished by the Revolution as it sought thereby to promote Liberty, Egality and Fraternity. The strong opposition that Napoleon met in relation to his proposed Legion of Honor seems to have been attributable to strong suspicions that it would prove to be a first step leading along the road towards the recognition of another system of titled nobility in France.

According to John Gibson Lockhart :
"It is said that the first idea of the Legion of Honour arose in the breast of Napoleon on witnessing one day, from a window at the Tuileries, the admiration with which the crowd before the palace regarded the stars and crosses worn by the Marquis Lucchesini, ambassador of Prussia, as he descended from his carriage. The republican members of the senate could not be persuaded that the institution of an order, with insignia, was anything but the first step to the creation of a new body of nobility; and they resisted the proposed measure with considerable pertinacity. On this head, as on that of the concordat with the Pope, the Consul condescended to enter personally into discussion with the chief persons who differed from his opinion, or suspected his intentions; and if any, who heard his language on this occasion, doubted that both nobility and monarchy were designed to follow hard behind the Legion of Honour, they must have been singularly slow of understanding. Berthier had called ribbons and crosses "the playthings of monarchy," and cited the Romans of old as "having no system of honorary rewards." "They are always talking to us of the Romans," said Buonaparte. "The Romans had patricians, knights, citizens, and slaves:- for each class different dresses and different manners - honorary recompenses for every species of merit - mural crowns - civic crowns - ovations - triumphs - titles. When the noble band of patricians lost its influence, Rome fell to pieces - the people were vile rabble. It was then that you saw the fury of Marius, the proscriptions of Sulla, and afterwards of the emperors. In like manner Brutus is talked of as the enemy of tyrants: he was an aristocrat, who stabbed Cæsar, because Cæsar wished to lower the authority of the noble senate. You talk of child's rattles - be it so: it is with such rattles that men are led. I would not say that to the multitude; but in a council of statesmen one may speak the truth. I do not believe that the French people love liberty and equality. Their character has not been changed in ten years: they are still what their ancestors, the Gauls, were - vain and light. They are susceptible but of one sentiment - honour. It is right to afford nourishment to this sentiment: and to allow of distinctions. Observe how the people bow before the decorations of foreigners. Voltaire calls the common soldiers Alexanders at five sous a day. He was right: it is just so. Do you imagine that you can make men fight by reasoning? Never. You must bribe them with glory, distinctions, rewards. To come to the point: during ten years there has been a talk of institutions. Where are they? All has been overturned: our business is to build up. There is a government with certain powers: as to all the rest of the nation what is it but grains of sand? Before the Republic can be definitely established, we must, as a foundation, cast some blocks of granite on the soil of France. In fine, it is agreed that we have need of some kind of institutions. If this Legion of Honour is not approved, let some other be suggested. I do not pretend that it alone will save the state; but it will do its part."
John Gibson Lockhart, The History of Napoleon Buonaparte, pp. 173 - 175

On the 15th of May, 1802, the Legion of Honor, as personally sponsored by Napoleon, was formally instituted.
Those being inducted into the Legion of Honor were expected to take an oath as follows:
"I swear, on my honour, to devote myself to the service of the republic, to the preservation of the integrity of its territory, to the defence of its government, its laws, and the property by them consecrated; to oppose by every means which justice, reason and the laws authorize, all acts tending to re-establish the feudal system, or to revive the titles and distinctions belonging to it; finally, to contribute, to the utmost of my power, to the maintenance of liberty and equality."
The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, Volume 2, Louis Antoine Fauvalet de Bourrienne, pp. 261-262

Whilst the Legion of Honor was open to receiving civilians as well as military men it soon became clear that it was the military men who were to be in a distinct majority.


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Before long Napoleon was proclaimed Emperor - some his brothers, and key military officers, were installed as Kings in diverse parts of Europe that were under French control.
Other key officers and officials were awarded noble titles of varying degree. It was not unknown for estates to be also bestowed to support the future lifestyles of such ennobled persons - and their heirs - who stood to inherit lands as well as titles.

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Napoleon was sent into exile on the Island of St. Helena in 1815 after an extensive coalition of European opponents brought about his downfall.

These European powers supported the restoration of the pre-Revolution Bourbon dynasty to kingship in France.
A brother of King Louis XVI, (whose life had been brought to an end through the utilisation of a supposedly relatively humane apparatus of execution known as the guillotine), succeeded as Louis XVIII.
Although never formally crowned kingship was attributed, as Louis XVII, to a son of Louis XVI who had died, uncrowned, as a ten-year-old, in revolutionary captivity.

Some twenty years after a revolutionary "Reign of Terror" was at its height, at which time numerous "Aristocrats", and other persons condemned as being "enemies of the people," were brought to La Place de la Revolution in horse-drawn carts to meet their allotted appointment with the guillotine, and many parts of France, (and not least Paris), were subject to a severely imposed De-Christianisation, it happened that with the Restoration of Monarchy in France there was to be a prominent place again for religion, and for ennobled persons: be they from 'old aristocratic families,' or raised more recently to their titles during Napoleon's Empire.

After the fall of “Napoleonic” Europe in 1815 both the Italian Peninsula and the Germanic lands returned to featuring a number of locally or regionally sovereign dynastic or clerically-ruled states.

map of Europe in 1815

Europe after a peace Conference of Vienna of 1815

Something of a step-change was occurring in much of Western Europe during these times.

Prior to the French Revolutionary turmoil, (after 1789), and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars, (which lasted until 1815), traditional dynastic, clerical and noble elites monopolised socio-politico-economic power and initiative and had found it possible to contain such popular socio-politico-economic movements as might arise.
Such movements had, in fact, been very occasional and even then had tended to be prompted by famine and or other forms of widespread want and privation.

