Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



At first glance, the events of World War I seemed to be a triumphant vindication of the spirit of 1848. It was the leading democratic great powers - Britain, France, and the United States - who had emerged the victors. In the political reconstruction of Europe, republics had replaces many monarchies. West of Russia, new and apparently democratic constitutions were established in Germany, Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, and Yugoslavia. Yet the sad truth was that by the outbreak of World War II in 1939 the majority of the once democratic states of central and eastern Europe had been forcibly annexed by stronger neighbors, or had severely curtailed their democracy, or had lost it outright. [excerpt]


This is a part of Section XVIII: The Western World in the Twentieth Century: The Historical Setting. 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.