Category Archives: Western Civilization^1&2

West Civ^2 Blogging (L105)

(1) What were the key steps in the process of Italian unification?

Up until the 19th century, Italy consisted of a series of independent states. Of all the states involved in the unification of Italy, Piedmont was the most influential. Two prominent statesmen, Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi, had been attempting to unify Italy for a long time, but the Prime Minister of Piedmont, Count Camillo di Cavour, played the biggest role during the 1850s. During the Crimean war, he sent 15,000 troops to anti-Russian side in an effort to gain France as an ally when time came to oust the Austrian overlords of Italy. Napoleon III supported Cavour with the condition that they would only fight as long as Austria would fire the first shot. After many failed attempts to provoke Austria into attacking, Napoleon finally gave up and began to demobilize his army. Viewing the retreating French army as an easy target to finally be rid of once and for all, Austria finally lashed out. But, the French armies were victorious and Lombardy was added to the new unified states that made up Italy at that time. However, the unification of Italy was not yet complete! Garibaldi the famous general, entered the scene again and conquered the southern part of Italy, including various Vatican territories, for Piedmont, who was ruling over the states forming Italy. In 1861 Cavour died, never seeing the full unification of Italy to which he had devoted his life. Nevertheless, one by one, more states were conquered, with the exception of the Vatican which remained independent, forming the Italy of today in 1870. Continue reading

West Civ^2 Blogging (LESSON 100!!)

(1) Discuss two weak points in the views of Karl Marx, and explain what’s wrong with them.

  • The first belief of Karl Marx that does not hold up under close inspection is  that if the division of labor is removed, out would pour artistic talent and skill into the world. But why would you attempt to specialize in perhaps 20 fields when you could work in 19 of them as hobbies and be exceptional at one in particular? If everyone decided that they wanted to focus on multiple jobs instead of one, quality health care for example would vanish. No one would specialize in the medical field anymore and the death rate would shoot back to the middle ages. Aren’t we all fond of comfy couches to lounge on in our spare time? They would vanish as well. With no one dedicated to providing a quality couch, every one you bought would be so lacking in quality and durability that it would be a waste of money to even own a couch anymore. Without specialists in every field that you can think of, quality products and care would cease to exist (especially in industries such as plumbing.)
  • The second paper-thin belief of Karl Marx is that all exchanged items must be equal. This is utterly and absurdly false because the entire reason people exchange objects is because they are unequal. For instance let’s say Fred has a new pen and Jane has a toy car and they would like to exchange the two items. If the items were equal. both people would be satisfied with what they have and not want what the other has instead. Fred desires the toy car more than he likes his pen and vice versa with Jane, making the two items unequal in both of their eyes and leaving both satisfied after the exchange. This simple example can be applied to any two exchanged items and completely trashes Marx’s belief.

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West Civ^2 Blogging (L95)

(1) What happened in France during the Revolution of 1830?

The 1820’s in France was a fairly prosperous time. However, as it came to an end, people began to complain about their many grievances that had been easily placated with the comfortable living of the 1820’s. Rioters and Political protesters filled the streets. Charles X, the new king, clamped down on the already restricted free press and reduced the limit of those allowed to vote to only 23,000 citizens. The Ultras (supporters of the king) attempted to portray those against the king as the descendants of the Reign of Terror. Animosity only grew as a result. Charles X dismissed the Chamber of Deputies (the main legislative body of France.) Eventually, Charles was deposed and replaced by a more moderate, middle-class-minded type of king. Meanwhile artisans were breaking machines and demanding that the government shut down labor saving machinery (idiots) because this newfangled machinery was taking their jobs away. Louis Philippe–the new king–was not sympathetic to their plight and demanded that the riots halt. The 1820’s clashed sharply with the 1830’s and if the Revolutions of 1830 told me anything, it is that the absence of a comfortable life in the wake of prosperity can stir up people quicker than anything else. Continue reading

West Civ^2 Blogging (L90)

(2) What was the basic message of the utopian socialists?

