Western Civilization is Destroying its Historical Heritage

The Same Western Civilization that Attained the Highest Historical Consciousness and Produced All the Greatest Historians is Therein Destroying Its Historical Heritage.

One of the most startling historical truths is that Europeans invented the writing of history as “a method of sorting out the true from the false,” as a conscious search for a rational explanation of the causes of events, while rendering the results of their investigations in sustained narratives of excellent prose. The other peoples of the world, including the Chinese who maintained for centuries a tradition of chronological writers, barely rose above annalistic forms of recording the deeds of rulers or the construction of genealogies devoid of reflections on historical causation. This would not have been judged a controversial view a few decades ago. But in a Western world dedicated to multiculturalism, with universities making it their mission to promote an “inclusive” and “diverse” educational environment, there is a widespread impetus to acknowledge as equally valuable the historiographical traditions of non-Western peoples wherein the European tradition is seen as one approach among many others. These approaches include Islamic “universal chronography,” Chinese “encyclopedic, synchronic, and official historiography,” Australian Aboriginal “dreamings” of past events “organized spatially and morally rather than temporally,” or African “oral history of gathering, preserving, and interpreting the voices and memories of people.” Indeed, if there is a key difference between these perspectives it is that European historians have tended to be ethnocentric and arrogant in their supposition that they invented history. Among recent studies promoting a “global approach” against a “Europe-centered approach” is Turning Points in Historiography: A Cross Cultural Perspective , edited by Edward Wang and Georg Iggers. Academics are cited in this book stating that historical thought is not a monopoly of the West: “On the contrary, interest in the past appears to have existed everywhere and in all periods.” Western historiography is “not superior.” The claims of European colonialists on the “racial inferiority” of other cultures must be “refuted.” Just as Greek historiography provided a “basic form of historical writing that later exerted a cross-cultural influence in the West,” so was Chinese historiography “regarded as a model practiced by Asian historians, especially in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam before the nineteenth century.”

The initial aim of this essay was to counter this multicultural historiography by demonstrating its lack of veracity, explaining that Europeans originated the writing of history, wrote the greatest historical books, brought about the “professionalization of history” during the 1800s, which entailed the systematic and critical analysis of documents, from which point they would go on to write the best histories of the non-western world. Europeans were indeed the only people to exhibit a high level of historical consciousness about the way that history shapes our thoughts, culture, psychology, and institutions. But in light of my current scholarly preoccupation with the ways in which the ideology of liberalism, with its crucial principle of individual rights, is behind the promotion of diversity, race equity, and immigration replacement, I could not avoid the question why Western historians today are so enraptured with “provincializing” the history and achievements of their own civilization for the sake of an “inclusive” multicultural history. It became apparent to me that the consolidation of a multicultural historiography was not an arbitrary or isolated decision taken by a few academics, but part expression of a broader ideological matrix with deep origins in the history of the West itself. The more I investigated the historiography of the West, that is, the more I inquired about the history of history writing, about the histories that the peoples of the West have written, I came to the following hypotheses, which this essay will seek to explain:

  • Europeans were responsible for the full development of history writing, surpassing since ancient Greek times the historiography of the other civilizations during their entire histories, consciously seeking to find the truth by evaluating the accuracy of the sources and analyzing historical causation. The Greeks and Romans did hold a cyclical view of history for whom “the nature of all things was to grow as well as to decay,” as the general consensus has it; however, this was a view based on a deep understanding of the varying psychology of human nature from times of simplicity and hardness (in the early stages of cultures) to times of affluence and decadence (in the later stages of cultures).
  • The Hebrew Bible did go beyond an annalistic account of the deeds of kings, developing a historiography that was “national” or about a people as a whole, but without matching the historiography of the Greeks and Romans, who also initiated an ecumenical vision of “the whole inhabited world,” which would come to be combined with the “universal” historical vision of the Christians in their preoccupation with the “education of mankind,” and which reflected the fact that only Western peoples came to transcend in their cosmopolitanism the provincialism that is natural to cultures and that has prevailed in China throughout its history despite proto-universalist principles in Confucianism.
  • The Old Testament did initiate a view of history as a purposeful and directional process from the beginning of the Creation to the future expectation of a Messiah; however, the New Testament enhanced the connection of God and history with its concept of the Incarnation, when the eternal Word and Son of God “became flesh and dwelt among us.” The subsequent Hellenization and Romanization of Christianity in the first centuries AD led historians to search for stages and directionality in the actual, empirical histories of humans, linking the eschatology of the Bible with the history of the Greeks, the creation of the Roman empire, and the kingdoms created by the Germanic peoples. The connection of Christian eschatology (Heaven and Hell, the Second Coming of Jesus, the Last Judgment) with the actual history of humanity, would lead Christians to initiate a “progressive” conception of history, as part of God’s providential plan, to search for an intelligible pattern in the gradual “education of mankind.”
  • Only Europeans developed a true historiography characterized by a history of relatively continuous improvements, rather than by mere repetition of the historical styles of the past, as was the case in other civilizations, because only they experienced an increasing historical consciousness, a deep awareness of the passage of time in a directional way, rooted in their Christianity and cosmopolitanism, and in their actual epoch-making transformations, the rise and decline of Greece and Rome, the spread of Christianity, the invention of universities in the Middle Ages, among many other novelties, followed by the Renaissance and the continuous revolutions of the Modern era in warfare, art, architecture, science, philosophy, politics.
  • But it was during the Enlightenment era that historians began to think systematically about the unique progression of the West in science and technology as well as in constitutional politics, and in the “rights of man”—against the forces of “darkness, ignorance, and vice,” which Enlightenment historians believed still held a tight grip over Europeans, and which needed to be defeated for the full potentialities of humans to be actualized in a future of plenty, harmony, and happiness. Man was a historical being in the process of achieving his full potentialities in the course of time.
  • Modernist historians would secularize, not reject, the Christian idea of progress, while gaining a more “scientific” understanding of history, identifying definite stages in the growth of reason and liberty and in “the manners and morals of humans,” in terms of purely natural or man-made causes, rather than in terms of the “providential hand” of God. This idea of progress would come along with tremendous improvements in archival research and in historical methodologies, while the rest of the world would remain stuck with annalistic historiographies.
  • The period between 1918 and 1970 would see the consolidation of a Grand Liberal Narrative, particularly in the wake of the defeat of Fascism in WWII, and the Cold War with Communism. This Narrative—the “Allied scheme of history”—would see in history a rational process of the growth of liberty, scientific and capitalist prosperity, with the United States as a model for the rest of the world, a result of thousands of years of Western evolution, combining the Greek democratic and rationalist legacy, Roman law, Judeo-Christian values, the Enlightenment and Free Markets.
  • The German Historical School of the second half of the nineteenth century, known for raising to a higher level the professionalization and specialization of history, constituted a profound questioning of the liberal idea of progress with its nationalist advocacy of “the historicity of all knowledge and values” and its emphasis on the priority of the freedom of Germans as a people over the individual rights of abstract individuals. But German historicism would be thoroughly domesticated into a defense of “value-pluralism” according to which we should tolerate within each Western nation different cultural values except values that are intolerant to the “value-pluralism” of liberalism.
  • Liberalism has an inbuilt progressive logic continually pressing for the “emancipation” of the individual from all traditional restraints, including sexual and racial collective identities, that infringe on the rights of individuals to choose their own lifestyle, backed by a new conception of “positive liberty” rather than mere “negative liberty,” a liberalism in which the government came to be assigned the role of reducing inequalities, increasing inclusiveness, and assisting in the “self-realization” of individuals.
  • After the 1970s the “Rise of the West” grand narrative would come to be seen as an “unfinished project” requiring revision, starting with an acknowledgment of its “Eurocentrism” and the way the West had “underdeveloped” the rest of the world in its climb to supremacy, with old liberals gradually accommodating themselves to these revisions, confident in their defeat of communism in the early 1990s, announcing the “end of history, while including within its fold, as two sides of the same liberal coin, postmodern, environmental, multicultural, and global historical perspectives.
  • Western civilization will soon cease to exist, becoming a hybrid of many races and cultures under the ideology of multicultural postmodern liberalism. The same civilization that produced the greatest historiographical tradition, becoming fully conscious of its historical trajectory, is now rewriting its past in the most malicious ways as a history of multiple peoples from its beginnings—against its “white supremacist” past.

The Greek-Roman Historiographical Legacy

Not long ago, before the onset of “progressive” diversity mandates, it was generally accepted that historical writing began with the ancient Greeks. R.G. Collingwood made the argument in The Idea of History (1946), once the best-known book in the philosophy of history in the English-speaking world, that “history is a Greek word, meaning simply an investigation or inquire”. Michael Grant, the famous classicist author of countless books, noted that the word “histor” in the classical Greek language referred to a learned man who settled legal disputes by looking into the accuracy of the events and the disputed allegations. From this legal term was derived the word “historie” as “a search for the rational explanation and understanding of phenomena.” In the “theocratic history” of Mesopotamia, accounts of past events consisted, as Collingwood wrote, of “mere assertions of what the writer already knows”, not based on answers arrived after research. The Hebrew scriptures were also theocratic history in that there was no research to “find” the “truth” about the past with authors consciously judging the veracity of sources. It is only with Herodotus’ book, The Histories, written around 430 BC, that we witness for the first time a real inquiry about the past “to get answers to definite questions about matters of which one recognizes oneself as ignorant.” The writings of Homer and Hesiod were likewise theocratic legends.

Herodotus was rightfully called “the father of history” for this reason, the first to write a historical inquiry which asked questions about the past based on the critical evaluation of the reports of facts given by eyewitnesses, as was the practice in Greek courts where one would cross-question the testimony of witnesses. Herodotus self-consciously explained that the purpose of his book was to present “the results of the enquiry [history] carried out by Herodotus of Halicarnassus. The purpose is to prevent the traces of human events from being erased by time, and to preserve the fame of the important and remarkable achievements produced by both Greeks and non-Greeks; among the matters covered is, in particular, the cause of the hostilities between Greeks and non-Greeks.” While in theocratic history, Collingwood adds, “humanity is not an agent, but partly an instrument and partly a patient, of the actions recorded,” in Herodotus we have descriptions of “the deeds of men…to discover what men have done and partly to discover why they have done it.” He sought to understand the reasons men acted the way they did.

John Burrow, an old stock British scholar, maintains that historical writing “based on inquiry” began with Herodotus. In his book, A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the Twentieth Century, published in 2009, Burrow estimates we can only talk about “proto-history” in the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt, and among the Assyrians and Hittites who came later, in the sense that they engaged in “record keeping” and chronological recording of the deeds of rulers and the construction of genealogies. A proper historical account, however, requires a conscious awareness about the veracity of the sources one relies upon. Herodotus “regarded himself as an auditor, a collector, recorder, sifter and judge of oral traditions about the recent or remoter past.” According to Mark Gilderfus, Herodotus “checked his information against the reports of eye-witnesses and participants and also consulted the documents available to him—inscriptional records, archives and official chronicles.”

Collingwood correctly qualifies that The Histories of Herodotus could not but derive very little from written sources or “historical records” since there were few of these. This heavy reliance on oral sources restricted the writing of history among Greeks to events that happened “within living memory to people” with whom the author could have “personal contact.” The Greeks could not write “all embracing” accounts of the remote past and of the peoples of the world, “ecumenical history, world history.” For Collingwood, this lack of a worldly historical view meant that the ancient Greeks lacked a proper “historical consciousness.” Now, it is true, as Burrow notes, that Herodotus’ book “embodied extensive geographical and ethnographic surveys” of a variety of ethnic groups in the Mediterranean, North African, and Persian worlds, their clothing, diet, marriage, funerary customs, health and treatment of disease. It is for this reason that he is regarded, along with Hecataeus (b. 549 BC), as the originator of ethnography, the study of the culture of other peoples, for his “indefatigable questioning” of different ethnic peoples about their customs and morals. Still, I am inclined to agree with Collingwood that the unity of the historical mind of Herodotus was “only geographical, not an historical unity.” It was only after the conquests of Alexander the Great, and the creation of the Hellenistic and Roman empires, that the world became more than a geographical unity for the onset of a historical consciousness, which presupposes as a major condition an awareness of the histories of other peoples, reflections on the broader patterns of history as whole.

What about contemporary claims that other peoples were just as historically accomplished as the ancient Greeks? I will address these claims later on. For now, I will bring up John Van Seters’s thesis, articulated in a superb book of historical scholarship, In Search of History: Historiography in the Ancient World and the Origins of Biblical History (1983), that an Israelite inaugurated the historical tradition of the West in the sixth century BC, roughly a century before Herodotus, in the so-called Deuteronomistic (Dtr) history of the Old Testament from Joshua to 2 Kings. The term “Deuteronomistic history” was coined in 1943 by the German scholar Martin Noth to explain the origin and purpose of the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. Noth argued that these books were the work of a single 6th century BC author. Elaborating this argument, backed by extensive sources, Van Seters uses the following criteria to identify history writing in ancient Israel: A) It has “a specific form of tradition in its own right” (as opposed to being merely incidental) to “explain or give meaning” in a literary way to the way things are, showing thereby “some awareness of the historical process” “to account for social change” and “provide new legitimation.” B) History writing is not primarily about the accurate reporting of past events, but involves recalling the significance of past events, as we find in Dtr history. C) While history writing examines the causes of present circumstances, in the world of antiquity at large “these causes were primarily moral;” modern theories of causation or laws of evidence should not be used as criteria. D) History writing has to be national or corporate in character, as was the case in Dtr history; chronological reporting about the deeds of kings do not constitute history.

Van Seters brings out the best of the annalistic form of writing in the Near East; for example, he shows that chronicles did date events rather precisely to day and month of the year, with some chronicles showing evidence of “research” or “a gleaning of materials about the past from various sources.” While these chronicles do not yet constitute history writing proper, they “created the potential for the historical ‘research’ and reconstruction of the past that is indispensable to the development of history writing.” What made Dtr history more than a chronicle was, “above all,” the fact that it was a history of a “people’s past,” of the founding of a “nation under Moses, through the conquest under Joshua and the rule of judges, to the rise of the monarchy under Saul and David.” In Dtr history, “the royal ideology is incorporated into the identity of the people as a whole” (rather than the ruler alone). “The doctrine of Israel’s election as the chosen people of Yahweh set the nation apart from other peoples…All other callings and elections, whether to kinship, priesthood, or prophecy, were viewed in association with the choice of the people as a whole…Nowhere outside of Israel was the notion of special election extended to the people as a whole.”

Van Seters shows similarities between the Dtr historian and Herodotus. If the former “gathered his own material…in the form of disparate oral stories,” so did Herodotus derive “very little” from written sources, or ‘historical’ records; his work was mostly based on eyewitness accounts.” All Hebrew historiography is written from a theological perspective,” but so is the book of Herodotus, The Histories, strongly interested in divine providence. “Like Herodotus, the Old Testament exhibits a dominant concern with the issue of divine retribution for unlawful acts as a fundamental principle of historical causality.” Both works are characterized by a thematic unity and a sustained prose narrative about a people conscious of their national identities (though Van Seters barely says anything about the emergence of a Greek national identity centered on their freedom in contrast to Asiatic despotism).

In reply to Van Seters: it is true that in Herodotus’ account the deities did play a role in human affairs, dreams, oracles and omens. But all in all, I am inclined to accept John Gould’s judgement that Herodotus “took the possibility of supernatural causation in human experience as seriously as he took the involvement of human causation.” In fact, Herodotus was “cautious in admitting” the presence of gods at work in human actions, not because of religious disbelief, but because of his “uncertainty” or “implicit acknowledgement of the limitations of human knowledge in such matters”, sometimes offering alternative possibilities for the occurrence of the events, or declining to identify the particular god involved. Herodotus’ list of reasons for the Persian war emphasized human motives, arrogance, excessive pride, blind enjoyment of riches, lust for power, which brought the wrath of gods, their intervention, but which nevertheless pointed to historical explanations relatively free of divine influence, which was not the case in Deuteronomistic history. By the time we get to Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, written a few decades after Herodotus’ Histories (430 BC), the gods ceased to influence directly the course of events, history is entirely caused by the actions of human beings, even if the historical actors remained guided by a belief in gods, oracles, or divinations.

Herodotus consciously addressed the issue of historical accuracy in a way that the Dtr historian did not. He may have relied almost entirely on eyewitness accounts in writing about the contemporaneous subject he was addressing, the Persian Wars, but once we reach Thucydides, we have a historian who amplify the need for historical veracity, for accuracy in the reporting of events, contrasting his inquiry with that of “prose chronicles, who are less interested in telling the truth than in catching the attention of the public, whose authorities cannot be checked”. He willfully restricted himself to contemporary history and eyewitness accounts knowing that the “passage of time” made accounts of early Greek history “unreliable.” This is the point. Even if we were to agree with everything Van Seters says, Herodotus was just the beginning of Western historiography. While Near Eastern and Israelite historiographical traditions ceased, stagnated, or barely improved, Europeans would go on to build upon their earlier achievements, and eventually develop a full historical consciousness, which is incredibly hard to achieve.

According to J.B. Bury, known for insisting that history should be a “science” rather than a branch of “literature,” Thucydides’ book was “severe in its detachment, written from a purely intellectual point of view, unencumbered with platitudes and moral judgments, cold and critical.” For Nietzsche, Thucydides was “the grand summation, the last manifestation of that strong, stern, hard matter-of-factness instinctive to the older Hellenes.” What Nietzsche admired, though, was not Thucydides’ neutral impartiality per se, but that his values were not that of a Platonist seeking to escape the harsh reality of human struggle and conflict in a realm of perfections. It was Thucydides’ realism, his ability to deal with the world as it was that appealed to Nietzsche, his rigorously clinical assessment of human nature. Edith Hamilton, author of the once very popular and gifted book, The Greek Way (1930), insists that Thucydides wrote his book “because he believed that men would profit from a knowledge of what brought about that ruinous struggle precisely as they profit from a statement of what causes a deadly disease.” Hamilton brings out Thucydides’ concern with the causes of the war, how he differentiated triggering incidents affecting the timing from the ultimate cause of the war. The confrontation between Athens and Sparta was not generated by misguided humans who could have been dissuaded into a different course of action; no, the Athenians were driven to imperialism, seeking threatening alliances against Sparta, by the natural human obsession with dominating others; and Sparta was driven to react knowing that lack of action would simply invite further hostilities by the Athenians and others. This is why Thucydides wrote a book “written not for the moment, but for all time.” In the words of Hamilton: “It was something far beneath the surface, deep down in human nature, and the cause of all wars ever fought. The motive power was greed, that strange passion for power and possession which no power and possession satisfy. Power, Thucydides wrote, or its equivalent wealth, created the desire for more power, more wealth. The Athenians and the Spartans fought for one reason only—because they were powerful, and therefore compelled to seek more power. They fought not because they were different—democratic Athens and oligarchic Sparta—but because they were alike. The war had nothing to do with differences in ideas or with considerations of right and wrong. Is democracy right and the rule of the few over the many wrong? To Thucydides the question would have seemed an evasion of the issue. There was no right power.”

This clinical analysis of human nature in history would never find expression in the historiographical traditions outside the West. There are many timeless insights in Thucydides about the natural impulses of humans and their varied expressions in different characters and circumstances. Among my favorites is: “Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage.” He and Herodotus started a historiographical tradition that would last continuously for over a thousand years. We can only go over the surface. Diodorus Siculus (first century BC), known for writing Bibliotheca Historica in 40 books, of which 15 survive intact, mentions many historians on whose works he relied upon. Some refer to this book as a “Universal History” both for its comprehensive coverage (from the mythic history of the destruction of Troy up to the death of Alexander the Great, including the early centuries of Rome), and for its worldly geographical description of Egypt, India and Arabia to Europe. He called it “Bibliotheca” in acknowledgment that he was assembling a composite work from many sources. This was not a history based on eyewitness accounts but a history based on the authority of prior historical authors/sources. The authors he drew upon include Hecataeus of Abdera, Ctesias, Ephorus, Theopompus, Hieronymus of Cardia, Duris of Samos, Diyllus, Philistus, Timaeus, Polybius, and Posidonius.

Siculus however was really a “compiler” rather than a universal historian since his work was descriptive in character, lacking an interpretative scheme. His predecessor Polybius (200-118 BC) may be said to be the original ecumenical or universal historian, in full awareness that in trying to answer the question in his book, Histories, why “the Romans succeeded…in bringing under their rule almost the whole of the inhabited world” and writing about how “the affairs of Italy and of Africa are connected with those of Asia and of Greece and all events bear a relationship and contribute to a single end,” he was indeed, in his words, the “first” “to examine the general and comprehensive scheme of events” and to look at history as an “organic whole.” In answering this question, Polybius raised the analysis of historical causality to a higher level of precision, by adding the “how and why” to the “who, what, where, and when” of Thucydides. He sought “to record with fidelity what actually happened,” with profuse references to prior historical accounts. Since Polybius covered a long-time span of history, 264-146 BC, unlike Herodotus and Thucydides, he could not rely on eyewitness accounts only. Fortunately, in his time, there were already many authoritative “works of previous historians who had already written the histories of particular societies at particular times,” including Rome’s own careful preservation of memorials and ancestral portraits.

His universal perspective was also visible in his effort to provide a sweeping explanation of the rise and fall of civilizations in general, expressing for the first time, in a cohesive manner, the principle of cyclical history. States experience a natural cycle similar to biological organisms, characterized by growth, zenith, and decay. Primitive kinship first emerges and develops into monarchy, monarchy devolves into tyranny, and eventually tyranny is replaced by the aristocratic rule of the best (the men of virtue, piety, and courage who created Rome). This rule then degenerates into oligarchic privilege and excess, followed by democracy and finally, mob rule. He believed that the Roman state was superior to all prior forms of government in combining the best of three forms of rule, monarchical (elected consuls), aristocratic (senate), and democratic (popular assemblies. But in his estimation, while this mixed policy could slow down the cycle, it could not deter the eventual decomposition of Rome.

Another revealing quality of ancient Western historiography was its preoccupation with the moral character and personality of great men. This individualism, rooted in the heroic aristocratic ethos of Indo-Europeans, as expressed in their timeless bards and poems, which recited the heroic deeds of legendary figures, with the main characters identified by name and personality, as was the case in the Iliad, would find expression in the preoccupation we already noted above about human nature and the personal qualities of leaders, a phenomenon utterly lacking in non-western historiography. Who can forget the famous Parallel Lives of Plutarch (46-120 AD), mandatory reading for every young European man not long ago? Nineteenth century “positivists,” who believed that historians should remain objectively preoccupied with the facts alone without judgments, downplayed Plutarch as a historian for his moralistic judgements about the virtues to be emulated and the vices to be avoided in his illustrations of great men. Yet, Plutarch “read voraciously, and faithfully reported what he found in a wide variety of sources.” He was “one of the most educated men of antiquity” who knew and quoted “all the major Greek historians” and supplemented his narratives with information from letters, inscriptions and public documents. His Lives were not hagiographies glorifying great men, but an effort to demonstrate the importance of rational self restraint against irrational passions, exhibiting a high sensitivity to the dynamics of human motivation, the interaction of contrasting traits and how they can complement each other within the same character, combined with keen observations about the physical appearance of the characters, thereby showing a keen insight into the variety and complexity of human behavior. Never in the history of the non-western would we witness a book like Plutarch’s Lives, which consists of a series of paired biographies of the great men who established the city of Rome and consolidated its supremacy in comparison to their Greek counterparts, written with such elegant prose and narrative flair.

It has been said that Greek/Roman historiography was limited by its view of an unchanging human nature. Michael Grant, in The Ancient Historians (1970), says that “Plutarch has no idea of dynamic biography…The ancients were still mostly convinced that a man’s character is fixed; at any point in his life, he is what he always was and always will be.” This idea, we shall see below, would be rejected by modern historians around the 1700s, starting with historians of the “Scottish Enlightenment,” with their stage theory of history and their observation that with the rise of commerce and constitutional monarchies, there was a noticeable “improvement of manners” among men. This view also nurtured the equally influential and related current of “historicism,” which came in many conflicting varieties, but essentially argued that all human activities, such as science, art, customs, philosophy, are shaped by their history, not by an unchanging human nature.

It is more complicated. Herodotus did imply in his ethnographic observations that human nature manifests itself differently (in customary practices) in different geographical settings. The claim that the cyclical view of history “was entailed by a belief in an unchanging human nature” forgets that this view postulates a dramatic alteration in the characters of humans, from virtuous qualities during the rise of states, to decadent traits as wealth, peace, and ease become the new reality. The decline of the Roman character is a pervading theme of Roman historiography; already apparent in Cato the Elder (234-149 BC), author of Origins, of which only fragments survive, about the beginnings of Rome up until the victory over Macedonia in 168 BC. Cato eulogized the “Spartan” austerity and simplicity of the early men who built Rome, and lamented the effeminate influence of Greek learning. Sallust (86-35 BC) saw the old Roman virtues of frugality and piety decline under the influence of luxury and Asiatic indulgences and taste, in the first century BC. “Growing love of money and the lust for power which followed it engendered every kind of evil. Avarice destroyed honour, integrity and every other virtue, and instead taught men to be proud and cruel, to neglect religion and to hold nothing too sacred to sell… Rome changed: her government, once so just and admirable, became harsh and unendurable.” But, according to Sallust, it was not all about character decomposition; he also saw an intensifying civil strife in late republican Rome between two factions: the old patrician class in control of the Senate, and the plebeians in control of the popular assemblies. Sallust, who was “a popularis” supporter of Caesar, praises Tiberius Gracchus in his The Jugurthine War (41-40 BC), recognizing the Gracchi brothers as “vindicators of the liberty of the people” against the “shamelessness, bribery and rapacity” of the old aristocracy, as he put in The War With Catiline, grabbing the spoils of war and leaving citizen farmers landless, as they were burdened with prolonged military service.

Along with its psychological portraits, Western historiography was uniquely characterized by an “elaborated, secular, prose narrative” combined with a literary ability to draw the reader into the events and personalities, in startling contrast to the bureaucratic, impersonal, and annalistic reporting that one finds for centuries in non-western historiography. Roman historians were educated with strict rules for prose composition, and in the art of literary rhetoric. They took delight in their character portraits. Criticizing them for their moralizing judgements betrays a lack of appreciation for their psychological insights, the inevitability of judgements in historical writing and the importance of bringing out the dramatic character that is actual history. Here is Sallust writing about Lucius Sergius Catilina (108-62 BC), a Roman politician and soldier, corrupted to his innermost being by his lust: “His unclean mind, hating god and fellow man alike, could find rest neither waking nor sleeping; so cruelly did remorse torture his frenzied soul. His complexion was pallid, his eyes hideous, his gait now hurried and now slow. Face and expression plainly marked him as a man distraught.” Not until Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published in the late 1700s, would anyone see the need to supersede the historiography of ancient Romans. Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus were thought to be unsurpassable in their narrative abilities, character portraits, analysis of Roman’s political history and detailed description of its wars.

Livy (59 BC-AD 17), immortalized for his monumental history of Rome in 142 books, of which 35 survive, from the earliest legends of Rome before the traditional founding in 753 BC through the reign of Augustus in Livy’s own lifetime, is widely acknowledged as a “superb narrator.” He understood that his accounts of early Rome have “more of the charm of poetry than of sound historical record,” although future antiquarians have learned a lot about the foundational myths of Rome from these accounts. As in Sallust before him, in Livy, as John Burrow writes, “the question of moral fibre, nurtured by war, weakened by peace and ease, became the core of Roman history.” Livy raised to a higher level of explanatory sophistication the social historical perspective already incipient in Sallust, by accentuating the significance of the conflict between the old patricians and the plebeians, which he traced back over the centuries, recounting how these two classes had managed to get along with the abolition of debt enslavement, the redistribution of land, and the eventual opening of the highest offices (consulships, censorships) to wealthy plebeians, and how in the first century BC this consensus broke down as different sections of the plebeians, a rich elite allied with the patricians, and a poor class of smallholders, who were the backbone of the citizen army, could not resolve their differences. Upon returning from military service to their neglected farms, these small holders, as they struggled to pay debts and taxes, would lose their farms, which made the practice of citizen soldiers obsolete, and led to the rise of private professional armies. It was Livy’s view that Rome had managed to rise and survive major threats, such as the disaster of Cannae, insofar as the upper classes had acted in moderation, bringing the plebeians to rule alongside them, and redistributing the spoils of war. Roman “firmness” and “sternness” was rooted in this social reality, whereas Roman decadence was rooted in the lustful rapacity of a wealthy oligarchy expropriating the citizen farmers. At the same time, Livy also pointed to demagogues who stirred up the plebs towards mob rule out of their tyrannical ambition. It has been said that the historiography of ancient times contained truths valid “for all time.” In his Discourses on Livy (1517), Machiavelli explained, after a close reading of Livy, that all forms of government—monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic—are flawed, and that it was the good fortune of the early Roman republic to combine traits from these three. The inherent conflict of interests between the nobles and the people can turn out to be constructive as long as there is an institutional balance of power in which tribunes of the people can wield power. There is never an ideal political order in which conflict is avoidable.

Perhaps the most admired Roman historian is Publius Cornelius Tacitus (56-120AD). Tacitus enjoyed a very high reputation from the late sixteenth to the late seventeenth century, admired by Gibbon for “the force of his rhetoric…to instruct the reader by sensible and powerful reflections.” He wrote primarily about the relations between the Emperor and the Senate, not the wider world of the Empire, based on the testimony of eyewitnesses, published transactions of the Senate, news of the court, collections of emperors’ speeches, and memoirs. In his didactic concern “to ensure that merit is recorded, and to confront evil deeds and words with the fear of posterity’s denunciation,” it has been said that he was a moralizing historian. His focus was on the motives of the characters, exposing hypocrisy and dissimulation. Some praise the brevity of description of his Latin style, their “epigrammatic” character, or lack of ornamentation. The period he covered, mostly the first century AD, offered only meager examples of virtue—which may be why he praised the Germanic peoples in what may be his best-known work, the fascinating ethnographic essay titled Germania. Linked to the Third Reich, this essay would also play a key role in the construction of a historiography identifying freedom as the most important ideal of Western history. He observed the Germans in their own terms rather than in light of Roman values, showing admiration for German sexual temperance, dignity, courage, and loyalty—without falling prey to the modern myth of the noble savage, describing as well their drunkenness, idleness and quarrelsomeness. It was this lack of discipline, he believed, that gave Romans an advantage over the formidable German warriors. In the early modern period, as Germania became increasingly known, it encouraged historians to delve deep into the pre-Roman past of Europe. Historians would discover a conception of freedom that predated the Greek, Roman and Christian conceptions—what I would call, in my book Uniqueness of Western Civilization (2011), a primordial ethos of aristocratic and heroic freedom. Francois Hotman, in his Franco-Gallia (1573), concluded, after a thorough study of numerous chronicles of Europe’s early history, that the ancient kings of France were elected and could be deposed, and that French representative institutions, the Estates General, were descended from the old Germanic assemblies of aristocrats. Future authors would argue that the feudalism of the Middle Ages, the contractual relation between lords and vassals, was derived from the Teutonic comitatus, the brotherhood of warriors. Montesquieu located this Germanic freedom in the Anglo-Saxon nations, which he developed into a modern doctrine of republican liberty, and identified Britain as the best example of the preservation of Germanic freedoms, whereas in France he saw a nobility that had surrendered its liberty by becoming a bureaucratic servant of the absolutist state. The constitution of Britain, after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, consisted of a mixture of monarchical, aristocratic (House of Lords) and democratic elements (Commons), with freedom of thought.

The Emerging of a Christian Historical Consciousness

For all we have said about Greek and Roman historiography (and there were other historians, such as Suetonius, Appian, and Casius Dios) cotemporary scholars invariably agree that the ancients remained a “non-historical” people. Herbert Butterfield is convinced “the Greeks did not achieve historical mindedness, and never could have achieved it, because they had the wrong view of time and the time process.” The Greeks “only knew of a comparatively short history behind them—they thought that the historical past extended back for only a very few hundred years.” But even in the case of the Romans, despite some of their long-term accounts, including a 1400-year history by Casius Dios, Collingwood insists that Roman historians thought of Rome as an “unchanging substance,” “the eternal city,” experiencing cyclical changes but no identifiable stages of development. Livy never sought to explain how Roman institutions came to be, how they changed over time, other than noticing, if I may add to Collingwood’s explanation, the virtues that made possible its rise and the vices bringing about its decline. It was a history without periodization about a city that seemed to be ready-made before history began. Roman historiography was also “particularistic,” self-centered around Rome, without grasping the historical dynamics of other people and their place within the historical process. Tacitus distorted history, Collingwood adds, by “representing it essentially as a clash of characters” portrayed as either “exaggeratedly good” or “exaggeratedly bad.” As talented as Tacitus was in his character-drawings, his approach encouraged the narrowly circumscribed perspective of seeking the causes of historical events in the personalities of the main actors—a retrogression from the world historical perspective of Polybius.

The Marxist historian E.H. Carr, author of a 14-volume work covering the first twelve years (!) of the history of the Soviet Union, argues similarly that “the classical civilization of Greece and Rome was basically unhistorical.” For Thucydides, “nothing significant had happened in time before the events which he described and nothing significant was likely to happen thereafter.” He goes on to explain in his insightful small book, What is History? (1961), that a cyclical view of history, the sense that history is “not going anywhere,” is devoid of a proper historical consciousness. One must have a sense that there is a “direction in history” to interpret the past properly. While a historian does not have to believe that history is progressing “towards the goal of the perfection of man’s estate on earth,” without a conception of progress, which entails a history that is indeed characterized by development, such as an increasing capacity to understand and master the laws of nature and improve the living standards of people, we can’t speak of “historical consciousness.” Carr does not believe in “Divine Providence,” a “World Spirit,” or “Manifest Destiny,” that is, in an all-powerful force guiding men and the course of events. But he believes that “it was the Jews, and after them, the Christians, who introduced an entirely new element by postulating a goal towards which the historical process is moving—the teleological view of history.” It was “Jewish-Christianity” that gave history “meaning and purpose.”

According to Collingwood, Christianity contributed the following to the eventual rise of a modern historical consciousness: the universalism that all persons are equal in the sight of God, that “all peoples are involved in the working out of God’s purpose,” and that therefore a Christian can’t remain content with the particularistic history of one people but must strive for a universal history. The events that occur in the world must be ascribed to the workings of Providence, which means that one must try to detect an intelligible pattern in the overall history of humans, and treat earlier events as leading up to, or preparing for, God’s ultimate plan. This means, I would add, that in order to make sense of history’s pattern, history must be divided into epochs, each identified for its contribution to progress and for the ultimate plan.

The flaw in this interpretation is that it does not draw a distinction between the Old and the New Testament view of history, and the subsequent Hellenized and Romanized Christian conception articulated in the first centuries AD. The Old Testament, to be sure, offered a purposeful and directional view of history from the beginning of time, from the Creation and the expulsion from Paradise of Adam and Eve, as a result of their original sin, to the second beginning of mankind with Noah, after the flood, followed by God’s promise of land to Abraham, demonstrated in the liberation of Jews from Egyptian captivity, followed by numerous events with references to peoples and civilizations in the Near East, Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria Persia and Jerusalem. The Hebrew Bible, Van Seters is correct, offered a dramatic long-term narrative of a people intensively preoccupied with their past, the first accounts to go beyond the Royal annals of the Mesopotamian/Egyptian empires, to produce a history of a people as a whole, the Jews, with quasi universalist aspects in its account of the Creation and the Flood.

The Old Testament conception, nevertheless, was about a particular people, the Jews, and, in this respect, it was not universal. It was a conception that remained preoccupied with the Jewish historical experience, to a final act of God that would signal the end of history, with dreams of a Messianic kingdom, as it grew pessimistic about the actual events of its history with the lost of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple, and with the dispersion and exile of Jews in foreign lands. The Bible as a whole, both Old and New Testaments, did not try to make sense of actual human historical events beyond the experiences of Jews; and did not try to discover a meaningful pattern in the empirical happenings of world history. History in the Bible is meaningful because it is oriented toward some transcendent purpose, the future expectation of a Messiah, but this expectation is not seen to be developing through successive historical stages since the truth has already been revealed. This is a view that Karl Lowith holds in his philosophical meditation, Meaning in History (1949). History is directed by the providence of God’s supreme insight and will, but God’s ways are hard to make out and cannot be comprehended by reason. The message of the Bible is that we must trust God’s justice in spite of manifest evil in the world, and faithfully wait for justice to be done on the Day of Judgement. The Biblical conception is similar in some respects to the Greek cyclical acceptance of fate, in the way it looks at history through all the ages as a story of mere genesis and disintegration, action and suffering, pride and sin, as a “continuous repetition of painful miscarriage and costly achievements which end in ordinary failures.”

But Lowith is rather indifferent towards the historiography of subsequent Christians who sought to discover in actual history the spiritual unfolding of salvation. Even thought the New Testament as such does not seek out to make sense of the actual history of the Hellenistic-Roman world from which it emerged, subsequent Christians, as Butterfield says in The Origins of History (1981), “could not help vindicating the idea of the Jesus of History, Jesus the man who had lived at a certain time and in a definite place.” The religion of Christianity “was fastened to the hard earth” through “their continuing concern about the possible imminent coming end of the world, and their contact with Greek philosophy” and, I would add, through the very concept of the Incarnation and the Cross. Christianity departs from the Old Testament in the consummated advent of Jesus which signifies that God has given His grace through the hands of His Son who in his sacrifice has brought redemption to all humankind. Humans are no longer fully corrupted but are newly capable of achieving ethical and eschatological goals in this world. The Christian God is not impersonal, unknowable, and separate from our world. He is both transcendental and immanent, for in the Incarnation, and the idea that Christ is both fully God and fully human, the unfathomable God of the Old Testament finds concrete expression in history. Christianity recognized the dignity of the material world and its ability for expressing the Spirit. Christ is the image of the invisible deity here on earth and human action can bring about the world’s transformation.

