Briggs Asa - The nineteenth century

Author : Briggs Asa
Title : The nineteenth century The contradictions of progress
Year : 1970

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Foreword. This Volume, the ninth in a series, deals with a busy and restless century when, against a background of increasing material prosperity, men were more and more concerned about their identity and their destiny. They often endowed their own century with a personality and sought not only to interpret it but to compare and contrast it with the personalities of other centuries. 'The inward condition of life,' wrote Thomas Carlyle, 'so far as men are not mere digesting machines is the same in no two ages.' 'Each period,' wrote Michelet, 'has a physiognomy and a character of its own.' Such comments should be treated warily. It is difficult enough to generalize about the 19th century, least of all to personalize it. Even at the time there were sharp differences of interpretation. There were also striking contrasts of condition and circumstance and shifts of feeling and thinking from one part of it to another. Above all, there was lavish variety. The first and last chapters of this volume set out to place the century in perspective, examining continuities and discontinuities. The further we move away from it the more its main contours become clear, but the more also do we find ourselves forced to make great imaginative leaps to understand attitudes and aspirations which are often uncongenial, limitations which have now disappeared, even simplicities which have now been covered over. ...

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