Utopian socialists constructed blueprints for their own societies. They thought competition in business was inefficient and unnecessary. If only society would agree to a single plan (their plan), then their community would be prosperous and flowery. However, the more planning they heaped upon small test communities, the faster they crumbled. Free speech was forbidden, all goods were obviously shared equally no matter who did the work, and private property was nonexistent. The people in these small socialist groups quickly learned to despise the socialist plan–as should we all.

(3) What were the characteristics of neoclassicism? Give one example of neoclassicism and show how it embodies at least one of these characteristics.

Neoclassicism is 18th century cultural movement that emphasizes reason, order, serenity, and proper decorum. Paintings were balanced and symmetrical. Classic themes such as those in Rome predominated. Sculptures were filled with “noble simplicity.” In literature, things were done just so and following the rules exactly. Grammar books for instance were published and read for pleasure so as for everyone to know exactly how to write. Continue reading

Civ^2 Blogging (85)

(1) What does the evidence show about education in England before the compulsory state system was established?

Before compulsory state education emerged, people were free to seek education however they chose. Despite no forced education, England produced the most literate society on the earth for that time (over 95% of 15 year-olds). In 1870 an act was passed to “fill in gaps where there was not enough education in the private system.” By 1880, education became compulsory, and in 1891, state schooling became funded solely by tax-payer’s dollars. Compulsory education laws never had and never will increase the amount of children attending school despite the misleading figures that inform us otherwise. The only thing that grew was the amount of people in the West due to decreasing death rates, and the government’s influence over the people.

(2) What is classical liberalism?

Modern liberalism and classic liberalism are extremely different concepts, essentially opposites. Modern liberalism is a little something I like to call hipster socialism and is represented by all of the Hillary supporters rioting due to Trump’s election. Classic Liberalism can be summed up in four words:  individual liberty and limited government. Classical liberalism supports freedom of speech (although technically free speech, hanging a figure of Trump from a noose off the side of your house in a neighborhood full of children is both offensive and extremely inappropriate) and freedom of press. Religious freedom is also an essential idea in classic liberalism–forcing someone to attend a mass does not convert them and only forces them to become liars or hypocrites. Reason and rational discussion are the only viable ways to argue your beliefs and they are two things that modern liberalists are entirely incapable of (as evidenced by their beliefs). Continue reading

Western Civilization^2 lesson 80

According to Deirdre McCloskey, why do some of the traditional explanations for Western prosperity fail, and what in her view is the major, unique ingredient that accounts for it?

The West’s prosperity sustained an incredible rise of success over time that began in the mid-18th Century, exploded in the 19th Century, and continues today. In fact, income rocketed from $3 a day in the 18th century on average to $33 presently. Explanations for the boom of Western prosperity that began in the 18-19th Centuries vary from an abundance of natural resources, kings being forced to abide by laws, protection of private property, and imperialism; but on closer inspection, none of these theories hold water. All have been present in countries around the world, and yet no other countries shared the West’s explosion of affluence. Finally, Historian Deirdre McCloskey has deduced the single key reason for the West’s prosperity: a difference in the way of thinking about the working middle class. This middle class was composed of the factory owners, overseers of enterprises, and the people who organized production. These people were the ones responsible for the Industrial Revolution. Before the 18-19th centuries, the working class was snubbed by the aristocracy and unavailable to entry by the peasantry. The former despised the working classes due to the fact that they were arrogant snobs, whereas the latter, too busy subsisting, were jealous. Because they had a long established history of rights for all men and much less governmental regulations and interference in business, Englishmen were already way ahead of Europe in their attitudes. When the common person began to easily afford common goods, they realized that the working class was responsible, and acceptance slowly replaced hatred. The flare of prosperity in the Western World might’ve been caused by many factors, but without the acceptance of the hard-working middle class, it never would have been possible. Continue reading

Western Civilization^2 lesson 75

(1) What, in a nutshell, was the Industrial Revolution?