In line with the incarnation and immanence of God on earth, Jesus added an “ethics of love, or compassion,” which cultivated “a new sensitivity to human suffering,” which motivated Christians to struggle against evil in this world, which set in motion a historical process of moral progression. This religion brought the hope that it was possible to create a “better world,” for it was a religion that no longer saw suffering as unchangeable, but called upon believers to feel responsibility for the suffering of others. In contrast to Greek pagan ethics and Roman stoicism, which held that it was folly to struggle against the destiny of human limitations and realities of the world, there was a feeling of hope and progress embedded in the ethics of Christianity according to which humans on this earth could improve the human condition and bring about the advent of the Kingdom of God. Non-western religions conceived of salvation as something to be achieved by escaping into the “world behind” or the “world beyond.” But among Christians a sense emerged that history was not a cycle of time but a “forward-moving” process, a linear movement from Creation to the “end of time.”

But we also need to add that it was only with the Hellenization and Romanization of Christianity in the first centuries AD that we see philosophers and historians trying to make sense of the connection of God and world history. The New Testament taught that God had connected himself to the happenings of the world through the historical figure of Jesus in the flow of time from the Creation to the eventual Second Coming, which made it impossible for Christians to view history as cyclical but instead postulated a beginning, a central event, and an ultimate goal. The historians of the first centuries AD would take this idea further by making Christian sense of the history before the coming of Jesus, and the history of their own times. Irenaeus (130–202) thus interpreted the Old Testament as the preparation for the New, as an “upward” development which demonstrated the divine “education of mankind.” God, by becoming man through Christ, restored humanity to being in the likeness of God, which humans had lost in the Fall of Adam. He saw an upward movement from the period of infancy in which Adam failed God’s command and elicited God’s punishment, to that of Christ (the new Adam) who represented the new head of humanity and undoes Adam’s disobedience. This idea of the “education of mankind” was developed further as Christians wrestled with the historical meaning of Greek philosophy as well as the meaning of Rome as a “universal” empire in God’s providential plan. Early Christians neither rejected outright nor accepted Greek philosophy completely, but took a historical view by arguing, as Justin Martyr (100–165) did, that Greece represented a stage in the growth of truth towards fullness in the revelation of Christ. Christ was “known in part even by Socrates.” Clement of Alexandria 150–215), likewise, wrote about God planting the seeds of Christian revelation in Plato and Aristotle.

As the expectation of the Second Coming weakened, Christians developed a conception of historical time that went beyond the finality of the Last Day, guided instead by the promise of redemption in the course of time, for the Creation was not perfect to begin with, but needed time to grow and mature. Before the Last Day, Christians had a historical role to play: “the good news must be preached to all the heathen.” For God to accomplish his mission to mankind, a long span of time may be required. Origen of Alexandria (185-253) and his disciples strove to give meaning to the history of Rome. The “seeds” of Christianity had been sown by Christ in every human since Creation; God had attended to the best in Greek as deliberately as he had revealed the Law to the Jews. The universal peace created by Rome was intended to create the conditions for the foundation of a universal Christian Church. Christians could not therefore discard as futile, as part of a meaningless cycle, the histories of Greece and Rome, for these histories were also part of the divinely ordained progress of humanity.

With the conversion of the emperor Constantine the Great (272–337), the Pax Romana came to be widely accepted as God’s instrument for the dissemination of the Gospel over secure roads and seas. It was the historian Eusebius (260/265-339), a close advisor of Constantine, who integrated Rome into Christianity’s “upward” “education of mankind,” generating thereby the possibility of a truly universalist conception of the concrete history of humans. He did so in his Chronicle and his Ecclesiastical History, within a time scale and a chronological time-line that included the rulers and dynasties of the Assyrians, Egyptians and other peoples, as well as the main figures and events of the Old Testament, the work of the Apostles to the deaths of St. Paul and St Peter, through to the making of Christianity into the official religion by Constantine in 313. Eusebius provided a chronology of the major world historical events, placing the birth of Chris in the year 5198 from Adam or 2015 from Abraham, on the basis of many documents and textual sources to ensure a proper record. He was the author of many books based on carefully collected materials, a man of indefatigable industry, though we must not assume he was a better historian than the Greeks/Romans, who were literary masters of prose, engaging narrators, and insightful psychological analysts. In the words of Michael Grant, Eusebius’ narrative was “uninspiring,” “dull, muddled and haphazard,” with a “cumbersome, obscure and slovenly Greek.”

While Saint Augustine (354-430) was not a historian, he offered a profound expression to the idea that truth is inseparable from historical time and that history points towards an end entailing “the education of the human race.” Augustine rejected the Greek idea that history goes on repeating itself endlessly through time and that nothing new emerges with each cycle. Any cyclic view is inherently unable to grasp the meaning of time. In his Confessions, he asked: “For what is time?” He answered: “If nothing passed away, there would not be past time; and if nothing were coming, there would not be future time; and if neither were, there would not be present time.” Therefore, humans could not have conceived of time if history was characterized by cycles repeating themselves throughout endless ages. In The City of God, he argued that God created time: “For, though Himself eternal, and without beginning, yet He caused time to have a beginning; and man, whom He had not previously made He made in time, not from a new and sudden resolution, but by His unchangeable and eternal design.” From this initial creation of man in time, in the beginning, we can witness thereafter, in the flow of historical time, “the education of the human race.”

Robert Nisbet, however, pushes too far the argument that there is in Augustine an idea of progress in a linear and cumulative way. Lowith may be more judicious in his claim that “for Augustine the historical task of the Church is not to develop the Christian truth through successive stages but simply to spread it, for the truth as such is established.” But it is hard to deny that Augustine was interested, in the words of Butterfield, “in the whole drama of human life in time.” Nisbet does make a good case that “it is the Greek strain in Augustine that causes him to put God in a developmental, progressive light.” We read in Aristotle that everything has a telos, a purpose, a striving to actualize its highest potentialities, and within man there is a potential for rational and moral perfection. Augustine appears to see the unfolding of this potentiality in the course of historical time rather than, as the Greeks did, within the biological lifetime of individuals on their own. Influenced perhaps by Eusebius’ attempt to write the actual history of humans within a Christian scheme, Augustine did write of epochs, with an eight-stage referring to the resurrection of Christ, and history culminating in a last stage, a blissful period on earth, prior to entry of the blessed into heaven. Conflict, suffering, torment, fire, destruction, would be endemic, until the attainment of the heavenly city, where humans would be “delivered from all ill, filled with all good, enjoying indefeasibly the delights of eternal joys, oblivious of sins, oblivious of sufferings.”

Other historians would follow, such as Paulus Orosius (375/385-420 AD), a pupil of Augustine, who wrote The Seven Books of History Against the Pagans, “considered to be one of the books with the greatest impact on historiography during the period between antiquity and the Middle Ages,” integrating into a Christian scheme the history of humanity starting with the Creation up to the times in which he lived. Scholars acknowledge him as “the first Christian universalist history” with his argument that there were four successive historical empires, Babylonia, pagan Rome, Macedonia and Carthage, followed by a fifth empire, that of the Christian Rome of his time, as the inheritor of all the achievements of the past. But something was missing in the early medieval Christian universalist histories: a lack of integration of the superior historical inquiries of the ancient Greeks (Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius) and Romans (Livy, Sallust, Tacitus), with their higher preoccupation with checking the trustworthiness of their sources, explaining the reasons for the occurrence of events, and writing detailed narratives with excellent prose. One can indeed say that the ancients would not be surpassed until modern times.

But we must not thereby neglect the achievement of medieval historians in their integration of the new barbarian Germanic kingdoms within the Christian scheme, ascertaining the designs of Divine Providence in the events and kingdoms witnessed. The “universalism” of the History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours (539-594), a Gallo-Roman aristocrat, consisted of a few opening pages summarizing Biblical events, the Incarnation of Christ, and the history of the Church, before narrowing the focus to Gaul, in what was then a very localized European world of isolated regions. He related many miracles as examples of the ever-present power of God in the occurrence of events, with portents as warnings from God of things to come, such as lights in the sky, comets, wolves in the city. Reading this book as an undergrad, I relate to John Burrow’s observation about Gregory’s recording of countless acts of violence, homicidal feuds, in an impassive fashion, as if these things were natural, drily recounting Clovis’s habit of unexpectedly bisecting people with an axe, while believing that Clovis “walked before Him with an upright heart and did what was pleasing in His sight.” It is not that he lacked any feelings, as we can sense in a passage where he laments the death of children in a plague: “And so we lost our little ones, who were so dear to us and sweet, whom we cherished in our bosoms and dandled in our arms, who we had fed and nurtured with such loving care. As I write, I wipe away my tears” [76]. Gregory simply took for granted the imperatives of power.

For Burrow, Gregory can “hardly” be viewed as a “great historian,” for his narrative was “too episodic, too uninterested in generalization and context.” But things would improve with the onset of the Carolingian Renaissance, which brought a revival of letters, accompanied by wide-scale copying of classical texts, under the reign of Charlemagne (768–814). A product of this age was Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne (830), which became a model for subsequent biographies, such as Bishop Asser’s Life of Alfred the Great (893). Einhard was fortunate to have access to the work of Suetonius, a biographer during the time of Tacitus, author of Lives of Illustrious Men (the poets Terence, Virgil and Horace), including Lives of the Caesars. Suetonius is known for avoiding the heavy moralizing of Plutarch, “looking at personages with a cooler and more disenchanted eye,” and for attributing to Julius Caesar the famous phrase “the die is cast” when he crossed the Rubicon. Einhard offered keen insight into Charlemagne’s political success, battlefield strategy, foreign and domestic policies, friends, enemies, and personal habits. But the Carolingian empire soon disaggregated into separate feudal kingdoms, and, in the overwhelmingly rural world of this age, we find instead a type of historical writing that paid homage to a few Christian universalist principles before focusing almost entirely on the episodic events of local and national regions. It is hard for humans to have a historical consciousness without discerning a developmental pattern in history, accumulation of innovations, continuous growth of knowledge, improvement in manners and morals, to allow them to transcend a conception of time in terms of the natural cycles of the seasons and the cyclical succession of civilizations and dynasties. Traditional cultures tend to be, by their very nature, unhistorical, and therefore not able to develop a proper historical consciousness.

Nevertheless, progress there was, if intermittent and slowly. Countless chronicles, which laid the groundwork for the nationalist histories of ethnic Europeans in the future, were produced during the Middle Ages: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (written in the late 900s, now recognized as a key historical source during the period following the Roman presence and preceding the Norman invasion in 1066), Chronicle of the Slavs (1170), Chronicle of Livonia (describing the conquest and conversion of Latvia and Estonia), Chronicle of Prague (completed in 1119, starting with the creation of the world, then describing the legendary foundation of the Bohemian state, and ending in 1038), Chronicle of the Poles, Chronicle of Novgorod (from the 900s to 1400)—to mention a few. These chronicles, as Ernst Breisach says, “usually reported events, item by isolated item, and their reason for recording an event was not its effects on the subsequent course of events but its being noteworthy in its own right or for instructing human beings about the spiritual cosmos they lived. In a chronicle, the conversion of one person could outweigh whole battles; the deeds of a humble woman would outrank the deeds of kings; and miracles, omens, visions, prophecies…could hold their own among the most impressive secular events.”

The emerging concept of causality, in which a given state of affairs was accounted for in terms of antecedent factors or events, evident in the work of Thucydides and Polybius, was abandoned in medieval historiography. Great historical works there were, but few and far in between. One of the most respected is Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Although the aim of this work was didactic, to record examples of goodness and wickedness, Bede is acknowledged as a “measured” historian “completely in control of his theme,” producing a history of the English peoples “generally chronologically lucid…[and] scrupulous in giving his sources.” Covering the history of England from the time of Julius Caesar to the date of its completion in 731, this book is considered one of the most important “primary” references on Anglo-Saxon history. Geoffroy de Villhardouin’s The Conquest of Constantinople, an eyewitness account of the Fourth Crusade (1199–1204), is also estimated by Burrow to be a proper history book in having a “coherent continuous narrative” rather than being a mere chronicle of events. Likewise, Burrow sees Jean Froissart’s Chronicles, depicting the Anglo-French rivalry during the Hundred Years War, as the work of “a master of fluent, controlled and relevant narrative.” William of Malmesbury’s The Deeds of the Kings of the English is judged by Breisach as an “encyclopedic survey,” widely read for its vigor and learning and for “reaching a literary level superior to that of preceding chronicles.” With the Roman historian Suetonius as his model, Malmesbury was a “careful, accurate, and conscientious writer,” who portrayed historical actors vividly.

But as much as medieval Christian historians tried to make sense of the course of history, they were frustrated in their inability to establish a clear connection between the idealized City of God and the chaotic and violent City of Man. Augustine, when asked why did God allow the city of Rome to be sacked by the Visigoths (in 410 AD) if the history of man was guided by Providence, drew a sharp contrast between the City of God, eternal, heavenly, awaiting us in the future, and the City of Man, characterized by pride, self-aggrandizement, and endemic conflict. He did not see in the City of Man, which reflects the actual history of man, a process of cumulative improvement, but a “shallow and corrupt reflection of the heavenly city because its founders” were “sinful men of the world.” The City of God, which reflected the ideals that God wanted for this world, would come only after the City of Man had been brought to an end. Augustine could not integrate the ideals of the City of God with the City of Man. The City of God represented the unchangeable ideals of Christianity, whereas the City of Man represented the changeable (unessential) values of man in the flesh. Augustine, and medieval Christian historians, could not overcome this dualism, because they could not detect actual progress in the City of Man. They were men, to use a Hegelian phrase, with an “unhappy consciousness,” a consciousness that experiences itself as divided within and against itself, frustrated by its inability to see the unity of God and human history. The historical consciousness of medieval Christians would have to await the modern era to see this unity, at which time it was secularized into a liberal idea of progress.

The Stalled Development of Chinese and Islamic Historiography

Did the modern Chinese write better histories than ancient Europeans? Hegel said that “no other people has had a series of historical writers succeeding one another in such close continuity as the Chinese.” In academia today students are being asked to “substitute a Europe-centered approach for a global approach” to correct a Western bias that assumed “that the Western style of historical writing is superior in everyway.” We now have books (such as “the impressive two-volume Global Encyclopedia of Historical Writing“) in which students learn how the historiography of Africa, Asia, and Latin America “rivals that of Western historiography.” The edited collection by historians from across the world, Turning Points in Historiography: A Cross Cultural Perspective (2002), cleverly tells us that history writing is not a “monopoly of the West…interest in the past appears to have existed everywhere and in all periods.” Are they serious that interest in the past can be equated with a tradition of history writing? Not quite, as the editors soon acknowledge (if implicitly) that “writing” has to be a key criteria: “it is well known that history and its writing did not begin in Greece” but “further to the east and earlier.” But this is not the contending issue either. Herodotus himself praised the Egyptians for “their practice of keeping records of the past.” It so happens that all the historians included in Turning Points in Historiography rely on what the book calls the “Western” scientific approach to history—rigorous use of sources and analytical precision—to make their case against “Europe-centered approaches.” None of these academics can undo the veracity that the Chinese tradition of history writing (deemed to be the only real competitor to the West) established in ancient times, the “annals-biographic form of dynastic historical writing,” with its moralistic tales as to “whether or not Tao was present in a certain period of history,” persisted with minimal changes for centuries right until Europeans brought their historical professionalism.

China is indeed the only civilization that can be said to have generated a continuous historiographical tradition, as Hegel understood. This same Hegel, however, would go on to say that it is nevertheless the case that their annals “fail to show any development.” In Turning Points in Historiography there are two very scholarly chapters seeking to show “new directions” in China. The first by T.H. Lee merely shows that in the period 960-1126 there was a “renewed” emphasis on moral teaching based on the reaffirmation of Confucian values, coupled with an increased emphasis on “historical criticism.” We are initially made to believe that this criticism amounted to rigorous questioning to determine the validity od the sources. But Lee, who supplies 89 bibliographic notes at the end of his chapter, soon admits, after a tortuous effort to show “new directions,” that “although Chinese historians were committed to recording historical events factually, they never developed a theory of historical criticism, at least until the end of the eighteenth century.”

The Greeks, Thucydides in particular, started historical criticism of sources, but it was really during the Renaissance that Europeans began to conduct a systematic study for the verification of sources. Lee admits, moreover, that Chinese history books in the period he examines “had yet to exhibit any tendency in employing causal interpretation” beyond showing an awareness that “events were related.” As much as Lee tries to bring Chinese historians closer to the standards of modern Western historiography, telling us that the Chinese understood that “when all the relevant facts are put together, and carefully collated and criticized…the truth will then reveal itself,” he cannot but conclude: “I admit that I have searched in vain for this analytical approach. The idea of causation, incipient as it was, did not continue to attract historical thinkers in imperial China; concern for supra-historical causes prevailed and overwhelmed the post Sung thinkers.” By “supra-historical causes” he means the ancient Chinese idea that history writing should be about the revelation of Tao in history, that is, with the didactic aim of showing that those dynasties that were successful had received the Mandate of Heaven, and those dynasties that were failures had lost the Mandate. The Chinese did not even develop a theory of dynastic cycles properly speaking, in the sense of identifying the causes for the rise and fall of dynasties, as the Romans did in identifying within human nature how the simplicity and frugality of early Rome had nurtured virtues that made its rise possible; and how the ease and affluence that came with successful conquests had nurtured vices that were leading to its decline.

Not even in the eighteenth century did the Chinese manage to transcend the Mandate of Heaven view of history. This can be established by examining the very words and conclusions of the second chapter in Turning Points in Historiography, which ostensibly seeks to demonstrate that China’s historiography underwent a major turning point in the 1700s, leading to a historiography comparable to that of the West during the Enlightenment. The title of this chapter, authored by the respected scholar Benjamin Ellman, is “The Historicization of Classical Learning in Ming-Ch’ing China.” In tedious detail, trying to squeeze every drop of evidence he can, with 113 bibliographical notes, but only barely filling a spoon, Elman concludes that by 1800 we see in China the use of “inductive methods by evidential scholars [that] indicated that they had rediscovered a rigorous methodology to apply to historiography” entailing “analysis of historical sources, correction of anachronisms, revision of texts.” Yet, he has to acknowledge, for otherwise he would have been dismissed as delusional, that this so-called “evidential research” of the Chinese “did not yet equal the ‘objective’ premises of German historicism” and that it only “resemble their European Enlightenment contemporaries.”

We will get to the Enlightenment and German historicism later on. Let it be said now that the “evidential research” of Chinese historians did not resemble the Enlightenment at all. Historians of the non-Western world like to give themselves airs about how they have deeper historical insights by implying that they know both Western and non-Western histories. In truth, their knowledge of the West rarely rises above generalizations bespeaking of their recollections of one or two undergrad surveys of European history. The “evidential research” of the Chinese had nothing to do with an emerging scientific attitude. To the contrary: it was an attempt to ensure a more accurate determination of the ancient Chinese classics as part of a revival of the authority of these texts in the name of a ritualistic conservative reaction. It was for the sake of ensuring the authenticity of ancient texts that Chinese historians cultivated a philological reading to determine which of many editions of the classics were really original and which copied or forged additions of later centuries. It is true that these “evidential” scholars were tired of the bookish Sung and Ming Neo-Confucians, their endless “rationalistic” commentaries on books, and thus they called for the study of “concrete subjects,” philology, history, astronomy, geography, and the like. But there was no resemblance between this and the Enlightenment, which, for starters, came in the heels of a Newtonian revolution, about which the Chinese had no idea.

The Western-educated Chinese historian, Kai-wing Chow, questions the hyped up phrase “evidential research” in his book The Rise of Confucian Ritualism in Late Imperial China (1994), arguing that this period witnessed not a philological revolution but the “rise of Classicism, ritualism, and purism.” The “evidential” (k’ao-cheng) movement was a response to the threatened position of the Chinese gentry, an effort to restore an elite culture which had been considerably weakened by Ming commercialization. The vision of this movement was conservative, recovery of the “original” or “pure” Confucian norms and language. They were dedicated to philological precision in their efforts to achieve or recover the pure classical traditions. “Filial devotion, loyalty to the monarch, and wifely fidelity”—these were their mottoes combined with “punctilious observance of hierarchical relationship, and the exaltation of the ritual authority of the Classics.” As it is, the “philological revolution” Elman saw emerging in 17th–18th-century China had already been pioneered by 14th–century Italian humanists in their “rediscovery” of lost ancient Roman classics. Starting with Petrarch (1304–74), who discovered several texts of Cicero, including letters, and verified that these were actually written by him. Lorenzo Valla (1407–54) carried to maturity this philological program by developing sophisticated methods of linguistic analysis to determine age and authenticity. The best-known example of this textual analysis was his determination that the Donation of Constantine, a testament in which Constantine bequeathed his power and wealth to the Church, was actually a forgery.

Turning Points in Historiography has a chapter on the “ascendancy” and “inspirational” work of the contemporary Subaltern School of Indian historians—without asking why India, a civilization thousands of years old, never generated a historiography until Western historians brought their professionalism. The Times of India cited the following words from R. C. Majumdar, a highly respected historian of Indian history: “One of the gravest defects of Indian culture, which defies rational explanation, is the aversion of Indians to writing history. They applied themselves to all conceivable branches of literature and excelled in many of them, but they never seriously took to the writing of history, with the result that for a great deal of our knowledge of ancient Indian history we are indebted to foreigners.” The journalist who wrote this article went on to say: “For a country that claims to have a 5000-year-old civilization…There was little recording of the past, only a retelling and that too by poets who mixed fact with fiction and myth with reality.” In the words of Oswald Spengler: “in the Indian Culture we have the perfectly ahistoric soul.”

Praising Islamic historiography “for its richness and variety,” Stephen Humphreys calls for European-centered approaches to be “denounced” as “pure Orientalism of the most invidious kind.” He opposes the “imposition of modern Western concepts and categories on another culture.” Yet, it should be apparent—to those who care to think outside the diversity box—that Humphreys relies on modern Western protocols of scholarship, careful referencing of sources, to make his case. I am against the imposition of Western categories on the non-western world. We should understand the different historiographical traditions of the world in their own terms (even as we abide by principles of modern historical research). Studying other cultures in their own terms, which Humphrey calls for, happens to be a Western idea. The title of Humphrey’s chapter is “Turning points in Islamic Historical Practice.” He admits that the Islamic historiography “never became a systematic science or even a subject of formal academic study among medieval Muslims.” However, a tradition of history writing did emerge in the early 700s, “as a recognized category of knowledge and genre writing” (narratives, reports of events). “Medieval Muslims did have a story to tell about their past, a complex but unmistakably linear narrative reaching from the life of Muhammad…down to their own times, and…far into the future, even until the last day.” In his book Islamic Historiography, Chase Robinson adds that many Muslim historians “were alert to contradictory evidence, to fabrication, exaggeration and bias.” It was important for them to be true to the history of their religion. But as Humphrey recognizes, Muslim historians “never show any real awareness of change and development” in their chronologies. “Events were in a real sense timeless… conceived and presented as moral exempla, not as links in a continuous narrative or as part of a historical process… The Qur’anic understanding of history is cyclical rather than linear.”

Now, given that Muslims did write “universal chronicles beginning with the life of the prophet or even earlier… year by year to the present [covering] events across the entire Islamic world,” one might suppose that Islamic historiography was comparable to what the ancients and medieval Christians achieved. The purpose of Islamic history, we are told, was also to offer examples of moral instruction, inculcate virtue and castigate vice; and it was also cyclical, combined with its own universalism. But this is misleading. Muslim historians lacked interest in causality, never mind distinguishing different types of causes. Moreover, Humphreys does not indicate whether Muslims offered explanations for the cycles of history (as we saw in Polybius, Sallust, Livy). The point of their moral teaching was to illustrate, not to explain, whereas for the ancients the point was to instruct about the nature of human beings, and why this nature underlies the cycles of history. And, as Humphreys admits, Muslims had no conception of change and development—unlike Christians, who initiated a history of development, and started to identify the main stages of history fitting the history of the ancients and the pagans into the Christian scheme. Finally, and this is very important: we don’t find among Muslims (and Chinese) actual historical narratives, as contrasted to mere chronicles, by which I mean controlled, sustained monographs, with a coherent and continuous narrative, as we see in Thucydides, Polybius, Livy, Tacitus… and in some late medieval European historians. This explains why we can still read with pleasure ancient historians, and historians like Bede and Villehardouin, whereas no one reads the annalistic and monotonous Chinese historians.

It is often said that Muslims “wrote in much the same way” (Robinson) as Christians, seeing God as the ultimate cause of all events, and seeing God’s will manifested through human events. But there is a key difference: the purpose of knowledge in the traditionalist culture of Islam was to conserve the truths that God had already made manifest in the past, beginning with Muhammad’s recitation of the Qur’an about 610, seen as a “golden age.” In Christianity, however, God does not reveal all truths from the beginning but in historical time through a long process of cumulative education. There is fundamental difference between Islam and Christianity that is generally overlooked. Islam is inherently traditionalist, and so is Confucianism, Judaism, and every other culture of the West. For traditionalist cultures the aim of knowledge is to conserve rather than create. We may certainly admire this attribute today in light of the current decimation of Western traditions by liberals. But the difference needs to be made that the ultimate wisdom of traditional cultures lies in a “golden age” in the past. The task of subsequent thinkers is to ensure that the culture remains anchored to the secure wisdom already attained in the past. In the Islamic case, God has already made manifest to man His will in the Koran, beginning with Muhammad’s recitation of the Koran in the year 610. As Robinson notes, by the tenth century, traditionalism in Islam had come to enjoy a virtual monopoly on jurisprudence, and conditioned nearly all branches of knowledge. “The ‘science of traditions’ which meant compiling, editing, and commenting upon reports of the Prophet’s words and deeds, and his transmitters” had come to be equated with knowledge per se. “Without any qualifying adjectives, ‘knowledge’ meant knowledge of traditions, and those who possessed such knowledge were ‘those who know’.” The existing knowledge could be reformulated and refined, but no new knowledge could be generated in the future. Christianity, however, is not traditionalist in the degree to which it holds the truths of God are actualized in the course of time leading to a future of bliss and harmony.

The Achievement of the Renaissance through to the 1600s

The historiographical thinking of the Renaissance is often viewed as a return to the Roman model of history writing, with Rome praised less for creating a Pax Romana that facilitated the spread of Christianity than for being a city that embodied patriotic republican virtues that could be imitated by the Italian city states. The Renaissance term “humanities” referred to an education in Latin rhetoric based on a close imitation of ancient models of writing found in Cicero and Seneca, and in Sallust and Livy. The purpose of history was to learn political lessons, as Roman historians had advocated, about the inherently cyclic character of history, how strong men and order emerge out of ruin and hardness, and how weak men and disorder emerge out of comfort and ease; and about the role of fate (fortuna) in human action, how even leaders with courage and intelligence may nevertheless be overwhelmed by chance events beyond their control. In Machiavelli’s words in Discourses on Livy: “those who read my remarks may derive those advantages which should be the aim of all study of history.” While few, if any, questioned the role of God as the first cause of all events, Christ’s central role and the Last Judgement, Renaissance historians, like the Romans, accounted for events in terms of the motivations and interests of individuals, appealing to constants in human nature to explain the rise and fall of leaders and states.

It is not that the accomplishments of Renaissance historians have been underestimated. In addition to the proliferation of chronicles on the history of Italian cities, great national histories were written, such as Guicciardini’s History of Italy, a detailed account covering 44 years of history, from 1490 to 1534, which is seen as quite original in its own right, committed to the complexity of historical causation, rather than applying in formulaic fashion a cyclic explanation, concerned with the “interaction of many motives, intentions, calculations, misconceptions, irrational impulses and fleeting or enduring psychological dispositions.” Paolo Giovio’s Histories of His Own Times (1550), had a somewhat “universal” character with its impressive description of the wars of France, Germany, and Spain, and the sack of Rome, and its integration of the entire Mediterranean world, including the contemporary history of the Muslim nations, into his vivid narrative, by an author with an encyclopedic mind. Moreover, the Renaissance saw the invention of philology, the science of verifying and authenticating old manuscripts, which permitted the identification of forgeries and alterations in old manuscripts and documents. Lorenzo Valla’s Discourse on the Forgery of the Alleged Donation of Constantine (1440) is now seen as initiating the study of modern philology and a scholarly spirit in the West that would both ensure a “scientific” approach to the use of historical sources and a more critical attitude towards age-old authoritative writings.

Yet, many can’t help conclude that the famous Renaissance division of history into the Ancient Period, the Dark Ages, and the Renaissance, was a direct refutation of the Christian idea that history is characterized by developmental stages. In the words of Frank Manuel, “The Renaissance writers were directly, almost slavishly, dependent on the cyclical theories that they found in the ancient texts.” Robert Nisbet agrees: the humanists “adored the ancient past” and viewed the Middle Ages as “a thousand years of desuetude, of sterility and drought, and worse, of a vast thicket of ignorance, superstition, preoccupation with the hereafter, and unremitting ecclesiastical tyranny.” For Nisbet, the idea of a cumulative history requires a belief in the value of the past as a whole, how past ages contributed, step by step, to the present. Reading Machiavelli, it is hard to disagree that his “inherently cyclical” view sees nothing new but a “fixed oscillation between the bad and the good,” with virtue becoming the very seed of vice, which is anathema to the idea of development, and to the attainment of a proper historical consciousness. Guicciardini’s History of Italy was one where fortune, chance, and evil doings dominated the narrative, “compounded of pessimism, helplessness, and a total inability” to detect any meaning and linearity in history. The West would have to wait until the 1700s to propound a definite linear conception of history.

What Nisbet misses in his otherwise very informative book, The History of the Idea of Progress (1980), is that i) the Renaissance also sees major achievements in art, technology, commerce, including the discovery of the world, which would make possible a global perspective, along with the rediscovery of many ancient cultural accomplishments, and that ii) the idea of progress does entail a rejection of the prejudices and false opinions of the past. Human beings cannot become historically conscious unless they have a linear conception and they can’t have a linear conception unless they detect actual progression in history. We have seen that in late antiquity Eusebius, Augustine and Orosius rejected the cyclic view of history in favor of the “education of the human race.” However, it can’t be denied that, while these three men tried to ascertain cumulative epochs in terms of actual historical peoples, leading to a blissful period ahead, they could barely identify progressive changes in the actual history of men. The stages they identified were deeply anchored in Biblical history, with only a few allusions to the importance of Greek philosophy in anticipating some Christian ideas and the importance of Roman imperial peace in facilitating the spread of Christianity and pointing to a future of perpetual peace. This inability to identify stages of progression in history would continue until the 1600s.

Nisbet’s claim that the idea of progress came into “full bloom” in the Middle Ages, only to be abandoned during the Renaissance, to be then renewed in the 1600s, fails to point to any conceptual improvement in this idea of progress during the entire Middle Ages beyond the vague, mainly Biblical conception we saw in the Augustinian view of late antiquity. Otto of Freising’s The Two Cities: A Chronicle of Universal History to the Year 1146, follows Augustine in seeing in world historical events the development in time of a divine plan, in seeing that as time passed “the minds of men were suited to grasp more lofty precepts about right living,” and in looking forward to a golden age of happiness—without, however, offering any details about the progress of men during the Middle Ages. St. Bonaventura (1221-1274) argued in his Breviloquium that God could have brought perfection in an a “single instant” but “chose instead to act through time, and step by step” in prefiguring the future—without identifying step by step the actual progression of man in history.

Nisbet tries to defend this medieval Christian view by pointing, as I have done elsewhere, to the many achievements of medieval man in Romanesque and Gothic architecture, in the invention of major technologies, such as very efficient water mills, reading glasses, universities, and indeed mechanical clocks with a new conception of time no longer based on the cycles of the weather, but as a “continuum of successive moments” moving in a straight line towards the future. But, then, why would medieval historians fail to integrate these progressive changes into their historical conception, and why would historians during the Renaissance go on to reaffirm the ancient cyclical view, despite further innovations? Keeping in mind that the world of the Middle Ages remained the same for the vast majority, overwhelmingly agricultural, where violence, pillage, and early death were the norm, through to the Renaissance, we can answer with Hegel that “the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.” “Minerva” is the goddess of wisdom, and what Hegel is saying is that philosophy takes flight only at the end of the day, after the day’s main events have taken place. Hegel believed that it was only in his own time that human beings came to understand history’s developmental logic for it was only in the 1800s that it became possible to see in full the cumulative progression of the mind. Development was occurring at an accelerating pace during the late Renaissance in a “progressivist” direction beyond what we generally witness in traditional agrarian civilizations (growth in population, extension of agricultural lands, larger cities) such as the discovery of the Americas, the mapping of the world, the gunpowder revolution, the Copernican heliocentric breakthrough, but more time was required for Europeans to fully apprehend their meaning within a comprehensive view of history. Nevertheless, some were beginning to realize that the Renaissance was indeed a new epoch in world history.

Francisco López de Gómara, in General History of the Indies (1553), called the discovery of the Americas the greatest event since Creation, in full awareness that the Christian idea of history, if it was to live up to its “universalist” ambitions, required the incorporation of the peoples of the Americas and the East Indies. Christian universalism was premised on the belief that its moral message, and its vision of the progression of truth in time, was universally true for all human beings irrespective of ethnic or cultural origin, and, for this reason, Christians must make sense of the histories of all peoples. Christians had worked hard incorporating the civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the peoples of Europe, but now a whole New World with very different values confronted it. Bartolomé de las Casas, in his History of the Indies (completed in 1561), insisted that the discovery of the New World actually fulfilled the universal aspirations of Christianity: the unity of mankind this religion anticipated was becoming a reality through the conversion of the Indians and the salvation of their souls. In A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, he condemned the atrocities committed by the colonizers against the Indians, and argued that they were fully human in the eyes of God, and that subjugation was a moral crime. He was indeed the first to extend the Christian view of the unity of mankind to the New World, stating that “All people of the world are humans,” with a natural right to liberty, an idea that combined Aquinas’ natural law principle that “the light of reason is placed by nature [and thus by God] in every man to guide him in his acts” with the Augustinian “education of the human race.” Francisco de Vitoria, a contemporary of de las Casas, is acknowledged as one of the originators of the principle of human rights, in arguing for the inviolable natural rights of the inhabitants of the New World, “whom he identifies as human persons with equal dignity and rights to their European counterparts.” This was a rejection of the Aristotelian argument that the Indians could be understood as slaves by nature, in line with the Christian belief in the intrinsic dignity of all humans. Starting from the Biblical idea that every dominion exists by God’s authority, Vitoria argued that we should think of the nations of the world as a kind of brotherhood with all peoples sharing a common conception of the ‘law of nations’ in which “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

In 1566, Jean Bodin published Methods for the Easy Comprehension of History, declaring that the unity of mankind was a project of the future, not a reality of the past. Prior universal histories had merely affirmed the unity of human history in terms of the Biblical account of the Genesis, incorporating the histories of unconnected nations without properly fitting them within a cumulative historical path.Bodin, according to Nisbet, emphasized progression from a time when “men were scattered like beasts in the fields and woods…until…the refinement of customs and the law-abiding society we see about us.” Pointing to the invention of printing, the mariner’s compass, which allowed for the circumnavigation of the world, the accumulation of geographical knowledge, Bodin affirmed the superiority of the moderns over the ancients, recognizing the cyclic path of both Greece and Rome as they were eventually overtaken by decay and decline, but adding that within the broader context of a universal history one could detect new historical cycles on a higher level of achievement. He opposed slavery in the New World as unnatural and envisioned a strong state that would guarantee personal liberal and private property; and, beyond this, of the world as a universal state with the peoples of the world working in solidarity towards the common good. He also called for a new universal history that would compare and contrast the different laws and customs of all nations, based on primary sources—thus pointing towards a universalist multicultural history

Before the 1800s, however, the knowledge Europeans had of the past was extremely sparse for lack of archival historical research, which spoke of their undeveloped historical consciousness. We may date the beginnings of a trend toward systematic archival collections to the late 16th century when King Francis II entrusted Jean du Tillet with the reorganization of the royal archives. Without primary sources historians could not but remain dependent on the memories of the historian or of eyewitnesses and on earlier historians and chroniclers. During the Renaissance and through the 1700s, historians still held as their ideal in historical writing the revered ancient models. Tacitus was the most admired model during the 1600s. Great historical accounts were still being written using and improving upon this ancient model in the psychological analysis of the motivations of human actors and the high literary style of narratives. Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon’s The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England, published between 1702 and 1704, judged to this day as one of the greatest historical narratives, the standard for all future histories of the revolution. Like Livy, Plutarch, Thucydides and Tacitus, Clarendon offered keen insights into the ways in which one could find in different men conflicting traits, making up for admirable characters. This type of psychological analysis was non-existent outside the West, where the annalistic traditions, with its impersonal form of history writing, barely changed, and where an unchanging atmosphere, and a lack of self-consciousness, produced stereotypical historians and historical personalities.

Meanwhile, the historical consciousness of Europeans would experience a steady progression in archival research from the 1600s on. The most outstanding work was Jean Mabillon’s De Re Diplomatica (1681), known for establishing the methodology for determining the authenticity and dates of medieval manuscripts in its examination of ink, parchment, and handwriting style. This revolution in archival methods, which came in the heels of the invention of printing, which facilitated access to archival documents, was essential to the very possibility of studying the past in a scientific and systematic manner. It encouraged a keen interest in the Middle Ages, away from the Renaissance notion that it was an ignorant “dark age.” It was around this time that Tacitus’ Germania became popularly known, leading historians to trace the origins of France’s Estates General back to the Germanic assemblies of pre-Roman times. Some English historians divided the history of England into pre-feudal, feudal, and post feudal periods, while others argued that a class of independent freeholders was the foundation of European republicanism, in contrast to the Renaissance view which held that republics were controlled by a commercial elite, as the Italian city states showed. These studies in medieval history would eventually lead to a new periodization of history into Ancient, Medieval, and Modern, as historians in the 1700s came to acknowledge the significance of the Middle Ages in laying the foundations for Modern Europe, and as they came to the realization, with the birth of Galilean/Newtonian science, that they were living in an age that was superior to that of the Ancients.

