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A persistent problem wherever men live together is the settlement of disputes. Primitive men often regard quarrels as personal matters, to be settled by those immediately involved. This may result in violence, possibly encompassing whole families in a blood feud; or compensation may take a milder form. Sooner or later the community begins to take a hand, to serve its own best interests. Perhaps its elders listen to the arguments and render a decision, based on custom once it is established. When the community takes one more step and begins to enforce its decisions in a positive way, a state comes into existence and, with it, a law . The provisions of the law contain a heavy deposit from the past. [excerpt]


This is a part of Section I: Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem: Background of Western Civilization. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.