May 9, 2019

An Overview of the Nineteenth Century

1 Min Read

Here’s an excerpt from An Overview of the Nineteenth Century, Nicholas R. Needham’s contribution to the May issue of Tabletalk:

In many ways, not just politically, but morally, culturally, and even spiritually, the nineteenth century was dominated by the French Revolution of 1789 and its aftermath. The French Revolution introduced a new force into world history—democracy as “gospel.” When the French middle classes seized power from a decadent monarchy and aristocracy, they were driven by an Enlightenment devotion to the sovereignty of reason in human affairs. No tradition, however ancient or venerable, must be allowed to stand in reason’s path. This was quite different in spirit from the American Revolution of 1775–81, which took its stand on acknowledged British legal principles. By contrast, the French Revolutionaries wanted to jettison history and re-create human society afresh, based on purely rational ideals. This was reflected in their reform of the calendar: 1789 became Year 1. Time was no longer to be measured by the Savior’s redeeming birth but by humanity’s revolutionary rebirth.

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