That Bossuet’s Discourse on Universal History (1681) was “completely anticipated” in Augustine’s City of God, published 1200+ years earlier, testifies to the immense influence of the Christian conception of history. Bossuet’s book was an updated, more historically self-aware, attempt to demonstrate the omnipresence of Providence over the course of world history. Without God, history would be “a void of nothingness.” “Why, after all, were there Greeks and Romans? Of what use was Salamis? Actium? Poitiers? Lepanto? Why was there a Caesar, and a Charlemagne?” Only by postulating the unfolding of God in the course of time and events could humans make sense of their history. Bossuet, advisor to Louis XIV, wanted to show that in history we can detect progressive “epochs”—from the Creation itself, the Flood, the law of Moses, the rise and fall of Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Macedon and Rome, through to the coronation of Charlemagne to his own time. All these seemingly separated peoples were constitutive of one universal process. He praised the Egyptians for their inventive genius, their law-abiding disposition, their advancement in science, their art, education and agriculture. The Divine purpose was anticipated by the prophets in the case of Assyria, Babylonia and Persia. Providence charged the Jewish people with defending the worship of the true God throughout the pagan centuries. The extension of Roman peace across the known universe rendered the conversion of the world to Christianity. It was Providence that brought order to the Germanic barbarians, creating kingdoms that would reconcile the Christian framework inherited from Augustine with the classical rhetoric and civic morals of the Greek/Roman world under the law of Christ.

While the Almighty sustains and directs the secondary causes, and sometimes interferes directly, Bossuet traced, in some degree of historical detail, the course of events without bringing in God, appealing to the role of geographical conditions, climate and fertility, the influence of one country on another, while offering many secular insights, economic, social, and cultural, on the rise and fall of empires. Today, in our secularized age, we may view Bossuet’s argument that the whole past of humanity would be rendered meaningless without the guiding hand of Providence as a meaningless metaphysical assumption without empirical objectivity. As we shall see below, however, all subsequent attempts at writing universal histories merely replaced Providence with another metaphysical agent: Liberty or Reason, and, more recently, the idea that history has been leading towards “a single global identity across all human societies” based on Universal Human Rights.

Enlightenment Consolidation of the Idea of Progress

One of the great philosophers of history of this era would seem to have retrogressed away from this developing idea of progress with his cyclical view of history, that is, Giambattista Vico, author of Scienza Nuova Prima (1725/1744). First, it needs to be recognized that this book offered a very original and profound perspective about history, the idea that we can only understand the cultural practices of humans by studying their history, which spoke to the improving historical consciousness of Europeans. Vico made a powerful case for the development of a methodology that was unique to the historical sciences against the use of the “Cartesian deductive method.” History deals with non-quantifiable evidence, with the languages, customs, and actions of people, which are particular and individuated, and change over time. A “new science” of history could be constructed because it was a product of human action. History was essentially “the history of the ideas, the customs, and the deeds of mankind,” from which study we can “derive the principles of the history of human nature, which we shall show to be the principles of universal history.” While nations don’t develop at the same pace, they all pass through the same stages: the ages of gods, heroes, and men. Nations “develop in conformity to this division by a constant and uninterrupted order of causes and effects present in every nation.” The age of gods and heroes result from the creative acts of “imagination,” while the age of men stems from the faculty of “reflection.” Nations were “poetic in their beginnings,” and their history can be understood through the study of their fables, myths, the structure of early languages, and the formation of polytheistic religions.

Vico thus saw in history the steady ascendance of reason over imagination, from the bestial state of early society to the rule of law, actualizing the potential of human nature. The transition from one stage to the next and the steady ascendance of reason over imagination represent a gradual progress of civilization, a qualitative improvement from simpler to more complex forms of social organization. This progress in history is the manifestation of Providence in the world. Vico however came up with the original idea that Providence utilizes the vices of men to bring about progress: “Out of ferocity, avarice, and ambition, the three vices which run throughout the human race, legislation creates the military, merchant, and governing classes, and thus the strength, riches, and wisdom of commonwealths. Out of these three great vices, which could certainly destroy all mankind on the face of the earth, it makes civil happiness.” In short, it was “out of the passions of men each bent on his private advantage” that God brought forth his rational design. With this idea—which would find expression in Kant’s concept of the “unsocial sociability” of humans, and in Hegel’s “cunning of reason,” historians would start to integrate the indelible role of human vices in history with the idea of progress, and how this progress was leading towards the gradual improvement of human nature, or the possibility that humans would find peaceful but still transformative ways to express their vices. Yet Vico, at the same time, emphasized the cyclical character of history with the three ages, the divine, the heroic, and the human, repeating themselves—famously writing that “the nature of peoples is first crude, then severe, then benign, then delicate, finally dissolute.” He integrated this cyclical conception within the Christian linear idea. With the end of a cycle, a new cycle begins at a higher level of culture. He wrote of his own time as the “second age of men” characterized by the “true” Christian religion and the monarchical government of 17th century Europe.

It was around the mid-1700s that Europeans began to identify a clear, empirically based, sequence of stages independent from the Biblical narrative, depicting a progressive improvement in actual laws, forms of government, economic systems, and in the manner and morals of humans, in terms of purely natural or man-made causes—thus secularizing, not rejecting, the idea of progress in Augustine, Orosius, and Bossuet. This was originally an achievement of the “Scottish Enlightenment,” with the most notable books including Lord Kames’s Historical Law Tracts (1758) and Sketches on the History of Man (1774), Adam Ferguson’s The History of Civil Society (1767), William Robertson’s The History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V (1769), John Millar’s Origin of the Distinction of Ranks (1771), Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations (1776), and James Dumbar’s Essays on the History of Mankind in Rude and Cultivated Ages (1780). This “modern” stage theory of history began with the observation that increasing commercialization and advancement of human knowledge (now apparent in the rise of Newtonian science) countered the Hobbesian and Calvinist vision of human nature as innately depraved and inclined to permanent violence unless men subordinated themselves to an absolute authority capable of preventing an inevitable “war of all against all.” The moral philosophers, the British Lord Shaftesbury and the Scot Francis Hutcheson, began to argue, under the influence of Locke’s blank slate argument, that the moral character of humans was not permanently fixed but capable of improvement. They observed an increasing “refinement” and “politeness” in the urbane and enlightened culture of their times, concluding that humans were born with an innate moral sense, which God granted to them in His own image, a benevolent “fellow-feeling” and a “delight in the good of others.” Humans desire happiness, and helping others gratifies them—“approbation of our own action denotes, or is attended with, a pleasure in the contemplation of it.” Humans are thus self-interested in the well-being of others for the satisfaction it brings them. Hutcheson agreed with Locke that humans are born naturally free and equal everywhere regardless of origin or status, while going beyond by attacking slavery and calling for the maximization of the “natural rights” of man to “life, liberty and honestly acquired property.” The pinnacle of social morality would be achieved when each individual was allowed to live his life as he peacefully chooses while respecting the equal rights of others.

But the question remained: if the desire for happiness and freedom is universal, and humans have an innate moral sense, why have these attributes come to fruition only in modern times rather than across societies throughout history? The implied answer appeared to be that the nature of man had been gradually refined in the course of history. Lord Kames was the first to provide a schematic four stage theory of history—hunting and gathering savagery, pastoral nomadism, agriculture, and commerce—showing how the way people think, act, and govern their lives changes depending on their stage of economic development. Before the rise of commercial society, the natural inclination that humans have to the appropriation of the fruits of their labor as their private property, and to the augmentation of their “opulence,” could not find free expression as long as property was controlled by clans and tribes, or the fields were cultivated communally, as was the case before the consolidation of commercial society, the legal protection of private property rights, and the enforcement of contracts by the government to ensure the peaceful exchange of goods, which had the effect of softening and polishing the manners of men. As Robertson put it, “Commerce tends to wear off those prejudices which maintain distinction and animosity between nations. It softens and polishes the manners of men. It unites them, by one of the strongest of all ties, the desire of supplying their mutual wants.” Traditional societies cannot withstand the attractions of commerce because they run counter to “love of independence and property, the most steady and industrious of human appetites.”

We find, then, in Kames the idea that history has been progressively moving towards a commercial society, where the innate disposition of humans to liberty is actualized. In this society, the nature of man is properly nurtured. We may say now that Kames was a “racist” in his designation of primitive societies as “savage” and his designation of his commercial society as “civilized.” But his idea that all men, regardless of race and regardless of their past traditions, will prefer a commercial society, given the choice, cuts “across issues of race” (as Arthur Herman correctly judges), and points to the current Anglo-American idea of spreading commerce and liberty around the world.

The idea of progress, however, does not require the idea that human nature is innately good. David Hume, known in his time primarily as the author of the six-volume History of England (1754-62), rejected the Shaftesbury-Hutcheson idea that man had an innate “moral sense.” Reason is a “slave of the passions,” of anger, lust, fear, envy, and love of fame. Humans employ their reason as an instrument to advance their self-interests, avoid pain and increase their pleasure. Yet, while Hume emphasized the “uniformity of human nature,” he also agreed with his Scottish friends that history showed progress, growth of industry, personal liberty and peaceful cooperation. Increasing commerce, increasing liberty, increasing creativity in the arts and sciences, and increasing refinement in human manners, were all interrelated. The progress witnessed in history consisted in the re-channeling of human passions in constructive directions through the creation of rules and conventions, internalized by humans into habitual behaviors. The lust for sex, for example, was made socially useful within the confines of marriage. While greed on its own, without limits, destroys peaceful coexistence, increasing commercialization entailed the rechanneling of this passion in a constructive direction by encouraging everyone to pursue their self-interest within the framework of a civil society that protected the property rights of individuals.

Adam Smith, without denying that humans have “an original desire to please, and an original aversion to offend his brethren,” agreed with Hume that self-interest is an essential attribute of man, coupled with the “natural effort of every individual to better his condition” as long as they are given the opportunity to do so in a free market. His Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), seen as a summation of the Scottish exploration of progress, of the stages of economic and cultural development through which humanity has passed, explained at length how it is that the hidden hand of the market, a competitive setting in which everyone is obligated to supply the goods preferred by consumers, channels the pursuit of private gain into the general welfare of society. The way to maximize general wealth is to allow men to pursue their self interest by buying and selling without government monopolies and curtailments on the accumulation of wealth. Free markets have an inbuilt tendency for progress: increasing participation in the market increases the division of labor and thus productivity, and the greater the pressures of competitiveness, the more businesses invest in new technologies, which ensures continuous progress.

At this point in the history of Europeans, the idea of progress had risen above the speculative; it was based, and supported by the reality that Europe had been progressing at an accelerating rate in the sciences, in liberty, and the making of new technologies. The “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 was seen as a largely consensual (polite) and bloodless success of tempered liberty and limited monarchy. Inventions and innovations were appearing successively through the 1700s, such as Jethro Tull’s seed drill, Newcomen’s atmospheric steam engine, John Kay’s flying shuttle, Benjamin Franklin’s lightening rod, John Harrison’s chronometer for measuring longitude, Hargreaves’s spinning jenny—culminating in an Industrial Revolution that would see a whole new epoch in European history. Without these changes—the Renaissance, Discovery of the World, Rise of Galilean/Newtonian science, the Glorious Revolution, which firmly established the principles of frequent parliaments, free elections and freedom of speech within Parliament, followed by the Industrial Revolution—the historical consciousness of Europeans would have stalled and stagnated back into a purely cyclical conception, or never risen above a Christian millennial anticipation of a Golden Age beyond the earthly realities of the City of Man. The Scottish stage theory of history was a major historiographical accomplishment advancing knowledge about the main patterns of history. The greatest historical narrative of this age was Edward Gibbon’s six-volume work, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776), which incorporated the ancient cyclic idea that decline is a product of the luxury, effeminacy, and corruption that conquest and success bring, while agreeing with the insightful observation made by Hume (and Montesquieu) that the luxury obtained by commerce and industry would not have the same enervating effect as the luxury obtained by conquest, for it required frugality, energy and discipline, writing: “We may therefore acquiesce in the pleasing conclusion that every age of the world has increased , and still increases, the real wealth, the happiness, the knowledge, and perhaps the virtue of the human race.”

By the mid-1700s, the idea that we can witness cumulative advancement in history came to dominate the minds of historians. However, whereas the “moderate” Scottish perspective held that the fellow-feeling of humans could be nurtured and their greed could be rechanneled into productive tasks within a market setting, without altering the self-interested nature of humans, among members of the French Enlightenment the central message was that history was leading towards the perfection of human nature itself. This movement “towards greater perfection” was anchored in the belief that history was fundamentally a process involving the emancipation of reason from the blind passions of humans, which had been responsible for their superstition and vices, rather than being anchored, as it was for the Scots, in the mere acquisition of commercial comfort and polite behavior. Voltaire, in his Essay on the Manners, Customs, and the Spirit of Nations (1754), praised the achievements of the Chinese, Indian, Persian, and Islamic civilizations, while arguing that the superiority of the West consisted in the greater progress of their rationality. While the majority of people may never become fully rational, among Western elites there was a noticeable increase on the reliance of reason rather than religious dogma. Voltaire would go beyond Hume’s argument favoring skeptical and naturalistic principles over the revealed truth-claims of Christianity in openly stating that the priestly class was the greatest purveyor of bigotry and oppression.

And Condorcet would take to its logical conclusion this progressive idea in his essay “Sketch for an Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind” (1795), which identified ten distinctive stages in humanity’s advancement, from the beginning when men were “united into
hordes,” through “the agricultural state” and “the invention of alphabetical writing,” to the “Invention of the Art of Printing,” right to his own time, the ninth stage, when modern Cartesian and Newtonian science were consolidated, and the French Republic declared the “true rights of man.” In the tenth stage, he anticipated the education of the human race with the creation of public schools, the spread of mathematics and the social sciences, guaranteeing the infinite perfection of the human condition, bringing universal happiness. This would be a time “when the sun will behold henceforth on earth free men only, recognizing no master but their own reason.” In the tenth stage, he anticipated the education of the human race with the creation of public schools, the spread of mathematics and the social sciences, and “real improvement” in the “moral, intellectual and physical” faculties of men across the world, bringing about, in the words of Keith M. Baker, “a more decent world for universal human rights, individual autonomy, and a measure of equality between individuals and nations.”

The Enlightenment age saw an increasing awareness among Europeans about the broad patterns of human history, fueled by their realization that their own time was indeed a new era in the rational understanding of reality. The Enlightenment was completely different from any previous epoch, a “modern” era, characterized by its scepticism towards all religious beliefs hitherto accepted as true, by its questioning of the notion of “divine right” and rule by a nobility based on privilege of birth. It called for a government based on the will of the educated commercial and professional classes, which had acquired their positions on merit, by peaceful means. Kant, in an essay entitled, “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim,” published in 1784, offered a synthesis of the Scottish and French idea of progress. The “motto of enlightenment” was “have courage to use your own reason.” History showed a constant propensity towards “progress” and liberty: “it has revealed a tendency and a faculty in human nature for improvement.” Drawing on the Hume’s conception of human nature, and Adam Smith’s explanation about how markets redirect human self interest into benevolent ends, Kant anchored the dynamic of history in the “unsocial sociability” of humans. While humans are social by nature, in need of cooperating with others, they also have a “thoroughgoing resistance” to this tendency due to their vanity, greed, and self-interest. It was this “unsocial sociability,” and the antagonisms it generated, that brought about historical change. “Without those qualities of an unsocial kind, out of which antagonism arises… men might have led an Arcadian shepherd life in complete harmony, contentment and mutual love, but in that case their talents would have forever remained hidden in their germ.” It was as if Providence had implanted this trait on humans as part of a “hidden plan of nature” to bring about the Enlightenment out of which the rational capacities of men would be fully developed. In his essay “Perpetual Peace,” Kant proposed a federation of republics, a “universal civic society which administers law among men,” uniting nations into one great supreme body, that puts in place constitutions and treaties capable of ensuring liberty, peace, security, and rights within and between nation-states.

These were “philosophic histories,” not actual historical narratives. The writing of historical events “as they really were” based on extensive research in primary sources, and on a professional university education, still lay in the future. Among the greatest, and most influential, historians of the nineteenth century are those who believed that history was, above all, a story of the gradual realization of liberty, knowledge, and reliance upon reason—a view that culminated, as we shall see soon, in what came to be known in the twentieth century as the “Grand Narrative” of American liberalism in the wake of the defeat of Fascism in WWII, which viewed the synthesis of scientific reason, capitalist prosperity, and individual rights, as the highest in achievement, a result of thousands years of Western evolution, combining the Greek democratic and rationalist legacy, Roman law, Judeo-Christian values, the Enlightenment, and modern bourgeois revolutions.

One of the first narrative histories of this liberal view was Thomas Macaulay’s 5 vol. History of England from the Accession of James II, published in 1846-61. The focus was on England, and its argument was that the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and the liberal progressive history of this nation thereafter, demonstrated that the England of Macaulay’s time was not an accidental creation but the result of centuries of development marked by the gradual march of liberty, beginning in its free Germanic institutions, through to the Magna Carta of 1215, and leading to Victorian England as the industrial workshop of the world. Macaulay’s book, one of the most famous and best-selling historical works ever written, celebrated the peculiarly British achievement for progress without totally breaking with the past, reconciling past, present, and future, as witnessed in the relatively peaceful Glorious Revolution, which created a constitutional monarchy, and preserved the House of Lords, followed by the Reform Act of 1832, actively supported by Lord Macaulay, a Whig politician. This Reform Act, he argued, had saved Britain from the radical revolutions experienced on the continent, particularly in France. Herbert Butterfield would later (1931) call it “the Whig interpretation of history.” This was a history in which the agent of progress was the middle class, the urbane commercial classes the Scottish Enlightenment had celebrated the previous century for its “politeness.”
While Macaulay’s “Whig interpretation” would be subsequently developed in a historically “professional” direction (criticized as he was for his unsophisticated use of sources despite general admiration for his “vivid, dramatic, eloquent and exhilarating” narrative style), the Whig interpretation is seen today as a short-lived effort that barely anyone would accept in subsequent decades, discredited by historical events themselves, the WWI disaster, the rise of fascism, and the cultivation of sophisticated historical methodologies. Butterfield’s criticism that Whig narratives were inherently “teleological” in understanding the past in light of present values, rather than on its own terms, was indeed widely accepted. Yet, what was really rejected was an oversimplified version of the liberal progressive narrative. We can start to realize this by simply witnessing the widespread acceptance of liberal values throughout the Western world into our own times, and the continued persistence of progressive historians, who now come in multiple shapes, with diverse methodologies, diverse historical agents, freed from any form of Anglo/European centrism. Butterfield’s own best-known book, The Origins of Modern Science, 1300–1800, was itself quite Whiggish in tracing a cumulative line of scientific advancement in Europe. Because the West was actually seen increasing scientific knowledge, higher productivity, improving standards of living, greater equality of rights, this progressive liberal view could not be easily defeated.

Macaulay was one among many. Francois Guizot, France’s greatest 19th century constitutional historian, wrote a History of Civilization in Europe (1828), arguing that Europe’s dynamism, as contrasted to the theocratic and despotic civilizations of the East, derived from its Germanic love of aristocratic independence, its Roman civic republicanism, and its Christian idea of separation of spiritual and secular powers. William Stubbs, relying mainly on primary sources, a true antiquarian editor of 19 volumes of medieval chronicles, known for his dense scholarly rigor, authored The Constitutional History of England in its Origins and Development (1873, 3 vol.), arguing that England had a history of liberty beginning with the Teutonic free holding of land and self-government of village communities, through medieval local representative bodies, to the fully developed national parliamentary constitution of the modern era. The triumph of the liberal idea of progress cut across ideological, national, and religious differences, notwithstanding the emerging tensions between those who adopted the Scottish/Anglo commercial version of progress (which tended to hold a realistic view of human nature as unchangeable even if capable of “improvement in manners”), and those who believed that progress entailed the “perfection of human nature” itself. The former liberal version would become identified with “conservatives,” whereas the latter would be identified with “radical liberals.” The most utopian liberal may have been William Godwin. He was convinced that a time would be reached when “there will be no war, no crimes, no administration of justice…and no government…neither disease, anguish, melancholy, nor resentment. Every man will seek, with ineffable ardor, the good of all.” Both two sides, however, belonged to the same European/Christian root, and, despite their many quarrels, would eventually, with the defeat of Fascism in the 1940s, and Communism in the 199s, coalesce as two sides of the same triumphant “end of history” Liberalism.

Few could escape the reality of progress in the West, including the Catholic authoritarian Auguste Comte. In his exhausting six volume treatise, Course in Positive Philosophy (1830-1842), Comte would focus on the intellectual history of Europeans in light of the “peculiar capacity of European countries to serve as the theatre of the preponderant evolution of humanity.” This does not mean that his theory, as Karl Lowith implies, was not universal. The Occident was increasingly coming to be seen as the torchbearer for the future course of human history. This “Eurocentrism” would come to be repudiated after about the 1950s as inappropriate for a progressively improving Western world. Comte explained how the mind had progressed through three stages, the theological, the metaphysical, and the positive or scientific stage, detailing this three stage evolution for each of the major sciences, and how this evolution occurred first in astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and, in his time, was occurring in the sciences of man, leading to the development of sociology as the last and most comprehensive positive science, which would work to make society totally rational with scientists as the rulers, bringing about the perfect realization of all the potentialities of human nature, to a future of peace, harmony, and happiness. Comte, who had a preference for the Catholic “system,” reached this conclusion without endorsing the French revolutionary principles of “liberty, equality, and popular sovereignty,” calling individualism and liberalism “the disease of the Western world,” and insisting that only a central authority could provide the order necessary for the full positive reconstruction of society. This Catholic authoritarianism would eventually be discarded by “more” progressive scientific liberals. While Marxism would constitute a formidable illiberal attempt to achieve progress, and become one of the most influential historiographical schools in the West, with the fall of communism in the 1990s, and the prior defeat of Fascism, the West would witness the integration of radical and classical liberalism, combined with a feminist and a multicultural historiography against Eurocentrism.

A few decades after Comte, Herbert Spencer, in the wake of Darwin’s progress in biological knowledge, would argue that the “law of progress” was inscribed in the evolutionary struggle for survival as witnessed in the natural world and in the struggle of individuals and nations for supremacy. To ensure the survival of the fittest, the best thing the state could do was to stay out of education, manufacturing, public health, and sanitation. “All deficiency would disappear,” “unfitness to the conditions of existence,” as societies left individuals to pursue their interests on their own spontaneous efforts, forming voluntary associations if they so wished, to achieve success or failure. In societies with minimal state interference, “imperfection would disappear” and “the ultimate development of the ideal man” would be “logically certain.” Spencer would eventually be caught up within the very logic of progress he endorsed as a new generation of progressives would condemn him as a “racist reactionary” to be discarded from the pantheon of “great sociologists.”

Nisbet contends that up until the 1970s the idea of progress exerted a powerful influence on Western civilization since ancient times. J. B. Bury, in his classic, The Idea of Progress, traces its origins to the 1600s. I believe that it originated with Christianity, notwithstanding its undeveloped character, which awaited the reality of actual progress for this idea to be articulated in a conscious, empirically based, way in the 1700s. Nisbet believes that, by the 1970s, what were once solid sentiments about “the value and promise of Western civilization” came to be “severely challenged by doubt and disillusionment, even outright hostility.” Western history, rather than seen as a gradual process of amelioration in manners, standard of living, and freedoms, was now interpreted as a long travail of follies, colonial wars, despoliation of the world’s ecology, enslavement of peoples and racial inequalities. The idea of progress, Nisbet observes, had been able “to survive a great deal of adversity in its twenty-five hundred years: mass poverty, plagues and famines, devastating wars…religious tyranny.” The difference in the 1970s was that this idea had lost its “crucial premises.” These premises had been “challenged by doubt and disillusionment” from the late 19th century and with “outright hostility” in the 2nd half of the 20th century. The premises which had sustained this idea were: i) belief in the value of the past, ii) conviction in the superiority of Western civilization, iii) acceptance of the worth of economic and technological change, iv) faith in reason and in the intrinsic worth of life on earth.

But if the idea of progress was rejected, how come Western elites today (across political lines) are so committed to the “improvement of the human condition” through the maintenance of public goods to “reduce the harmful effects of economic inequality” as well as “institutional racism” while advocating for “environmentally conscious policies,” “gender equality,” “minority rights,” multiculturalism, and political correctness? What Nisbet misses is that this idea presupposes, by its very normative impetus, progression in the way that we think about progress. Conviction in the superiority of Western civilization, coupled with the designation of less developed peoples as “savages” and “barbarians,” is a “Eurocentric prejudice.” The idea of progress could not sustain itself merely by repeating that things have been progressing as they should in a harmonious manner leading to the best of all possible worlds at each point in time. The 19th century socialist and Marxist critique of the classical liberal idea of progress was premised on the progressive conviction that for all the incontestable evidence of progress, the vast majority were still living in misery. Nisbet himself refers to various socialistic arguments, such as Henry George’s argument in his best-selling book, Progress and Poverty (1879), that reduction of inequalities, slavery and hereditary privileges, has been a cardinal component in “the law of progress” throughout history, with one inequality still remaining: “unjust accrual of profits and other income from the land.” Only with the elimination of this “last vestige of barbarism,” socialists came to believe, would a golden age start in the history of humanity. Nisbet was an old conservative who wished to stop the progressive course of history he endorsed before the 1970s. The idea of progress does not require reverence for the past. Nisbet chastises the liberal historian John Harold Plumb (1911-2001) for welcoming “the death of the past,” as Plumb put it in the title of a book published in 1969. After celebrating the progress man accomplished in controlling himself and his environment through his rationality, Plumb happily asserted: “The old past is dying, its force is weakening, and so it should. Indeed, the historian should speed its way, for it was compounded of bigotry, of national vanity, of class domination.” Plumb looked forward to a time when humans would not identify as “Americans or Russians, Chinese or Britons, black or white, but as man.” Nisbet can’t come to terms with the reality, as it is now indubitably clear, that universalism, the true rights of man, together with the Enlightenment reverence of “human reason,” created the conditions for the view that an “irrational and bigoted past” should not be revered. Discarding Western civilization is an inevitable result of progress.

We have seen that a philosophy of history has been an intrinsic component of the Western idea that history is not a chance combination of events but is characterized by purposeful rational pattern leading to, in the words of Kant, “the development of all the capacities implanted in men.” Although the secularization of this idea would generate scepticism towards the Kantian notion that “the history of mankind…can be regarded as the realization of a hidden plan of nature,” liberals to this day tend to accept Voltaire’s argument that we can view history as a movement away from superstition and bigotry towards enlightenment, as well as Condorcet’s anticipation that in future stages we would witness “the abolition of inequality between nations and the progress of equality within each nation.” Because there was barely any development outside the West, with the civilizations of the East becoming ossified and cyclical after their Axial Age (600 BC-200 AD) accomplishments, the East failed to nurture a philosophy of history = reflections on the meaning, trajectories, patterns, and goal of history.

G. W. F. Hegel was the greatest philosopher of history produced by the West. The becoming of man, the actualization of his essence in the course of history, was fundamental to Hegel’s thinking. His Lectures on the Philosophy of World History (1830) contend that “the history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom.” The key term is not “freedom”—as it would be for a classical liberal—but “consciousness” of freedom, and the singular capacity of reason to lift people up above the chance events of nature, above their instinctive inclinations and their unreflective acceptance of customary norms. The beginning of the growth of freedom was made possible by the beginning of the liberation of reason from its prior dependence or submergence within the natural world and its unreflective acceptance of the world as it was given to it. Hegel’s philosophy of history is an account of the stages by which humans become conscious of their consciousness, with the thinking subject gradually ceasing to be imprisoned to something external to it, leading to the beginnings of selfhood and an inward consciousness, a dialectic that starts in ancient Greece. It is this self-relation of the “I” to itself that introduces a developmental dynamic to European history. Africans remained completely absorbed, much like children, in their natural world. China, India, and Persia did develop some abstract ethical concepts about the proper way of life, but their spirit then stagnated after the origins of Confucianism, Hinduism, and Zoroastrianism during the Axial Age, remaining “rule-followers,” where propriety was identified with the way things were done in a golden past. They thus stood “outside the world’s history,” with India never developing a historical consciousness, and China never going beyond an annalistic form of writing and never coming up with the idea of progress.

Yet, Hegel’s conception of freedom dissented from the Anglo liberal view, what Isiah Berlin famously called “negative liberty,” in which freedom meant the absence of restrictions and the right of individuals to choose their own lifestyles and happiness, without a state mandating the good life. He advocated a “positive conception of freedom” in which individuals enjoy their private freedoms but within the framework of an organic community ruled by an Enlightened constitutional state in charge of ensuring the “social freedom” of citizens, both the highest good, virtuous activity, and their sense of peoplehood (Volk), by virtue of their belonging, through birth and historical experience, to a particular culture. Individuals give their allegiance to this community insofar as they recognize themselves their own reasoned values rooted in their history. He was not envisioning a community of rootless abstract individuals reaching a contract regardless of nationhood. Hegel did not believe in universal suffrage, but in a government controlled by an educated elite of state officials and professionals, much like Prussia was in his time, along with representative institutions based on property qualifications, rather than responsive to the impulsive or arbitrary choices of the masses.

While Hegel’s “supra-individual” state was seen as totalitarian for some time, a view expressed by Karl Popper, eventually he would be incorporated into the pantheon of “liberal progressive thinkers” as his philosophy was cleansed of its “ignorance” and its “racism,” and as his “positive freedom” was re-interpreted into a welfare conception of “social rights,” with Charles Taylor even using his communitarianism and his theory that all humans seek to be recognized as equal in dignity, into a theory which called for the recognition of the right of immigrant minorities to enjoy multicultural/communitarian rights. Liberalism has a unique capacity for the reabsorption of many ideas within its in-built progressive dynamic.

Karl Marx articulated a radically new progressive ideology, according to which liberal capitalism would be replaced by a new modern communism wherein the exploitation of man by man, which still prevailed within capitalism, would be transcended. Marx admired the progressive impact of capitalism, how “the country that is more developed industrially only shows, to the less developed, the image of its own future.” But he criticized liberal capitalism for recognizing only the formal equality of workers while keeping them in a state of subjugation within the workplace where capitalists controlled the labor process and extracted surplus value. Humans would develop their full potentialities only when private property in the means of production came to be abolished and a new society created in which workers would own the means of production and everyone would receive wages according to their effort and merit. Communism was a major challenge to Liberalism for some decades, to be eventually defeated by Liberalism. The so-called “Western Marxism,” which emerged in academia after WWII, would also be eventually incorporated into Liberalism as a safe theoretical outlook (supported by career opportunities and huge government grants) acknowledged for its “contribution to our understanding of history.” We shall address this later.

I have not yet reached the “professionalization” of history writing associated with German historiography in the second half of the 19th century. Many great books were written in the 1800s, it is difficult to offer a proper summary. Europeans were the only people who gradually became conscious of the temporality of human experience, how each people and epoch are characterized by their own values, concepts of truth, sense of reality and time. It was around the 17th century that Europeans began to employ the tripartite periodic division: Ancient, Medieval, Modern, as they became historically conscious in lieu of their new, path breaking achievements, printing, discovery of the New World, Copernican/Galilean science, and gunpowder artillery. It was within this historical context that Jacob Burckhardt wrote his celebrated book, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860), which aimed to capture the spirit of this epoch, its unique style of politics, its manners, its form of Christianity—through the study of its art.

Burckhardt’s argument was that the Renaissance gave birth to modernity because it gave birth to individualism. In the Middle Ages, “man was conscious of himself only as a member of a race, people, party, family, or corporation…In Italy this veil first melted into air…man became a spirited individual, and recognized himself as such.” Among the humanists, the scholars, the nobles, artists and rulers, he observed “an unbridled subjectivity,” men obsessed with fame, status, appearances. This nurtured an intense self-awareness, unlike their medieval forebears, who were trapped within a collective identity, unaware of themselves as possessing individual subjectivity. This will to self-expression fueled the cultural creativity of the Renaissance. We may point today, in light of recent scholarship, to emerging signs of individualism among the ancients and during the Middle Ages. But this should not detract us from Burkhardt’s immense accomplishment as the author who taught us that modernity is fundamentally about the separation of the self from a collective identity, within which humans cannot but remain unconscious. We will see that liberal progress is about intensifying this separation, the self from all “traditional restraints” including sexuality, racial and national identities, and from human nature itself, in the name of a new and improved humanity.

The discovery of the New World generated numerous historical accounts showing an increasing awareness among Europeans of the multiplicity of customs, manners, and beliefs among the peoples of the world, including the palpable reality that different areas of the planet have followed different historical paths. Let’s mention Francis Parkman (1823-1893), an American historian known for The California and Oregon Trail, Pioneers of France in the New World, The Jesuits in North America, Montcalm and Wolfe, and his multi-volume France and England in North America, published between 1865 and 1892. Theodore Roosevelt dedicated his four-volume history of the frontier, The Winning of the West (1889–1896), to Parkman. I first learned about him about 5 years ago when I saw France and England in North America with the stamped words “discarded” outside a university library. It did not matter that this book was based on archives in England, France, and North America, written from primary sources, letters, memoirs, dispatches, and first-person observations. Parkman, despite being dogged by lifelong ill health, severe eye trouble, undertook extremely physically demanding expeditions in the New World, living among Indians, admiring them for their bravery, dignity, and fortitude, while pointing to their lack of fixity of purpose—saw life as an incessant struggle for existence. John Burrow opines that Parkman was a “sensitive literary artist, a master of evocative, sensuous prose.” Historians like Parkman can’t be found in any university in our times. He came from an early America, in what ancient Roman historians would identify as a relatively early stage in the cycle of this civilization, when life was hard and men were inevitably strong in character, not from the pampered world of our present woke universities.

Science and progressivism are tightly aligned in the West. The scientific establishment and the progressive left were for the Covid lockdowns and vaccine mandates. The magazine Scientific American, which has stated recently that science must never accept studies about IQ differences between races but instead work diversity and racial harmony in the West, announced in August 2021 that “Vaccine Mandates Are Lawful, Effective and Based on Rock-Solid Science.” It agreed with the call by liberal progressives for “mandatory and punitive vaccination certificates for public activities and firing employees who refuse vaccination.” There is, of course, science going on independently of political aims. But on the most crucial issues of our times, such as race differences, vaccinations, environmentalism… science is ideologically progressive—rather than progressive in the pure scientific sense of bringing about new knowledge.

The right does not adequately understand this, believing that science, by its very objective logic, is on their side. If the evidence is laid out in the open, they naively believe, politicians will follow “the data” and choose the right policies. They have failed to realize that Western science has been part of a wider cultural progressivist matrix within which it must find justification and validation. Since progressivism has an inbuilt nature according to which the present and the future are superior to the past, it cannot but judge the progressives of the past as lesser versions of the progressives of the present. In his time Herbert Spencer was seen as a progressive who believed in “the right of free speech,” “the right to ignore the state.” His “social Darwinism,” very influential through the early 1900s, was used by progressives (along with the Mendelian science of heredity) as a justification for eugenics to solve social problems (crime, alcoholism, prostitution), and as a justification for the civilizing influence of Anglo imperialism on the nonwhite races—only to be condemned by a new generation of progressives as a rationalization for the inequality of classes, European colonialism and claims about the cultural and biological superiority of the West.

The impact of science on historiography has followed such a pattern, with political progressivism framing the way a science of history ought to be constructed. Initially it all seemed to be about learning to use the scientific method to understand history better. Henry Thomas Buckle wrote his History of Civilization of England (1857) under the influence of Comte’s argument that the task was to search for regularities in social phenomena based on generalizations through the systematic observation of the facts. He called upon historians to give up the Christian view of progress that “in the affairs of men there is something mysterious and providential.” Historians should focus on “tracing the progress of science…of the fine arts, of useful inventions and…of the manners and comforts of the people.” He concluded that geography, climate, and soil are the primary causes of progress, and that the reason Europe had advanced over non-European civilizations was that in Europe men were less overwhelmed by the forces of nature, which allowed European man alone to subdue nature to his service and to organize society according to laws constructed by the human mind. The progression of Europe consisted in the continually diminishing influence of nature’s impact on social relations, and the continually increasing influence of man-made laws. The New York Times called Buckle one of “the fathers and founders of the Science of History.”

But Buckle—who spent 17 years working ten hours a day to write his book—would soon be forgotten and displaced by a new generation of Americans known as “the Progressive Historians” who believed that the social sciences of economics and sociology were crucial to the understanding of history, and acknowledged their debt to Marx’s “economic interpretation of history.” Charles Beard, a Fabian socialist, became famous with his An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (1913) arguing that the financial interests of the Founding Fathers shaped the values of the Constitution. For these historians, progress was a result of rational planning, not a result of a providential plan. Only “activist” research that grasped the “real” laws governing history could teach the masses how to create a truly democratic and harmonious immigrant America pervaded by a spirit of equality and rationalism. Simultaneously, the progressive jurists, Roscoe Pound, Louis Brandeis, and Wendell Holmes proclaimed law to be a means for social reconstruction. Even when Beard rejected the possibility of “scientific objectivity” in history, shaken by WWI and the Great Depression, and by his own view that ideas were products of a specific class, period, or nationality, affirmed that history aimed at fulfilling the American dream of a just and democratic society, planned by socialist rationalists.

German Historicism: The Defeated Alternative to Liberal Progressivism

Peter Watson’s comprehensive 900+ page book, The German Genius: Europe’s Third Renaissance, The Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century (2010), demonstrates that from 1750 to the 1930s Germany was the dominant intellectual force in Western civilization. Among its 42 chapters you will find one with the title “German Historicism: A Unique Event in the History of Ideas.” The educated layman invariably identifies Germany’s greatest achievements with philosophers, musical composers, and scientists—never hearing about the highly original Historicist School which peaked in the 2nd half of the 19th century. One of its members, Friedrich Meinecke, believed that this School was Germany’s greatest contribution to Western thought since the Reformation, “the highest stage in the understanding of things human attained by man.” This School finally provided Europeans with a “historical consciousness” by explaining how humans are historically conditioned, not within a history conceived as a linear operating according to universal “scientific” laws, but as members of a particular land, nation, and culture. There is no universal “man.” Humans can only be understood in terms of their unique history and customs. Historians can’t transcend their own time and culture, but should be aware that their approaches to history reflect the varying cultural framework within which they write.

