Age Of Progress By S C Burchell Hard Cover 1966 Time Life Books
Age Of Progress By S C Burchell Hard Cover 1966 Time Life Books

Age Of Progress By S C Burchell Hard Cover 1966 Time Life Books

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Age Of Progress By S C Burchell Hard Cover 1966 Time Life Books
Age Of Progress By S C Burchell  Hard Cover 1966 Time Life Books  191 Pages
Appropriately, Samuel Burchell begins this book with a description of the opening of the Great Exhibition in London in 1851-that most splendid revelation of the 19th Century's belief in the idea of Progress. Prince Albert, the Exhibition's chief sponsor, saw it as evidence of human history's inevitable advance toward "the realization of the unity of mankind." To Albert, the immense technical achievements revealed in the new machinery and other displays, and the great esthetic achievement of the Crystal Palace in which they were housed, were only outward signs of an inward grace. The Exhibition was the symbol of an ethical progress which the whole world was making, and would continue to make.
This simple belief in progress was shaken by the catastrophe of the First World War, and never really recovered from it. No one would ever again look upon the triumphs of science, technology and learning with "fine, careless rapture." Yet even as late as 1920, when John Bagnell Bury published his pioneering book, The Idea of Progress, many people still believed sufficiently in the dream to be shocked by Bury's contention that progress was not an inevitable law of nature, like the law of gravitation, but simply an idea made by man, and a relatively new idea at that.
This continuing faith in an inevitable and beneficent Progress was finally destroyed by the disillusionment that followed the First and Second World Wars, a disillusionment caused as much by the wars' mere occurrence as by the horrors of Auschwitz and Belsen, Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Our danger now is the reverse of the 19th Century's belief in the idea of Progress. We are disposed to ignore the era's very real accomplishments.
As a result of advances made in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, people did live longer, fewer children died as infants, and many were better fed, better housed and better educated. The physical unity of the world was made possible by the steamboat, the locomotive, the automobile and the airplane. The unity of science was exemplified by the adaptation, within a few years of its discovery, of Louis Pasteur's work with bacteria in Paris to Joseph Lister's practice of antiseptic surgery in Scotland. Areas of the world previously uninhabitable, or habitable only at a very low level of existence, became easier to live in.
For more than a century the whole world flattered the West by imitating its belief that progress in politics, science and art was a continuous web; that progress was change, and change was always for the better. We know now that it can often be for the worse. But we must not forget that many changes are good ones. It was the pressure for change, for instance, that after 1776 made the "pursuit of happiness" far easier for far more people than it had ever been before. Prince Albert, like other prophets of progress, was too optimistic, but he was not wrong-either in his aims or in his hopes for their achievement.

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