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"A torch lighted in the forests of America set all Europe in conflagration." Thus Voltaire had written concerning the impact of the American Revolution on the Old World. French intellectuals had long admired Newtonian science and Lockean political theory. The successful revolutions in England in 1688 and in America a century later emphasized the anachronistic nature of the status quo in eighteenth century France. It is perhaps not entirely coincidental that in the year when Americans completed their revolution the French began a movement which was to involve practically the entire European continent, drastically reshape its social and political institutions, and make its repercussions felt even in the New World. [excerpt]


This is a part of Section XI: The Revolutionary Years, 1776-1815. 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.