German historicism is also known for its “scientific” insistence on the critical analysis of documents, commitment to factual accuracy, as well as for raising to a higher level the professionalization and specialization of history as a university discipline—while arguing that the methods of the natural sciences (as Vico began saying) are inadequate for the study of historical phenomena. The historical sciences deal with purposeful humans and with unique and unrepeatable events, whereas the natural sciences deal with phenomena devoid of intentionality and characterized by recurrence. History is a continuous flux of unpredictable events, and although one can study the nature of institutions and the inner structure of particular cultures and religions, the peoples of the world each possess their own culture, language, and trajectories, unamenable to schematic theories. Insofar as historians become aware of their historical situation, they can learn to leave their own present context to understand the unique context of other peoples at other times. This is known as hermeneutics, that is, the art of interpreting the historical contexts of events in the past and in other cultures. The idea of progress is wrong for it imposes one standard of development.

Today, in the academic world, it is almost a truism to say that we are historically conditioned. Marxists love to say that we are conditioned by our social relations of production, and multiculturalists love to say that each culture should be judged on its own terms rather than according to “Eurocentric” criteria. German historicism thus appears to have been incorporated into the acceptable tradition of Western liberal historiography. But be careful. Claims about “the historicity of all knowledge and values” amount to no more than a domesticated version of German historicism cleansed of its deepest and most controversial ideas—to be easily fitted within the liberal idea of progress, which currently consists of a “right wing” side that believes in the truthfulness of capitalist and scientific growth, and a “left wing” side that relativizes Western values within a multicultural setting inside the West deemed to be superior for its inclusion of non-Western peoples. Herder (1744–1803), for example, one of the earliest historicists, has been thoroughly re-interpreted by Western liberals, Isaiah Berlin and Charles Taylor, as one of the founders of multiculturalism, even though Herder actually called for the appreciation of the distinctiveness of each nationality and the ways in which each culture can strive for its own perfectibility and contribute thereof to the fullness of humanity. He rejected attempts to make Germany adopt the “universal” values of the French enlightenment. He was a cultural nationalist who cherished Germany’s heritage, folkways, and identity.

What has been suppressed, or thoroughly rejected, about German historicism is that it was an expression of the particularity of German nationalism. Whereas 19th century nationalism in France, Britain and America came along with liberal “universal values” about the “natural rights of man” and the sovereignty of the people, against monarchical and aristocratic traditions, German historicists advocated a nationalism with values culture-bound to German’s particular history. It also emphasized the priority of the freedom of Germans as a people over the rights of abstract individuals. The historicist rejection of the universalist pretensions of Enlightenment liberalism did not amount to a rejection of what Europeans had achieved in history. The same German historicists who rejected the liberal idea of progress were also the most emphatic in arguing that humans are deeply historical beings, that the laws of a people, their values, and their conception of truth, reflect the unique history and traditions of each region or race. The Germans of the post 1850s were the most advanced Europeans in science, technology, military power, levels of education, and culture generally. Essentially, German historicists were the first to posit that a nation can follow a different path to modernity in reaction to the Enlightenment path. German nationalism and geopolitical power in the mid-19th century coincided with modernization. The difference is that the Germans wanted a path that would be balanced with its unique history, respect for aristocratic authority, together with a propertied and cultured middle class, working in unison with a powerful state acting as the common point of the Germans, with the highest capacity for independence and strength among the competing powers of the world, rather than a state acting at the behest of a dominant capitalist class pursuing its own interests, or at the behest of a democratic mob easily controlled by private companies. To be somebody a people must have a strong state that is independent of other states. At the same time, Germans during this period enjoyed considerable individual liberties, universities open to merit, a constitutional monarchy, rule by established procedure, a high degree of economic freedom, and a truly dynamic cultural atmosphere which encouraged the full development of individuality in culture. German historicists believed in a society in which the individual was free while being simultaneously integrated into the German nation. They did not want a contractual society consisting of atomistic individuals pursuing their private happiness in a state of alienation from the historical heritage of Germany.

German historicism was a profound questioning of the idea of progress, nevertheless. It rejected the notion that there is meaning in history ascertained as a process of increasing rationality, happiness, and freedom. Historians can learn to see how different epochs are connected to each other and gain a wider perspective of history beyond their time and place, but it is a mistake to think that prior epochs or peoples exist “entirely for the sake” of future epochs, or that there is a seed in the past that contains the future, or that history is heading to a future bliss of complete rationality and happiness. There is no rational end but a multiplicity of ways of being. As Humboldt said, a man tends to express the “highest degree of strength and inner unity,” the highest dignity, precisely at times when he is also “closest to misery”—not when he is closest to happiness and comfort. Men have expressed their potentiality, the “Best and Highest,” at many moments in history and in different cultural settings. It was the view of German historicism as well that history is not a process of rising perfection. Man’s rationality exists within a “total soul” characterized by irrationality, will, and poetic imagination. To treat man as a rational animal is to cut him off from the forces of nature, which are likewise the sources of his creativity. There are many elements in history that cannot be explained in terms of rational factors, and there is much in nature that is vitalist, elusive and hidden from reason. The truth is sometimes better apprehended in a poetic or artistic manner. A historian should be thorough in the use of sources, but historical writing involves imagination combined with the ability to enter into the world of the past.

Can you see why Anglo liberalism was determined to defeat German historicism?

I have identified very few members of the German historical school other than Ranke and Humboldt, without addressing any of their particular books. Ranke’s historical writing alone amounted to over sixty volumes. German historicists were generally prolific, and included some very important philosophers of history, such as Wilhelm Dilthey (1833–1911), author of The Critique of Historical Reason, an attempt to “investigate the nature and conditions of historical consciousness.” He knew he was caught in “a seemingly insoluble contradiction” claiming that, on the one hand, the first condition for “the possibility of historical science” lies in knowing that one’s perspective is historically conditioned by the finitude of one’s time and place, which means that every view is historically relative, while, on the other hand, arguing that this historical awareness “has liberated the human spirit from the last chains which natural science and philosophy have not yet turn asunder,” by allowing humans to finally realize that a mind that is aware of its historical finitude is a mind that can provide us with a proper knowledge of social and human realities. Dilthey, however, was also influenced by Auguste Comte’s progressivist argument that in history we see the liberation of the human intellect from religious mythologies and metaphysical assumptions leading to the development of the natural sciences and proper methodologies for the study of history in a factually accurate manner, though he could not accept the scientific idea that reason could stand above historical time to reach absolute truths.

As you can see, this line of historical reasoning triggered countless debates about the possibility of historical objectivity, the relativity of truth, whether there are laws of development in history that could be studied using the methods of the natural sciences, or whether we could, through a comparative historical approach, reveal characteristics that are common to all societies across time, based on human nature, such as evolutionary Darwinians argue today, allowing us to reach a certain cross-cultural objectivity. Johann Gustav Droysen (1808-1884), the founder of the “Prussian School” of historians, also wrote about these issues in his Outline of the Principles of History. He actually agreed with Thomas Buckle that history has a lawful, meaningful, and progressive pattern, while still arguing that the way to understand the past is not through the construction of causal explanations akin to the natural sciences, but through the apprehension of the “acts of volition” of human actors, and how these acts are part of a wider totality and a ceaseless movement characterized by progress rather than periodic repetition, as we observe in nature.

Two things are certain: 1) there were still no debates whatsoever about the nature of historical knowledge outside the West, this late in history. The historiography of the non-western world remained the same as it had always been: annalistic in form, though Western ideas were starting to reach them. 2) What Western historians today call “the crisis of German historicism,” in lieu of these insurmountable debates about the historical relativity of truth, has obscured the fact that the true crisis faced by this school, leading to its domestication and denaturing into a safe theory about how we are historically conditioned, is the suppression of its powerful critique of liberalism and its defense of a unique “collectivist” path to modernity by Germany. The crisis was less a result of these epistemological conundrums than a result of the defeat of Germany in WWI and WWII. Droysen said that: “The creation of German unity required the presence of a power which could challenge other powers.” He stressed the importance of German national unity, not for the sake of creating an international order based on “brute force,” for he believed that this state had to be an ethical reality, but for the sake of defending the uniqueness of German history against the liberal attempt to impose a uniform order of nation states based on individual rights. The German nation was not reducible to a contractual arrangement by abstract individuals dedicated to private gain and happiness. Individual rights should not take priority over community ties. Germans had always existed within the natural communities of the family, the tribe, and the Volk—and also within “communities of ideals” based on their language, arts, sciences, and religion.

After WWII, western historians reached the conclusion that the only nations founded on individual rights were progressive to the exclusion of “intolerant” German historicist ideas about the Volk. They argued that National Socialism and anti-Semitism had important roots in German historicism. Germans needed a thorough re-education in Enlightenment progressivism. The domestication of German historicism began in earnest during the 1960s in Germany. The contributions of this school to the professionalization of history, its argument that the primary aim of historical narrative is to reconstruct events in their unique individuality, together with its claim that history deals with human intentionality, which is irreducible to the methods of the natural sciences, were happily integrated into the accepted liberal historiographical tradition. But the historicist notion that Germany’s “authoritarian” path to modernity constituted its own contribution to the development of the “potentiality of humanity” at a given place and time, was utterly rejected—in light of “the catastrophic course of German politics in the first half of 20th century.

These words come from George Iggers, who fled Germany with his family in 1938, author of a very solid book, The German Conception of History (1968), and, more recently, Historiography in the Twentieth Century (2005). According to this latter book, a “younger generation of historians… trained academically after 1945” and “closely linked in their eagerness to confront the German past critically and their commitment to democratic society,” turned to the social sciences (away from the historicist preoccupation with diplomacy, the centrality of the state and political history) to explain why German historians had surrendered “their liberal convictions during the process of German unification under Bismarck.” The question in the air was whether German expansionist policies from the Wilhelminian years to the Nazi period could be understood within the framework of the authoritarian institutions created in Germany in the 1800s. Fritz Fischer was the first to propose an answer in Germany’s War Aims in the First World War (1961), now considered a classic work of scholarship among countless books published on the origins of WWI. His thesis was not that Germany’s unsurpassed economic expansionism between 1870 and 1914 incited the elites to pursue an aggressive foreign policy. Such an argument would have remained within the framework of Thucydides’ no blame view that the passion for power among leaders is the underlying motivation in geopolitical relations. In the new world of liberal internationalism, Germany needed to be blamed on ideological grounds. Fisher’s aim was to show that Germany was aggressive because its “conservative leadership” had “retarded democratisation.” Immanuel Geiss, his student, would push this thesis further, or in explicit terms, in his book, July 1914: The Outbreak of the First World War. Selected Documents (1967): “The determination of the German Empire—then the most powerful conservative force in the world after Czarist Russia—to uphold the conservative and monarchic principles by any means against the rising flood of democracy, plus its Weltpolitik made was inevitable.”

It was Hans-Ulrich Wehler, the most influential German historian of the post WWII era, who explicitly argued that the “catastrophic course” of 20th century Germany was rooted in its incomplete modernization and retention of “autocratic traditions.” By applying the social sciences, Weber’s political sociology, Marx’s class conflict analysis, and American modernisation theory (which held that industrialization naturally engenders political democracy), Wehler concluded that Germany’s path to modernity had been incomplete in that its “progressive economic modernization” was not accompanied “by a modernization of social relations and politics.” The central aim of historical studies should be to show how economic and social structures are modernized, and how politics and culture should be modernized in a democratic direction. The Guardian, for Wehler’s obituary in 2014, notes that he fought against “inequality in modern Germany…against racism and Holocaust denial, and much more besides.”

A major influence upon Wehler was the Frankfurt School’s conception of “Critical Theory” as interpreted by Jurgen Habermas, with whom “he remained intellectually close for the rest of his life.” It was Habermas view that the Enlightenment should be seen as an “emancipatory project” with universal ideals that should serve as a normative criterion for the critical examination of past and present societies. There should be no dichotomy between scholarship or science and politics and morality. Historians should offer explanations for why things happened as well as nurture progressive values. The morality of the nationalism of the historicists was “at the conventional level,” that is, limited to the values and interests of particular groups and nationalities. Germany needed to embrace a “post-conventional” morality rooted in reason rather than in nationality, for the welfare of humanity. Wehler, and his colleague Jurgen Kocka, evinced a strong confidence that civil liberties, socialist welfare, and cultural pluralism were compatible with capitalist modernization. For Kocka the collapse of communism in the 1990s, and of Nazism before, demonstrated the superiority of Western liberal modernization, and its capacity for improvement. This Western-centrism would soon be challenged as not progressive enough.

The “Grand Liberal Narrative” of the Twentieth Century

Despite a wide variety of historical schools, a centrist liberal historiography committed to the ideals of rationalism, meritocracy, and the global spread of human rights, dominated the writing of history until about the 1980s—while subsequently integrating within its fold the more progressive schools of New Left, feminist, multicultural, and postmodernist historians, within a “new liberalism” determined to ensure equal rights for everyone against the continuing racism, sexism, and ignorance of old liberals. But we must avoid judging the historiography of this century in purely ideological terms. Very high-quality history books (based on extensive research) were written during the 20th century. We would be mistaken to view these books as opinionated tracts. The historiographical achievement of Western peoples during the 20th century was outstanding, although in the closing years, and in our century, the progressivist agenda has engendered many below average books. Not only did Europeans write excellent histories of art, mathematics, architecture, the sciences, exploration…they wrote histories of every nation in the world, while developing all the methodologies, such as paleography (study of historical handwriting), diplomatics (study of documents, records and archives), chronology (establishing the dates of past events), epigraphy (study of ancient inscriptions), genealogy (study of families), numismatics (study of coins), including ethnography, archeology and linguistics.

What David Gress insightfully calls “the Grand Narrative,” and its ideology of centrist liberalism, “permeated education, public opinion, and political doctrines in much of Western Europe and the US from the 1940s to the 1980s.” There were variations of this Narrative, with the “WASP West” and the “Allied scheme of history” gaining the upper hand in the United States, with “the Atlantic community” seen as “the pinnacle of human progress,” the result of thousands of years of social evolution from ancient Greece and Rome through “Judeo-Christianity,” Newtonian science, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution. Daniel Bell saw the 1960s as the coming of “the end of ideology,” with only piecemeal technocratic adjustments remaining to be disputed by a relatively affluent population.

Of course, no sooner did Bell say this, the activists of the 60s came onto the scene. The Vietnam War, the black civil rights movement, Third World poverty and revolutions, the threat of nuclear war…appeared to have brought to an end the 1940s to 1960s family-oriented, and still puritanical, centrist liberalism. But what these events and movements demonstrated is that a lot more improvements in human affairs remained to be done. This was the task of the next progressive generation. This essay has been examining this phenomenon in two ways: pointing to the progressive side of past ideas and how they laid the groundwork for new progressive ideas in the next generation, while at the same time showing how new generations sought to rethink the course of history in light of new developments in knowledge and historical methodologies. Consider George Bancroft (1800-1891), the most influential American historian of the nineteenth century. By the standards of later generations, and certainly today, this man would be considered a fascist for his acceptance of the basic moral norms of his day about marriage, Christianity, and for his identification of the greatness of America with its “Anglo-Saxon” character. Yet, contained in his 10-volume History of the United States are ideals with a strong connection to contemporary Neocon (and current Leftist) policies about spreading democratic rights to the world. Bancroft believed that America was created “for the advancement of the principles of everlasting peace and universal brotherhood.” With the spread of American values, the “ages of servitude” and “inequality” would end. The prime longing of all humans is liberty. While this love of liberty was Anglo-Saxon in origins, it had become in America the “breath of life to the people.” Americans “heard the glad tidings [of liberty] which promised the political regeneration of the world.” The Declaration of Independence was the “announcement of the birth of a people” dedicated to the spread of liberty to the world. Slavery, Bancroft insisted, was an institution that had originated outside the American ideal of liberty, and that’s why it was eventually abolished.

The “new progressive historians” of the early 20th century who “rejected” Bancroft’s liberal conception for a “social” or “economic” historical approach focused on the role of the masses, workers, new immigrants, and women, were merely addressing the persistent impediments to the actualization of the ideal of liberty, driven by a longing for a more democratic society, by advocating reforms to lift out the masses that had not benefitted from the limited liberties of the past due to lack of public education and exploitative working conditions. Bancroft was himself an advocate of public schools. Charles Beard portrayed Americans in The Rise of American Civilization (1927) as a “democratic” people struggling for greater equality and inclusion of immigrants against the propertied interests of big business defended by Bancroft’s classical liberalism. The Puritans that the historian Bancroft celebrated for creating a WASP oriented America were increasingly seen by this new generation of “progressive historians” as adherents of an outdated America out of touch with the new realities of a racially immigrant America. And the progressives after Beard, New Left historians, would go on to push for historical narratives that didn’t prioritize a white male America, writing books such as Eugene Genovese’s Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made (1974), which won none other than the Bancroft Prize, for its new research about how the antebellum South was a paternalist society that exploited and sought to dehumanize the slaves, with other historians insisting that culture and ideology were as important in determining the course of history as economic change, and a new generation of students wanting to overturn the “paternalistic” and “stifling” world of their parents in the name of individual “authenticity.”

This dialectic within progressivism is quite apparent in the historiography of the twentieth century. Will Durant’s colossal 12-volume, 9000 pages, The Story of Civilization (1935-1975), a popular work many bought, none read, and specialized academics envied, was seen in its day as an urbane, post-WWII liberal effort to spread knowledge widely among an educated lay population. Having possession of some of these volumes, and reading segments from them, the judgment of Gress strikes me as correct, Durant’s work is an “immensely learned, vividly written” treatise in which history is seen as “tending to more freedom, greater equality, and broader rights.” Durant experienced this progressivism in his own life, growing up as a New Deal liberal and becoming a Kennedy liberal in later years uncomfortable with the ethnocentrism of his best-seller, The Story of Philosophy (1952), for leaving out Asian philosophers, as he says in the Preface to the Second Edition of 1965. The Story of Civilisation, even though it started with a first volume dedicated to the “Oriental World,” remained, nevertheless, a story of Western civilization through the next eleven volumes. Durant belonged indeed to a generation still comfortable with social Darwinism. In a short book written with his wife, The Lessons of History (1968), they wondered whether “Oriental fertility, working with the latest Occidental technology, would bring the decline of the West;” and noted that “the first biological lesson of history is that life is competition” and that humans “are subject to the…struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest to survive.” Social Darwinism had not been fully rooted out from liberalism.

It may seem a stretch to argue that a liberal triumphalist “Grand Narrative” dominated the historical vision considering the many specialized historians who were ill at ease with sweeping generalizations about the course of history, and rather pessimistic about the future after the disastrous experience of two world wars and the possibility of nuclear annihilation. As a history student, I was warned against the assumption that there was a telos, purpose or direction, in history leading towards a better future in a cumulative way. Herbert Butterfield’s attack in 1931 on the “Whig Interpretation of History”—the idea that the past contained the seeds of the future—was widely accepted as a valid critique. Arthur Herman, in The Idea of Decline in Western History (1997), argued that a coherent ideology of cultural pessimism could be seen emerging in the late 19th century in the writings of Nietzsche, Spengler, DuBois, Freud, Germany’s national socialists, through to the Sixties counterculture, the existentialist philosopher Sartre, the world historian Arnold Toynbee, America’s multiculturalists and Afrocentric historians. For Nisbet, as we saw earlier, the idea of progress persisted until about the 1960s. It is the view of Gress as well that, while the Grand Narrative dominated American elite culture from the 1920s to the 1960s, this Narrative “began its fall” in the 1970s, to be successfully deconstructed “by the 1990s” by a successful rebellion of New Left, multicultural, and postmodernist historians.

I believe a strong case can be made that what was really rejected was a Western-centric idea of progress that was insufficiently progressive. In its classical liberal version, this idea was “biased” in viewing the WASP world of the United States as the culmination of history, to the exclusion of the progressive contributions of other civilizations and races. This Narrative was an “unfinished project” requiring revision, starting with an acknowledgment of the way the West had “underdeveloped” the rest of the world in its climb towards supremacy, the way slaves, indigenous peoples, and working classes had endured oppression in the march of progress. An “honest conversation” about the racial injustices still prevailing in the West was required if the Western world was to live up to its ideals of democracy, individual rights, and equality. It was necessary to propose a new, revised, liberal multicultural idea of progress pointing towards a new universalism of human rights and a world history without a triumphalist West.

There was no “march through the institutions” by another ideology called “cultural Marxism.” After the crimes of Stalinism, the failures of communism, and the successes of Keynesian capitalism, Western Marxists gradually abandoned the idea of “expropriating the capitalists” to focus on socialistic reforms and changes in the cultural attitudes of people, becoming the “New Left,” with its members successfully integrated into academia and other institutions by centrist liberals agreeing with “more progress and more equality.” Jurgen Habermas, a second generation member of the Frankfurt School, disagreed with Horkheimer and Adorno’s argument about the decay of Western rationalism into a self-destructive “instrumental reason,” by locating within the Enlightenment a second rational discourse, a “communicative intersubjective rationality” that escaped the narrow means-ends logic of instrumental reason and that came into fruition in the eighteenth century within the “bourgeois reading public” in places such as salons and coffee-houses, a “public sphere” which set limits to the illegitimate use of power and nurtured a rational-critical culture where citizens were bound only by the force of the better argument. Habermas’s own biases, or lack of universalism in tracing the history of this emancipatory discourse in “Judeo-Christianity” and in the European Enlightenment, without including the contributions of non-Western peoples, notwithstanding his efforts to see emancipatory impulses in other religions, could be easily remedied, as it has been, with a “global history.” A global history has indeed emerged across the Western world, displacing the teaching of Western civ courses that had prevailed up until recently, which “moves beyond the obsession with the Enlightenment’s European origins” and which shows that “ultimately” it was a “process of global circulation, translation, and transnational co-production that turned the Enlightenment into the general and universal that it had always purported to be.”

The natural progression of the idea of progress, from its centrist position in the first half of the 20th century towards New Left liberalism can be ascertained through a study of the intellectual odyssey of William McNeill, from his book, The Rise of the West, subtitled “A History of the Human Community,” which appeared in 1963, to his book, The Human Web, co-authored with his leftist son 40 years later. The Rise of the West, winner of the National Book Award for history, a delightful read of 800+ pages about how the West gained world supremacy, challenged the Spengler-Toynbee view that the civilizations of the world evolved along separate paths, by emphasizing the interrelations of cultures throughout time—but without losing sight of the impressive “rise” of Europeans, their “deep-rooted pugnacity,” their “lively curiosity, insatiable greed, and a reckless spirit of adventure that contrasted sharply with the smug conservatism of Chinese, Moslem, and Hindu cultural leaders.” The Rise of the West was itself a grand synthesis of the enormous knowledge Europeans had gained through the first half of twentieth century about the whole history of mankind, as can be seen in the sources, overwhelmingly by Western historians, with a few non-Westerners educated in the West. You can also check, if I may add, the bibliography of the first volume of Will Durant’s 12 volume work, The Story of Civilization, which is titled Our Oriental Heritage, published in 1934: almost all the 400 or so books listed in the bibliography about the worlds of Sumeria, Egypt, Babylonia, Judea, Persia, India, China and Japan, were authored by Europeans.

McNeill’s centrist liberalism in 1963 was already imbued with the latest “progressive” ideas of the day, including an awareness that he should avoid, what he would later call in the 1980s, “the hampering ethnocentrism” of “contemporary American and European society,” which explains why he emphasized how the West rose in connection to other civilizations. In his 1974 book, The Shape of European History, he noted that “few living historians accept” the “no longer very convincing idea” that “Europe’s history is the history of liberty.” We saw earlier that this idea goes back to the Scottish Enlightenment. Today, it is famously identified with Lord Acton (1834-1902), for having spent much of his professional life working on a comprehensive history of liberty, which remained unfinished. Acton insisted that we cannot understand the history of Europe if we fail to appreciate how its development of liberty “set it apart from other cultures”—the idea that “every man shall be protected in doing what he believes is his duty, against the influence of authority and majorities, custom and opinion.”

History as the story of liberty, a key pillar of classical liberalism, and still advocated by centrist liberals, now known as “libertarians,” despite the fact that they have come to terms with the expansion of government public goods, was not even the central idea in McNeill’s The Rise of the West, which gave prominence to European industrial and state military power after 1500. In a lecture at the AHA in 1976 he called for a new required course focused on world history rather than Western civ. The teaching of Western civ courses had been mandatory across American campuses from about the 1920s. For McNeill, these courses were failing to teach students about the great cultures and complex affairs of a world far greater than Europe. In the 1980s he voiced approval of New Left historians that the very notion of “the rise of the west” was an expression of Western triumphalism. In “The Changing Shape of World History,” published in 1995, he proudly explained how he had gradually come to accept a slightly revised version of Immanuel Wallerstein’s world-system analysis that the European world rose on the backs of Africans, Amerindians, and Asians, combined with a new environmental perspective he had articulated in Plagues and Peoples (1976) that placed microparasites, not European ideas, at the center of world history. By the early 2000s, as Western civ courses were being rapidly replaced by World History surveys, he concluded (in The Human Web) that history is essentially a product of the interactive webs of plants, animals, parasites, and “common everyday” humans across the world. Because McNeill’s odyssey was ostensibly driven by a rejection of the West as the harbinger of liberty and progress, one can easily fail to see the progressivism behind it. McNeill was simply progressing into the idea of New Left historians that one must completely abandon a “jingoistic” pride in the European and American past in the name of “facilitating a tolerable future,” as he put it, “for humanity.” Like many progressives, there was an element of pessimism in McNeill, rejection of a “triumphalist” West in the face of environmental degradation, threat of nuclear war, and third world poverty—but one inciting a stronger progressive politics to improve the world.

A doubly confounding dilemma of liberal progressivism in the 20th century is that, firstly, it has sometimes entailed a new generation attacking the “conservative” liberalism of prior generations, giving thereby the illusion that “new historians” with “radical” ideologies (Cultural Marxists, Postmodernists, Feminists) have taken over, instead of constituting the latest versions of a continuously progressing liberalism; and, secondly, it has occasioned an underestimation of the incredible historiographical creativity (and progression) of the West in the twentieth century. Generally speaking, the West sees the following historical schools in the post-world war decades: i) continuation of the Grand Liberal Narrative, ii) the rise of a highly influential Marxist/New Left historiography, iii) the French Annales School founded by Lucien Febvre and Marc Bloch, iv) the “New Cultural History” and “Postmodernist” approaches principally associated with Michel Foucault, v) the Quantitative or “Cliometrics” school, sometimes called “New Economic History,” v) the Historical Sociology of Barrington Moore, Theda Skocpol, Randall Collins, Michael Mann, vi) the History of Everyday Life and Microhistory, vii) the Cambridge School, with its historicist or contextualist interpretation, placing primary emphasis on the intellectual context of the discourse of a given historical era, associated with Quentin Skinner and J. G. A. Pocock, viii) the Cambridge Group for the History of Population, founded by Peter Laslett and Tony Wrigley, ix) World History Connected, or “World History for Us All,” currently a mandatory approach to the teaching of history to children across the US—among other schools, which include as well the increasingly influential evolutionary/ cultural psychological approach to historical explanation by names such as Joseph Henrich and Steven Pinker.

All the historians belonging to these schools, in varying degrees and modes of expression, are progressive liberals, either in their own time, or today. This is true of evolutionary psychologists like Pinker, who believes that cosmopolitanism, diversity, and the application of Enlightenment reason, have allowed the “better angels in our nature” to shine through. The one school that was not progressively liberal was German Historicism, which was rejected for its attempt to defend the unique “authoritarian” path of German modernization, at the same time that its “historicism” was thoroughly domesticated. The “contextualist” or historicist thought of Quentin Skinner, is seen by leftists as “centrist liberal;” he is known for his “revival of interest in Roman republicanism,” a tradition in political theory that emphasizes individual freedom “understood as non-domination or independence from arbitrary power.” These “republicans,” however, can’t decide whether migration controls by a given state would constitute an “arbitrary” or “non-arbitrary” form or state power. None of the members of the historical schools identified above has spoken against replacement immigration, the imposition of “equity, inclusion, and diversity” as the overriding mission of the universities where they happily teach.

This political flaw, however, should not be used as an excuse to downplay the historiographical achievements of these schools, though not of every book or historian, and obviously without losing sight of the liberalism within which these schools were fashioned and how this liberalism has influenced the choice of subjects and the way in which history is interpreted. History has been a very scholarly discipline even to this day. In good university departments—notwithstanding the increasing downgrading from affirmative hiring, “diversity” subjects, and excessive overspecialization—students are expected to show the utmost respect for sources, write excellent narratives, or, if one is taking a social science approach, how to use rigorous methodologies.

I have read many books from all the schools listed above. The Western historiographical tradition is way superior to the non-western tradition multicultural historians are outrageously judging as equal in quality. Take the Annales School, it aimed at a “total history,” merging various disciplines, geography, social history, psychology, demography…and in the work of Fernand Braudel it saw the differentiation of three historical times, each with its own speed: the longue durée, or the slow time of land, sea, recurring seasons, topography, and collective mental structures prevailing among peoples for centuries, which change so slowly they appear as immobile, and which have shaped the history of most humans; followed by the conjunctural time of economic cycles, which last for decades, trends in prices; and the fast time of political events, wars, diplomacy, personalities. If one looks at the everyday life of humans, the things that matter to most, lifespan, standard of living, infant mortality, land productivity, it barely changed for centuries. The ideas of intellectuals appear, in the words of Braudel, as mere “surface disturbances, crests of foam that the tides of history carry on their strong backs.” Braudel, author of The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (1949), seen by some as the greatest historian of 20th century, can be criticized, of course, for underestimating the accumulating power of European ideas leading to scientific and industrial revolutions. It is worth noting, however, that the Fernand Braudel Center and the official journal associated with it were founded by the Marxist Immanuel Wallerstein, and the books published under its banner are thoroughly multicultural and anti-Western.

What about the Marxists who went on to have lucrative careers in universities? The Marxist school played a major role in the promotion of liberal progressivism in the 20th century. At first, its members saw themselves as representatives of a communist ideology in direct confrontation with liberalism, followers of “historical materialism,” as articulated by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Plekhanov, Trotsky, and Kautsky—all of whom, I might add, wrote historical works. Many of the British Marxist historians who would gain international prestige within Western academia (Maurice Dobb, Rodney Hilton, Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm and Edward Thompson) were formal members of the Communist Party, though eventually breaking rank after the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. Their goal as scholars was to show the truthful relevance of Marxism to the study of the past, which they did with great success.

The books of the British names (and, of course, of the founders of Marxism) became required reading across Western academia. C. Hill, who acted at Oxford as “Senior Member of the exclusive Stubbs Society” (that is, the Stubbs we met earlier for his “Whig” interpretation of history which dominated the Victorian Era) was celebrated for his “history from below” perspective in such books as The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution (1972), and for his biography, God’s Englishman: Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution (1970). E. Thompson, on the strength of his widely read The Making of the English Working Class (1963), which “still endures as a staple on university reading lists,” was named in a 2011 poll by the liberal History Today magazine as the second most important historian of the previous 60 years, behind only Braudel.

Hobsbawm, “a life long Marxist” who was appointed in 1998 to the very prestigious Order of the Companions of Honour, is best-known for his compound work, the first three of which were required reading for my undergrad courses, The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789–1848, The Age of Capital: 1848–1875, The Age of Empire: 1875–1914, and The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991. He is also known for the influential idea of “invented traditions,” which argues that many European “traditions” which purport to be old are often recent in origin and sometimes “invented.” We could go on naming many renowned Marxist historians. G.E.M de Ste. Croix’s The Class Struggle in the Ancient World: From the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests (1981), which many liberals praised for “establishing the validity of historical materialist analysis of the ancient world,” is said to have received more scholarly attention than almost any other work of ancient history since George Grote and Theodore Mommsen. The narrative and analyses of these books is first rate. Ste. Croix’s book contains over 120 pages of detailed notes.

This should not surprise us. Marxist historians were operating within the institutional framework of Western universities produced by a progressive world dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and the improvement of society. Centrist liberals were still the majority and did not feel threatened by Marxists. There was an implicit recognition among them that the post-WWII world was being quite successful in achieving progress, better working conditions, women’s right to vote, “racial justice” and so on. Liberalism was showing a progressive capacity to stay apace with the “more” progressive” demands of Marxists. Liberals could not disagree with Hobsbawm’s concluding words of hope in The Age of Empire: “the actual achievements of the twentieth century in material and intellectual progress—hardly in moral progress—is extraordinarily impressive and quite undeniable. Is there still room for the greatest of all hope, that of creating a world in which free men and women, emancipated from fear and material need, will live the good life together in a good society? Why not?”

The old liberalism concerned with ensuring the negative liberties of citizens against the “coercive” powers of the state had become out of touch with the needs of a Keynesian state in charge of keeping capitalism afloat by improving the “effective demand” of workers. Liberals were now agreeing that the West had previously been racist, sexist, and exploitative, and that the government could play a positive role in eliminating these problems. American liberals, John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, and Michael Sandel, articulated a new liberalism in which equal rights also meant reduction of inequalities and promotion of the “self-realization” of individuals. Meanwhile, Marxists were moving in directions that challenged the “metanarrative” of class struggle and the overthrow of capitalists, for a “New Cultural History” that argued, with Michel Foucault replacing Marx as the historical analyst of power, that the sources of power are not limited to the coercion of a capitalist state but are “everywhere,” diffused and embodied in “discourses of truth” wielded by heterosexuals, patriarchal men, whites, scientists. Liberal Postmodernism had arrived.

The “New Cultural Historians,” which included practitioners of “microstoria” and the “history of everyday life,” are sometimes categorized as “postmodern” even though few accepted the postmodernist tenet that the construction of narratives is fundamentally determined by aesthetic and rhetorical standards. They were practitioners of rigorous archival research to bring out the past. What they rejected, though some came from a Marxist background, was the claim that one could understand the full complexity of the past merely by writing about the dynamics of macrostructures, modes of production, class conflict, or the “transition” from feudalism to capitalism. They sought to understand the everyday life of common people through the study of small villages or singular individuals. The cultures of the past could not be framed within a grand narrative about “the story of liberty” or the breakthrough ideas of great scientists. The agents of microhistorians were marginalized “little people” who had been left out of the macronarratives. They agreed with the aim of E.P. Thompson’s book, The Making of the English Working Class, to “rescue the poor stockinger…the ‘obsolete’ hand-loom weaver…from the enormous condescension of history,” while placing more emphasis on the symbolic forms, the languages and beliefs, through which particular individuals or small communities at a given time and place experience their world, without seeking generalizations about the broad patterns of history.

It is indeed difficult to make generalizations about the New Cultural Historians, or identified them as members of any ideological school. They constituted yet another highly original school of Western historiography without parallels elsewhere in the world. Some did adhere to the study of macro symbolic structures, or what the Annales historians called the study of mentalités, the ways in which the minds of people in particular societies were structured by unconscious assumptions, or what Émile Durkheim called the “collective conscience,” the shared beliefs, moral attitudes, and experiences during collective rituals, which function as a unifying force within society. Philippe Ariès’s Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life (1960) reconstructed the mentalities about childhood in the Middle Ages, reaching the controversial conclusion that childhood, as a mind-set, was not “discovered” until the 17th century. Another very influential macro cultural study was Keith Thomas’s Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England (1971) about how witchcraft, astrology, ghosts, and fairies that were firmly anchored in people’s minds in the pre-industrial world came under attack as protestants attempted to take the magic out of religion, and scientists developed mechanical explanations of the universe.

A true microhistorical study was Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms (1976) about the religious beliefs of an autodidact miller known as Menocchio (1532-1599), from the village of Montereale, accused of heresy during the Inquisition and sentenced to death. The aim of Ginzburg was to understand how seemingly straightforward Christian ideas were reshaped within the particular mental and social world of this self-taught man, who refused to stop talking about how he had come to learn, upon reading the Bible, the Decameron of Boccaccio, and a few other books, that to blaspheme was not a sin since it caused no harm to anyone but the blasphemer, that Jesus was born of man and Mary was not a virgin, and that Christ had not died to “redeem humanity.” Alain Corbin’s The Village of Cannibals: Rage and Murder in France, 1870 (1993) examines how a young aristocrat, falsely accused of espousing republican views, was tortured for hours by a mob of peasants who then burned him alive, and how the case, recounted in details in the popular press, brought a national reaction against the mob’s ringleaders, who were guillotined. Corbin wanted to show the contrast between the traditional sensibilities of the peasants, who saw their actions as natural and politically virtuous, coming from a rough world were such actions had been the norm, and the progressively new “bourgeois sensibility” to pain and torture of bodies.

In their works, then, none of these cultural historians agreed with the basic postmodern theory that historical narratives do not refer to a past but are “verbal fictions, the contents of which are as much invented as found and the forms of which have more in common with their counterparts in literature than they have with those in the sciences”—as the foremost postmodern theorist of history, Hayden White, wrote. While they agreed that one could not construct a science of the direction of history, and that historians tend to write in a literary manner, they believed it possible to bring out “the voices of the past” through archival research.

With the work of Michel Foucault, we may be dealing with a postmodern historian who anticipated, and embodied in his sexual life, the current nature of progressive liberalism. His influence on academic scholarship has been pervasive in anthropology, sociology, criminology, cultural studies, literary theory, feminism, and history. His books, The History of Madness (1961), The Birth of the Clinic (1963), The Order of Things (1966), Discipline and Punish (1975), and The History of Sexuality (1976), are among the most cited ever. He rejected every liberal tenet about the directionality and meaning of history, the concepts of impartial reasoning, the notion that the individual can be a free agent, and the idea that historical research gives us access to an external reality. Every conception of history is a construct constituted by a language that is permeated with hierarchical relations of power. There are no authors in rational control of their narratives, and there is no conscious “intentionality.” The idea of free subjectivity is itself a construction created by power. The claim that gender identity is based on the biology of sex is a form of power that aims to normalize as “correct” certain forms of sexual and gendered behavior while pathologizing other forms. There can be no “liberation” of sexuality, a “natural” form of sexuality, freed from “capitalistic” or “traditional” oppression, since sexuality is always a result of cultural and power mechanisms. The liberation of one type of sexuality from the oppression of one group merely engenders another form of sexuality controlled by another group. Foucault, nevertheless, insisted on “critical thinking” against hegemonic institutional norms that have excluded certain ways of thinking and sexuality as demonic, irrational, heretical, or criminal.