The Industrial Revolution took place from the mid-18th century to the mid-19th century, beginning in Britain and spreading like wildfire through the rest of Europe and the Americas soon after. The explosion of technology and inventions heralded a new age for the western world. With machines and mass production of goods taking a huge burden off the shoulders of the people, the standard of living skyrocketed. The population boomed, income increased dramatically, and agriculture no longer required that almost all of the populace farm, so the masses were free to sell their labor in factories. Textiles were the first industry to be revolutionized with the invention of the spinning jenny and the cotton gin. Mills were invented soon after but since they lacked the vital quality of mobility, another invention soon took its place: the steam engine! Along with the steam engine came the locomotive; a speedy and efficient way to transport the common folk. For the people of the 18th century, this was as monumental a deal as the invention of cell phones! Coal and iron consequently evolved into their own mammoth industries. The Industrial Revolution was such an extreme influence on the world that it is second only to the domestication of animals and plants. It was not just a revolution for the rich, but literally changed the world for everybody. Continue reading

Western Civilization^2 lesson 70

How does Friedrich Gentz distinguish between the American and French Revolutions? Do you see the influence of Edmund Burke in his thinking?

Sometime in the 19th century, Friedrich Gentz wrote two fairly important and opinionated works that distinguished between the American and French Revolutions, aptly titled the Origin and Principles of the American Revolution and the Origin and Principles of the French Revolution. According to Gentz, the American Revolution was based on a desire for liberty and tradition while the French Revolution was based on a desire to create an entirely new (and bloodthirsty) France based on Enlightenment thinking (see lesson 50 essay #4). In the American Revolution, the British were oppressing the colonists and unwilling to recognize the colonist’s basic traditional rights as British citizens and taxed them to the breaking point. The colonists had no choice but to rise up and fight for their independence. The French Revolution on the other hand was brutal and unorganized. The French citizens, who rose up against the nobles and clergy in search of a new world, were not afraid to execute anyone who got in their way. Throughout Friedrich’s works, we find influence from his fellow statesman Edmund Burke. For example, the two took the exact same views on the differences between the two revolutions. Although both Revolutions overthrew governments, took place in the late 18th century, and created perfect environments for extreme patriotism, there will always be more differences between the two than similarities and Friedrich Gentz was not afraid to state his interpretation of the facts. Continue reading

Western Civilization^2 lesson 65

(3) Look online for additional resources about one of the atrocities described in the lesson on the Reign of Terror and summarize what happened in 200-250 words.

Before you read my report-thing, lets take a moment to appreciate how horrifying this topic is. The entire time writing it, I felt like throwing up–I hope you don’t throw up yourself when you read this.

During the Reign of Terror led by Robespierre, at least 27,000 people were executed or died in prison awaiting their turn at the guillotine. The mass deaths began with the law of suspects in 1793 where it was proclaimed legal to execute anyone suspected of harboring or being an anti-revolutionary. Anyone who objected was also relieved of their own head. The horror escalated when the guillotine was deemed not efficient enough and the Drownings at Nantes were introduced. Women, children, or men were bound together in pairs and piled into boats with boarded over holes in the sides. The boats were led out to the middle of the lake where the boards were pried off and the executioners leapt safely to their own completely sealed boats to watch the prisoners drown. The shootings at Angers in 1794 were almost more horrifying with a total of 2000 deaths by the method of prisoners being tied into a long line and shot into the ditches dug behind them. The many who were merely wounded were finished off by swords. Fittingly, Robespierre was himself executed as a grand finale to the Reign of Terror in 1794 after suffering from a shattered jaw in prison for an entire day. Continue reading

Western Civilization^2 lesson 55

Explain the views of the French materialists.

“Terminator! 18th century edition…”

The French Materialists of the 18th century were essentially extreme atheists. Key figures in the development of the French Materialist view such as La Mettrie, Helvetius, and Baron d’Holbah, all believed that life had no spiritual aspects, and that there was only matter. La Mettrie introduced the ideas that the human body is simply a machine and that humans are programmed to perform certain actions. Consequently, we should never be blamed for our actions and should certainly never be ashamed of our pleasures. Helvetius craved morality without religion and thought every aspect of life is egoistic. Naturally, friendship must be egoistic as well, because we love what we see of ourselves in others. Baron d’Holbah added that humans only function properly due to chemical reactions and environmental stimulation. So we’re like a giant chemistry experiment. Unsurprisingly, from this view and others, he was labelled the “personal enemy of the Almighty.” Fortunately, the atheistic views of the French Materialists did not sweep the western world as widely as they could have.

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