Liberal-Constitutional-National aspirations

In 1818, just after those years in which popular German patriotism had contributed to the downfall of Napoleon, a student named Heinrich von Gagern wrote to his father about German students:
It is very hard to explain the spirit of the student movement, but I will try even though I can really only describe a few characteristics. ... It speaks to the better sort among the young, the men of heart and spirit who love all that is good, and it gives them nourishment and purpose. For the average student in the past, the university years were a time to enjoy life... Their pleasures, their organizations, and their conversation were all shaped by their being students, and their only obligation to the university was to scrape by and avoid failing the examination—it was only bread-and-butter learning.

There are still many like this. Indeed, they remain the majority overall. But at several universities, another group—in my eyes, a better one—has gained the upper hand and sets the mood. Indeed, I prefer really not to call it a "mood," for it is something really much stronger than that.... Those who share in this spirit have Love of the Fatherland as their guiding principle. Their purpose is to make a better future for the Fatherland, each as best he can; to spread national consciousness (or, to use a much ridiculed and maligned Germanic expression, more "folkish-ness"); and to work for better constitutions.

We want more sense of community among the several states of Germany, greater unity in their policies and in their principles, no separate policies for each state but the closest possible relations with each other; above all, we want Germany to be considered one land and the German people, one people. In the forms of our student life, we show as near as possible how we want to approach this in the real world. We forbid all regional fraternities and live in a German comradeship, one people in spirit... We give ourselves the most free of constitutions, just as we would like Germany to have the freest one possible, insofar as it is suitable for the German people. We want a constitution for the people that fits with the spirit of the times and with the people's own level of enlightenment, rather than with what each prince chooses to give based on his own preferences and private interests. Above all, we want the princes to understand and follow the principle that they exist for the country, and not the country for them. In fact, the prevailing view is that the constitution should not come from the individual states at all. The main principles of the German constitution should apply to all the states in common and should be expressed by the German federal assembly. …

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A Congress of conservatively-inclined European powers held at Troppau late in 1820, where proceedings were principally influenced by the Austrian Empire, the Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia, authorised direct Austrian interventions in the affairs of the Italian peninsula to suppress Liberal-Constitutional-National "movements" which had recently been active.
It made a request for a sizeable Russian army to be based in Poland in case a future Congress might call on its assistance in relation to the affairs of more southerly parts of Europe.

The so-called "Troppau Protocol", was a main pronouncement of the Troppau Congress :
"States, which have undergone a change of government due to revolution, the result of which threaten other states, ipso facto cease to be members of the European Alliance, and remain excluded from it until their situation gives guarantees for legal order and stability. If, owing to such alterations, immediate danger threatens other states the powers bind themselves, by peaceful means, or if need be, by arms, to bring back the guilty state into the bosom of the Great Alliance."
Mack Walker, Metternich’s Europe, p. 127

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As the nineteenth century proceeded, notable concessions to liberalism, constitutionalism and nationalism were made in relation to Greek and Belgian statehood, and in relation to extensions of democracy in France and Britain.

The succession of King Louis XVIII as King of France, after the fall of Napoleon from power, was not universally popular in France and he was open to having been brought to Paris "in the baggage train" of the anti-Napoleonic allied forces.
Those allied powers who supported this Bourbon restoration made it a condition that as king Louis XVIII would accept Constitutional limits and guidelines on his exercise of royal authority so as not to risk alienation of popular support.
In the event such arrangements were accepted by the incoming monarch, referring to a Constitutional Charter - submitted to him by pre-existing French legislators - as being something which "We have decided to grant" and dating the start of his reign from the time of the demise of his nephew - the presumptive King Louis XVII.

Those powers that supported such establishment of constitutional monarchy in France were unlikely to adopt constitutional frameworks in their own states but tended to regard constitutional monarchy in France as a least-worst option better allowing post-Napoleonic France to be at peace with herself, and with the rest of Europe.

Louis XVIII was in turn succeeded as King of France by a younger brother who ascended the throne in 1824 as King Charles X.
He insisted on his coronation ceremonials taking place in line with lavish and historic royal traditions at the Cathedral of Rheims.

Charles X was soon seen as being capable of giving his Royal endorsement to a church which found it possible to be supportive of traditions of royal-ecclesiastical-aristocratic privilege, and of giving his favor to the old, pre-revolutionary, nobility.
In the event such tendency proved unacceptable to popular liberal-constitutional opinion such that King Charles X, and his "Legitimist" Bourbon dynastic line, were deposed amidst turmoil in 1830 with a cousin named Louis Philippe, from a junior "Orléanist" branch of the Bourbon family, agreeing to rule more constitutionally.
Whilst previous monarchs had been Kings of France "by the grace of God", Louis Philippe was styled as being "King of the French by the grace of God and the will of the people" and agreed to a replacement of the white emblems of the Bourbons with the red, white and blue tricolor emblems adopted by the French Republic after 1789.


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Due to the irresistible strength of wider public opinion on such matters Britain began, as the nineteenth century proceeded, to undergo slow processes of transformation towards being more democratically representative.
Historic parliamentary constituencies, known as "rotten boroughs," (because depopulated-over-time), or "pocket boroughs", (because they were typically under the decisive influence of local magnates), were abolished in the eighteen-thirties whilst new parliamentary constituencies were established in relation to a number of towns and cities which had appeared as a result of Britain's Industrial Revolution.
Voting rights were extended slightly more widely to property owners and to those who contributed relatively strongly to the local or national economy.