A Marxist in his early life, he soon rejected its authoritarianism and homophobia, influenced by a wide spectrum of thinkers, including Husserl, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Marquis de Sade, Kafka, Durkheim, Margaret Mead, Beckett, and many others, while entertaining himself with drugs and sado-masochistic sexual activities. His work has been summarized as “a long exploration of transgression” against those who control the production of knowledge and define what is human and what is ethical. He thus explored how medical science was used in the 18th century to categorize and stigmatize the mentally ill, as well as the poor, the sick, the homeless, or anyone who deviated from the norms of those in power. He came up with the concept of “disciplinary power” about how institutions reconstruct the thoughts, habits, skills, and desires of humans in factories, schools, hospitals and prisons, by using rules, surveillance, exams and punishment.

We have no standards to judge what are “good” and “bad” forms of being a human, since there are no subjects existing outside the contingencies of historical time and power relationships. All we can do is engage in “discourse analysis” so as to uncover existing hierarchies by analyzing the fields of knowledge through which they are legitimated. We can engage in questioning how we came to be the “humans” we think we are, such as how we came to think that we have natural rights to life, liberty and happiness, but such a questioning can only show us how our current way of being human is historically contingent and thus changeable. Since the current way of being is not rooted in biology, it is also possible to reconstruct new ways of being.

Yet, while denying progressive concepts about “freedom,” “justice,” “liberation,” “improvement of the human condition,” Foucault was a leftist activist who regularly protested abuses of human rights, participated in anti-racist campaigns, and, all in all, was committed to questioning every abuse of power. It was this reliance on an implicit Enlightenment form of “critique” of power that prompted Habermas to argue that Foucault’s thinking does not self-examine its moral-normative assumptions. My view is that from Foucault we can see that liberal progressivism is no less driven by a power dynamic than other ideologies. His The History of Sexuality has been very influential in queer theory, the deconstruction of maleness and femaleness, and the imposition of new relations of power against traditional forms of biological sexuality and marriage. The very notion that humans are totally “constructed” by society, that ideas do not refer to reality, and that there are no principles of morality outside power relations, cannot but lead the Foucauldian to seek to win the contest for power by reconstructing humans as they wish. Universities today are the epitome of the disciplinary society Foucault condemned in their effort to produce docile students who take all the boosters while wearing masks and writing essays about the blessings of transsexualism and diversity.

The professionalization of history, academic specialization in archival research, persuaded historians to abandon “philosophical speculations” about the “laws of history,” its purpose or goal, through much of the 20th century. We would have to wait until about the 1970s/80s to witness the re-emergence of the uniquely Western tradition of seeking to explain the broad patterns of history. However, if the earlier accounts, by the Scottish historical school, Condorcet, Kant, Comte, Hegel, remained almost entirely focused on Western history, the post-1970s universal histories would be purposely aimed at “provincializing” the West, by emphasizing, above all else, the study of past “connections in the human community,” mass migrations, imperial links, long distance trade, as well as how much the West borrowed from other civilizations and how the “world-capitalist system” of exploitation made possible the rise of the West. The progression of history would now be premised on the “common biological nature of humanity,” the universal ecosystem of the earth, and how the “integration of humanity,” economic and cultural globalization, the internet, smartphones, international trade agreements, mass migration, and the spread of “human rights,” were leading to the “unification of humankind” under a world progressive government.

We could say that the first major attempt at a new universal history that would relegate the West to a provincial place, based on a growing number of specialized works, was Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West (1918/23), which argued that all civilizations go through an inevitable cycle of “childhood, youth, manhood, and old age,” and that the West was entering its declining period. Spengler consciously set out to provide a new world history which “admits no sort of privileged position to Classical, or the Western culture as against the Cultures of India, Babylon, Egypt,” identifying eight world civilizations that “count for just as much in the general picture of history,” and that have indeed surpassed classical culture or the West “in spiritual greatness and soaring power.” But Spengler was no liberal multiculturalist. He was a Nietzschean historian who rejected the facile Enlightenment and Marxist idea that there was a directionality or purpose in history: “Mankind… has no aim, no idea, no plan, any more than the family of butterflies or orchids.” Civilizations were fundamentally different in their cultures/spirits as well as differentiated in terms of whether they were in their youth or their twilight. He distinctly saw how uniquely different the West was with its “Faustian soul,” restlessly pursuing knowledge, continually creating new forms of art, architecture, literature, driven by an indomitable will for limitless expansion and technological change. If Europeans could no longer produce great artists, musicians, and philosophers, they could still struggle for geopolitical and financial power in a world increasingly overshadowed by the yellow peril.

It was for reasons like these that Arnold Toynbee set out perform Spengler, writing a ten volume A Study of History (1934-54), distinguishing 26 civilizations, of which he estimated that 5 had survived to the present: the Hindu, the Islamic, the Sinic, the Orthodox Christian of Russia and Eastern Europe, and the Western. In this “history of mankind” the West was not at the center of human progress, and the driving force of history was not some Faustian soul, or any other civilizational spirit, but the fact that civilizations are energized to “respond” from “challenges” from other civilizations. He detested the crass materialistic modern West and the capitalist driven, technologically minded, United States; and looked forward to an ecumenical religion of love that would teach compassion and tolerance, built by a new creative minority that was contemplative, peaceful, and otherworldly.

While there were still centrist liberals around who believed in the centrality of the West, most attempts to explain the meaning and logic of history would start coming after the 1970s/80s from leftist progressives and multicultural world historians. J. M. Roberts, a centrist liberal admirer of the Allied powers, unabashedly asserted in his The Penguin History of the World (1995) that the history of Africans and Amerindians was not central to world history and that the modern era saw the “triumph of the West.” But Roberts was not interested in a “directional” theory of history, and his liberalism was already old, incapable of withstanding the proliferation of women’s history, black history, ethnic history, peasant history, the history of homosexuals and third world peoples—and the postmodern decentering of everything Western.

The Grand Liberal Narrative that reigned supreme in the US between 1920 and 1970 came to be seen as manifestation of “odious” assumptions of white racial superiority—”the Aryans are peculiarly the race of progress”—that belittled the histories of non-Western peoples. It was no longer persuasive for a new generation of liberal progressives in the 1970s to be satisfied with the view that developments within Europe (Newtonian science, Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution) were liberating the “human mind” from superstition and obscurantism. The idea that the “central motor of historical change” was the interaction between civilizations, reawakening and fertilizing each other, was now very popular—an idea that would be further radicalized, that is, pushed in a more progressive direction, by the historical researches of “dependency” theorists, who argued that it was the systematic conquest and exploitation of the Incas and the Aztecs, and the extraction of gold and silver from the Americas in the 16th century, that boosted the fortunes of Europe to begin with, including the “brutal” importation of African slaves to work in plantations from about 1600 to 1850, coupled with the colonial trade, which “allowed Europe” to earn “massive profits” to be reinvested in industrial development. A. G. Frank gained worldwide fame when he coined the term “the development of underdevelopment” to argue that Europe developed by under-developing the rest of the world and blocking their developmental paths.

The three volume work, The Modern World System (1974-89), by Immanuel Wallerstein, elaborated this idea into an argument that history needed to be understood along global-systemic lines that recognized how the world had been tied up together since the era of world empires through wide networks of trade supported by means of military and political coercion, and how the “world capitalist economy” originated by Europe in the 1500s was structured by a new division of labor wherein the West forced its colonies to provide cheap labor and raw materials as well as markets for its manufactures, which kept the non-Western world in a state of impoverishment while allowing the West to stay at the top. This attack on the Grand Narrative was the work of many groups, feminists fighting Western patriarchy, Frankfurt School critical theorists, postmodernists, Foucault-inspired new historicists and anthropologists pushing the multicultural idea that no culture should be deemed to be superior. World multicultural history thus came to spread in the 1980s and 1990s, with Western civ courses fading out. The World History Association was founded in 1982, and the Journal of World History in 1990, with one of its founders, Patrick Manning, judging in his historiographical survey, Navigating World History (2003) that Wallerstein should be acknowledged as one of the “fathers of world history.” William McNeill declared in 1998 that “the historical heritages of every people of the earth are of equal value, even if, or especially if they were mistreated by European imperialists in the recent past.”

It would take too long to go over the countless books published in the last decades about how Europeans came to establish hegemony over the world and how non-European cultures sometimes “succumbed” to European “numbers, weapons, and disease” but sometimes fought heroically against European “deculturation.” The end result was that the idea of progress was inverted: the main pattern of historical evolution was “largely regressive”: the standard of living, the quality of work, and the degree of social equality had deteriorated for most of the peoples of the earth; hunters and gatherers and simple horticulturalist tribes were “the truest democracies.” This argument was initiated by Marshall Sahlins with his celebrated thesis that the “original affluent society” was hunting and gathering. Jared Diamond completed it by arguing that “agriculture was the worst mistake in history” and that Europe’s uniqueness consisted in its “guns, germs, and steel,” while mocking the Greek achievement by arguing that “gorillas have had ample free time to build their own Parthenon had they wanted to.” Martin Bernal’s Black Athena: Afro-Asiatic Roots of Classical Civilization: The Fabrication of Ancient Greece (1991) persuaded thousands of students and academics that the “Greek miracle” was a product of Egyptian and Semitic influences, rather than a home-grown “Aryan” phenomenon.

The idea of progress was not rejected, however. What we had was a more progressive idea against the “ethnocentrism” of the Grand Narrative for a newly emerging diverse America that would fulfill what multiculturalists would call the universal human need for equal cultural recognition. As liberalism progressed in a multicultural, postmodernist, environmentalist and globalist direction, and as Western governments formally declared that the continued improvement of the West required immigrant diversity, centrist liberals who wished to avoid accusations of racism and stay relevant were compelled to redefine their “conservatism” in a “neoconservative” direction in the 1990s, by arguing that the directionality of scientific, technological, and democratic progress was not a manifestation of Western peoples per se but a manifestation of the deepest needs and aspirations of humanity, leading to the creation of a “Universal Civilization” where race, ethnocentrism and tradition would be displaced by adherence to liberal universal values. This idea was originated by Leo Strauss and his pupils. The major text of this neoconservative interpretation was Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man, published in 1992.

Fukuyama gave expression to a resurgent optimism among centrist liberals that the American defeat of the Soviet Union in the Cold War signified the triumph of Liberalism over its last ideological adversary, Communism, after having defeated its other enemy, Fascism, in WWII. While this was a victory for the West over the Soviet Union, it meant that the ideology of liberalism was now destined to be universal and without major ideological rivals. Fukuyama anticipated that in the future more and more governments would adopt liberal democratic institutions and that we would thus witness the actualization of Kant’s project of a “Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View,” with nations less concerned about their traditions than about increasing their wealth through capitalism and scientific knowhow. National identities would be diluted in a way resembling what the EU was already doing in Europe, transcending, in his words, “sovereignty and traditional power politics by establishing a transnational rule of law.”

Fukuyama defended the idea of history as progress toward more scientific knowledge and more democracy and individual rights. He insisted, against multicultural relativists, that it was possible to construct a “coherent and directional history of mankind that will eventually lead the greater part of humanity to liberal democracy.” This was not, however, a victory of the “rise of the West” with its uniquely Greek, Roman, Christian, Renaissance, Newtonian, Enlightenment heritage: it was a victory for the universal aspirations of humanity. Fukuyama offered two reasons why this history was universal. First, there was already a general consensus in the world, among former communists, fascists, or traditional nations, that science was cumulative and directional and that it augmented the power and wealth of nations. The scientific method was no longer “Western” but universally accepted. The social and economic effects of technological change were similar in every society, and were thus a demonstration of its universality. Second, the decision of an increasing number of nations to adopt, if partially and slowly, liberal democratic institutions, was a reflection of a universal human need for recognition, that is, for all humans to have their voices heard, their property protected under the law, and their right to seek their own happiness.
Fukuyama was confident that traditionalism, governments and institutions operating according to long-standing customs and religious beliefs, would give way to liberalism, as societies embraced a universal education based on science, and thus encouraged a rational understanding of all things. “Modern education…liberates men from their attachments to tradition and authority…This is why modern man is the last man.” Even if this last man of history loses his ancestral ties, or can no longer live a life of Nietzschean heroism, he will be contented with technical advances, entertainment, therapy, consumerism, longevity, freedom of choice, while still having the opportunity, if he so desires, to engage in “risky” sports. Postmodernists and leftists were furious. But Fukuyama correctly saw that his universal liberalism recognized the individual rights of everyone regardless of race and gender, that it contained the institutional framework for the extension of individual rights to transsexuals and the like, that it accommodated the valuing of the environment, that it allowed individuals to create their own civic associations for a sense of belonging and identity, and that it met the postmodernist rejection of Eurocentrism by recognizing the multicultural right of immigrants to enjoy their customs as citizens within the framework of liberal institutions. Fukuyama was an advocate of mass immigration and diversity. His main preoccupation today is support for the “liberation of Ukraine” and the extension of these universal values against Russian “authoritarianism and traditionalism.”

The inbuilt progressive tendency of both Neocon and Postmodern liberalism lies in their commitment “to free the individual from the traditional restraints of society” or any institution, norm, custom, or “prejudice” that constricts the right of the individual to choose his own beliefs and happiness as long they do not infringe on this principle of liberalism. (It should be stated parenthetically that postmodernism did offer non-western historians, including the philosopher Alexander Dugin, with concepts to interpret their traditions in a positive light by decentering the “totalizing” narrative of the “logocentric” West. Postmodernism in the West, however, encouraged the affirmation of non-western ways inside the West, not the reaffirmation of Western traditions inimical to progressivism). Socialistic liberalism aimed at enlarging the scope of free action on the part of those who lacked the economic means to exercise their freedom of choice. They called for the “positive” right to a good education, right to work, paid parental leave, adequate standard of living, medical care. Freedom was no longer defined as “negative freedom,” protection from an oppressive government, but as the right of everyone, including foreign immigrants, to be afforded by the government “positive” freedoms for their self-actualization.

The civil rights movement that abolished racial segregation and disenfranchisement, and called for affirmative hiring to remedy the “injuries of the past” and persistent “systemic racism,” was consistent with liberalism. So was the abolition of white only immigration policies treating immigrants differently based on their race in violation of “the right and dignity of all humans to be treated as individuals with equal rights to comfort and happiness. Postmodernist demands are also consistent with liberalism in striving for the right of individuals to decide which sexual identities they prefer, rather than being restricted by a male-female collectivist “binary.” Conversely, the “emancipatory project” of the Enlightenment, despite its ostensible defence of “totalizing narrative” of rational progress, shares with postmodernism an attempt to overcome the “ethnocentric” power of European peoples. Habermas, after all, is an ardent supporter of immigrant diversity in Germany. The same logic applies to the way critical race theorists use racial categories. They believe that in our current society minorities are “racialized” by dominant whites, and that overcoming this racial hierarchy necessitates race identity politics. Their aim is to transcend altogether any form of racial identity for the sake of a society in which everyone is judged as an individual. The aim of multiculturalism is to afford immigrant minorities with resources to enhance their opportunities for individual integration while encouraging members of the “dominant” Western culture to respect their ethnic identity and customs as long as the principle of individual rights is not trampled upon. The replacement of whites simply means that individuals with equal rights and dignity who have a different skin color will replace individuals of another skin color.

This explains why not a single historian today, not matter what school of history they belong to, has cared or dared to examine critically what is undeniably the most radical transformation ever witnessed in human history: the willful replacement and demonization of the indigenous populations of the West by foreign immigrants at the behest of the liberal ruling classes. There are no conceptual tools available in the West for such a critical stand. Historians can certainly complain about some perceived negative consequences, about “illegal immigration” about the inadequacy of public schools to handle endless arrivals of new immigrants, about lack of public housing, and the like, but liberalism precludes them the right to question immigration in principle. The arrival of millions of immigrants has been going on at an intense level for about three decades, offering enough time for historians to start reflecting about its origins, nature, and consequences. They have, but not a single one has deviated from the accepted liberal narrative. I can’t think of a book in Canada by an academic working at a university that is critical of immigration as a matter of principle and for the sake of defending the ethnic interests of Western peoples besides my book Canada in Decay: Mass Immigration, Diversity, and the Ethnocide of Eurocanadians (2017). The price to pay for challenging immigration replacement is very high. I experienced an academic mobbing in 2019, which forced me to take early retirement, not to mention many other forms of suppression and exclusion from multiple social media venues, with about 70 customer reviews of Canada in Decay deleted at Amazon.

The arguments put forth by liberal academics have been invariably along the following lines:

  1. Immigration is about creating a more liberal minded Western world, overcoming the persistence of “nativism” and “racism,” and thus bringing about the realization of Western values of tolerance, equality, and human rights. Opposition to immigration control in the name of nationalism threaten to undermine the fundamental values of liberal democracies.
  2. “Anti-immigration” sentiments are a painful reminder of the “long history of immigration restrictions rooted in the racist fear of the ‘great replacement’ of whites with non-white newcomers.”
  3. There is nothing new about current immigration patterns; the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were founded by immigrants. “We are all immigrants.” In fact, England, France, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Spain…were also founded by migrants over the course of their histories, and their original inhabitants came out of Africa, the Near East, and the Eurasian steppes.

It should suffice for me to offer a few of the titles of history books coming out in recent years about immigration, along with a few cited words from the editorial endorsements, to convey my point. White Borders: The History of Race and Immigration in the US from Chinese Exclusion to the Border Wall (2021), by Reece Jones, is about “the United States’ racist and xenophobic underbelly” from “the ‘Keep America American’ nativism of the 1920s to the ‘Build the Wall’ chants initiated by former president Donald Trump in 2016.” Peter Gatrell’s The Unsettling of Europe: How Migration Reshaped a Continent (2019) “reminds us that the history of Europe has always been one of people on the move.” Coming to America: A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life (2022), by Roger Daniels, shows that the US has always been a nation of immigrants “whose contributions are as varied as their origins.” Undesirable Immigrants: Why Racism Persists in International Migration (2022), by Andrew Rosenberg, shows that “the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 officially ended the explicit prejudice in American immigration policy that began with the 1790 restriction on naturalization to free White persons of ‘good character’,” and “how racial inequality persists in global migration despite the end of formally racist laws.”

The permanent transformation of Western civilization into a “Universal” civilization away from its European ethnos and historical roots is now an almost irreversible reality. The presence of millions of people from different cultures, the relentless denigration of Europeans as racists, the malicious rewriting of the European past to be “inclusive of the diversity of the classrooms,” in violation of the basic protocols of historical scholarship, the absurd claim that all Western nations are “immigrant nations,” have radically undermined the integrity of the West. The West, thoroughly under the spell of progressive liberalism, does not have the ideological resources to counter what’s going on except revive an earlier version of liberalism, what Alexander Dugin has called Liberalism 1.0, that is, a liberalism that emphasizes negative liberties, without excessive wokeness, without seeking to obliterate sexual differences between men and women, without critical race theory targeting whites, and without anti-Christian attitudes. But this is not easy given the almost complete control Liberalism 2.0 has over our institutions, the continuously high levels of immigration, and the in-built progressive tendency of liberalism writ large. This ideology, which grew out of the West only, and is based on disappearance of kinship ties, which prevailed in all human societies and still do in the non-western world, is historically grounded in the creation of monogamous families, dissolution of tribal groups and norms, and creation of civic associations based on trust regardless of sex, religion, race, and nationality, with universal rules applied equally to everyone—did work well for a few centuries and was the reason for the immense success of Western civilization. The only alternative seems traditionalism, which is really hard for a western world without ethnocentrism, a strong Christian religion, and bereft of any solid customs, marriage ceremonies, patriotism, ethnic dances and folkways.

Liberalism 1.0 worked because it was still supported by traditional marriage, church going, and a high level of participation in civic-liberal organizations, with most inhabitants in Australia, Canada, United States, Europe, rooted by birth in their communities and through their civic participation in churches, schools, town halls, universities, museums, neighborhoods, political parties—across towns, states, and within cities. Traditionalism on its own is not very appealing, or not really in the non-western world, leaving these societies rather ossified after the Axial Age (600 BC to 200 AD), without science and without intellectual vitality. But a way must be found to integrate traditionalism with modernization, for it looks like Western peoples have no option but to recapture some form of traditionalism, which ultimately is about recreating families and civic networks, which may seem like a return to Liberalism 1.0, but this time around this civic traditionalism should be enforced, and the cardinal principle that Western nations are constitutionally based on individual rights should be discarded for a principle that prioritizes the right of the ethnos to freedom from destruction and demonization by a globalist capitalist ruling class—as German Historicism called for.

Ricardo Duchesne has written a number of articles on Western uniqueness. He the author of The Uniqueness of Western CivilizationFaustian Man in a Multicultural AgeCanada in Decay: Mass Immigration, Diversity, and the Ethnocide of Euro-Canadians.

Featured: Ouroboros, from Codex Parisinus graecus 2327; copy made by Theodoros Pelecanos, in 1478, of an earlier (now lost) manuscript attributed to Synesius of Cyrene (d. 412).

The Orders of Allah, or the Repudiation of Beauty

Les ordres d’Allah was published in 2006, whose author, Jean-Paul Roux, was a research director at the CNRS. One cannot, therefore, without being anachronistic, qualify it as a conspiracy book. The book is a marvel of clarity and conciseness and raises some central questions in the improbable time that we now live in.

The book says that Muslim society does not resemble ours; that the Muslim man has a personality (a mentality, historians would say) that is in many ways diametrically opposed to ours: “We are not dealing with an amorphous mass, but with a living and dynamic body, and moreover in continuous demographic expansion. We are confronted with it more and more closely, because we travel in Muslim countries, because we are victims of its terrorist attacks, of its apostolate, of the arrival in our lands of millions of immigrants who settle in our cities and whom we come into contact with every day.”

These words date from 20o6.

Muslim law (called, Sharia) has been established by jurists based on two essential sources: the Koran and the Hadith, the latter transmitted by an unbroken chain (or presumed to be so) of honorable and well-known people from the time of Muhammad until the ninth century, when they were recorded by great compilers. Who were these honorable men? Not much is known about them, if anything, and what is known about them has not come to the attention of the press or Islamic scholars.

Would someone like to explain to me by what mystery the Roman Catholic world gives to this chain of oral transmission a credit and a dignity that it denies to all the oral transmission of Eastern Christianity?

The other source of Sharia, the Koran, is untouchable. One must accept this book as such or reject it outright. One cannot be a Muslim if one rejects or even discusses the Quranic text.

Most Muslims do not know the Koran. They have heard of it but have never read it. Ask any Libyan, Afghan, Pakistani coming out of a mosque, he has not read the Koran because it is written in Arabic and is rarely translated and made available to the people. It can therefore be difficult for Muslims to determine whether a particular injunction comes from a Hadith (and can therefore be contested) or from the Koranic text, which imposes the most absolute submission. In fact, the religious culture of most Muslims is much the same as that of the Christians in our parishes. A few stories were finally given some credence. “I was told that…”

I would like to focus on only one of the aspects evoked in Roux’ book: sexuality, going a little beyond the deductions drawn by its author, who is a historian, but not a philosopher.

Why sexuality? Because it constitutes one of the great human conducts, because it engages the moral (or ethical) quality of every man and woman; because this dimension of human existence is organically linked to the vision of man conveyed by a society and internalized (or rejected) by its citizens; because sexuality implies an anthropology, and that of Islam is not only deficient but essentially unequal and oppressive for half of its humanity, women; because, finally, it poses an essential point of metaphysics and philosophy, which is not visible and which requires a somewhat technical analysis, but which Allah’s orders touch directly.
In Islam, it is normal to mate as nature wants but also in submission to God who established these laws. Man needs to eat, let him eat; he has sexual organs to enjoy and procreate, let him enjoy and procreate: “enjoy them (your wives (IV, 24/28), have commerce with them and desire what he has prescribed for you.” This is very clearly the expression of an animal law which puts the act of eating and copulating on the same level. But if it is normal to mate, it should be done by observing “continence” which the Koran calls “control” or “guarding one’s sexual organs.” Believers are thus invited to “lower their gaze” and “watch over their sexual organs.” The invitation applies to everyone, men and women alike.

This means something precise: sexuality is legitimate on the condition that it is restricted; it can only be exercised within the framework of marriage or concubinage with slave women.

“Those who live in continence, except with their wives and slaves, will be honored in the gardens of paradise” (LXXX,29).

There is no need for the long Cartesian deductive chain to reach a conclusion: sexual slavery is perfectly authorized and even rewarded. The Islam of DAESH thus applies the Koran. There are female slaves, and they are authorized by the Koranic text itself, and to enjoy them, with a reward. Why deprive themselves?

There are two points to consider. It may well be that it is impossible for a believing and firmly believing Muslim to hold the sexual act as a highly significant act of communication which engages the whole body, not to say the whole person, since the body is also the soul which is united to it. It is true that the sexual organs can be considered as a kind of metonymy for the whole body. But Islam does not know the spirit, it only knows the letter of the text, because if it admitted the spirit, it would simply have to reflect, and all its prose would crumble under the light of evidence and reason.

It is therefore continence (as Islam conceives it) that opens paradise, not fidelity or the relationship with the wife. Islam cannot reach the idea that Catholic theology has promulgated based on St. Paul: woman is the glory of man and the husband/wife relationship is the visible and analogous figure of the relationship of God and the creature. The human body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and it is a desecration to consider it as an object of pleasure and lust.

Islam condemns not only adultery and homosexuality (the Koran enjoins the torture of men who have committed “turpitudes” in pairs) but also prostitution, and a hundred lashes are inflicted on “debauchery (i.e., any act of debauchery) and the debauched.” And those who cannot afford to pay a dowry should simply refrain from sexual acts.

“As for those who have no money to marry, let them choose to remain chaste.”

Can it be a choice when you don’t have money for dowry?

The Koran does not only set up a rigorist and prudish morality which one would end up getting rid of like a used coat: it institutes a specific relationship to sexuality which places the woman in a radically unequal situation, a relationship which moreover destroys the relationship of the man to beauty and to voluptuousness, a healthy voluptuousness. For sexuality is not radically bad; it can simply be perverted, like everything that is good.

As such, the wearing of the veil informs us, in the deepest sense of the term. Of course, except in the perverse case where even the eyes are hidden by a veil (often transparent), it cannot cover the eyes, which must be lowered, an attitude associated with modesty but also with shame. I have seen women in Qatar driving at 130 miles an hour in Doha with this veil on their face.

After all, why cover the whole body if it is enough to watch over the sexual organs?

By themselves, the sexual organs are neither beautiful nor ugly. What is beautiful (or ugly) is the human body. And it is because this human body, when it is young and of beautiful proportions, arouses an aesthetic type of pleasure so that it can arouse sexual desire. If we cover the woman’s body, there is no need for the Muslim man to look down; he can watch over his sexual organs in all serenity because we do not look down on a shapeless mass that is completely covered and looks like a sack of potatoes.

This relationship with sexuality is one of the vicious orientations of Islam, because it implies the repudiation of beauty, and is thus a form of perversion.

The spirit needs enjoyment, to contemplate beautiful things, because the aesthetic sense needs to be awakened and for that it has around it all Creation, which is a marvel: mountains and valleys, rivers and woods, landscapes of infinite variety. And, of course, the pleasure given by the radiance of youth or by the feeling of a life really lived, and of the fragility of human life on a wrinkled face. For lack of this delectation, there remain only the compensatory pleasures of this frustrated sense which is the sense of beauty, intellect and sensibility at the same time: pleasures which satisfy then the raw curiosity, the brutal appetite and the morbid curiosity under the reign of the carnal Venus.

Beauty, which is delectation, implies aesthetic pleasure; and the singular nature of this pleasure is translated in the engaged senses: the sight and the hearing, held traditionally for the highest senses. For it is only in man that there exists the possibility of a pleasure quite distinct from tactile satisfaction. To taste this sense of beauty, one must stop wanting to touch things or take hold of them.

Because, by its very nature, beauty is delectable; it moves desire. And it produces love.

The Greeks saw the essential in telling of the Trojan war. The principle which governs the sensitive life, the life of the sensitive appetite—in potential—is love, which Saint Augustine, a fine psychologist, put at the root of all passions. Saint Thomas Aquinas distinguishes between the affectivity regulated according to reason—the love that leads to a thing by virtue of the fact that it suits us—and the affectivity regulated according to sensitive passion—sensory love, necessarily regulated by an affection. It is the sensory appetite which explains that there is in the man a kind of love which is of purely animal order, love exclusively carnal and intimately bound to the senses, even exclusively governed by the attraction of the senses.

This is why, to the misfortune of the Trojans, it was to Venus that the victory over the two other goddesses belonged. If the beauty of Helen is the terrestrial origin of the Trojan War, the divine origin is the “trifunctional stupidity” of the shepherd prince summoned to choose between the three goddesses. By choosing Venus, Paris shows thereby how much beauty is taken in by the senses and the secret bonds which unite aesthetic pleasure and voluptuousness. He shows that he is a slave to appetite in the choice he makes and which will cost his family dearly. Woman is thus presented as the natural place of beauty, even of voluptuousness. She is in a relation of obedience to beauty, the metaphysicians would say.

That they are or not able to explain it philosophically as I have just tried to do it, men (men and women) feel this node of relations between aesthetic pleasure, voluptuousness, desire and love. It is this complex nucleus that the orders of Allah destroy, destroying the use of reason as the exercise of freedom, and the risk of error that it can generate. And since it is woman who in a general way arouses this feeling and this aesthetic pleasure, therefore this desire, it is necessary to hide this body that one cannot see. But then we break one of the great sources of delight: the beauty of the female body and what it represents—inspiration.

Allah’s orders have made Homer unreadable and plunged a quarter of humanity into a kind of moral distress with no way out. It has forbidden women the happiness of feeling the energy of a young, vigorous body, full of attraction, energy and vitality, of experiencing the joy of noticing that this body is seen, looked at, that it can arouse attraction, desire and therefore the meeting, the exchange, the conversation. It is to deprive women but also young men of the relationship of mutual attraction which constitutes the ground and the spring of the future love relation.

Shakespeare’s Juliet was not a sex offender.

Killing in Islam is a pious act when it comes to jihad. Natural law has no consistency. Allah decides what is right and what is wrong. Allah’s orders are those of an arbitrary God who does not allow man any freedom and who has conceived him as an animal, an animal whose lust and concupiscence must be curbed, an animal that must be put under the yoke.

We do not know Islam. The works to make known the contemporary Muslim world and which pose the problem of its relations with the Western world, support theses inspired by ideologies, most often currently extraordinarily favorable to Islam.

“We have invented to reassure ourselves, two Islams: one open, enlightened, tolerant, peaceful, formalist, preoccupied with rituals and struck by multiple prohibitions; the other obscurantist, closed in on itself, sectarian, fanatical, warlike, that we call fundamentalist or Islamist, which means absolutely nothing; the one authentic—the first—the other deviant and sick—the second. There is only Islam; and it does not have two faces—but only one with multiple facets. The mystic and the terrorist, and all those who fall between these two extremes, have always coexisted and drink from the same sources, the book of God and the person of Muhammad.”

This was written back in 2006.

Three questions arise when faced with this religion: Can the individual, as Islam sees him, fit into Western civilization? Does the image that the Koran and history have drawn of the atheist, the idolater, the Jew and the Christian make it possible or not for the Muslim to fraternize with them? Is society, as Islam conceives it, compatible with Western society in such a way that they can merge into each other?

If the answer to these three questions is no, then the fate of our Christian brothers in the East is seriously compromised. But we already know that, don’t we? And we would know it if the Church of the West had defended its part in the East with the courage that its cause requires, and that it deserves.

Let’s open a world map and look at the Muslim lands, those that apply the Koran, at least officially, between the two extremes of mysticism and terrorism. May God have mercy on the women of Afghanistan, but also on those of Pakistan, and on those of all the Muslim nations that condemn them to a terrible subjugation.

The unnatural alliance of the new anthropologies and Islam (of which we see a figure in what is called Islamo-leftism) is only possible because both of them consider man as an animal. The orders of Allah for all, such is the program of Islam. Opposite, the destruction of what makes our human nature: “Man and woman he created them,” to show another invisible pole of human nature, the sacerdotal, the greatly sacerdotal. There is no priesthood in Islam.

History, which has already given birth to many bloodthirsty monsters, has given birth to Islam and the new programming.

But one does not go against the God of Israel who programmed man for freedom, for beauty and for Him. God, our God, is true, true is His promise, true is His word, true is His salvation. True also is His power. When the God of Christians orders, He says to His prophets: “Go, I will be with you,” “Tell my people”—He gives the choice: “I set before you life and death. Choose life.”

Let us choose life.

Let us choose Him.

Marion Duvauchel is a historian of religions and holds a PhD in philosophy. She has published widely, and has taught in various places, including France, Morocco, Qatar, and Cambodia. She is the founder of the Pteah Barang, in Cambodia.

Featured: Pandora, by John William Waterhouse; painted in 1896.

Memory of Andalusia… Yes, But which One?

Orientalism (especially so-called “scholarly,” i.e., institutionalized) is a European phenomenon whose complex history essentially concerns the three great nations of France, England and Germany. The other orientalisms, little or badly known, have been qualified as “peripheral”—thus, Spanish orientalism, neatly called “domestic” or “domestic orientalism.” This is because it emerges against the background of the past of Al-Andalus, which exerted a real fascination on Spanish writers and Arabists, such as Francisco Javier Simonet, Francisco Codera Zaidín and the theologian Miguel Asín Palacio. From the tentative resurrection of Arabic studies in the eighteenth century to the present day, an ideology and a scale of values underlie the work of many Spanish Arabists.

By what mystery was spread the historiographic myth of Al-Andalus as the oasis of a sweet, gentle life and harmonious religious understanding, in a world of brutes? The prize goes to Danielle Rozenberg for “recovering the memory” of a Spain presumed to be amnesiac. A few careful hours of reading is enough to pulverize this fashionable mythology.

First, there is Rosa María Rodríguez Magda, who published Inexistente Al Ándalus, De como los intelectuales reinventan el Islam (Ediciones Nobel, 2008) [Inexistent Al Andalus, How Intellectuals reinvented Islam]. She shows that the three communities, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, had limited relations, most of the time tense, not to mention the specific laws that were applied to them.

In another vein, the three volumes of Reinhart Dozy, Spanish Islam: A History of the Moslems in Spain (4 vols. 1861; 2nd ed. 1881) constitute a vast panorama of the history of the Muslims of Spain; that is to say a tiresome series of murders, betrayals, massacres, revenge, reprisals, taking and retaking of kingdoms or citadels, attempts at unification, broken and betrayed alliances.

Let’s be honest, there is no doubt that Islam was imposed by force wherever Muhammad’s warriors went, driven by the thirst for plunder and the prospect of the spoils of war.

The blood of the Umayyads flowed in 755 in Damascus when they were massacred by the Abbasids, whom the Persians had preferred to them. The only survivor, Abd al Rhaman, took refuge in Cordoba and ended up being proclaimed emir. From then on, these Umayyads were to be the propagators of the Arab greatness before the mass of converts coming from the submitted nations. These Umayyads were not ethnically Arabs. But their “blondness” did not prevent them from defining themselves as Arabs and claiming to be the best, purest and most faithful sons of the Prophet’s nation, in the ideological struggle they waged against the Abbasids of Baghdad and the Fatimids of Cairo. The Arab theme is central to Umayyad propaganda. This land, Al-Andalus, where the descendants of the caliphs of Damascus regained their rank, undeniably foreign to the Arabs, was an issue.

The fundamental choices of Al-Andalus were “Arab” choices: the Arab culture and the religion of the one God, a religion born on Arab-soil. They kept from those early times the arrogance proper to these Bedouins of the desert. The hatred between Berbers and Arabs continued from generation to generation. When the Berber princes governed, they oppressed the Arabs and the indigenous (Christians and converted Muslims). When the Arabs took over, it was their turn to shamelessly enrich themselves and oppress. Nietzsche described this phenomenon very well, applying it to Christianity, which he hated. In reality, it is the old animal programming, the ancestral and tribal rages that govern the Bedouin world and that have been infused into their primitive religion with such force that it has become almost invincible. Through power rivalries between Visigoth factions, some of them (including the archbishop of Seville) and the Jewish community, openly resorted to the help of the Muslims. Hence the meteoric success of their conquest of the peninsula.

Thus disappeared the Visigothic and Christian kingdom of Toledo, once magnificent, which yet remained in collective memory as a beacon of the Reconquista de Hispanae; and this from 722. A discontented fringe of the population turned to the newcomers, as in Byzantium. But the invaded populations were disappointed very quickly, when the true face of the conquerors showed itself—destruction of churches and places of worship, desecration of holy bodies; for the converts, prohibition to leave Islam under penalty of death. Chained to the religion of their masters, they derived little benefit from it and bore their contempt.

The first period of resistance was essentially religious, marked by spectacular provocations leading inexorably to martyrdom (on the model of the Christian martyrs in the first centuries of the Roman Empire). Eulogius was the leader of this rebellion.

It the second period, there were more uprisings, rebellions and revolts, inexorably drowned in blood. On the side of power, these three centuries were marked by cunning, treachery, and cruelty towards the indigenous, Christians and Muslims. The political facts gathered by Arab sources, stresses Gabriel Martinez-Gros, “do not show the social structures which emerged from beneath the froth of events but the consolidation of the political intrigue,” fundamental font of the history of this prolonged, ruinous and bloody occupation.

The Umayyads of Cordoba prospered for nearly two centuries until Emir Abd ar-Rahman III proclaimed himself caliph in 929, rejecting the spiritual authority of the Abbasid Caliphate. This so-called “golden age” was because of him; but in reality, it was merely a pause in the long oppression of the Spanish people. The reduction of tax allowed a moment of economic and cultural development. It did not last, and a civil war finally brought down the dynasty in 1031. Andalusia was then divided into a multitude of taifas (principalities). After a period of “splendor,” the khalifate of Cordoba succumbed to its divisions.

In the second half of the eleventh century, the vigorous Christian offensive of the “Reconquista” reached its peak and Islam could only hold out in Spain thanks to the help of the Berbers of Morocco:

Coming out of their deserts of Mauritania, these great Berber Sanhaja nomads, wearing the black veil with which the Tuaregs still cover their faces, after having conquered half of North Africa, went to Spain. They set back the Christian Reconquest; but also, taking advantage of their holy mission, they annexed the small Muslim kingdoms that they had come to save from the Infidels” (Georges Marçais).

