Predicting the future is hard, so let’s start by explaining the past. What’s the best lens for evaluating the arc of world history during the nineteenth century? For starters, it’s the dawn of liberal democracy. The French have already guillotined their king, and a handful of John Locke enthusiasts across the Atlantic have established a nascent republic. In the United Kingdom, the philosopher John Stuart Mill is ably defending liberal democracy and human dignity. It’s starting to look like monarchy has had its day. Then there’s the laissez-faire capitalist revolution, starring such economists as Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo. Karl Marx is bringing economics to the proletariat.
The nineteenth century is also the height of Western empire and colonization. It’s the start of the era of total war. It’s the beginning of the decline of religion as a political force and its replacement with the rise of nationalism. It’s also, if one squints hard enough, the start of the era of human equality. Women demand equal rights in Seneca Falls, New York, and New Zealand becomes the first country to give them the vote. The United Kingdom outlaws the slave trade, the
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