These reforms had been sponsored by a liberal "Whig" administration and had been blocked by the firm opposition of many Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal in the House of Lords.
In the event a critical logjam was dismantled as many such members of the House of Lords, including the Duke of Wellington who had been a commanding officer at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, reluctantly felt practically obliged to opt to abstain from continuing to vote to block these proposed reforms as it became evident that the "mood of the country" was unmistakably in favor of their becoming approved by Parliament.
It was also known that the then king had, also reluctantly at this time of real crisis, agreed to raise a sufficient number of reform-inclined persons to qualify for participation in the proceedings of the House of Lords if it was necessary in order to ensure the approval of such electoral reform.

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It was becoming clear that in relatively liberal states such as France and Britain traditional elites were finding it advisable, or necessary, to make concessions to popular opinion.
"Rulers, Statesmen, Nations, are wont to be emphatically commended to the teaching which experience offers in history. But what experience and history teach is this - that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it. Each period is involved in such peculiar circumstances, exhibits a condition of things so strictly idiosyncratic, that its conduct must be regulated by considerations connected with itself, and itself alone."
G. W. F. Hegel
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Circa 1750 most European societies featured what might be called a stable “pre-modernity” by 1850, however, there were pressures for socio-political and economic “movement”.
Such things as Capitalism, Liberalism, Constitutionalism, Nationalism and Socialism had recently, and in cases newly, become widely evident as forces with the potential to bring about, or continually press for, diverse change.
Dynastic sovereignty was being challenged by increasingly potent calls for the Sovereignty of Peoples.
Napoleon called a new power into existence by attacking nationality in Russia, by delivering it in Italy, by governing in defiance of it in Germany and Spain. The sovereigns of these countries were deposed or degraded; and a system of administration was introduced which was French in its origin, its spirit, and its instruments. The people resisted the change. The movement against it was popular and spontaneous, because the rulers were absent or helpless; and it was national, because it was directed against foreign institutions. In Tyrol, in Spain, and afterwards in Prussia, the people did not receive the impulse from the government, but undertook of their own accord to cast out the armies and the ideas of revolutionised France.
Lord Acton on Nationality

Popular pressures towards change built up after 1815 and much of continental Europe featured serious liberal-constitutional, national and socialistic forms of turmoil from the spring of 1848 into the late summer of 1849.
Whilst some unsettlement first appeared in the south of the Italian Peninsula it was some rather serious Parisian unrest, (which cost Louis Philippe his throne), and the clandestine departure from Vienna into exile, (amidst intense disputation over political representation), of Metternich, first minister of the Habsburg "Monarchy" / Austrian Empire, (who had been a principal architect of post-Napoleonic reaction), that more definitely signaled the onset of widespread socio-political upheaval in much of continental Europe.
During these times the aforementioned Heinrich von Gagern was appointed President, (or Speaker), of a Frankfurt Parliament, (also referred to as a German National Assembly), which had convened as a result of popular initiative without receiving authorization from the rulers of the pre-existing states involved in the previously pre-eminent German Confederation.
This appointment, in and of itself, bears witness to the liberal-constitutional-national aspirations of the majority of those who had been elected to serve in the Frankfurt Parliament.

The Revolutions of 1848-1849 impacted widely across much of western and central Europe.

Radical socialist reformers sought justice for the "disinherited" classes, the peasants and the factory workers, while more moderate political reformers were concerned with protecting and increasing the influence of the middle classes, the bourgeoisie and the professional groups. The radicals in general favored a republican form of government while many moderates were prepared to accept constitutional monarchy as a satisfactory substitute... ...Many of the revolutionaries, especially in the German Confederation and Italy, wanted to transform their homeland into a strong and united country, but their aims contradicted the nationalist aspirations of minority groups.
Geoffrey Brunn, Revolution and Reaction 1848-1852, Chapter I


By late spring 1848, the Habsburg Empire looked like a hopeless case: the monarchy's northern Italian possessions in revolt, invaded by a Piedmontese** army and largely cleared of Austrian troops; three different "national" governments in Vienna, Budapest and Zagreb each claiming sovereign authority; Polish, Romanian, Slovenian, Serb, Czech, and Slovak national movements aspiring to a similar sovereign status; a mentally incompetent monarch and his court in flight from the capital to the provinces; a state treasury completely bare.
Jonathan Sperber, The European Revolutions, 1848-1851, p. 203


**These forces were authorised by the Kingdom of Sardinia which maintained its Royal court at Turin in Piedmont.


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As the potentially transformative events of 1848-1849 unfolded it became apparent, in relation to a would-be independent Kingdom of Hungary, (which seemed to be emerging from out of the Austrian Empire, in which it had been incorporated largely due to a dynastic marriage centuries earlier), and elsewhere, that emergent "national" movements were potentially capable of endorsing linguistic centralism in their own would-be establishment of states.
Linguistic centralisms, indeed, that gave every appearance of being capable of dismissing the existence of other tongues and dialects within the territories they could claim as belonging to their proposed states.

Representatives of several Slavic peoples gathered together in Prague in a brief Pan-Slav Congress of June, 1848, which issued a Manifesto on its outlook for the future of the Slavic peoples of Europe.

The Slavic Congress in Prague is something unheard of, in Europe as well as among the Slavs themselves. For the first time since our appearance in history, we, the scattered members of a great race, have gathered in great numbers from distant lands in order to become reacquainted as brothers and to deliberate our affairs peacefully. We have understood one another not only through our beautiful language, spoken by eighty millions, but also through the consonance of our hearts and the similarity of our spiritual qualities. The truth and sincerity that have guided all our deliberations have persuaded us to make our demands known before God and the world....