These primitive Berbers of Morocco gave religious power a weight reminiscent of today’s mullahs, with their tyrannical, fussy and vicious morality. In Seville, in particular, these new masters replaced the Abbadids (the Abbad dynasty) who had called them to their aid. The last ruler, the poet king EI-Motamil, embarked with the princesses of his house on a boat that, going down the Guadalquivir, took them to the Maghreb, from where they would not return. Succeeding the sultans of Arab race and artistic tastes, hardly bothered by religious scruples, the rough Berber conquerors established the reign of austere virtue. Al-Ghazali, the most famous of them all, bore the fine title of “gravedigger of reason.”

At the head of the cities were appointed men of their own. Above all, the foqaha, Malikite jurists, who enjoyed the favors of the Berbers all the more because they issued opinions in accordance with Berber policy. The Almoravids added them to the provincial governors (qadi) to serve as advisors. To maintain the garrisons and prepare future expeditions, they obviously had their Sanhaja relatives from the desert, but also the “blacks” whom they had once defeated and converted to Islam and who were readily more arrogant than their masters and converters.

The deference owed to the new masters cannot be extended to the brigands they brought over. The wearing of the veil, which confused them with their leaders, was an attribute of nobility whose abuse was intolerable. Such were the trustworthy Andalusians and the “colored Berbers.” This division of labor expressed the distinction maintained in this Muslim society between the two fortuitously juxtaposed elements of the population: on the one hand, the Berber Almoravids (replacing the Arab and “Syrian” caste, which was very much in the minority) and the “muladi” or converted Christians, and on the other hand, the indigenous mass (the Andalusians), a mass divided between Christians, called “Mozarabs,” and Jews. At the bottom of this pyramid, the slaves.

Things did not go softly for the African conquerors and the people of Andalusia. The dynasties defended this Islamized Andalusia, but for their own benefit. They demanded of the people the literate, architects and artists not out of a taste for culture, but to increase the glitter of their reign. And yet hardly by the end of two generations, the sons of the big Saharan barbarians were seduced by Andalusian softness. The conquered land initiated them into the joy of living and to the charm of the common culture; the poets of Seville gave them the taste of the beautiful language; the art of Cordoba lived again in the mosques that they built in Fez, in Marrakech and in Tlemcen. Made of Berber robustness and Spanish elegance, the Hispano-Moorish civilization was established and flourished on both sides of their empire. It owed nothing to Islam, having borrowed everything from the civilization that it worked to destroy, but which tirelessly revived. It was made of the Arab taste for poetry and music, but above all for the ardent desire of the human soul to actualize the resources and treasures of beauty that it carries within, by casting them into the cultural molds at its disposal. It is neither Christian, nor Moslem, nor Jewish—it is a deep aspiration which finds its particularized expression in the psalms as well as in the lyric and love poetry, in the musicality of the language (the prosody), where the “Arab” poets exceled, an inheritance from the “times of ignorance.” It was this property of the soul and of human nature that austere Islam did not cease to repress because it felt an instinctive hatred of freedom and of the creative power inherent in any culture, (carried by some of its sons and daughters).

Are the Andalusians of today Arabs as the new ideology would like to make believe? The “balance of blood and race” (Gabriel Martinez-Gros) of the Andalusian compound is largely favorable to Spain and the West. The Islamization was also an Arabization, after the Romanization and the influence of the Visigoths, Romanized barbarians. In the Maghreb, the fact of bearing a name of Arab origin is most often only a sign of allegiance to power, and not proof of any descent from Muslim conquerors. But there is no “ethnic” particularism in Andalusia from the point of view of its population. The progressive reconquest by Spaniards first from the north and then from the center resulted in the same destructive behaviors towards the conquered populations: displacement, exile of those who refused to convert or even destruction.

The Muslim “umma” claimed to erase tribal distinctions. In reality, in the first centuries, it was confused with the “asabiyyah” of the Arabs instituted by the Prophet. A powerful asabiyyah, i.e., clan cohesion, reinforced by belonging to Islam, the religion of the masters, facilitated or even allowed the accession of a large family to power. Until another family took it over. To maintain power, one needs a “government.” Muslim power was corrupt from the outset, based on prebends, and continued only through intrigue, plots, betrayed alliances and violence.

And yet, the delirious ideology of Blas Infante (1885-1936) emerged, who was even awarded the title of “Father of the Andalusian Homeland” by the Parliament of Andalusia on April 3, 1983. For him, the Arab presence in Andalusia was not a lasting invasion but eight centuries of freedom, cultural influence, well-being and scientific progress. The Andalusian people were the product of a process of assimilation, resulting from the cohabitation of populations of different origins and religions. He went so far as to advocate the creation of a federal state which would delegate to Andalusia international relations with the peoples of Africa and the East.

In these semi-fantasy modern perspectives, special mention should be made of the novelist Juan Goytisolo, a sort of Spanish Roger Garaudy, but more subtle and intellectually equally ambiguous (he was buried in Marrakech and spent most of his life outside Spain). His book, Crónicas sarracinas (1982) [Saracen Chronicles], gives an idea of the weight of the Islamic past in the ideological struggles over the formation of national identity. In this work, Goytisolo had the elegant objective of “sodomizing myth” and defending his “Saracenicity.” The review of P.R. Baduel Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée gives a small idea of this edifying work.

Three chapters each are devoted to Ali Bey, to Gustave Flaubert and to Sir Richard Burton, “pilgrim and sexologist.” While Flaubert shamelessly and at the expense of the government went to pursue his fantasies of an oriental lupanar, Ali Bey, (pseudonym of Domingo Badia), administrator of the Royal Tobacco Monopoly in Cordoba and self-taught Arabist, was on a secret Spanish mission in Morocco, from where he then left for the East, where he was the first European to go (disguised) inside Mecca which he described and drew. Back in Europe and in France, he lamented, “the atrophy of the heart produced by the narrowness of a society of individual property, for he who returned from the great desert spaces.” Sir Richard Burton ventured to India and then went to Mecca, an act of unprecedented courage. Goytisolo compares his interest in Muslim society with that of Lawrence of Arabia: “Both feel the same fascination for Islam and the harsh and austere world of the Bedouins, placed entirely under the sign of masculinity. Both aspired to the wild freedom of the desert, to this hospitable and fraternal world from which woman is excluded.” Lawrence’s homosexuality, Goytisolo says, was linked to this choice of a society of males. This is a faulty parallel that reflects either great intellectual dishonesty or great ignorance about the life of Lawrence of Arabia, who, as we know, was illegitimately born and raped by a Turk when he fell into their hands, and who apparently never recovered from either injury.

Seeing the world through the lens of one’s homosexuality (even belatedly assumed) is not the most reliable light. Let’s be serious: Goytisolo’s ” Saracenicity” is nothing more than a figure of speech. In Las virtudes del pájaro solitario (1988) [The Virtues of the Solitary Bird], he builds his fiction on the Sufi origins of the mystical poetry of Saint John of the Cross.

At this point where the imagination erases fifteen centuries of history, the only answer is an appalled silence.

The Spanish Civil War halted the process of autonomy in Andalusia, which was resumed when the autonomies were established with the 1978 Constitution: Andalusian socialism then took over the nationalist theories of this Andalusia presented as the crucible of a civilization where Judaism, Islam and Christians coexisted in harmony, under the rule of the Muslim emirs and khalifahs, a civilization that could be the prelude and model of a tolerant multicultural society.

The same one that the French Islamo-leftism dream about.

The official flag of Andalusia includes two green bands, in clear reference to the color and banner of Islam.

Featured: “Abd al-Rahman III Receiving an Ambassador,” by Dionisio Baixeras Verdaguer; painted in 1885.

Is Islam Our Future? A Conversation With Jean-Louis Harouel

This conversation with the eminent French historian Jean-Louis Harouel examines the long-term consequences of multiculturalism, especially the settlement of large numbers of Muslims in the West. He is Professor Emeritus at Paris 2 University and the author of about twenty very important books, such as Les droits de l’homme contre le peuple (2016), which was translated into Italian and Hungarian. His most recent book is L’islam est-il notre avenir? (Paris, La Nouvelle Librairie, 2021), which forms the basis of this interview which is made possible through the courtesy of Breizh-Info.

Breizh-info (B-I): Yet another book on Islam, I am tempted to say. What did you want to bring to the debate on the Islamization of Europe?

Jean-Louis Harouel (J-L H): I wanted to say that it is totally unrealistic to let millions of Muslims reside on our territory who keep the ways of thinking and the morals of a Muslim country, and at the same time hope to continue to live in France and in Europe as we used to live there, while practicing a freedom of thought and expression proscribed by Islam. In many parts of its territory, France, which is the European nation with the largest number of Muslims on its soil, has today become a country other than France: a Muslim country. This is what Éric Zemmour recently felt when he returned to the northern suburbs where he had spent his childhood and concluded that we had changed countries: “We are no longer in the same country.”

I wanted to show that Islamist killings are a danger inherent in a massive Muslim presence. In a large Muslim population, there will inevitably be a percentage of people who will take Sharia law to the letter and want to kill infidels and blasphemers, as prescribed by certain passages of the Koran, or as the Prophet repeatedly urged his followers to do. The possibility of assassination as a punishment for freedom of thought, or other forms of impiety, is an inherent risk of Islam. The multiplication of this violence in France is the result of the fact that it has been allowed to become, in large parts of the land, a Muslim country. But, in a Muslim country, there is an obligation to show respect for Islam and offenders are severely punished.

Jean-Louis Harouel.

The beheading of Samuel Paty and the death threats against any teacher considered to be offensive to Islam are only the logical consequence of the insane situation in which political leaders have progressively trapped France over the last fifty years: welcoming millions of Muslims while scrupulously respecting their beliefs, and at the same time expecting them to adhere to a freedom of thought that Muslim law considers a crime and punishes with sentences that can go as far as death.

To try to keep our freedom of expression, and even more fundamentally the future of our existence as a people, there is only one way: to make sure that this Muslim country which was constituted on French soil is reintegrated into France, that it becomes French again. If we fail to do so, our very existence as a people will be compromised, because we will have allowed another civilization to snatch away our right to “historical continuity,” according to the beautiful formula of Bérénice Levet. We have known this since Valéry: our civilization can die because civilizations are mortal and history is their tomb. It is up to the peoples of Europe to decide whether they want to die or continue to live, and whether they are ready to do what it takes to do so.

B-I: Doesn’t the demographic question settle today, and in the medium term, the fate of Europe and Europeans in the face of an increasingly numerous Ummah?

J-L H: Indeed, it is demography that will be the key to our future and that will indicate to the Ummah whether or not France and other Western European countries have become fruit to be picked; whether they are ripe to fall almost of their own accord into the hands of Islam. It is well known that there has been a millenary Muslim will to conquer Europe. And it is by pushing back the conquering enterprises of Islam, or by freeing itself from the occupations that it had established (Spain and southern France, Sicily, Hungary, Balkans) that Europe succeeded in remaining Europe. Otherwise, it would have become in the field of civilization what it is geographically, i.e., a small corner of Asia.

Now, because of the extent of the Muslim presence on our soil, at a time when our capacity to resist is diminished by the submission of Western societies to the religion of human rights, there is no doubt that Western Europe has become once again what it was in the Middle Ages; that is to say, a land to be taken, a prey for Islam. This has been said in no uncertain terms by senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood; but it is not only the Islamists who are to blame. Many Muslims who are considered moderate are also in this logic of patient, hushed, unspoken conquest. They know that demographics play in favor of Islam, thanks to the number of children born to Muslim women and the constant arrival of new Muslim immigrants. They know that sooner or later, the situation of Islam will be strong enough for it to somehow take over France and perhaps other European countries as well. If nothing is done in the meantime to reverse this process, the tipping of France and other Western European countries into the orbit of the Muslim world seems inevitable within a few decades.

B-I: Your book evokes the impossibility for the Muslim world to get rid of religion, which is intrinsically linked to it. In what way would what has been possible for other religions not be possible for Islam?

J-L H: In fact, the only religion that has fully experienced this phenomenon is Christianity, of which Marcel Gauchet wrote that it had historically been “the religion of the exit from religion.” Under the effect of the logic inherent in Christianity, and without this having prevented the maintenance of “a religious life at the scale of individuals,” European societies have progressively left “the religious structuring of societies.” This does not mean that the Church did not oppose this abandonment of “religion as structure” as much as it could. But, since Christianity is a religion exclusively turned towards spiritual ends, the Church has never directly punished irreligion with earthly sanctions. She has let the State do it for her. Only when the State freed itself from the Church and secularized itself, did it stop punishing the impious and the blasphemous. And since the Church could only inflict spiritual punishments on them, they ceased to be punished concretely.

In contrast to this process, Islam did not need the state to enact laws to punish the ungodly, since the Muslim holy texts contain a whole code of law that fulminates terrible punishments against bad Muslims. Thanks to the weapon of the allegedly divine penal law which it carries, Islam has from the outset protected itself against any challenge by threatening death to those who would challenge its dogmas and its hold on society.

B-L: You explain that it is fear that has allowed Islamic regimes to maintain themselves for centuries and centuries in the Muslim world. On the other hand, there are also examples of countries that have taken Islamists out of history, notably in the Arab world, again through fear and violence. Explain this to us.

J-L H: There are two very different things. On the one hand, some Arab rulers have indeed, without in the least questioning the prestige of Islam and its domination over society, used violence and fear against the Islamists, such as Nasser and then Sadat in Egypt, who was finally assassinated by them. And then, on the other hand, there is the repressive mechanism of the terrorist nature inherent to Islam, which protects it against the freedom of the spirit. And this concerns Islam considered as normal, as moderate compared to Islamism.

When, in 1981, in Sadat’s Egypt, one of his ministers of state calmly explained to the foreign press that the assassination of a Muslim who converted to another religion “does not go against the freedom of religion,” this statesman was not speaking as an extremist or an Islamist. He was simply giving the point of view of a good Muslim who knew his holy texts well. Islam locks human thought into a bigoted conformity to all the prescriptions and prohibitions laid down in the texts that Muslims claim to be divine law. From a Muslim point of view, there are many things one is not allowed to say or do. Breaking these rules is done at the risk of one’s life, as Muslim criminal law has prescribed penalties for these crimes that can go as far as death. As a result, with rare exceptions, intellectuals of Muslim origin have not dared to stand up openly against Islam, and Muslim societies have not experienced the great revolt against the domination of religion that characterized Christian societies in Europe from the 18th century onwards. Islam has been and remains preserved from all contestation by fear.

B-L: Is Europe, in all this, not finally a victim of the religion of human rights, which finally condemns a civilization to suicide, if nothing changes?

J-L.H: The tragedy of France and more generally of Western Europe comes from their adherence to a new utopia which is supposed to establish the reign of good on earth: the secular religion of human rights. This new avatar of the religion of humanity has taken over from the communist one, with the difference that the class struggle has been replaced by the fight against discrimination, but in the service of the same objective, which is the emancipation of humanity through the establishment of equality.

The religion of human rights is the basis of a fiercely anti-national ideology that has radically changed the content of democracy, which is now identified with the cult of the universal, with the obsession with openness to the other. As a fundamental principle of democracy, the sovereignty of the people has taken a back seat and has been replaced by the reign of the dogmas of the religion of human rights, with judges as their priests. In Western democracies, perverted by the religion of human rights, as in the former so-called democracy of the Soviet world, citizens are crushed by ideological taboos whose transgression is severely punished by criminal law: human rights totalitarianism has taken over from communist totalitarianism in the desire to prevent the Western individual from thinking and acting freely. Violating the founding disjunction of the West between politics and religion, this secular state religion deprives the French and more generally the Europeans of their liberties and forbids them to protect themselves against the invading presence of other peoples, other civilizations.

B-I: What optimism, what prospects do you offer to readers for our near future?

J-L H: The truth is, not much. We are in such a deadlock that it is not clear how we will get out of it. And this is because of the West’s submission to the dogmas of the official religion of human rights. Exerting a profoundly dissolving effect on European societies in the name of the hunt for discrimination, presenting cosmopolitanism as the absolute good, forbidding the European peoples to value and love each other, digging the demographic void of Europe by a strong incitement to abortion and filling this void by the arrival of populations mainly of African origin and of Muslim civilization, the religion of human rights is leading the Europeans to their own annihilation. And it is very difficult to reverse this suicidal mechanism, as long as this objectively disastrous state of affairs for the European peoples is perceived as just and good by government officials and by the globalized business community; as long as it is in conformity with the virtuously self-destructive morality that underlies the ideology promoted by the religion of human rights. Like the communist religion, it has taken over from, this secular religion forbids seeing reality and forces people to live in an imaginary world. As a result, good and evil are no longer defined by an understanding of reality, but by the ideals of this dream world. So that what was good has become evil, and vice versa. The measures in favor of immigration and the complacency for the Islamization of Europe being considered as good by the elites who govern us, one should obviously not count on them to fight them.

The only small note of hope that it is possible to introduce, in spite of everything concerning France, is the totally atypical way in which the pre-campaign for the presidential election is currently taking place there, due to the shock wave provoked by the probable candidate Éric Zemmour, with his unprecedented way of refusing all wooden language and calling things as they really are. He thus forced the candidates claiming to be from the governmental right to renounce their usual conformist preaching, in order to take a clear stand on the issues of immigration, Islamization, and the paralysis of political power by the priest-judges of the cult of human rights, both national and supranational.

Even, in this context of liberation of speech and thought, the president and future candidate Macron felt compelled to give to the Algerian leaders a speech of reality at the antipodes of the genuflections and repentant prostrations to which he had given himself up until now. In short, Zemmour has succeeded in a few weeks in doing what the National Rally to achieve despite all its efforts—forcing the political class to leave the imaginary world of human rights and return to the real world. This is crucial, because the process of the conquest of Europe by Islam can only be countered to the extent that it is recognized for what it is, and not perceived as a normal or even desirable phenomenon. This recent—but fragile—return to the world of reality is a welcome ray of light in the night that is falling on France.

And then, more fundamentally, a touch of optimism for Europe can be added to this gloomy picture, thanks to the realistic policies courageously pursued by several countries of the former communist bloc, foremost among them Hungary and Poland. Having suffered for half a century under the boot of communist totalitarianism, these peoples and their leaders are more capable than we are of perceiving the totalitarian and suicidal character of the religion of human rights that has taken over from it, so much so that they refuse the immigrationist ideology that it claims to impose on Europeans and that they are the basis of a resistance to the Islamization of Europe.

Featured image: “Héroïque fermeté de saint Louis à Damiette, mai 1250” (Heroic Resolve of Saint Louis at Damiette, May 1250), by Guillaume Guillon Lethière, painted in 1827.

The Fate Of Europe: A Conversation With Clare Ellis

Recently, the Postil had the opportunity to speak with Clare Ellis, author of The Blackening of Europe (which we’ve recently reviewed; and you can read an excerpt from it as well). Since the topic that she has thoroughly researched, multiculturalism and mass-immigration, is one that affects each and everyone living in the West, we thought it would be good to arrive at a deeper perspective that often comes through insights gained over the course of a conversation. We think you will enjoy this interview; especially poignant is the story of her hard-won PhD. Dr. Ellis is a thoughtful and learned scholar, and it has been a great honor to speak with her.

The Postil (TP): Welcome to the Postil. We are so glad and honored to have you join us. Your recent book is the first in a multi-volume study entitled, intriguingly, The Blackening of Europe, which deals with multiculturalism and mass-immigration. But first, please tell us a little about your background.

Clare Ellis (CE): I was born in Aberdeen, Scotland and moved around quite a bit as a child, from Manchester, Sherborne, and London in England to Elgin and Glasgow in Scotland. I also lived on and off in Saudi Arabia for about eight years as my father worked as a doctor in the capital city, Riyadh, and so I was blessed with also visiting other Middle Eastern countries. In my early twenties I relocated from London, England to Vancouver, Canada and after a few years decided to move to the east coast, to Saint John, New Brunswick and it is here that I finally put down my roots. This is also where I began my journey into academia, beginning with philosophy, you know, the big questions.

Clare Ellis.

I was awarded my BA degree with two majors, one in philosophy (first class honours) and the other in sociology. I then pursued a Master in Interdisciplinary Studies (MIDST). I was fascinated with the trajectory of ancient to modern philosophy and the idea of progress, so I researched the history of the idea as set out by many outstanding Western philosophers, from the ancient Greeks to the 20th century. At that time, I was employed by the university as a teaching assistant and research assistant for several different professors in philosophy and sociology and received quite a few scholarships and awards. I was awarded my MIDST degree in 2011, with a thesis titled: The Idea of Progress and the Agonistic Ethos of Western Man.

I dove straight into my PhD, also interdisciplinary (PHIDST) with the thesis topic: Modernity and Multiculturalism. I wanted to understand why European civilization, the West, was undergoing massive transformations from multiculturalism and mass-immigration, and why criticisms of these processes were taboo. It took several years and many setbacks, but I was awarded my PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies in December of 2017, with a dissertation titled: A Critique of Cosmopolitan Integration in the European Union: Demographic and Political Decline of Native Europeans.

TP: Your books are based on your PhD dissertation at the University of Brunswick. How did you manage to juggle the politics of academia (hell-bent progressivism) and still finish your research and get your doctorate? It must have been quite the feat!

CE: It was a hard battle, difficult to navigate from the start. Other than Dr. Ricardo Duchesne, finding academics that would take my research seriously was extremely difficult at UNB; all the professors I approached outright rejected my thesis proposal. I had to look to other universities in different provinces (Nova Scotia, Acadia University, Dr. Diemo Landgraf and Ontario, Ottawa University, Dr. Janice Fiamengo) to find professors who were open-minded enough to understand that my research was important and who would be willing to come on board as members of the advisory committee. That took about a year or so. And there was a great deal of ideological bias and closed-mindedness in the classrooms, particularly the promotion and adoration of Critical Theory, radical feminism, and the innate guilt of Europeans as a monolithic racial group, which could not be questioned without the threat of disciplinary action and the spiteful lowering of grades. I was discriminated against, silenced, and intimidated by professors in class for speaking out and challenging their biases.

One time, during class, I had a very awkward staring contest with Thom Workman, the chair of the political science department at UNB Fredericton at the time, because I disagreed with his views on feminism and he wanted to shut my alternative views down. Workman also told me directly that he, along with other academics at UNB, were actively rooting out people with alternative views and interests in so-called taboo subjects. At another time, a radical leftist professor, Robert Whitney, who was teaching students in a mandatory political science class that White people were responsible for inventing slavery and racism, which I questioned, told me I should just quit my research and leave the university.

And then there was the administration. So many obstacles were thrown my way to either prevent me from obtaining my degree or to lengthen the time it took, which was very costly and time-consuming. This included being granted absolutely no scholarships or awards. But that was the least of my problems. The admin took four months to submit the grades of my comprehensive exams as well as four months to set the date for my proposal exam. They also shut down my UNB account for over three months so I could not access my emails and UNB resources like journal articles. Many times I waited weeks on end for the assistant dean of interdisciplinary studies (IDST), Mary Mckenna, to answer email inquiries. At one crucial period, after hearing nothing for several weeks, I spoke with the dean of graduate studies on the telephone, Drew Rendall, who then proceeded to claim I could be accused of violating the UNB constitution for asking the administrative authorities questions about procedure and progress regarding my dissertation and was advised to not contact the assistant dean of IDST at all!

My problems with the administration did not end there. The School of Graduate Studies (SGS) took almost five months to find internal examiners for the final oral exam (it usually takes 2-3 weeks) and delayed my final exam by almost a year (my dissertation was completed in early January 2017 but my oral exam did not occur until December 2017). In order to accommodate UNBs inability to find internal examiners from UNB I was told to alter my dissertation, which I refused to do, and they even requested that I provide a copy of my dissertation to a “potential” internal examiner so they could read it and then decide whether they wanted to be on the examining committee or not, which I also refused to do as only those nominated and accepted as an internal examiner can have a copy of the dissertation.

SGS did eventually find two UNB emeritus professors but they were not from my disciplines of research, instead they were in the fields of forestry (Ian Methven) and ethics (Will van den Hoonaard). Compared to the three other examiners who had expertise in my subject area (Duchesne, Fiamengo, and an external examiner, Dr. Dario Fernandez-Morera from Northwestern University, USA) and who thought the scholarship I exhibited in my dissertation was excellent and only needed minor changes, Methven (forestry) outright rejected my dissertation and Hoonaard (ethics), called for substantial revisions. Despite not even having read my dissertation, both McKenna and Randall, who were not examining board members and were meant to be neutral in their views, sided with Methven and Hoonard (minority vote) against the other three (majority vote) in their negative critique of my work.

Without consultation with all members of the examining board and without requesting a reply from the minority members specifying why they dissented from the majority decision, which are procedural requirements, McKenna and Rendall demanded I revise my work, in terms of length (by half) as well as radically altering my scholarly analysis and conclusions. This was fiercely contested by myself, my supervisor, and my advisory committee, who thought these demands were ideologically driven; it essentially ended in a standoff between the two groups. Only after several exchanges, the submission of objections by the minority members, and references to rights and UNBs own guidelines, handbooks, and mandates from myself and the majority side, was there a resolution. That meant I could proceed with the final exam, which was not without its issues either.

The admin changed the exam room several times, and again right before the exam, and put-up posters for the exam directing people to the old rooms. The final room did not have the technology required for an online connection with Dr. Fiamengo in Ottawa. As such, it was very difficult for myself and the audience to hear what Dr. Fiamengo had to say as the sound quality was just from the speakers of a laptop, and she was interrupted and cut-off several times. Not only did many left-wing professors show up in the audience many of them also jeered at me during the question period. Methven, sitting at the front, continuously rolled his eyes at me whenever I responded to a question he asked. One professor, Chris Doran, was so hostile to my research that he sneered at me while he accused me of “inventing” the term indigenous Europeans because Europeans were not yet minorities in their own countries from a colonizing force. But I persevered, kept calm, knew my rights, argued my case, and was finally shaking hands with the administration and awarded my doctorate.

TP: Do you think higher education is still salvageable? Has the life of the mind now been broken by universities, when previously they nurtured it?

CE: Unless intellectual diversity is restored, as well as real critical thinking and research (not Critical Theory thinking), and debates striving towards the truth are allowed and become the norm, especially on topics that are currently considered too taboo for “real” intellectual inquiry, universities will continue to pump out brainwashed, politically correct minds that foster the decline of the West. I think it is very important that elementary and secondary education change too (removal of Critical Race Theory, radical Feminism, anti-Westernism, etc.) as that might reflect alterations in demand, in terms of knowledge sought, in higher education. I question if these crucial restorations and adjustments are possible now, as education and educators are so pervaded with the liberal-left mindset and alternative thinking of the so-called right is increasingly considered as thoroughly unacceptable.

TP: You have various other intellectual interests: social biology, political science, philosophy, sociology and history. Is there a thread that binds them all together?

CE: The rise and then the decline, both demographically and politically, of European peoples.

TP: What led you to begin researching mass-immigration into the West, a topic that forms the basis of The Blackening of Europe?

CE: There is no definitive point in time that I can remember. What I can say, is that my interest in large scale immigration into Europe partly stemmed as a natural development from my MA thesis on the history of the idea of progress, and also from my experience with travelling, as well as the most pressing topics of current affairs. In terms of my prior and ongoing research, I came to understand Enlightenment liberalism as giving rise, or allowing for, the development in the twentieth century of more radical ideologies, such as cultural Marxism. Everyone seemed to be talking and teaching about multiculturalism and diversity, increasingly so, and how they were goods in themselves. But were they and in what way? Why was diversity in the sovereign nations of Europe presented as inevitable, progressive, and modern by academia, political elites, and legacy media? Although cosmopolitanism, diversity, and universalism were there as kernels in ancient Greek philosophy, and informed much of the history of Western thought, I realized multiculturalism vastly differed from these earlier ideas and could only be understood in the context of mass-immigration.

TP: The subtitle of Volume 1 of The Blackening of Europe is Ideologies & International Developments; and you tell the fascinating story of how two particular ideologies came to dominate in the West, namely, multiculturalism and mass immigration—so much so that the West is now defined by both. Why has the West become so masochistic? Or perhaps suicidal?

CE: Is it a willing suicide? Meaning is it undertaken purposefully by the European peoples themselves and not just by the elites that are meant to represent them? A majority of Europeans have opposed mass-immigration and multiculturalism since their inception, but their voices have been stigmatised and ignored by their so-called leaders for decades and are increasingly being replaced by politically correct “diversity is strength” Europeans and by ethnocentric non-European voices. In this sense, Europeans, in general, are not willingly self-harming as a people; it is their elites, as well as foreign interests, that are primarily responsible for the tragedy.

The dissolution of the West is due to a complex combination of factors. A long-standing idea that can be found in the West since at least the beginning of the 20th century has been the notion that nations defined by particular homogenous ethnic groups (ethnonationalism) are a leading cause behind the constant wars that defined relations between distinct European nations for centuries. It was understood that wars could be averted by actively ridding Western countries of their specific ethno-national identities and creating a new form of collective or common European identity, a European or cosmopolitical patriotism. This was an important development in terms of European political thought at the time in the sense that leading thinkers (mostly cosmopolitanists) viewed the unification of Europe, a Pan-Europe or a United States of Europe, as a necessary step towards the federation of the world in perpetual peace – a project that would divide the world into a sort of international balance of powers, with Europe as one geopolitical bloc or world power (along with a Mediterranean integration project called Eurafrica) among four others: the British Commonwealth, Pan-America, Eastern Asia, and the Soviet Union.

After the horrors of WWII European denationalization (and unification) became a central aspect of European progress and quickly became entrenched by the so-called guilt-complex of a strong ethno-national European identity (it became associated with Nazism and anti-Semitism) and the anti-national and anti-European ideologies of Fabianism and Cultural Marxism, which, backed by wealthy capitalists, infiltrated the educational, social, and political systems of Western nations so to align them with the dictates of socialism. Non-European immigration also began after WWII. At first it was in terms of temporary migrant labourers to help with the postwar rebuilding of Europe, but, because of new human rights laws (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948), many of these guest workers opted to settle in Europe and brought over their family members, a practice that has now come to be known in various forms as marriage migration, family reunification, chain migration, or human rights migration, which essentially defines mass-immigration into the West today.

As anti-national and anti-European ideologies have abounded in the European media and educational systems, non-European migrant populations and ethnic enclaves have also proliferated in Europe, and multiculturalism has become the centerpiece of European narratives as a response to ethnic minority group demands for recognition and special rights.

To add to these developments, the 1970s OPEC oil crisis led to the establishment of the Euro-Arab Dialogue, a multilateral forum that aimed to strengthen financial, technical, political, and cultural co-operation between the European Economic Community (EEC) and the twenty Arab League states (and the Arab-Muslim world). This dialogue, which has been amended and supported by many joint declarations and meetings, the formation of new alliances and cooperative organisations, and the drawing of fresh legal documents, has favoured Muslim migrants as a primary source of non-European labour power (and since, fertility power) and has introduced, facilitated, and promoted Islam, including political Islam, in Western European nations. In effect, it has created a new integration model that some have dubbed Eurabia.

All of these developments – human rights-based immigration and ethnic minority multiculturalism, the Euro-Arab Dialogue and its offshoots and promotion of Islam and Muslim migrants, Cultural Marxism and other anti-European ideologies, denationalization, and cosmopolitical patriotism – emasculate European nations and peoples and strip them of their sovereign powers. They also directly connect to the demographic and political decline of Europeans.

TP: Part One of Volume 1 deals with a man name Count Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi. Tell us a little about him.

CE: The Austrian-Hungarian-Japanese Coudenhove-Kalergi was a central figure in European unification and is considered a leading architect behind the present European Union we know today, forming the Pan-European Union (PEU) in 1946, the European Parliamentary Union (EPU) in 1947, and influencing the formation of the European Council in 1949.

He was a cosmopolitan geopolitician and staunch anti-nationalist, wrote many books on European unification, such as Pan-Europa (1923) and Practical Idealism: Nobility–Technique–Pacifism (1925), coined the term “Eurafrica” (1929), envisioned a new European and a mixed race of human beings in the future (racial engineering), and thought the new Europe would be led by a spiritual Jewish aristocracy. He tirelessly thought that European unification was central to the eventual formation of a federation of federations in the world that would stave off major wars and promote an eternal global peace. He brought together thousands of leading elites in this regard. Today the European Prize Coudenhove-Kalergi is awarded to personalities who are recognized as promoting unification and peace in Europe.

TP: You point out that Coudenhove-Kalergi was heavily funded by bankers and the wealthy elite. What attraction did his ideas have for these moneyed classes?

CE: Before World War II, many European and American elites were in support of a united Europe to combat threats to Western civilization posed by Soviet Union communism and German national socialism. A federated Europe meant a strong economic and political unit that could boost prosperity (through free trade and the joint exploitation of the resources of African colonies), quell intra-European hostilities (“solve” the European and German “Questions”), and provide defense against Bolshevik conquest. European unification also meant that Europe could develop a strong Atlantic brotherhood with North America to collectively defend Western civilization as a whole against external threats (prior to NATO) and a be a necessary step towards a new world order – a world federation of federations. Some Europeans also supported the union of Europe because they viewed America, not just the USSR, as a danger to Europe. As the USA was a united bloc with a strong economy it was imperative that the politically divided European nations unite and develop a strong economy to combat American influence and become a dominant world power in par with the other two world powers.

After WWII, many Western elites were under the influence of Fabianism, cosmopolitanism, and cultural Marxism and many international institutes formed, such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and NATO, effectively establishing a new global order based on notions of a Western “peace.” European federation was now within the framework of the United Nations and NATO and was endorsed by elites in terms of the promise of the eventual formation of a world government. For many supporters, the problems and dangers posed by German nationalism (fear of a fourth Reich) and Russian communism (world revolution) remained a priority and could only be solved now through American assisted European unification. As a result, America directly influenced European political integration through the Harvard Committee of Experts and by providing both covert and overt financial aid, such as through the American Committee on a United Europe, the Marshall Plan, and the Eurafrica project. At the time, this latter project was important for American elites because it would enable international trade of the raw materials necessary for economic prosperity as outlined in the Atlantic Charter, the basis of the United Nations.

TP: Part Two looks at cosmopolitanism. Tell us a little about Jürgen Habermas in this context.

CE: Habermas is a very influential critical cosmopolitanist, a product of the Frankfurt School, and a key player in the continuing drive to dissolve European ethnonational identities. Through large-scale transnational immigration he envisions Europe as gradually becoming a universal nation populated by peoples having cosmopolitan identities and world citizenship. For him, immigration is a tool to ethnically mix European populations and undermine the connection of ethnic Europeans to their political, cultural, and national identities and institutions. Essentially, these identities and institutions that have traditionally determined European nations and peoples must be re-engineered to reflect a new ethno-pluralism generated by mass-immigration i.e. a cosmopolitan constitutional identity not based on indigenous European ethnic groups.

TP: Canada has played a leading role in defining and then implementing both multiculturalism and mass immigration. And Justin Trudeau has famously defined the country as a “post-nation.” Why did Canada become the “poster-child” for denationalization? And what is William Kymlicka’s role in all this?

CE: The role of Canadian William Kymlicka in terms of his theory of multiculturalism is certainly very definitive for most, if not all European-based countries. To paraphrase Hugh Donald Forbes, multiculturalism is an experiment that seeks to overcome national and ethnic conflict by the purposeful ethnic mixing of homogenous European nations by immigration thereby separating the nation (the people, ethnic Europeans) from the state (the political apparatus) and paving the way to world government. Multiculturalism is part of a series of steps—”the long march through the institutions”—to radically alter Western civilization from within as advocated by the Frankfurt School and other subversive socialist organisations.

For Kymlicka pluralistic cosmopolitanism in Canada displaces ethnonationalism with a multiplicity of ethnicities and is a model for the world to emulate. He and his colleague Kathryn Walker think “we should recognize the equal moral worth of all human beings by creating a single world political order united around a single common language and global culture.” They go on to say that “being Canadian” means “being a good citizen of the world,” or “being Canadian motivates being or becoming a cosmopolitan.” As such, the same theme continues to play out: dominant ethno-national European identities, whether in Europe, Canada, Australia etc. must be completely dissolved and replaced by ethnic pluralism, cosmopolitan citizenship, and a new world order. To clinch this transformation, one has to understand that Kymlicka’s theory of multiculturalism is really a theory of ethnic and national minority rights only, and not special rights for ethnic European majorities. Unlike ethnic minorities and immigrants, Europeans as a majority of the population in their own countries are not granted rights to preserve, enhance, or celebrate their unique identities, culture, and traditions; they are granted individual liberal rights only.

TP: And then there is the USA, which seems to sling cosmopolitanism about with missionary zeal. Do you see this role diminishing any time soon, or will it expand further, since it seems to inhabit both the Republicans and the Democrats?

CE: American might in terms of spreading liberal democracy/cosmopolitanism/globalism by military intervention and other measures is far from over, although the recent developments between the Ukraine, NATO, the EU, and Russia casts some doubt on their supremacy and continued expansion. Perhaps we will see a restructuring of the world order once again whereby America loses some of its influence as the sole global superpower, or at least finds itself as but one force in a balance of global powers, a multipolar world. History might provide some answers, especially the history of the rise and fall of civilizations and the theory of anacyclosis.

TP: How would you describe conservatism, and what role does it play in the spread of cosmopolitanism?

CE: The conservatism of today really should be understood as neoconservatism, and not traditional conservatism (paleo or classical conservatism), the latter of which has basic principles not found in the new conservatism – limits to knowledge and risk-aversion – as well as policies of non-intervention in foreign countries and deep suspicions of theoretical social experiments such as multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism. Neoconservatism has its roots in liberalism (the New York intellectuals), promotes globalist neoliberal economic policies, and believes that the “end of history” is liberal democracy, which must be spread throughout the world (enforced regime change) in order to achieve a lasting Western-style peace and preserve America as the number one global hegemon.

TP: Volume 1 has soundly laid the foundation of how we got here. What should we look forward to in Volumes 2 and 3?

CE: Volume II, subtitled Immigration, Islam, and the Migrant Crisis examines immigration into Europe and demonstrates, through statistical analysis, that net migration (which has been increasing since the 1990s) is the main source of population growth and most residency permits are granted to migrants for family reasons rather than employment. It is evident that since the 1960s immigration into Europe has been predominately from Muslim countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East; as such, this volume has a particular focus on Muslim demographics in five key European countries: Belgium, the UK, France, Sweden, and Germany.

