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The years between 1500 and 1789 were characterized by keen rivalries, at first primarily dynastic but later national in nature, as one state after another sought to establish its hegemony on the continent of Europe. Some powers, such as Spain and Sweden, declined. Others, such as Prussia and Russia, appeared for the first time as states to be reckoned with. Especially after about 1600 European diplomats, jealous of the relative position and security of their own countries, thought in terms of maintaining a balance of power, to prevent any one state or bloc of stats from dominating the Continent. This idea, like the practice of diplomacy, has been traced to the Italian city-states, whose leaders in the fifteenth century strove to prevent any one of their number from achieving a position from which it could control Italy. [excerpt]


This is a part of Section IX: Early Modern Europe, 1500-1789. 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.