… In the belief that the powerful spiritual stream of today demands new political forms and that the state must be reestablished upon altered principles, if not within new boundaries, we have suggested to the Austrian Emperor, under whose constitutional government we, the majority, live, that he transform his imperial state into a union of equal nations, which would accommodate these demands no less fully than would a unitary monarchy.
We see in such a union not only salvation for ourselves but also freedom, culture, and humanity for all, and we are confident that the nations of Europe will assist in the realization of this union. In any case, we resolve, by all available means, to win for our nationality the complete recognition of the same political rights that the German and Hungarian peoples already enjoy in Austria....

Whilst Germans and Magyar Hungarians had historically enjoyed favored status as "Peoples of State" within the extensive territories of the Austrian Empire that empire, - and not least its "Hungarian" lands, - had a majority Slavic population of Czechs, Slovaks, Croats, Serbs, Slovenes, Poles, Ukrainians and others - hence the phrase "we, the majority, live," in the above selection.
Hence, also, the aspirations for an Austrian-backed "union of equal nations" where the several Slavic peoples could find an acceptable future.

The Slav Congress which met in Prague on 2 June 1848, was the least expected event in the year of revolutions. The Slav peoples of Central Europe had not been allowed for in radical calculations. Engels** wrote of the Czechs and Croats (he was unaware even of the existence of the Slovaks): 'The natural and inevitable fate of these dying nations was to allow the process of dissolution and absorption by their stronger neighbours …'
A. J. P. Taylor

(** Friedrich Engels was an ideological 'associate', and financial supporter, of Karl Marx. Both were of a Germanic background and viewed human history in terms of a materialistic conception of 'class relations' rather than in terms of national identification or religious adherence.)


Ethnic map of the Habsburg Empire

Ethno-linguistic map of the Austrian Empire

In relation to the European Revolutions of 1848, Eric Hobsbawm - a prominent left-leaning historian, has offered the opinion that:
"There have been plenty of greater revolutions in the history of the modern world, and certainly plenty of more successful ones. Yet there has been none which spread more rapidly and widely, running like a bushfire across frontiers, countries and even oceans."

In February 1948, the British historian Lewis Namier delivered a lecture commemorating the centennial of the European Revolutions of 1848.
In this lecture Namier presented facts about the historical developments, themes, and events evident in 1848 and reached the conclusion that:
"1848 remains a seed-plot of history. It crystallized ideas and projected the pattern of things to come; it determined the course of the following century."

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Whilst German and Italian liberal, constitutional and national opinions, (impatient with dynastic or clerical administrations they tended to see as being petty, parochial and repressive), supported greater unifications in 1848-1849 they were not enduringly brought about.
Just as Tsarist Russia, the Austrian Empire, and the Kingdom of Prussia, had been prominent in returning continental Europe to conservative socio-political modes of existence after 1815 so also these three powers contributed significantly to rolling back most of the ‘revolutionary’ changes that occurred in 1848-1849.
This recovery of traditional authority was faciltated by many persons opposed to reform, or in favor of relatively moderate reform, becoming concerned at the on-going levels of turmoil, and the degree of reform being called for by more radical reformists.


The European Revolution of 1848-9 is considered in greater detail on these pages:
The European Revolutions of 1848 begin
A broad outline of the background to the onset of the turmoil 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 respective "nationalities".

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 "nationalities".
The Austrian Emperor and many Kings and Dukes regain political powers. Louis Napoleon, (who later became the Emperor Napoleon III), was 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.


French disappointment with their both their "Legitimist" and "Orléanist" Bourbon Dynastic rulers after a restoration of conservatively-inclined monarchy in France in 1815 provided context to Louis Napoleon, a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, ascending to the Presidency of a (second) French Republic in the aftermath of the turmoil of 1848-1849.

After an “Italian” liberal-constitutional "patriot’s" attempt on his life Louis Napoleon, (who regarded further threats to his life by persons motivated by "Italian" sympathies as being a real possibility), found it politic to undertake “to do something for Italy”.

Louis Napoleon had actually personally engaged in “Italian” causes, along with his brother, as a much younger man! Said older brother had actually fallen ill and perished during this participation.
More recently, as leader of France after the turmoil of 1848, (and for "French" political reasons), he had authorised the deployment of a powerful French force to overturn a "Roman Republic" where, with the then Pope living in exile due to on-going turmoil in the States of the Church in 1848-1849, an Italian republican named Mazzini was a prominent leading figure and a committed Italian nationalist named Garibaldi had offered his services in its defense.

map of Italian states of 1815

After Napoleon's fall several Kingdoms, Grand Duchies and Duchies were restored
as were the States of the Church - under Papal sovereignty.

It may be that in his interactions with Cavour, chief minister to the Kingdom of Sardinia, Louis Napoleon, (and Cavour), only anticipated some consolidation of territories based on the "Sardinian" dynastic House of Savoy's Piedmontese possessions in the north-west of the Italian peninsula - rather than any more extensive "Italian Unification."
Even then Louis Napoleon made it clear that he expected to gain Nice and Savoy, (territories north of the Alps, directly bordering France and then ruled by the House of Savoy), as a price for French involvement.
Whilst Savoy was "the cradle" of the House of Savoy Louis Napoleon could make a case that it would be negligent to leave certain strategic Alpine passes, and an associated hinterland north of the Alps, under the control of a further empowered Kingdom of Sardinia.