It also discusses Muslim radicalism and the difference between violent, non-violent, and participationist Islamists and their channels and schemes of operation in Europe as well as the failure of European counter-radicalism strategies. In addition, this volume investigates and evaluates illegal and irregular immigration into the EU, specifically the 2015/2016 migrant crisis, the source countries of these migrants, the financial, security, and other costs incurred (including mass-sexual assaults and Islamist terrorist attacks), EU Asylum Law (Dublin Regulation), the EU-Turkey agreement, and the use of these migrants by elites to “solve” economic and demographic issues.

Volume III (tentative subtitle: Critical Views) first provides an in-depth analysis of the Eurabia thesis, which was introduced in Volume I. It then critically evaluates Muslim immigration, Islamism, multiculturalism, and Left-wing ideologies in the EU as presented by neoconservative authors Bat Ye’or, Melanie Phillips, and Bruce Bawer, while also refuting some of their central arguments. With reference to international legal definitions of terms such as self-determination, discrimination, persecution, genocide, and indigenous rights and in consultation of the works of several scholars in terms of ethnic conflict and multi-ethnic states, demographic engineering, migrants as weapons of war, demographic conquest and settlement, the homeland principle, the democratic principle of majority rule, and the notion of power tipping etc., we then embark on a critical evaluation of various aspects of the EU cosmopolitan project and its proponents. This includes: the notion that “diversity is destiny,” the enforced “mongrelisation” of European nations, the decoupling of ethnic Europeans from their political identity as advocated by Habermas et al, the neoconservative pressing for monoculturalism, the activities of George Soros and the Open Society Network, open-border leftism, anti-European Third Worldism, and Islamism in Europe.

TP: It has been a great pleasure speaking with you. Thank you for your time.

Featured image: “Burning city with Lot and the angel and Lot’s daughters,” anonymous, attributed to Daniel van Heil; ca. 17th century.

The Blackening Of Europe

We are so very pleased to present this excerpt from the first volume of The Blackening of Europe, by Clare Ellis, which is an extensive and thorough study of the political undertaking to erase Europeans from Europe. Dr. Ellis’s work is meticulous, and those who might object that this is all a “conspiracy theory” will be hard-pressed to counter the facts and the data that she establishes. Please also read the review of this book.

Dr. Ellis received her PhD from the University of New Brunswick and is now preparing Volumes 2 and 3 of The Blackening of Europe for publication with Arktos whose kind generosity has made this excerpt possible.


In addition to having their major cities and capitals transformed into global cities dislocated from their nation-state, their blue and white collar jobs out-sourced, their wages and thus jobs undercut by cheaper immigrant labourers, their houses bought by transnational foreigners, their traditions and political culture undermined and altered to accommodate the plurality of immigrants’ ethnic identities and align with cosmopolitan visions of the future, their national identity scrubbed free of any notion of their ethnicity and descent, and their leaders and other European elites making and implementing ground-breaking decisions without democratic consultation, native Europeans are also not afforded special rights to protect, celebrate, and enhance their unique and collective ethnic identities and ways of life. Instead, they are compulsed into political subjection and silenced through various methods of state-enforced coercion such as multiculturalism, political correctness, and punishment of dissent.

British philosopher Roger Scruton explains that the postmodern anti-national Western elite (cosmopolitans) are ‘oikophobes’, or those who are averse to their home:

[T]he oikophobe repudiates national loyalties and defines goals and ideals against the nation, promoting transnational institutions over national governments, accepting and endorsing laws that are imposed from on high by the EU or the UN, and defining his political vision in terms of cosmopolitan values that have been purified of all reference to the particular attachments of a real historical community.

Oikophobes consider themselves as ‘defender[s] of enlightened universalism against local chauvinism’. To better explain this view, one only has to return to Kymlicka’s theory of rights. As mentioned above, Kymlicka grants privileges to minority ethnic immigrant groups in the form of polyethnic rights, and he affords national minority groups group-differentiated rights, which include self-government rights. Both of these groups have special privileges, such as the right to preserve their distinct cultures and ethnic identities, and they also have individual rights. Although pluralistic cosmopolitanism means that different ethnic groups are merely one cultural group among many with no single one being official, and although it holds that all cultures and ethnicities should be preserved and celebrated, Europeans are not included within this ‘enlightened’ cosmopolitical project.

Kymlicka does not grant positive recognition or afford special rights to the majority ethnic group of European nations, i.e. indigenous Europeans, and implies that the identity of the majority is not based on race, ethnicity, heritage or culture, but is defined only in terms of language, multiculturalism, democracy and universal liberal individual rights. In other words, the European societal cultures and ethnic identities are not to be preserved in the way that national minorities are granted special permission to do so: non-European Old-World cultural and ethnic groups are encouraged by various government programs, policies, and acts to embrace, preserve and celebrate their past, identity, history, heritage and culture. European ethnic majorities are only granted individual rights, which, it is assumed, have come to define their societal cultures and identities since 1948 with the introduction of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the onset of large-scale non-European immigration in the 1960s, and the implementation and institution of multicultural ideology from the 1970s onwards.

In fact, the ethnic identities of Europeans are stripped altogether from the national identity of their own nations, i.e. national identity now means being multicultural and cosmopolitan. They are told to reject their own historical culture, their heritage, their ethnic identity because of its racist, imperialistic, ethnocentric, and supremacist characteristics, and to fill the vacuum with new liberal and cosmopolitan behaviours, such as a hearty embrace of universal liberal values and ‘enrichment’ by distinctively non-European ethnic cultures. As such, the sense of a collective identity for European ethnic groups has been replaced by a government-instituted ideal-type model, an Enlightenment culture that is neutral to the characteristics that legally define non-European ethnic groups and national minorities, such as culture, history, and race. This neutralization has resulted in diminished European traditions, cultural practices, and heritage, the privileging and trumping of foreigner rights over indigenous European native rights by the granting of special rights and recognition to ethnic minorities, and the violation of the right to self-determination, which includes the right of European majorities to an ethnic identity and the right to preserve, enhance, and celebrate it. This means that ethnic European majorities have undergone a radical transformation in their identity over the last forty-five years, from a European-based ethno-cultural distinctiveness to an ‘enlightened’ universalism not defined by race, ethnicity, culture, or heritage.

One of the leading definitions of ethnicity within the social sciences stems from the German sociologist Max Weber (1864–1920). He argued that ethnicity is not fixed; it is not something objectively known, being as it is a social construct. It is ‘a form of “social closure” in which a group excludes others in order to obtain a status advantage over them’. Alan Simmons, Professor of Sociology at York University, Toronto, argues that modern-constructionists ‘view ethnicity, ethnic pride, and ethnic nationalism as modern inventions’ that appeared in the context of the nineteenth century. Postmodern constructionists view ethnicity as ‘not singular and fixed, but rather multiple and flexible’ such that immigrants are ‘fragmented’ people who have ‘hyphenated and hybrid forms’ of ethnic identity. Turkish-American philosopher Seyla Benhabib writes that immigrants have ‘multiple, overlapping allegiances which are sustained across communities of language, ethnicity, religion, and nationality’ and that these

developments have arisen as a result of cultural pluralization arising from migration, ethnic multiculturalism, cultural diversity of all kinds and the growing demands for the recognition of different life choices.

Taking the above definitions of ethnicity into account, Kymlicka’s liberal multiculturalism, even if it grants temporary group rights and is based on the expectation that minorities will assimilate to liberal values, can be interpreted as a form of stereotyping, in that it grants special group rights to minorities. It contradicts both the modern and postmodern social constructionist view of ethnicity by emphasising the objective existence of the ethnic identities of minorities.

It is difficult to reconcile the fact that minorities, on the one hand, claim they are transnational or cosmopolitan and thus have multiple identities, but then, on the other hand, demand multicultural ethnic immigrant rights — i.e. they have ethnic solidarity in distinction to the individual rights only of the majorities, who are viewed as world citizens. In fact, claims about the ethnic solidarity of ethnic minority groups challenge cosmopolitan ideals. Despite this, Kymlicka implies that ethnicity is a real and important characteristic of peoples who differentiate themselves from, and more importantly, self-identify themselves in contrast to one another, which is especially noticeable in the form of societal culture, and thus require special rights enabling them to preserve, enhance, and celebrate their uniqueness. However, European ethnic majorities are the only ethnic groups that Kymlicka ignores. Thus, he might be perceived as being anti-ethnic-European identity.

Europe, But Not Europeans

Over the course of a mere 60 years Western Europe has been radically transformed demographically, socially and culturally. So extensive are the changes wrought that it is hard to believe they have been executed in less than the lifetime of a single human.

I thought I knew the story of the European Economic Community/EEC, European Union/EU, mass migration, and the dismantling of Europe’s borders. I also thought I knew about the impact of ideologies like liberal-progressivism, Fabianism, multiculturalism, globalization and cultural Marxism. But Clare Ellis’s book showed me how much I did not know. The book, The Blackening of Europe, tracks out the complex story of the ideas, policies and international politics that have led to today’s apparent victory of the cosmopolitan agenda of denationalizing Europeans. [Read an excerpt from this book.]

Ellis (who is no fan of where cosmopolitanism and denationalization have taken Europe) joins the dots between a plethora of players whose ideas have travelled, mutated and connected over time. The result is an intriguing genealogy of ideas and policies which have shaped the journey that Europe has taken. What unfolds is a story guaranteed to infuriate those of us troubled by the damage being inflicted upon Western culture by anti-nationalism, anti-traditionalism, liberal-progressivism, plus the mass migration into Europe of non-culturally proximate peoples. But what an interesting story it is as told by Claire Ellis.

Ellis is a good storyteller who has created a compelling narrative that joins a multiplicity of dots. But, of course, in order to join the dots she had to first tell us about (and flesh-out) each of these dots. And the four key themes in Ellis’ story are denationalisation (and anti-nationalism); the emergence of the EU; the inter-connected ideologies of multiculturalism and immigrationism; and moves to expand the EU’s market by incorporating the Arab world through a Euro-Arab cultural dialogue project.

What becomes clear is that the denationalization of Europe has not been left to chance. European denationalisation (and the EU project) has been (and remains) a deliberate project driven by anti-nationalists. Some of these anti-nationalists have been liberal-cosmopolitans, while others have been socialist-internationalists. Indeed, it is interesting to ponder the nature of the cooperation that grew up between liberals and socialists in their joint promotion of anti-nationalism. It might be argued that this cooperation has amounted to something of a de facto anti-nationalist alliance in post-Second World War Europe.

Even though denationalization has been a world-wide phenomenon, it is worth recognizing the extent to which denationalization assumed an especially organized character in the European context. The politics of anti-nationalism within the EEC (and then the EU) took on the form of a “progressivist” mission. (A mission geared to actively denationalize Europeans and institutionalize a process which aimed to mutate previously separate European nation states into a shared European identity). This mission constituted a form of social engineering on steroids. And it was a variety of progressivist social engineering that would be helped along by deploying mass immigration as a catalyst to speed up social change and identity shifts. Importantly, as Ellis reminds us, this mission of European identity-reconstruction was ideologically driven.

But even if European denationalisation has been a locally organized project, we should not lose sight of the fact that both denationalisation and cultural homogenization are phenomena that transcend local contexts. In this regard, Ellis draws attention to how the EU project was enmeshed with the wider project of globalization. The two ideas of federating Europe and of creating a system of global governance are complementary. Within the ideological dreaming of internationalists and cosmopolitans a federated Europe simply becomes a (regional) federation within a (global) federation. Both serve the same anti-nationalist purpose of first weakening, and then deconstructing, national identities so that new culturally homogenized and hybridized identities can grow in their place. The left of course celebrates the way in which we have slipped into an era of cultural homogenization and hybridization because, for social engineers who see Western culture as something to be challenged, what better way to execute a project of cultural change.

Ellis’ book is a timely reminder that the dream of replacing Europe’s nations with a shared “Europeanism” has long been an agenda pushed by cosmopolitan activists, motivated by an undisguised anti-nationalist agenda. And underpinning this cosmopolitanism was a mainstream media industry that supported globalization. Supporting globalization is a no-brainer for anti-nationalists, given that the globalization project complements the worldview of those David Goodhart has called “anywheres.” The people defined as “anywheres” are those who pride themselves on not being rooted to anywhere, preferring to see themselves as “citizens of the world.” As a consequence, “anywheres” intuitively oppose “somewheres” precisely because “somewheres” are people explicitly rooted in a particular place and who take pride in the national identity which is tied to that specific place.

Ellis unpacks the way in which European cosmopolitans (as “anywheres”) have implicitly understood the synergy between the EU project and the globalization project. Federating Europe can, after all, be seen to serve as a learning-experience or a step on the road to creating a system of global governance. The EU serves as a laboratory in the processes of denationalization; of building a bureaucratized federal system of anywheres-run government; and of learning to manage mass migration as a tool of cultural change (and denationalization).

Elite sanctioned non-European mass migration into Western Europe started 60 years ago. This mass migration has become integral to EU’s cosmopolitan project. For Ellis, a crucial feature of these migratory processes is that they are proving corrosive to the culture of indigenous Europeans. It is no accident that over the past 60 years, we have witnessed European traditional culture being erased at an accelerated rate. And underpinning this elite sanctioned mass migration has been the promotion of two ideologies—multiculturalism and immigrationism.

A fascinating feature of these two ideologies has been high levels of bi-partisanship between socialists and liberals in formulating and running Europe’s mass immigration policies. Thus we saw leftist policy-makers supporting mass migration out of a curious mix of guilt (about imperialism), idealism (associated with the “anywheres” belief in ‘global citizenship’), and a ‘moral’ preference for open borders.

On the other hand, we saw business-aligned policy-makers push for mass migration in order to import labour. Not only did mainstream journalists fail to interrogate these policies and their motivations, but the mainstream media overwhelmingly served as an uncritical propagandist for immigrationism and multiculturalism. While anyone opposing/resisting this immigrationism/multiculturalism faced the likely prospect of being maligned and stigmatized as “racist,” often in the form of a media frenzy. And once this so-called “racism” became criminalized any opposition/ resistance could carry a penalty greater than stigmatization. The outcome was a type of enforced diversification promoted by both human rights legislation and a compliant media that serviced ideologies advocated by the “anywheres.”

But one of the delights of Ellis’ book is that it goes beyond talking about the EU and European migration policies as already discussed by many others. Instead Ellis takes us on a journey which explores the ideas which have fed into and helped underpin the integration and denationalization of Europe: multiculturalism and immigrationism. This includes Fabianism’s influences on Eleanor Roosevelt, John Dewey and the British Labour Party; plus the way the Frankfurt School’s Cultural Marxism fed into pan-European socialism and into broader left-wing thinking about engineering social change.

In unpacking the ideas that have underpinned Europe’s demographic and cultural transformation, Ellis focusses considerable attention on the role of cosmopolitanism in the story of the EU. In particular, we learn of the foundational role played by Count Kalergi and the 1920s Pan-European Movement.

Kalergi was an important European cosmopolitan thinker and a passionate anti-nationalist. Significantly Kalergi advocated the “cleansing” of language and race mixing as vehicles for denationalizing Europe. In this regard, Kalergi can be seen as a pioneer of the sort of ideas that have become embedded into today’s Critical Race Theory. Kalergi’s cosmopolitan dream of erasing Europe’s borders and denationalizing Europeans became foundational for the way the EU has evolved.

The second part of Kalergi’s dream has not yet come to pass—namely creating a new world order based upon a federation of federations. For Kalergi, the EU would be but one of 5 regional (denationalized) federations, which would become the building blocks for a global federation. So, for Kalergi, the integration of Europe was but the first step to building the sort of world government cosmopolitans dream of. But rather than me summarizing Ellis’ work on Kalergi—read the book yourself and see how Kalergi influenced so much European integration planning—such as the Eurafrique project; France’s Constantine Plan; the Strausbourg plan; the Schuman Plan; the EEC; and the EU’s contemporary border and refugee policies.

One of the other areas discussed by Ellis, which makes her book a gem, is the issue of Islamic mass migration into Western Europe, which has been facilitated by the growing influence of cosmopolitan “anywheres” within Europe’s elite circles. There has long been Islamic migration into Europe; but mass immigration is new. Ellis traces this phenomenon back to 1973 when Willy Brandt called an EEC meeting to discuss improving European-Arab relations. This led to the formal launch of the Euro-Arab Dialogue (EAD) in 1974, which institutionalized a mechanism to bring the Arab world and Europe together.

The EAD saw Arab states promise oil and markets in return for Arab migration into Europe. Importantly, Arab participants in EAD said European states needed to make these Arab migrants feel comfortable in Europe, by allowing them to retain their cultural and religious practices in Europe. The resultant 1979 Damascus declaration facilitated mass Arab migration and so initiated what has become a process of Arabizing/Islamisizing Europe. This process was widened by the creation of the Institute for Research on Mediterranean and Euro-Arab corporation in 1995, which has the agenda of bringing the Arab and European cultures together so as to complement the building of one huge integrated economy/ market which some have called Eurabia. The creation of the Anna Lindh Foundation for the Dialogue of Cultures in 2004 deepened this Euro-Arab project further. Unsurprisingly, the growing momentum of the EAD process led to Nicolas Sarkozy putting France’s Eurafrique project back on the agenda in 2007, all of which further hastened the demographic and cultural transformation of France (and Europe).

For those interested in Europe’s demographic and cultural transformation, read Ellis’ book. You’ll finish it with many new insights into a range of ideas, theories and projects which contributed to the way in which multiculturalism, immigrationism, denationalization and anywhereism have become so influential.

Eric Louw has a career spanning universities in both South Africa and Australia. He has published extensively in the fields of political communication and South African political discourses. His books include, The Rise, Fall and Legacy of Apartheid; Roots of the Pax Americana; and The Media and Political Process.

Featured image: New European Magazine, March 2014.

Reconquest: The Project Of Éric Zemmour

We translate here the speech delivered by Éric Zemmour, at the launch of his brand-new political part, Reconquête (Reconquest), on December 5, 2021, before a crowd of some 15,000. It is a powerful call to arms for France, and Zemmour is making the French political establishment rather nervous. He is a well-known public intellectual and writer.

Greetings to all of you! Greetings to all of you. Greetings my friends. Thank you! Thank you for the welcome. It’s amazing. What an atmosphere! What a pleasure to be here before you in Villepinte. Thank you, really. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

I heard the words of those who spoke before me: I thank them. Thank you, my friends! Thank you for being here, thank you for your support. The great coming-together finally begins today. There are nearly fifteen thousand of you here today.

Fifteen thousand! Fifteen thousand French people. Fifteen thousand French people who have defied political correctness, the threats of the extreme left and the hatred of the media.

Fifteen thousand French people who no longer lower their eyes and who are determined to change the course of history! Because let’s not be falsely modest: the stakes are immense. If I win this election, it will not be just another change-over, but the beginning of the reconquest of the most beautiful country in the world.

Yes, this country has suffered so much, has been forgotten by our successive leaders, so that on all fronts it is now necessary to repair the innumerable errors which were committed over these last forty years. Economy, ecology, purchasing power, public services, immigration, insecurity: none of the major chapters of the action we must take escape the serious and comprehensive project that we will begin today to unveil to the French people. Because after the indispensable period of observing and raising awareness, the project must follow.

Who could have imagined this just a few months ago?

The authorities had decided it, the journalists had wanted it, the right had accepted it: the next presidential election was to be a formality for five more years of Macronism.

France was to continue to quietly exit from history, and the French were to disappear in silence on the land of their ancestors. But a small grain of sand came along to jam the machine. No, this grain of sand is not me. This grain of sand is you!

Let me tell you a beautiful story. I’m going to tell you the story of what you’ve accomplished in the last few months.

Last June, on every stage, at every dinner party, in every polling station it was clearly understood: the second round was a foregone conclusion, and Macron could not but win. This presidential election was of no interest.

And then a rumor started to spread. Yes, I confess, I hesitated for a long time. But you came, we came.

And we upset the best laid plans. We broke the tacit pact between all the actors of this farce. And now, no one dares to predict the results of the coming election.

I weigh my words carefully when I say this: your presence honors me. It honors me, because by coming here you show courage, panache, audacity. And dare I say it: by your commitment, you have shown more ardor, determination and resistance than almost all the political leaders of the last thirty years. In Bordeaux, Lyon, Lille, Nice, Ajaccio, Nantes, Rouen, Biarritz, and today, Paris—France is calling out for help and the French have answered the call.

For months, our meetings have been disturbing journalists, irritating politicians, and hystericizing the Left.

Each time I travel, they are enraged at seeing this people that they thought would disappear forever! Because in the four corners of the country, they saw these rooms full to bursting, and overflowing with enthusiasm.

They see your flags, they hear your chants, and they are stunned by your applause. In the end, the political phenomenon of these meetings is not me, it’s you! Your presence is that of a people who have never lain down, and who remain standing against all odds. This people—they had forgotten them; they had underestimated them. They even thought they had got rid of them, far from the city centers, far from the beautiful districts, far from their media.

They were wrong.

The French people, who have been here for a thousand years and who want to remain masters in their own country for another thousand years, have not had their last word.

Your courage honors me, because for months now, not a single day has gone by without those in power and their media outlets attacking me. They invent polemics about books that I wrote fifteen years ago.

They dig into my private life. They call me names. But don’t be mistaken: the real object of their wrath is not me, it’s you. If they hate me, it is because they hate you; if they despise me, it is because they despise YOU.

Against me, everything is allowed. The pack is now on my tail: my opponents want my political death, the journalists want my social death, and the jihadists want me dead. But in their rage, they made a serious mistake: they showed themselves. They attacked us too early. In a few weeks, I am sure, the French will open its eyes to their stratagems, and their attacks will become ineffective.

They have made the mistake of designating me as their sole opponent. They think they are our enemies. But, in fact, they are our best allies.

We are used to it by now. In every election, the system carefully excludes the candidates who displease it, with its judges at their behest, and their militant journalists. We knew they would come after us and we were waiting for them. They want to forbid us to defend our ideas. They want to make me unelectable. They want to steal your democracy. Let’s not let them do that!

They still have one last hope—they want me not to get my 500 sponsorships. So, I say to the mayors of France: dear elected representatives of the people, men and women of good sense, volunteers of the Republic, you have the power to give a voice to millions of French people! Use this power! Do not let yourselves be robbed of the election.

In attacking me, they made a second mistake: underestimating the French. They imagined us asleep, tired, submissive, afraid… But this extraordinary people have a unique capacity of resistance in the history of humanity. France should have disappeared many times. But each time, we held on, and each time, we came back!

They imagine us, in their caricature, full of resentment. They are mistaken: In our hearts there is neither hatred nor resentment, but only determination and courage. In the midst of the French Revolution, Danton declared: “A nation saves itself, but does not take revenge.”

We do not want to take revenge, we want to save, save our country, save our civilization, save our culture, save our literature, save our school, save our landscapes and our natural patrimony, save our companies, save our heritage, save our youth. And above all: save our people.

Over the past few months, you may have heard many things about me. Some have said that I was brutal. Yes, this could be true, because I am passionate and my commitment is total, and France is on the brink.

During these three months, I wanted to push forward the question of France’s survival. If I had been wrong, frankly, do you think that everyone else would have started talking like me?

You may have heard that I am a “fascist,” that I am a “racist,” that I am a “misogynist.” I am pleased to see that you have not been misled.

Fascist… fascist. Me, a fascist.


When frankly, I am the only one defending the freedom of thought, the freedom of speech, the freedom to debate, the freedom to put words to reality, while they all dream of banning our meetings and having me convicted.

And then I am also a misogynist.


You know just how ridiculous this accusation is. As a child, in the middle of these big families from Algeria, I was always surrounded by women: my mother of course, but also her sisters, my grandmothers. The women of my childhood, even more than the men, forged my character. They were… how can I put it? At the same time loving and demanding, tender and imperious. It was my mother who instilled in me a taste for effort and excellence. It was also my mother who instilled in me an immoderate love of France.

When I remember my childhood, I remember first of all that my mother transmitted to me this immoderate love of France, the elegance of its art of living, the refinement of its morals and its literature. It was she who gave me the strength to resist everything, to defend this France that she loved passionately. I will tell you a secret: it is thanks to her experience and her memories, told to the child that I was, that I was able to understand—before others—the unheard-of regression that women are undergoing today, in neighborhoods where mass immigration has imported an Islamic civilization so cruel to women.

This is probably why I am the only one today, along with some courageous organizations, to establish without false modesty the obvious link between this immigration from the other side of the Mediterranean and the threats which weigh each day more and more on French women, on their freedom, on their integrity, and sometimes even on their lives. But, all the while, feminists look the other way and talk to us about inclusive language.

I am also supposed to be a “racist.” I will be a racist when I am the only one who does not confuse the defense of our own with the hatred of others.

What is racism? It is to imagine that those who are different from us are inferior because they are different and that the only people who can be French are the descendants of Clovis. How can I, a little Berber Jew from the other side of the Mediterranean, think that?

No, obviously I am not a racist. No, of course, you are not racists. All we want is to defend our heritage. We are defending our country, our homeland, the heritage of our ancestors and the heritage that we will entrust to our children. The preservation of the heritage is not the enemy of modernity, it is the very condition of its existence.

Yes, we are engaged in a fight that is greater than ourselves—that of passing on to our children France as we have known it, France as we have received it. That is why I am standing before the French people today to become their next President of the Republic. That is why we are engaging today in a great battle for France!

Our movement is launched. It is well-structured and organized in all our regions, in all our departments.

Every day, every hour, every minute, we welcome into our ranks new brave ones ready to fight for France. They can now count on the precious support of the VIA networks and the conservative movement. Laurence and Jean-Frédéric, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Yes, thanks to them, thanks to all of you, the Reconquest is now launched!

The reconquest of our economy, the reconquest of our security, the reconquest of our identity, the reconquest of our sovereignty, the reconquest of our country!

We are heading out to the reconquest of our abandoned villages, of our devastated schools, our sacrificed companies, our degraded natural and cultural heritage.

We are heading out to the reconquest of our country to win it back.

“Reconquest” is the name of this movement that I wanted to found. Join us! Join the reconquest of our country!

Our campaign will be different from others because I am different from others. Yes, I humbly confess:

I do not have forty years of political cunning and media spin behind me. They think it’s my weakness, I think it’s my strength.

My strength in this campaign is to touch the hearts of the French with my style, my personality, my sincerity, and now my project.

My strength is to lead our country without compromise, without cowardice, without weakness.

In my conception of politics, sincerity, coherence, honesty, have never been defects.

In my vision of politics, the contest of ideas, convictions, enthusiasm are the surest assets to keep one’s promises and not to betray the voters.

In my conception of politics, we address all French people.

I refuse to choose between the wealthy classes of the metropolises and peripheral France.

I refuse to choose between urban France and rural France.

I refuse to choose between metropolitan France and outer France.

I refuse to choose between the retired and the active.

I refuse to choose between the memories of yesterday, the issues of today and the challenges of tomorrow.

In my vision of politics, when you are President of the French people, you are president of all France and all French people.

Our campaign is now launched—it will be the most beautiful of all!

I now want to pay tribute to all those who, for months now have believed in me, who slogged through the campaign, mobilized, handed out leaflets, canvassed the mayors—to make this great fight possible.

Thank you to the Friends of Eric Zemmour, thank you to Generation Z.

I had planned to say: “I want us to applaud them,” but as usual you will do what’s in your mind. It was always they who, by their enthusiasm, gave me the desire to lead this battle.

“Impossible is not French” wrote the Emperor. You have proved once again that he was right.

Yes, your fight is noble because you are not fighting for yourself, for your little privileges, for your little lives. You are committed to something much bigger than yourself: you are committed to France.

Like the builders of cathedrals, we are working for tomorrow. We work for the day after tomorrow.

We are working for our children, and for our children’s children.

We know that History is relentless, and we will be equal to it so that in a century, France will once again become a beacon that lights up the world, and that our people will once again be admired, envied and respected. For the power and sovereignty regained at home will allow us to express power and influence abroad, on the stage of a world that has changed and that we must face without fear.

To achieve this goal, we are going to conquer power: tomorrow the Elysée Palace, the day after tomorrow the National Assembly! Then will come the turn of the regions, the departments, the communes. One by one we are going to dislodge all these left-wing elected officials, all these socialists: all these socialists who have become Macronists, all these Macronists who have become ecologists, and all these ecologists who have become Islamo-leftists. To dislodge each of them, we will have to convince each Frenchman.

This is our mission. That is your mission.

We have a clear course ahead of us, based on undeniable facts; and from now on we will present solid initiatives.

As I have often said, one of the things that led me to this candidacy was when my son said to me one day: “Well, Dad, the observations you’ve been making for thirty years, now it’s time to take action.”

At 63, I’m moving from observations to action.

I am ready to take the reins of our country. We are ready to meet the expectations of the French people.

You know, for months now, I have been crisscrossing France, meeting with the French. Two fears haunt them: that of the great decline with the impoverishment of the French, the decline of our power and the collapse of our school. And that of the great replacement, with the Islamization of France, mass immigration and permanent insecurity.

Yes, we know. We know that France has become terribly impoverished in recent years. We feel the difficulties of so many French people to make ends meet. We understand the pain that business leaders have because of all the taxes, laws and regulations. We are afflicted by the decline of our power in the world.

I want to address all of these fears.

To stop our employees from getting poorer, I want to make the take-home pay higher. It is not normal to have such a gap between net and gross wages. It is not normal that the gross salary is so high for the bosses, and that the net salary is so low for the employees. I want to give back purchasing power to the most modest employees. I will therefore reduce the contributions they pay, in order to give back, each year, a thirteenth month to employees earning the minimum wage. Each month, they will receive an extra 100 euros. This is only fair: it is the fruit of their labor. I cannot imagine that our employees, especially the poorest ones, finance with their expenses a social model that has become obese because it is open to the whole world.

Solidarity must become national again, and throughout this campaign I will not stop coming back to this, so that the French will get out of this downward spiral. So that our companies also stop getting poorer.

Therefore, in the very first weeks of my mandate, I will massively reduce production taxes for all companies, because it is not right to tax a company before it has even had a chance to make a profit. I want more small businesses to benefit from a lower corporate tax rate: why do large companies, with their armies of tax experts, manage to pay less tax than small companies and VSEs? I want them to regain room to maneuver so that they have the capacity to invest and hire.

In order for our country to stop getting poorer, I am choosing to reindustrialize. I have been saying this for years, at a time when the so-called serious economists were mocking us. I want France to become a major industrial world power again. To become powerful again, France must become a country of industry. Because industry creates jobs, generates innovation, is a source of wealth and a guarantor of our independence. General de Gaulle and Georges Pompidou understood this. Because it is synonymous with social advancement, we want to recoup this industrial France of workers, engineers, SMEs, ETIs and large companies!

So, to help our industrialists, we propose less taxes, fewer standards and more orders. In addition to lowering production taxes, we will force public procurement to favor French companies. There is no reason why all the countries in the world should reserve their public contracts for their national companies, while France chooses to go abroad because of budgetary and European dogmatism. To implement this policy, I will create a powerful Ministry of Industry in charge of foreign trade, energy, research and development and raw materials.

We will also initiate a process of administrative simplification under the direct aegis of the Elysée. Why is our State so powerless with criminals, yet so ruthless with honest people?

I want to cut through this forest of regulations that is ruining the lives of our companies. To do this, I will rely on the key players in our economy, on thousands of intermediary organizations despised by successive governments.

We are choosing to reduce taxation and to focus on industry, on the creation of wealth with a view to its redistribution, on the choice of public procurement over subsidies!

Our conception of the economy is coherent: it favors entrepreneurship in the service of all AND rootedness. Yes, rootedness. This is why we are going to promote the transfer of companies from one generation to the next, like in Italy, like in Germany. This is why I want to abolish inheritance and gift taxes for the transfer of family businesses. It is not normal; it is not acceptable that a French company director would rather sell his company to a Chinese industrialist or to an American investment fund rather than pass on the fruits of his labor to his children, for fear of being cheated by the tax authorities.

But the great decline is not only that of our less well-off workers, it is not only that of our companies—it is also that of French power. For France to get out of the spiral of decline in which our elites have trapped it, it must renew its tradition of independence. This is why I want France to leave NATO’s integrated military command. That is why we must jealously preserve our overseas territories. That is why New Caledonia must remain French. I say no to all the surrenders of this government on this subject.

I want France to regain a position of balance in the world. We are France. We are not the vassals of the United States. We are not the vassals of NATO, of the European Union. We must speak with all countries! The United States, China, Russia. But we must also be wary of all of them, because geopolitics is never a long quiet river. We must regain our rank, reconnect with our power.

Throughout this campaign, I will continue to reveal my platform. Throughout this campaign, I will continue to make public the measures I propose for France.

Our political project is a long-term one. We are committed to the next decades, and to the next generations. And in the long term, power rhymes with education. For schools, we will be on the side of excellence. The French school model must return to its fundamentals, with a particular focus on mathematics and the humanities.

We must rediscover the model that made us successful in the past, and which is now the success of the Asian countries that have imitated us: classical culture, scientific studies, valorization of manual skills,
transmission of knowledge, and the culture of merit and excellence.

From the beginning of the new school year, we will make school the instrument of French-style assimilation, and we will chase pedagogism, Islamo-leftism and LGBT ideology out of our children’s classrooms!

We will give back to teachers the means to work. We will restore their authority. We will ban the use of inclusive language and we will ban all forms of positive discrimination.

Yes, I promise, school will no longer be the ideological laboratory of the Left, and our children will no longer be its guinea pigs! The school of the Republic must once again become the sanctuary it was; and the free school, to which we owe so much, must remain free!

The school must regain its priority objective: the transmission of knowledge, the only way to reduce inequalities. It must no longer try to be as inclusive as possible; but on the contrary to re-establish the culture of merit and effort. And it is because knowledge will be transmitted again, because the culture of effort and merit will be re-established that we will effectively fight against social inequalities!

I want to put an end to this pedagogy which has been constantly lowering social standards for forty years. In the name of equality between all students, they have deprived them of culture, they have prevented evaluations, they have banned rankings.

They thought they were doing the students a favor by depriving them of excellence, preventing them from demonstrating their talent, their intelligence and their work. The school of my childhood promoted these things, and I am sure for many of you here it was the same. That older school allowed in one generation for a person to climb the highest ranks of the Republic. Remember Georges Pompidou, a graduate of the Ecole Normale Supérieure, an Associate Professor of Arts, a senior civil servant, and a Head of State, whose parents were teachers and whose grandparents were modest farmers. This is the kind of destiny I want for the next generations of French people, regardless of their social background!

This forgotten France, our forgotten France, has the right to find a quality school. This despised France has the right to find public services. This abandoned France, which lacks police stations, which lacks trains, which lacks doctors, which lacks hospitals is also deprived of a school worthy of its dreams for its children. It is unfair, and it is unacceptable.

But impossible is not French. The state can enable the reconquest of this abandoned France. It must go to each village, each commune, each department to present its model based on excellence: industrial excellence, scientific excellence, educational excellence, excellence in our public services.

Yes, our fight is for excellence. But our fight is above all for France. Because in the face of the accelerating change of people, we are the only ones who dare speak the truth. We are the only ones who say the words that make people angry because we suggest measures that are necessary.

In 2019, France has allowed between 350,000 and 400,000 foreigners to enter its territory, far more than the city of Nice, which is the fifth largest city in France! Over a five-year period, this represents two million entries; the equivalent of the city of Paris.

The challenge of the next presidential election will be to know if we want to let in two million more over the next five years.

According to INSEE, while less than 1% of newborns had a Muslim name in the 1960s, today 22% do so.

Today they are 22%. What percentage tomorrow? Imagine the magnitude of the unprecedented cultural, demographic and human change we are going through. Yesterday, the media complex denied it. Today they celebrate it. Tomorrow they will tell us that we had no choice.

They are lying.

We have a choice.

We have the power to choose the civilizational destiny of our country.

Our migration policy has three pillars:

The first is to stop the flow immediately. From the first weeks of my mandate, zero immigration will become a clear objective of our policy. Before next summer, I want to limit the right to asylum to a handful of individuals each year, to restore meaning to this misused right. I will demand that asylum applications be made in our consulates, to avoid the settlement of rejected asylum seekers who never leave. I want to abolish the right to family reunification and drastically reduce family immigration.

I want to improve the selection of foreign students and establish the principle of their return at the end of their studies. I want to dismantle illegal immigration channels, to put out of action the entities that bring these migrants back to Europe.

The second pillar of my migration policy is simple: I want to put an end to the suction pumps that make France an El Dorado for the Third World. France must become generous with its own people and stop opening its social model to the four winds! I want to abolish social assistance for non-European foreigners, abolish state medical aid. Why, my friends, should we be the only ones in the world to be so generous? I want to abolish the right of the soil, and I want to drastically tighten the conditions for naturalization.

The third pillar of this plan concerns foreigners who have already settled in France. I want to systematically expel all illegals present illegally on our soil. I want to immediately expel foreign criminals who will no longer clutter French prisons. I want to deprive of their French nationality the criminals with dual nationality. I want to expel unemployed foreigners after six months of unsuccessful job search.

So many democratic countries do it: why not us?

All these measures will be submitted to the French people by referendum so that they approve them. Thus made sacred by universal suffrage, they will be imposed on all, including the constitutional council, the European judges, and the technocrats of Brussels.

Our existence as a French people is not negotiable. Our survival as a French nation is not subject to the goodwill of treaties or European judges. Let’s take back our destiny!

Now I want to talk to those who are French. Yes, I make a distinction between who is French and who is not. No, I will not expel some French people. Yes, I am reaching out to Muslims who want to become our brothers! Many of them already are that. For all those who want to be French and who show their attachment to France every day; for all those who did not come to France for the generosity of its social model, out of habit or out of spite; for all those whose ancestors, like me, come from elsewhere but who want the future of their children to be written here.

To all of them, I propose assimilation. Assimilation is the greatest gift France can offer you: to be part of its immense History. It is the greatest gift that France has given me.

Imagine becoming the compatriot of Montaigne, Pascal, Chateaubriand, Balzac! The choice of assimilation is certainly a demanding one, because from now on we have to say “we” when talking about a past where our personal ancestors were not present. This is the effort that my grandparents and my parents made.