During the revolutionary years of 1848-1849 a Russian Tsar had authorised large-scale assistance being given to the Austrian Empire better allowing its suppression of the movement for the establishment of a somewhat more independent, (of direct Habsburg / Austrian Imperial sovereignty), Kingdom of Hungary than had been the case before 1848.
The Austrian Empire's failure to offer meaningful support to the Russian Empire at the time of the Crimean War, in the mid 1850s, deeply alienated Tsarist Russia effectively undermining any willingness of the Tsars to assist the Austrian Empire in restraining domestic or foreign movements that challenged its integrity.

In the mid-nineteenth century the Austrian Empire directly, and indirectly, controlled broad swathes of the Italian peninsula.
Those territories under the Austrian Empire's direct control included a Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia from which it raised immense revenues.

Large scale French military intervention against the Austrian Empire, in ‘Wars of Italian Unification’, contributed to the establishment of a Kingdom of Italy.

Whilst this French involvement loosened the Austrian Empire's direct and indirect hold over diverse territories in the Italian peninsula it was local liberal-constitutional-nationalist sentiment in several duchies and grand duchies in the north of the Italian peninsula that caused them to disown their, often disrespected, former rulers and to gravitate towards close association with the Kingdom of Sardinia - which formed the nucleus of an emergent Kingdom of Italy.

It was an adventuresome "liberation" by Garibaldi, and "a thousand" followers, who had volunteered to travel by sea from Genoa to Sicily, (in an expedition which had necessitated Cavour's somewhat reluctant consent), which brought about the inclusion of Sicily and Naples in this movement towards the Unification of Italy.
"Garibaldi and the Thousand" were supported by local populations against an unpopular ruler - whose rule was overthrown.
It seems to have been Garibaldi's "Italian" nationalistic sentiments, rather than the evident and spontaneous will of the people of the former "Kingdom of the Two Sicilies," that brought about a subsequent association with the Kingdom of Italy - that actually appears to have been unlooked for, by Cavour, at the time.

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Italy ceased to be "merely a geographical expression" being increasingly reconstituted
as a Kingdom based upon the slightly constitutional, and patriotic, Kingdom of Sardinia.



Italian Unification - Cavour, Garibaldi and the Unification of Risorgimento Italy


These developments prompted some Germanic rulers and diplomats, not least a wily, and deeply conservative, Prussian diplomat named Otto von Bismarck, to take thought as to how their own states might be territorially extended with a degree of popular support, (as had been the case with “Italy”).

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In January, 1864, one of the many reports sent back to London from Rome by Odo Russell, who was a nephew of the then British Foreign Secretary, and who acted as a semi-official British representative in Rome, included details of a personal audience he had had with Pope Pius IX where he reported that “His Holiness welcomed me with even more than his usual benevolent kindness”, and where Pius IX had said such things as:
"My position is a very simple one, and easy to understand. I represent moral order and legitimate right in the world. I am bound by my engagements and I cannot act in two different ways. As to Italy, I am an Italian at heart and love my country, but I cannot countenance the atrocities that have been committed in the name of unity. And now see the poor state of Italy. A financial crisis is at hand, the advanced party preparing to attack Austria in the north, whilst the south cannot be pacified. And in the midst of all this confusion Italy has not even a man of talent in Turin able to master the situation. … The example of Italy will be the ruin of the smaller Princes of Germany,” the Pope continued, “and I think very ill of the condition of that country. Each of the smaller sovereigns hopes to aggrandise his Kingdom at the expense of his neighbour and all will be swept away like the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, Modena and Parma were in Italy. The King of Bavaria was here and I did what I could to convince him that he was running great risks but he could not see it. His idea is that the House of Wittlesbach should be as powerful as the Houses of Habsburg and Hohenzollern, and if he had his own way he would begin by annexing Baden and Württemberg to Bavaria. …
Noel Blakiston, The Roman Question, p.281
At that time Bavaria was probably the third most potent Germanic polity after (Habsburg) Austria and (Hohenzollern) Prussia.
In the event such Bavarian aggrandizement was not long pursued, largely because the highly capable King Maximilian II of Bavaria died, at fifty-two years of age in March, 1864, and was succeeded by his eighteen-year-old son.

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Bismarck's own adoption of a policy of enhancing the prestige of the Prussian Monarchy was in large part explicable by his recognition that liberal-constitutional-national change was increasingly "in the air" in relation to the German lands.
He seems to have taken the view that it would be preferable to attempt to guide change into relatively conservative, and monarchical, channels than suffer somewhat unpredictable changes initiated by "German" liberals, constitutionalists and nationalists that could well be less sympathetic than he would wish to conservatism and to the Prussian monarchy to which he was personally strongly committed.

In the event a "slightly constitutional" (second) German Empire was proclaimed in 1870 after "wars of German Unification" - brought about by Bismarck's diplomatic machinations!

This confederal, but Prussian-dominated, German "Reich" was to some extent a product of a struggle for predominance in the German lands between Prussia and Austria. Bismarck preferred that "Austrian Germany" not be included in his rearrangements of the German lands.
Austria, (inside the German Empire), was seen by him as a potential vexatious rival to Prussia which might be supported in such rivalry by one or more of the minor German states which had been included in the Second German Empire.

Bismarck was also concerned about the possible fates of the non-German elements of the Habsburg Monarchy without "wider Austrian" defensive shielding and associated conservative anchoring.