Yes, assimilation is demanding, but only it will allow us to find peace and brotherhood. Yes, assimilation is demanding, but why exempt the Algerians, the Malians or the Turks from the efforts made in the past by the Spaniards, the Poles or the Italians? Why should Muslims be unable to do the work of separating the spiritual from the temporal that the Jews and Christians did before them?

Yes, we are reaching out to the French of the Muslim faith who want to become our brothers! There are some! And our hand is firm, and without compromise: if you make France your mother and every Frenchman your brother, you are our compatriots!

Yes, in our reconquest, we set the bar very high and we are demanding, because France is not an à la carte menu. France requires total adhesion. And for those who refuse, and for all those with dual nationality and foreigners who violate our laws, the exit door is wide open.

These are the solutions that the French have been demanding for decades. France can no longer procrastinate.

I cannot fight this battle without you. I need your help! A formidable struggle awaits us to save our country, and each of us is participating in this immense battle.

I appeal to all French patriots, to all those whose feet are firmly rooted in their land. To all those who have not abandoned France. I call upon. I appeal to these militants, to these executives, to these voters of the National Front, who have seen their ideas vegetate in a sterile opposition for decades.

I appeal to these militants and voters of the Republicans, who are tired of seeing their elected representatives bend to the injunctions of the Left and political correctness. This right wing, in love with France, is the majority in our country.

They are well-to-do people categories who have not cut their ties with their homeland. They are the people who have not given in to uprooting. These are the middle class who refuse to be replaced.

I am reaching out to the voters, the executives, the supporters of the Republicans, many of whom have been represented by my friend Eric Ciotti. Your place is with us, at our side, in this fight for France. I want to speak here to the orphans of the RPR. To all those who remember that here, in Villepinte, exactly 31 years ago, the whole of the Right was gathered to organize the “Etats généraux de l’immigration.” I was there, I was barely 30 years old. Yes, I was there. I observed, I noted.

But, there were especially Chirac, Giscard, Juppé, Bayrou, Sarkozy, Madelin. And so many others.

They promised that immigration would be reduced to zero, that national solidarity would be reserved for the French, and that the right of citizenship would be abolished. It was strongly asserted that Islamic laws were incompatible with the laws of the French Republic.

Luck, my friends, is malicious. Thirty-one years later, we find ourselves here, in Villepinte, to say exactly the same thing. And the Left, and the media, and the Macronist power, and the center, and even the current leaders of LR are labelling me and us with the infamous label of “extreme right.”

I want to ask a simple question here. Was Jacques Chirac of the extreme right? Was Valérie Giscard d’Estaing of the extreme right? And Alain Juppé, and François Bayrou? Are they also from the extreme right then?

Yes, my friends, luck is mischievous. We find ourselves together today, on December 5th, the anniversary of the founding of the RPR in 1976! We weren’t even supposed to be here in Villepinte, and here we are. What coincidences, what anniversaries, what memories, what symbols.

But this lesson from Villepinte does not end there. Three years after the General Assembly of the Right, the RPR and the UDF won the legislative elections. In 1995, Jacques Chirac entered the Elysée Palace.

And yet… And yet, all these beautiful proclamations of Villepinte remained a dead letter. All these beautiful promises were forgotten.

The Right, as usual, submitted to the injunctions of the Left, the media, the judges. The Right, as usual, betrayed its voters as soon as they had put it into power.

Thirty years later, nothing has changed. Thirty years later, the RPR and the UDF have become LR; but it’s still the same promises, still the same martial declarations.

Why do you want these politicians to keep the commitments they have not kept for thirty years? The same causes, be sure, will produce the same effects.

Valérie Pécresse constantly reminds us that her entry into politics is intimately linked to the person of Jacques Chirac. She constantly refers to him. Let’s take her word for it. She will act just like her mentor—she will promise everything and deliver nothing. Chirac who said: “I will surprise you with my demagogy.” Chirac who said: “Promises only oblige those who listen to them.”

Yes, believe Valérie Pécresse when she repeats that she is the heiress of Jacques Chirac. We are the opposite of these political betrayals.

We promise and we will deliver. We will commit and we will do. Let us say, my friends, that this will be our Villepinte Pledge! The Oath of Villepinte that will erase thirty years of renunciation and cowardice.

Thirty years during which the people were divided, separated, ostracized, with National Front voters treated as pariahs, and LR voters intimidated, terrorized by a Left that decided who was republican, who was not, who was in the camp of the good, who was in the camp of the bad.

That time is over.

We must come together, we must unite. I want to give back the right to vote to the National Front voters and I want to give back the right to the LR voters. This is no longer the time for Byzantine quarrels: tomorrow, France may disappear. Our duty is to stand up. Our duty is to fight. Our duty is to commit ourselves!

A very particular commitment, because we are not going to fight people. Unlike our opponents, full of hatred and contempt, we are not fighting against individuals. Our fight is harder, more difficult but more noble: we fight against ideas.

In 2022, it is not only the person of Emmanuel Macron that we are going to defeat, but better—his ideology; this system of which he is the standard-bearer, the spokesman, and the executor. The “person” Emmanuel Macron does not interest us, because he is fundamentally uninteresting. Find me a single Frenchman in the country who can explain the thinking of Emmanuel Macron. Just one!

There is none, not even he himself!

Nobody knows who he is, because he is nobody. Behind the mask of perfect technocratic intelligence, behind the mountain of superficial ideas, behind the contradictory slogans, behind the “at the same time” synonymous with disorder, and the “whatever it takes” synonymous of ruin, there is nobody. There is nothing!

Macron has gutted our economy, our identity, our culture, our freedom, our energy, our hopes, our lives. He has emptied everything, because he alone is the great void, the abyss. In 2017, France elected the void and fell into it.

My friends, it is time to get our country and our people out of this bottomless pit. We will leave in its showcase the plastic dummy [Macron], this automaton that wanders in a labyrinth of mirrors, this faceless mask that disfigures our own. We will let this teenager search for himself eternally. Let’s leave him with his obsession for himself.

Our courage, our intelligence, our strength and our commitment, we dedicate them against globalism, against collectivization, against mass immigration, against gender theory and Islamo-leftism. All these infernal machines which have only one goal, only one mission and only one ideal: to deconstruct our people. to better destroy it.

Tirelessly, we will uproot these ideologies that thrive only on public money and militant journalists. Yes, we will make Macronism a bad memory.


When this ghost will have left the Elysée, when the Left will have lost its last puppet, we will replace it with France. We will replace the little Macron with “the Great Nation.” We will replace emptiness with identity. We will replace complacency with excellence. We will replace the derisory with History.

A wonderful, exceptional task awaits us, the commitment of a lifetime. France is at a crossroads. It is now or never.

French people! I want enthusiasm, I want songs, I want joy, I want pride! Be strong, be joyful, be happy!

Yes, my friends, you are right to sing the Marseillaise, because we are going to recover France from the cynics and the conceited, from those who only have contempt and arrogance in their eyes, from all those who want to make us disappear. We are rising up. Lift up your hearts!

All my life, I have denied with all my strength melancholy, which brings on despair, which deprives us of courage and which paralyses us from action.

Bernanos wrote: “Hope is a heroic determination of the soul, and its highest form is despair overcome.”

Yes, we must overcome our anger, our doubts accumulated over so many years to transform our despair into hope.

A colossal and magnificent task awaits us—to rebuild France, our beloved country. We have the people, we have a plan, we have the strength and we have the courage. We have the ideas, we have a project and we have a movement. They can do nothing against you, they can do nothing against us.

In front of the whole world, we can now raise our eyes and shout loud and clear: France is back!

France, this country of scientists who have transformed the world, and this country of writers who have made it dream. This country of courageous workers and ingenious innovators. This unique country in the world, this perfect balance between beauty and strength, between elegance and vigor, between survival instinct and generosity, between freedom and equality, between genius and lightness.

Yes, France is back because the French people have risen up! The French people are standing up to all those who want to make them disappear, in the face of all those who want to deprive their children of their heritage and greatness!

The French people will never lower their eyes in the face of those who have sworn their doom! Yes, France is back! Long live the Republic, and above all, above all:

Long live France!

Featured image: a portrait of Éric Zemmour by fmr0, 2019.

Radio Moscow Calling…

All they have left is the radio. The rebels no longer have any other instrument than this primitive voice machine to make themselves heard. Nor does the entire population understands them—Arabic has become the second language of the Third Republic and its learning has priority over that of Spanish, or that simplified things that is now called “Spanish.”

The official from the communications department of the Ministry of Equity connected the old transmitters and listened in. Soon, from Moscow, the octogenarian Juan Manuel de Prada will sit in front of a microphone to deliver his subversive message to the few remaining listeners in the Peninsular Confederation of Sovereign Republics, once known by the now-forbidden name of Spain (the New Penal Code punishes with fines of six hundred thousand euros those who call the confederate territory “Spain” and those who call themselves “Spaniards”).

Civil servant number 593,582 of the Ministry of Equity was a lucky man. He had obtained his job in a special promotion that included, exceptionally and with great protests from the female civil servants, sixty white and heterosexual men, especially necessary for the maintenance of the facilities and for certain technical matters, such as, for example, the radio.

The radio was the only mass medium that had escaped the Ministry’s checkers, the only voice that was still marooned and wild, unaffected by all the blockades of the computer networks set up by the agencies of the Global Information System.

593. 582—the old Christian names had been replaced by numbers in the Ministry, the initial phase of a project that was intended to be extended to the entire native minority, so that they would not cling to old signs of identity—tuned in to Radio Moscow.

On the other side of the sea of Hertzian waves was a community of six thousand Spaniards of the old days, who had preferred exile when the Confederation made it obligatory to eat seaweed and insects, to be vaccinated twice a week, to speak and write in simplified Spanish, and to read only the books recommended by the Ministry of Equity.

This last measure, apparently of little importance because nobody read, caused costly expurgations of public and private libraries where supremacist texts of all kinds were stored: from Goethe to Plato, from Calderón de la Barca to Gerardo Diego. It took more than a year to destroy millions of volumes that transmitted the values of the old patriarchal culture, an operation that included classical music, which no one had been listening to for more than twenty years by ministerial order.

When the Minister of Equity burned Goya’s Majas, Murillo’s Inmaculadas and Titian’s Danae in front of Madrid’s Botanical Gardens, the long work of multicultural inclusion, initiated at the beginning of the century by Zapatero, was at last completed.

It was then that thousands of Spaniards could stand it no longer and went into exile in the only European country that remained Christian: Russia, the hereditary enemy of progressivism. From Moscow they began to send subversive messages against the Confederation, in which music by Falla and Albéniz was played, where Quevedo and Bécquer were recited, where they explained what the Reconquest was, what the work of Spain in America was, what the war of 1936 was.

The verifiers managed to block all the channels of diffusion of these messages except the radio, which continued with stubborn presence on the airwaves. That is why 593.582 waited for the moment of Prada’s message to begin jamming it, while meditating on the State Plan of Emasculation, an initiative of the Ministry to castrate the Spanish Christian population and thus put an end to any possibility of Eurocentric supremacism in the Confederation.

“It must not be such a bad thing since the youth of the Popular Party have signed up en masse,” he thought. “It is an essential requirement to obtain a position. And in the Confederation the only source of employment and salaries is politics: the last private company closed down more than ten years ago.”

While 593,582 was meditating on whether or not he should castrate himself to get a promotion and stop being a gender pariah, Prada’s unmistakable, Chestertonian voice started to sound over the airwaves…

Sertorio lives, writes and thinks in Spain. this review comes through the kind courtesy of El Manifesto.

Featured image: “A Young Radio Listener,” ca. 1926 (Mary Evans Picture Library).

Al-Andalus: The Mirror Of Multiculturalism

Why is it difficult to consider the history of al-Andalus simply as a part of the history of the classical Islamic world, conditioned, to an extent that remains to be established, by its geographical and human context? Why is it common to interpret it, in a singularly acritical way, with the eyes of the present? This history has sometimes been presented as the prefiguration of a recovered national identity, as the prehistory of Hispanic consciousness, or as the “lost paradise of al-Andalus,” the “chronotope” of a lost identity, and an exile shared, from a different point of view, of course, by the Muslim world under colonial rule in the first half of the 20th century – which was undergoing the occupation of Palestine and the forced exodus of its Arab population – and by the Jewish intelligentsia of the 19th and 20th centuries, up to the birth of the State of Israel and even afterwards when Arab authors, after 1948, used it for propaganda purposes, until it became a commonplace denunciation of Israel.

In the following pages, I will examine how some contemporary American scholars have taken up all of these mythologies, inspired by nationalist sentiment, to make al-Andalus the Utopia of tolerant Convivencia (“coexistence”), the conduit of the fluid transmission of cultural and artistic motifs between the Arab and European worlds, the symbol of a beneficent globalization that opposes the petty localisms of national identities. I will consider the period I know best, that is, the political and intellectual history of the Andalusian emirates and caliphates, up to the end of the Taifa period, because it is quite possible – and I do not assert it – that it is different for other eras.

This idealized image goes hand-in-hand with a lack of knowledge of the milieu and the day-to-day, political, and social history of al-Andalus, of intellectual and religious figures and movements, of primary and secondary sources in languages other than English. From this situation comes the fact, for example, that studies of classical Arab-Islamic historiography, both older and newer, have neglected the work of Ibn Ḥayyān, as does Roger Allen’s recent history of Arabic literature – in the broadest sense; or that ʿAbd Allāh Ibn Buluggīn’s magnificent Memoir remains unrecognized and underutilized by North American scholars. While in the latter case the language barrier cannot be put forward – the primary translation being Tibi’s English translation – the argument of linguistic ignorance seems to hold elsewhere (with Anglo-American scholars often having little familiarity with French and Spanish bibliography).

Insufficient knowledge of Andalusian history and sources has reinforced the idea that al-Andalus was on the margins of the medieval Islamic world; and this has undoubtedly contributed to its idealization, making al-Andalus a tabula rasa on which to represent a number of more-or-less fictional narratives, the arena of ideological stakes derived from local academic discourse. Even a sensitive and attentive specialist like Julie Meisami affirms that “The Arabic literatures of Medieval Spain and Sicily do not occupy an important position in Arabic studies,” because they seem “peripheral to the tradition as a whole.”

The most influential of these narratives idealize the Convivencia of the three cultures – Arab, Christian and Jewish – in al-Andalus, during the period I have indicated, as well as the essential influence of the Andalusian civilization on the rise of European culture and its multiculturalism ante litteram. The apparatus of argumentation supporting these theses derives essentially from the antihistorical and anti-philological attitude advocated by the American postmodernist school, reinforced by the bellicose dialectic and axioms coming from the “postcolonial” studies launched after Edward Said’s famous denunciation of European Orientalism. The best-known representative of this trend, as far as al-Andalus is concerned, was [the late] María Rosa Menocal, Sterling Professor of Spanish Studies at Yale University.

The preliminary argument put forward by Menocal, in a posthumous polemic with the European Arabist school of the 20th century, is that the “Semitic” influence on medieval European culture has not been given the importance it deserves; not because it was difficult to prove this influence, according to an approach recognized by the academic community, but because of a bias, taken by this same school, which refused to recognize it in the name of a “myth of Western-ness,” of a colonialist mentality denying the obvious impact of the Arab-Islamic and Jewish civilizations on Europe. As in the famous quarrel between Américo Castro and Claudio Sánchez Albornoz, the central point of this opposition is not so much a question of method – how to prove the impact of the Arab literature of al-Andalus on the rise of European literature – but rather an ideological bias; the denunciation of the negative prejudice that has, until now, prevented this recognition.

Against the Eurocentric thesis attributed to the orientalist party defending identity politics, Menocal takes inspiration, in a generic and not very precise way, from the approach of Américo Castro to project onto the Iberian past a hypothesis of linguistic and cultural hybridization centered on the themes of “miscegenation” and “transculturation” in vogue among contemporary North American historians. There is, for example, the line of research by the dean of American modernist historians, Natalie Zemon Davis, on cultural “métissage” as a positive value, against the reductio ad unum of national identities – and its personification in the biography of Leo Africanus (Trickster Travels)

As for the general theory, one finds in it, sometimes deformed to the point of being unrecognizable, ideas that had often circulated, before being abandoned, within Orientalist scholarship itself, which itself is put on trial. The exaltation of tolerance and Convivencia derives from the belief in a golden age of Hebrew culture in Spain and in the myth of the Utopia of three faiths (the myth of interfaith Utopia), circulating among European Jewish intellectuals in the 19th and 20th centuries, as Mark Cohen has shown. While using the same arguments, and often the same examples, Menocal is nonetheless indifferent to the religious content of this conception – for not only does it deny the priority of the religious fact in the Middle Ages, but it also clearly disjoins what is “Arab” from what is “Islamic,” since both factors can hinder the cultural transmission between the Christian, Jewish and Islamic worlds. On several other points, which have been discussed at length without finding a solution, she makes sharp and peremptory judgments.

For example, “In Spain… Arabic was the lingua franca of the educated classes of the three religions, for several centuries.” A happy coincidence from which she launches her assumption that the Provençal word trobador “in fact has a perfectly plausible Arabic etymon, perhaps two,” an argument she considers definitive, but which, because of the hostility of the Eurocentric party, is supposedly not accepted. On issues that have proven to be unprovable, the logical leap is even bolder. This is particularly true of the vexata quaestio of the origins of the Divina Commedia for which she suggested that Dante may have read one of the translations of the Miʿrāj done when Brunetto Latini – the maestro and guardian of Dante – was in Toledo. The same the becomes true of the origins of the Divina Commedia.

The same then becomes true for the origins of Provençal poetry – the hybridization that would be at the root of the great season of courtly love would not have required knowledge of Arabic texts on the part of the troubadours, for they were “a bit more like rockstars than like scholars,” and that this knowledge was in the air. In fact, the so-called “Arabic thesis” concerning the birth of Romance literature had enjoyed a certain popularity, as Menocal reminds us, until the beginning of the 20th century – and this since the 16th century – only to be abandoned afterwards. The cause of this change of perspective appears in the rise of European colonialist imperialism, with its contempt for the cultures of dominated peoples, the Arabs in particular, coupled with the rise of the German philological method.

It is characteristic of the postmodernist approach to history to interpret events rooted in complex causes through conspiracy theories, deriving from the conception of a “master narrative” that organizes the whole of historical traditions, suppressing, at the same time, minority discourses. The master narrative of European orientalism and philology, the offspring of modern imperialism, follows the oblivion of the cultural contamination between the Judeo-Arabic and Romanic worlds, the memory of which was “purposely annihilated” when, during the 16th century, the Inquisition [she says] destroyed the great Arab libraries that represented the precious heritage of the three cultures.

This would have taken place in particular in Toledo, a city which, according to Menocal (and in contradiction to Jean-Pierre Molénat’s research on the real persistence of the Arab and Mozarabic communities in the new Castilian capital), would have hosted an enlightened cenacle of intellectuals, alien to ethnic prejudices, “a legendary mix of Christians, Jews and Muslims” at the center of a European network of scholars who competed for any work written in Arabic.

The transmission of the Judeo-Arabic heritage, as well as that of Arab-Andalusian lyricism (the minority discourse in the context of the Castilian conquest), would thus have become one of the best-kept secrets in the history of civilizations, having been interrupted by catastrophic events, such as the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula.

This rupture – coinciding significantly with August 2, 1492, the date of Columbus’ departure, the last medieval hero, for the Indies – was imposed by the proto-imperialist design of the rulers of Castile-Aragon. Definitively expelled from the medieval paradise – tolerating linguistic diversity and ethnic hybridization – the Spanish population and culture (for we are talking only about Spain) was then condemned to the obscurantism of the Enlightenment and to the hell of modernity. A modernity that discriminates between languages and diverse knowledge, introduces objectivity in sciences, generates the philological method (that atomizes and mutilates the unity of the literary phenomenon, demanding “proof of written texts” in order to justify its transmission) and the diachronic approach, “the most arbitrary and meaningless of ordering principles.” The discovery of the paths of this heritage is, on the other hand, made possible, in the absence of recognizable chains of transmission, by the post-modernist method that makes the “citationism” of rock music a true paradigm, ex post, of the medieval poetic approach, offering an obvious and convenient solution to the enigmas of intercultural transmission.

The opposition established between the Middle Ages and the modern era summarizes antinomies, which we have just seen: miscegenation/ discrimination, tolerance/intolerance, conquest/Convivencia. Similarly, the negative pole of philology is matched by the positive pole of lyricism in the strict sense – the “impure” lyricism of the muwaššaḥāt, whose descent from the classical tradition is ignored – and in the broader sense – post-modernist hermeneutics, steeped in musical and poetic references. This allows Menocal to argue – a daring anachronism – that “the medieval culture was postmodern” (because both periods shared the same feeling of distrust towards master narratives); or, conversely, that “the Reconquista… was anti-medieval,” because it reduced ad unum the cultural multiplicity of al-Andalus; and finally, to put forward the proposal of “telling History in the lyric mode,” this mode being that of the muwaššaḥāt, considered as the symbolic form of medieval cultural mixing.

Providing literal proof of T. F. Glick’s objective observation that “history seems scarcely distinguishable from myth,” history based on written sources and taken in a diachronic dimension gives way to fabled-seeming narratives, such as the one that opens Menocal’s more recent work, describing the arrival of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, the archetypal hero of that saga of fruitful miscegenation that would have been al-Andalus: “Once upon a time in the mid-eighth century, an intrepid young man named Abd al-Rahman abandoned his home in Damascus, the Near Eastern heartland of Islam, and set out across the North African desert in search of a place of refuge…”

One certainly finds in this melodrama, with its misleading simplicity, all the themes and materials commonly used in academic works – however, its fable-like quality, which finds an enthusiastic echo in accounts in the popular press, and which draws on the medieval conception of history as memory and myth, nevertheless signals its defiant entry into a field where the formal structures of historical narration – diachrony and causality in particular – are no longer valid. Historical philology is not the only polemical target of the neo-Romantic myth of a tolerant, multiculturalist and lyrical Middle Ages. Prose is also negatively affected, because it is associated with the rational and discriminatory approach that modernity has imposed on knowledge, which has deprived Romance literature of its lyrical component.

This same penchant for binary oppositions had already manifested itself in Menocal’s first book, The Arabic Role in Medieval Literary Theory. A Forgotten Heritage, written in the mode of pre-post-modernist American scholarship; and, as such, reviewed by the major Arabist journals. It contains, among other things, the denunciation of the politics of denial of the “Semitic” heritage in European literary culture, which is the author’s trademark, and the attack on the claim of philological hermeneutics that intercultural contacts are mainly textual, or the result of a series of historically documented (“genetic”) relationships. This criticism, in itself legitimate and fruitful, is not accompanied by the proposal of an alternative hermeneutic, indebted, for example, to the sociology of literature or to sociolinguistics, or of establishing a new archaeology of literary transmission and the creation of mixed forms. It limits itself to presenting a self-referential instance, that of the subject who, by observing the synchrony and/or the geographical proximity of two similar phenomena, even in the absence of a certain contact or transmission, can only deduce that there has been something more than a “parallel development.”

Among the paradoxical and perhaps unforeseen consequences of the approach I have just described is the fictional and novelistic character of the resulting image of al-Andalus, an image from which any reference to material history, or even micro-history, is absent, and which is assembled from a few current literary sources – when, in principle, it should show the unexplored or secret paths of this transmission. It is understood that the medieval Andalusian paradise coincides with the Umayyad period and the century of the taifas, and that the Andalusian emirs and caliphs are attributed a conscious political project, based on the tolerance of languages and cultures. From this peaceful world of princes, poets, merchants and rabbis, not only the specifically Islamic character of al-Andalus disappeared, but also the Islamic and non-Arab components, and in particular the Berber component of society.

The Arab heritage, within the limits I have indicated, is thus fully integrated into the genealogy of European identity, but on condition that it is “Europeanized” and stripped of everything that differs from it; and this limitation of the inextricably Arab-Islamic character of al-Andalus inevitably leads, as Julie Meisami has noted, to a subsequent marginalization of Andalusian studies from the mainstream of Islamic studies. Isolated from the cultural context of belonging, literary texts, and especially lyric poetry, are interpreted as if they were the immediate expression of a pop culture shared across linguistic, cultural and material barriers. If it is true, as Meisami again observes, that this position aspires to overcome the aporia of the philological method – which distances the pleasure of the text as it subjects it to multiple dissections on the diachronic and synchronic axis – it is also true that it opens the way to the subjective projections of the critic and readers; that is to say to frankly anachronistic interpretations of the past.

This is evidenced by the insistence on the paradoxical nature of Andalusian culture, described as “taking pleasure in contradiction within one’s own identity,” since it is the “possibility of contradiction” that guarantees “true religious tolerance” and “cultural vitality;” or, again, the fact that it is considered a culture in exile, even “a summary of the varieties of exile that explicitly leaves ‘nations’ by the wayside.” Exile is, moreover, the precondition for poetic creation, and all of these thematic-contradictions (exile, tolerance, lyricism) are found together in the idealized portrait of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān I, a true figura, in both the classical and postmodern senses, of the Andalusian utopia, and arguably of the author. For, if the theme of exile descends in direct line from Said – and Auerbach before him – it grows with the set of psychological projections and mythographies linked to Menocal’s biography, which in turn seem to find more intense echoes in an immigrant society like that of North America.

And, while Romanticist philologists can legitimately be blamed for neglecting the “Arabic thesis,” out of ignorance of its cultural and linguistic context, the affinity of the poetic and figurative forms developed in al-Andalus, Sicily, Provence and Persia, could have suggested to the scholar (it is Meisami again who proposes this) the more complex hypothesis of a common tendency: “Of the vernacular literatures to free themselves from canonical modes of discourse in favor of others more responsive to their particular cultural ambience.”

The polygenetic thesis was adopted, in particular, towards the end of his all-too-brief existence, by Samuel Stern, a pioneer in the scientific study of the Mozarabic kharja, as recalled by the late Dorothée Metlitzki, in her erudite essay on the a similar subject which, characteristically enough, had no continuators.

The distortion that the image of al-Andalus underwent through its multiculturalist interpretation was received very favorably by the non-specialist public, as evidenced by the reviews in the popular press of The Ornament of the World. No reviewer shied away from embroidering on the world described by Menocal, a world supposedly created by the far-sighted design of Abd al-Raḥmān I, where the Convivencia of the three cultures gave rise to a literate and polyglot society, whose radiance lent light to early Europe which threatened its borders. A researcher like Fouad Ajami himself has not questioned the historical reality of this amiable utopia, which, in its sparkling perfection, seems to dispel the darkness of the post-9/11 era, offering “thought-provoking lessons for today.” The ambition to reform the present through the lessons of the past is explicitly acknowledged by Menocal, who began an op-ed The New York Times (eloquently titled, “A Golden Reign of Tolerance”) with the following statement: “The lessons of history, like the lessons of religion, sometimes neglect examples of tolerance.” She also titled a lecture at Yale Law School, “Culture in the Time of Tolerance: al-Andalus as a Model for Our Time.”

At the beginning of this essay, I mentioned how al-Andalus, in its idealized image, could represent the mirror of identity in which Spanish scholarship from the end of the nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth century prefigured the birth of the Spanish nation; its language and its culture, in opposition to the foreign and enemy-like Arab-Islamic entity. I also mentioned that the Arab culture, for similar and opposite reasons, erected al-Andalus as an “edifice for nostalgia,” a focus for the cult of a lost and coveted national primacy, which Jewish intellectuals in the diaspora saw as proof of a successful integration and as a counterpoint to the “maudlin conception of Jewish history” describing Christian oppression.

It thus becomes undoubtedly necessary to ask ourselves about the hidden agenda, that is, about the political motivations – in the broadest sense – implicit in the Andalusian mythographies elaborated by the American postmodernist school, and also about the reasons that can explain, more generally, the success of the image of al-Andalus as a “model for our time,” for the West in search of a new enlightenment. As for the latter, it is obvious that they owe much to the reassuring charm of the Andalusian melting pot, which, of course, knew, until the first three centuries of its history, neither the interethnic and intercultural conflicts that tore apart and still agitate, today, North American and European societies, nor the aggression of a hostile civilization. In the same way, by evoking the utopia of al-Andalus, one makes a negative judgment on Western modernity, which translates into a real political program, albeit largely abstract. For radical American intellectuals, as for Arab and Jewish intellectuals past and present, the Andalusian chronotope conjures up, in effect, “a sight of the present state of affairs, of colonialism, racism, sexism, political and intellectual repression, religious intolerance and militancy, class stratification and economic inequities that continue to plague the modern world.”

And, at the same time, al-Andalus calls for a hope of “social equality, economic progress, political liberation, religious tolerance and self-emancipation.” These two opposing visions feed the “countermyth” of the Andalusian Arcadia as a true ideal homeland forever lost: “A perfect place… where the religions of the children of Abraham all tolerate each other and where, in the peace of that tolerance, and in the shade and fragrance of the orange trees, we could all sit and talk about philosophy and poetry.”

This also explains, no doubt, why the only discordant voices in the chorus of Menocal’s supporters were those of intellectuals of the neo-conservative right, such as Robert Spencer, and above all Bat Ye’or, a polemicist of Egyptian origin and British nationality, who is very active on the North American scene as a spokesperson for the “countermyth” of the “neo-lachrymose conception of Jewish history,” referring to Jewish oppression in Islamic lands.

Beyond these general considerations, it is worth returning to the negative influence that this approach has had on Andalusian studies in the United States, as shown in the collective volume on the literature of al-Andalus, in the Cambridge History of Arabic Literature, of which Menocal was the editor. This book was intended to mark a clear break from the others that preceded it in the same series, which represented the culmination of the method of approaching texts that characterized post-war Western – and especially Anglo-American – Arabism. The introductory essay made it quite clear that this was a work with intentions, the main one of which was “cultivating the memory of al-Andalus,” which thus closely followed the aspiration of Arab and Jewish utopian nationalisms.

The revival of interest in al-Andalus is attributed neither to the process of recognizing and integrating the Arab-Islamic past into national history nor to the rise of academic studies – and those aimed at the general public – that have so profoundly changed the Spanish intellectual scene since the end of Francoism; but rather, vaguely, to “the explosion of international tourism” and the influence of writers as foreign to the Andalusian terrain as Salman Rushdie. The approach that is polemically taken is that of “cultivating the memory of al-Andalus.” The approach that is polemically announced does not aim at the interpretation, as exhaustive as possible, of the available historical and literary materials, but at the personal “vision” of the interpreters, which organizes and gives meaning to the subjects treated through an arbitrary game of inclusions and exclusions.

This methodological bias prescribes not only the treatment of non-Arabic literatures of al-Andalus (Mozarabic and Jewish, in particular) but also the maintenance of this tradition through, for example, the Jewish literature of the Balkans, the Near East and Morocco, after the diaspora of 1492, because, according to the author of this chapter, which is very interesting, it testifies to the famous tripartite culture which proves to be the main subject of this book. In the same way, and as an inverse corollary of the thesis of the inclusion of the Arabic tradition in the Romance tradition, it is accepted to deal with some authors born in Andalusian territory who knew Arabic, but whose surviving writings belong to the literary tradition in neo-Latin and the Romance languages. This is the case of Ramon Llull and Petrus Alphonsi, whose biographies stand alongside those of, among others, Ibn Quzmān, Ibn ʿArabī, and, curiously enough, Ibn al-Khaṭīb.

The emphasis on minority or peripheral traditions, in relation to the Arab-Islamic tradition, together with the denial of anything that would impede the thesis of uninterrupted circulation between the Arab and Christian worlds, intentionally obscures the Islamic character of literary production in Arabic. The Islamic sciences, religious as well as secular – all categories – are treated in some thirty pages of the chapter on “knowledge,” with vague and rhapsodic content, occasionally faulty. While the category of “literary text” manages to include artistic and architectural items, religious literature is virtually excluded from the literary forms (only mystical poetry is mentioned, under the heading of “Love,” with a few suggestive passages extracted from Ibn Ḥazm’s writings), as is the historiographical tradition.

More generally, the prose tradition and the Andalusian adab, in its varied forms, finds no formal definition – while poetry is given pride of place among the “forms of literature” (“Qasida” and “Muwashshaha“), thematic sections (“Love”), and biographical sketches of the authors, the very rich production of rasā’il (epistles) receives no special attention, and the maqāmāt are mostly considered within the framework of the Jewish literature of al-Andalus. Similarly, to conclude the list of what one expected to find – or not find – in a work devoted to the literature of al-Andalus, one must mention the Berbers – they are hardly distinguished here as bearers of an autonomous tradition, not even in the section on “Marriages,” which reports on inter-Andalusian cultural hybridizations, while an entire section is generously allocated to the Arab-Sicilian literary tradition, again in the broad sense that allows for the inclusion of architectural monuments and authors belonging to the Norman and Swabian eras.

The result of this radical effort to redefine the Arab-Andalusian literary canon – which goes so far as to include Cervantes and his Quixote – ends up being paradoxical, in a sense that is certainly foreign to the manifesto stated in the Introduction, as well as alien to the postmodern spirit. By making the literature of al-Andalus the precursor of European literature, it ends up confirming the prejudices of the Franco-Spanish Andalusian school, when it distinguished, especially in the society of the taifas, the Arab and Berber groups from the “Andalusians,” to whom the great intellectuals considered proto-humanists supposedly belonged. One inevitably finds this distinction in the book, in the section of the “Andalusians,” eminent individuals chosen according to mixed and rather unconstrained criteria, and treated in a heterogeneous way.

Despite the uneven value of the contributions and its obvious limitations (which others have pointed out long before me), the volume on al-Andalus literature today represents an indispensable reference for young American scholars, to whom it offers a simplified method of approaching the texts and their history, which requires neither precise knowledge of the historical context nor extensive linguistic skills. This is demonstrated by Cynthia Robinson’s book, In Praise of Song, which borrows from Menocal’s most outrageous theories of cultural hybridization and is its main reference.

In this book, often suggestive and supported by a relatively extensive secondary bibliography (albeit with significant gaps), Robinson, a specialist in the Andalusian art of the taifas, argues convincingly for the substantial unity of the artistic and literary manifestations of the taifas around the phenomenon of the court. Less solid, on the other hand, is not only the analysis of the internal dynamics of the life of the Arab-Andalusian courts – interpreted, in a way as ingenious and abstract, as the hermetic drama of the Fedeli d’amore that would have been the mulëk (rulers) and their entourages – but above all the demonstration of the main thesis which claims that the transmission of poetic themes and forms between the two worlds was carried out, not at the popular level and through occasional contacts, but thanks to the relations, above all diplomatic, between the Andalusian and Christian courts from the fifth to the eleventh century.

Accepting without reservation Menocal’s two main methodological postulates – that differences in religion and language cannot be an obstacle to the transmission of cultural themes, and that al-Andalus is simply part of the “cultural heritage of medieval Europe” – Robinson is content to define the paths of this presumed transmission through the arguments of “context,” “contact” and “the demonstrable chronological precedence of the Andalusian model of courtly culture.” In doing so, and in this case also following the precedent set by Menocal, she not only disregards philological arguments (scansions, meter or linguistic points), but also seems to overlook a possible polygenetic interpretation, indicating that the analogies found derive from the system of relations and semiotics characterizing the court as a sociological space common to different civilizations, even if they are distant in time and space. Ignorance of a substantial part of the recent bibliography on al-Andalus – especially the onomastic and documentary series published by CSIC in Madrid – also leads Robinson to frequent errors in the names of personalities, while insufficient familiarity with Andalusian sources seems to be responsible for the few important interpretative errors.

Finally, a further effect of the subjectivism that characterizes this approach, which might be called neo-orientalist, seems to be the projection onto al-Andalus of a vaguely literary quest for exotic and fabulous themes. A striking example of this appeared on the English-language Arabist information list H-Mideast Medieval, where a request for information was formulated thus: “I am urgently seeking medieval references to al-Andalus as an exotic/erotic place. I have a theory from my reading of medieval Islamic maps of the Maghrib. I am looking to see if there is any textual support for my theory. Poetry seems to be the most likely place to find what I am looking for… but I am open to any and all suggestions, even those that come from architecture for possible references to al-Andalus as a place of Muslim fantasy.”

These statements summarize, in an almost parodic way, the approach that I have tried to describe: The formulation of a problem, more or less vague, leads to the search for documentary evidence of indeterminate value, which amounts, in most cases, to employing poetry as the hermeneutic tool of choice, which can legitimize any interpretation.

In conclusion, I asked myself why this approach, and the theoretical perspective that inspires it, have become the majority in the United States today, when other directions had been given to research on al-Andalus: I am thinking, for example, for the period and the arguments in question, of the works of Glick and Metlitzki, or of a few essays by Wolfhart Heinrichs and his student Beatrice Gruendler, Arabists from Harvard and Yale respectively, placing Andalusian authors and works in the Arab-Islamic synchronic context and in the tradition of akin genres, as well as of the two essays devoted by Salma Khadra Jayyusi to the literature of al-Andalus, in The Legacy of Al-Andalus.

In an article written nearly forty years years ago, Menocal called for an end to both the “segregation” of the Romance literatures of Arabic literature and the academic distinction between “Near-Eastern” and “European Studies.” Today, one has the impression that her example has allowed the realization of this wish along with the caveat stated by Meisami. While in Europe there is an effort to place the history and culture of al-Andalus in the mainstream of medieval Arab-Islamic history, in the United States al-Andalus appears today to be marginalized from the departments of Near Eastern Studies – invariably considered from the perspective of “hybridity” and “transculturation,” it is found mostly in the departments of Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, or even Hispanic or Romance Studies.

This tendency is undoubtedly reinforced today, at the level of mass culture, by the importance of the theme of the dialogue – or clash – of civilizations, coupled with the preference given by the American cultural industry (as a pioneer of a trend that is also asserting itself in Europe) to simplistic messages on complex issues, and to immediate communicative and emotional impact. Finally, and to return to the question that opened these reflections, the transformation of al-Andalus into a normative model for a West that one would like to be less hegemonic, more tolerant of its own diversity, testifies to the persistent attraction that the Andalusian chronotope has on contemporary utopian nationalisms.

Bruna Soravia is an Italian scholar who studies Islamic Spain. This essay is excerpted from Manuela Marín, ed., Al-Andalus/España. Historiografías en contraste.

The featured image shows a leaf from the Maqamat of al-Hariri, Syria, 1237.