A decision to retain Alsace-Lorraine, (historically speaking, something of a contested borderland), which was captured from France in a "Franco-Prussian" war of 1870, was to throw a shadow over French relations with Imperial Germany across ensuing decades.
It so happened that the city of Strasbourg, in Alsace, was one of eight French cities that had been figuratively represented by statues, (in the middle of the nineteenth century), in the principal public square in Paris - the Place de la Concord, (as the Place de la Revolution had been renamed after the fall of Robespierre).
This statue was usually draped in black crepe and surrounded by wreaths on public occasions after Alsace-Lorraine was "retained" by the Second German Empire.

Otto von Bismarck & The wars of German Unification


The Italian Kingdom - as an associate of Prussia in struggling against Austria - acquired Venetian and (historically) Papal, lands – including the city of Rome - in these times.
This acquisition by the Kingdom of Italy gave rise to the so-called Roman Question where, (until the establishment of a sovereign Vatican City State - as agreed between the Papal authorities and Italy in 1929), a succession of churchmen who had been raised to the Papal dignity were seriously discomfited by finding themselves, unlike their sovereign predecessors, to be in the position of being the subjects of a temporal prince.

Other consequences of the turmoil associated with the establishment of the Second German Empire being the reconstitution of the Austrian Empire as an Austro-Hungarian "Dual Monarchy" and the fall from power in France of Louis Napoleon - (who had later in his career become styled as the Emperor Napoleon III).
[The title Napoleon II having been attributed to a son of Napoleon's would-be 'dynastic' marriage to a daughter of the Austrian Emperor (after divorcing his Empress Josephine for reasons-of-state i.e. his perceived need for legitimate heir).
This son, who had been awarded the title King of Rome by Napoleon's authority as a young child, was raised as an Austrian duke after Napoleon's downfall - but had died of natural causes as a young man.]

As had been the case with the Kingdom of Sardinia in relation to Italian Unification the Kingdom of Prussia lay at the core of this similarly expanded "Germanic" polity and was qualified to do so, in the opinion of its supporters in that role, as being open to being perceived as a relatively constitutional, patriotic, powerful and progressive German state.

It can surely be suggested that it was the historical circumstances that led to the establishment, hundreds of years earlier in the Italian Peninsula and in the German lands, of a multiplicity of locally sovereign clerically ruled or dynastic states that persisted into the nineteenth century that allowed such dramatic "Unifications" to take place.
The nineteenth century is sometimes referred to by historians as being "the Century of Nationalism." It was then that popular liberal-constitutional-nationalism emerged with a sufficient potency to cause powerful local states such as Sardinia and Prussia to attempt to guide such enthusiasms into channels which further empowered their own states and better assured their own survival in relation to possible erosion by liberal-constitutional-nationalist change.
Somewhat uniquely in Europe "Nationalist" fellow-sentiment across historic state borders, and with would-be foundational states such as Sardinia, in the "Italian" case, and Prussia, in the "German", contributed to making such dramatic "Unifications" possible.

A hundred years ago a man's political likes and dislikes seldom went beyond the range which was suggested by the place of his birth or immediate descent. Such birth or descent made him a member of this or that political community, a subject of this or that prince, a citizen - perhaps a subject - of this or that commonwealth. The political community of which he was a member had its traditional alliances and traditional enmities, and by those alliances and enmities the likes and dislikes of the members of that community were guided. But those traditional alliances and enmities were seldom determined by theories about language or race. The people of this or that place might be discontented under a foreign government; but, as a rule, they were discontented only if subjection to that foreign government brought with it personal oppression or at least political degradation. Regard or disregard of some purely local privilege or local feeling went for more than the fact of a government being native or foreign. What we now call the sentiment of nationality did not go for much; what we call the sentiment of race went for nothing at all. Only a few men here and there would have understood the feelings which have led to those two great events of our own time, the political reunion of the German and Italian nations after their long political dissolution.
Edward Augustus Freeman, Race and Language, (1879)


"Why on earth does it matter what happened long ago? The answer is that History is inescapable. It studies the past and the legacies of the past in the present. Far from being a 'dead' subject, it connects things through time and encourages its students to take a long view of such connections. All people and peoples are living histories. To take a few obvious examples: communities speak languages that are inherited from the past. They live in societies with complex cultures, traditions and religions that have not been created on the spur of the moment. People use technologies that they have not themselves invented. So understanding the linkages between past and present is absolutely basic for a good understanding of the condition of being human. That, in a nutshell, is why History matters. It is not just 'useful', it is essential."
Penelope J. Corfield, Professor Emeritus, University of London.


History is not the story of strangers, aliens from another realm; it is the story of us had we been born a little earlier."
Stephen Fry

During the nineteenth century most European societies featured markedly evident population growth, industrialisation and urbanisation.
Such changes brought with them much potential for strengthening popular demands for greater democratization, for some basic forms of social security for those unable to work through age or infirmity, for health and safety related legislation and for wider availability of the education of children.
By these times efforts had already been made, in some european states, to control the spread of disease through the availability of clean water to households, and for sanitation systems to carry away waste waters. In cases guidelines were being laid down in relation to standards of housing.

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In the later decades of the nineteenth century, and into the twentieth, two formidable systems of international alliance came into being - a Triple Entente, composed of France, Russia and the United Kingdom and a Triple Alliance composed of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the Kingdom of Italy.
These alliances were formed with the aim of achieving security through maintaining a "Balance of Power."

Circa 1906 the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was heir to the Austro-Hungarian thrones, sought to promote a "United States of Greater Austria" as a means of lessening nationality-related tensions within the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy where two "nationalities" monopolised political and societal influence and perhaps as many as ten other nationalities lived less comfortably as somewhat subject peoples.

A plan supported by Franz Ferdinand envisioned the establishment of fifteen territories within which each nationality present within the Monarchy could find scope for an acceptable existence within said United States of Greater Austria.

Aurel Popovici, a Romanian who was a principal collaborator in advancing this plan expressed the view that:
"The great origin, language, customs and mentality diversity of different nationalities requires, for the whole Empire of the Habsburgs, a certain state form, which can guarantee that not a single nationality will be threatened, obstructed or offended in its national political life, in its private development, in its national pride, in one word – in its way of feeling and living."
In the event Franz Ferdinand's proposals were disapproved of, and blocked, principally by Magyar Hungarian and German Austrian interests.

Writing about the experience of the "multi-national" Habsburg / Austrian Empire the historian A.J.P. Taylor said this:
"Our task as historians is to make past conflicts live again; not to lament the verdict or to wish for a different one. It bewildered me when my old master A. F. Pribram, a very great historian, said in the nineteen-thirties: 'It is still not decided whether the Habsburg monarchy could have found a solution for its national problems.' How can we decide about something that did not happen? Heaven knows, we have difficulty enough in deciding what did happen. Events decided that the Habsburgs had not found a solution for their national problems; that is all we know or need to know. Whenever I read the phrase: 'whether so-and-so acted rightly must be left for historians to decide', I close the book; the writer has moved from history to make-believe."

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In the event an arms race was entered into by several European states, and, after the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in June, 1914, (by a teen-age Slavic nationalist who was of a Bosnian Serb background), these international security arrangements culminated in a Great War of 1914-1918 after Russia found it impossible to tolerate a punitive move by Austro-Hungary against Serbia - blaming it for complicity in the death of the Archduke.

[This assassination occurred in Sarajevo, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, formerly a nominally "Ottoman Turkish" territory which Austro-Hungary had had "an agreed role" in administering, prior to controversially laying full claim to it in 1908 during a "Young Turk" seizure of authority in the Ottoman state.
Bosnia-Herzegovina was diversely peopled - with Serbs, Croats and Bosnian muslims being amongst the more evident historic components of the population.
Had Austro-Hungary not sought to fully claim it in 1908 it would, in the shorter or longer term, have been a prospective acquisition by the neighboring independent Serbian state.]

In the opinion of the Austro-Hungarian "establishment" the Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been something of a maverick.
To some considerable extent he, and his wife, had been vulnerable to attack because, again in the opinion of the Austro-Hungarian establishment, Franz Ferdinand had married significantly "beneath himself" and his wife, (who was not to be regarded as a full Imperial and Royal consort), was not allowed to feature significantly in ceremonials in the core Austro-Hungarian territories.
Bosnia-Herzegovina meanwhile was a somewhat recently, and irregularly, annexed peripheral territory. It was actually under military administration and, as such, Franz Ferdinand was in a position to allow his wife a very prominent place directly alongside himself in openly public proceedings - on the 28th June - the day of their wedding anniversary.
Perhaps fatefully that very same day was also, as the anniversary of a historic battle, regarded as being the National Day of Serbia.

The decision by Austro-Hungary to "punish" Serbia was possibly motivated by a perceived need to discourage Slavic and other nationalisms which threatened the integrity of the Austro-Hungarian "Monarchy" rather than a straightforward reaction to the violent deaths of Franz Ferdinand and his wife.

Austro-Hungary's decision to chastise Serbia was backed by Imperial Germany.

Whilst Russian elites might have accepted such chastisement they knew that popular opinion in Slav, Orthodox Christian, Russia sided with Serbia - which was seen as a Slav, Orthodox Christian, Kingdom.
In line with planning prepared for possible hostilities, (between the Triple Entente and Triple Alliance powers), a mobilisation of Russian forces potentially confronting both Austro-Hungary and Germany was initiated.
This Russian mobilisation was followed by Germany deciding to embark upon its own "Schlieffen" Plan which involved campaigning against France in the West and Russia in the East.
In order to outflank a formidable defensive line the French had constructed on their border with Germany the Germans sought to invade France through "neutral" Belgium.
For a variety of reasons the British decided to join with France, and Russia, in opposing Germany and Austro-Hungary. A catastrophic conflict known to History as the Great War, or the First World War, had begun.

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As the First World War continued the Tsar, and the Russian "establishment," supported Russia's continued participation in what was proving to be a war that featured grievous losses of life and limb and much privation amongst the civilian population.

In 1917 German interests saw great potential advantage as being possible from supporting the transportation of the influential Communist revolutionary, Lenin, on a long journey - from 'neutral' 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, as "paying passengers" in a so-called "Sealed Train" - across German-controlled territories, such that he, and they, could claim not to have closely colluded with the Germans.
(And such that German civilians would not be liable to the danger of being exposed to Lenin's efforts at fomenting revolution.)

Lenin soon seemed to offer "Peace, Bread and Land" to the Russian people.

In 1917 revolutions occurred in Russia such that Russia effectively withdrew from the war allowing 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, rather than in alliance with, the French, British and others].

Three rather conservative European powers - the Russian Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the second German Empire, together with the Ottoman Empire, all "exited into History," as a result of this prodigious conflict which cost tens of millions of people their lives.
The greater portion of the Russian Empire fell under the control of "Bolshevik" communists led by Vladimir Lenin and the constituent ethnicities of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy were "given a green light," (by statesmen hoping to better establish circumstances favorable to an enduring post-war peace), to attempt to embark upon "autonomous development".

It was envisaged that peoples could attempt to follow courses of "National Self-determination" and resultant state boundaries would largely be "along lines of nationality".

In 1917 European history, in the old sense, came to an end. World history began. It was the year of Lenin and Woodrow Wilson,** both of whom repudiated the traditional standards of political behaviour. Both preached Utopia, Heaven on Earth. It was the moment of birth for our contemporary world.
A.J.P. Taylor, The First World War ([1963] 1970) p. 165

** Woodrow Wilson, U.S. President, was a principal sponsor of a post-war settlement featuring "Self-determination of Peoples" and their "autonomous development".

Both components of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, the Russian Empire, and the German Empire, all suffered significant territorial dismemberments as "successor states," such as Czechoslovakia, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland came into being, were revived, or expanded in size, due to such pursuits of autonomy and self-determination.
The settlement to this Great War sought to replace Balances of Power, which in the aftermath of the recent carnage were thought to be seriously precarious, with Collective Security arrangements supported by a League of Nations, which it was hoped would prove more sustainable.
Some recognition was to be given to the rights of National minorities.

A post war situation where self-aware peoples could seek political self-determination, where frontiers were to be largely along "lines of nationality," where some protections were to be in place for national minorities, and where such resultant states participated in "collective security" arrangements, was seen as having potential to better allow a peaceful future.

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Something of a "New World Order" emerged after the cessation of the Great War where pre-war elites were seen as being open to being blamed for the onset, and duration, of that conflict and Soviet Russia was open to being upheld, by left-leaning persons, as a champion of Human progress.

Matters were greatly complicated by severe post-war economic dislocation which led to intense political and social competition between "relatively capitalist and socially traditionalist" visions of society and "relatively socialistic and would-be socially transformative" visions of society culminating in such things as the gaining of power by Mussolini in Italy and, (after a devastating "Great Crash" of 1929 which paralyzed international trade), the gaining of power by Hitler in Germany and Franco in Spain.
As they were in their processes of gaining power Mussolini, Hitler and Franco had been accepted as "strong men" capable of upholding their views by "relatively capitalist and socially traditionalist" people who found diverse aspects of the "relatively socialistic and would-be socially transformative" visions of society proposed by many other people - living in the same society - to be unpalatable.

It is sometimes suggested that:
Politics is often a matter of self-interest masquerading as principle.

It is possible to see societies becoming polarised in times of economic difficulty with persons experiencing material privation seeking greater "social justice" whilst many persons, living in the same society - but not experiencing similar material privation, being open to viewing such demands for greater "social justice" as tending to be somewhat revolutionary.
Mainstream religion in many Western societies have often tended to be supportive of social conservatisms with the result of losing support amongst those inclined to be seeking of greater "social justice."
The gaining of power by Mussolini, Hitler and Franco should probably constitute a salutary 'lesson of history' that would-be "conservatives" and "progressives" might be best advised to attempt to give consideration to each other's positions - and attempt to meet each other half-way.


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Both Hitler and, to a less "strategically" serious extent, Mussolini proved to be nationalistic seekers of territorial expansion at other peoples' expense.
Largely as a consequence of this a Second World War was contested between 1939 and 1945.

Soviet Russia, as a principal combatant, bore the brunt of resisting Hitler's land forces for more than two years.
As Hitler's forces were gradually overcome, Stalin, the Russian leader, pursued policies of attempting to extend the potential for Soviet Russian post-war sway over much of eastern and central Europe alongside continued efforts to defeat Hitler.

In the subsequent decades Soviet Russia's attempts at making a "Communist" economy, and society, work practically proved to be unsustainable.
After substantial fracturing became undeniably evident in 1989 Communists fell from power in the Soviet Union and many eastern and central European states regained much more of a say in their own governance.

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In modern times the complexities of human nature in changing societal circumstances have often given rise to the distinct “side-lining” of dynastic rulers, clerical hierarchies and systems of titled nobility.
Capitalism, Liberalism, Constitutionalism, Nationalism, Socialism and Communism - operating in circumstances of steady population growth, and extensive economic growth, facilitated by application of new technologies to agriculture, public health, and industrial production - have transformed how human lives are to be lived.
"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

Our assessment of “Human Nature” must be one which accepts that capacities for Honesty are more or less relative to those for Manhood and Good fellowship, (which can be restated, for many, as capacities for Spirituality being more or less relative to those for Desire and for Wrath).
Capitalism, Liberalism, Constitutionalism, Nationalism, Socialism and Communism must also be held to be consistent with any credible view of Human Nature. Similarly consistency must plausibly allow for the discovery, invention and application of new technologies to such things as food production, disease control, and industry.

Is Human Being more truly Metaphysical than Physical?


Darwin and Metaphysics

 

Readers comments welcome to bri060new @t gmail.com.
[Please be aware that replies are not guaranteed, however]

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 pre-exist 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.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, History
Where this could, possibly, lead ...

graphical speculation on individual Human Nature shaping Society

N. B. The page mentioned in the graphic ~ roots.asp ~ has been replaced,
by this page


This 'knot of roots' insight features in:

Emerson's famous essay ~ 'History'

"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

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It may be that a greater appreciation of our common, individual, “Existences” as Human Beings variously capable of Honesty, Manhood, Good fellowship, (and Rationality), and of the close similarities of the Inner-most Spiritual Teachings of the Great Faiths of the World, (as suggested of on our Home Page), will hopefully better allow for the harmonious functioning of society in those countries that have become peopled by diverse ethnic and confessional communities since the Second World War.

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More detailed considerations of the European Revolutions of 1848, the Unification of Italy and German Unification are available on our site:

The European Revolutions of 1848

The Unification of Italy

Bismarck and German Unification

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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.
Karl Marx


I believe that the more you know about the past, the better you are prepared for the future.
Theodore Roosevelt


… 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?
Stephen Fry


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.
Will Durant