1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Civilization
CIVILIZATION. The word “civilization” is an obvious derivative of the Lat. civis, a citizen, and civilis, pertaining to a citizen. Etymologically speaking, then, it would be putting no undue strain upon the word to interpret it as having to do with the entire period of human progress since mankind attained sufficient intelligence and social unity to develop a system of government. But in practice “civilization” is usually interpreted in a somewhat narrower sense, as having application solely to the most recent and comparatively brief period of time that has elapsed since the most highly developed races of men have used systems of writing. This restricted usage is probably explicable, in part at least, by the fact that the word, though distinctly modern in origin, is nevertheless older than the interpretation of social evolution that now finds universal acceptance. Only very recently has it come to be understood that primitive societies vastly antedating the historical period had attained relatively high stages of development and fixity, socially and politically. Now that this is understood, however, nothing but an arbitrary and highly inconvenient restriction of meanings can prevent us from speaking of the citizens of these early societies as having attained certain stages of civilization. It will be convenient, then, in outlining the successive stages of human progress here, to include under the comprehensive term “civilization” those long earlier periods of “savagery” and “barbarism” as well as the more recent period of higher development to which the word “civilization” is sometimes restricted.
Adequate proof that civilization as we now know it is the result of a long, slow process of evolution was put forward not long after the middle of the 19th century by the students of palaeontology and of prehistoric archaeology. A recognition of the fact that primitive manSavagery and barbarism. used implements of chipped flint, of polished stone, and of the softer metals for successive ages, before he attained a degree of technical skill and knowledge that would enable him to smelt iron, led the Danish archaeologists to classify the stages of human progress under these captions: the Rough Stone Age; the Age of Polished Stone; the Age of Bronze; and the Age of Iron. These terms acquired almost universal recognition, and they retain popularity as affording a very broad outline of the story of human progress. It is obviously desirable, however, to fill in the outlines of the story more in detail. To some extent it has been possible to do so, largely through the efforts of ethnologists who have studied the social conditions of existing races of savages. A recognition of the principle that, broadly speaking, progress has everywhere been achieved along the same lines and through the same sequence of changes, makes it possible to interpret the past history of the civilized races of to-day in the light of the present-day conditions of other races that are still existing under social and political conditions of a more primitive type. Such races as the Maoris and the American Indians have furnished invaluable information to the student of social evolution; and the knowledge thus gained has been extended and fortified by the ever-expanding researches of the palaeontologist and archaeologist.
Thus it has become possible to present with some confidence a picture showing the successive stages of human development during the long dark period when our prehistoric ancestor was advancing along the toilsome and tortuous but on the whole always uprising path from lowest savagery to the stage of relative enlightenment at which we find him at the so-called “dawnings of history.” That he was for long ages a savage before he attained sufficient culture to be termed, in modern phraseology, a barbarian, admits of no question. Equally little in doubt is it that other long ages of barbarism preceded the final ascent to civilization. The precise period of time covered by these successive “Ages” is of course only conjectural; but something like one hundred thousand years may perhaps be taken as a safe minimal estimate. At the beginning of this long period, the most advanced race of men must be thought of as a promiscuous company of pre-troglodytic mammals, at least partially arboreal in habit, living on uncooked fruits and vegetables, and possessed of no arts and crafts whatever—nor even of the knowledge of the rudest implement. At the end of the period, there emerges into the more or less clear light of history a large-brained being, living in houses of elaborate construction, supplying himself with divers luxuries through the aid of a multitude of elaborate handicrafts, associated with his fellows under the sway of highly organized governments, and satisfying aesthetic needs through the practice of pictorial and literary arts of a high order. How was this amazing transformation brought about?
If an answer can be found to that query, we shall have a clue to all human progress, not only during the prehistoric but also during the historic periods; for we may well believe that recent progress has not departed from the scheme of development impressed on humanity during thatCrucial develop-ments. long apprenticeship. Ethnologists believe that an answer can be found. They believe that the metamorphosis from beast-like savage to cultured civilian may be proximally explained (certain potentialities and attributes of the species being taken for granted) as the result of accumulated changes that found their initial impulses in a half-dozen or so of practical inventions. Stated thus, the explanation seems absurdly simple. Confessedly it supplies only a proximal, not a final, analysis of the forces impelling mankind along the pathway of progress. But it has the merit of tangibility; it presents certain highly important facts of human history vividly: and it furnishes a definite and fairly satisfactory basis for marking successive stages of incipient civilization.
In outlining the story of primitive man’s advancement, upon such a basis, we may follow the scheme of one of the most philosophical of ethnologists, Lewis H. Morgan, who made a provisional analysis of the prehistoric period that still remains among the most satisfactory attempts in this direction. Morgan divides the entire epoch of man’s progress from bestiality to civilization into six successive periods, which he names respectively the Older, Middle and Later periods of Savagery, and the Older, Middle and Later periods of Barbarism.
The first of these periods, when mankind was in the lower status of savagery, comprises the epoch when articulate speech was being developed. Our ancestors of this epoch inhabited a necessarily restricted tropical territory, and subsistedSpeech. upon raw nuts and fruits. They had no knowledge of the uses of fire. All existing races of men had advanced beyond this condition before the opening of the historical period.
The Middle Period of Savagery began with a knowledge of the uses of fire. This wonderful discovery enabled the developing race to extend its habitat almost indefinitely, and to include flesh, and in particular fish, in its regular dietary. Man could now leave the forests, and wander along Fire. the shores and rivers, migrating to climates less enervating than those to which he had previously been confined. Doubtless he became an expert fisher, but he was as yet poorly equipped for hunting, being provided, probably, with no weapon more formidable than a crude hatchet and a roughly fashioned spear. The primitive races of Australia and Polynesia had not advanced beyond this middle status of savagery when they were discovered a few generations ago. It is obvious, then, that in dealing with the further progress of nascent civilization we have to do with certain favoured portions of the race, which sought out new territories and developed new capacities while many tribes of their quondam peers remained static and hence by comparison seemed to retrograde.
The next great epochal discovery, in virtue of which a portion of the race advanced to the Upper Status of Savagery, was that of the bow and arrow,—a truly wonderful implement. The possessor of this device could bring down the fleetest animal and could defend himself against the Bow and arrow. most predatory. He could provide himself not only with food but with materials for clothing and for tent-making, and thus could migrate at will back from the seas and large rivers, and far into inhospitable but invigorating temperate and sub-Arctic regions. The meat diet, now for the first time freely available, probably contributed, along with the stimulating climate, to increase the physical vigour and courage of this highest savage, thus urging him along the paths of progress. Nevertheless many tribes came thus far and no further, as witness the Athapascans of the Hudson’s Bay Territory and the Indians of the valley of the Columbia.
We now come to the marvellous discovery that enabled our ancestor to make such advances upon the social conditions of his forbears as to entitle him, in the estimate of his remote descendants, to be considered as putting savagery behind him and as entering upon the Lower Status of Pottery.Barbarism. The discovery in question had to do with the practice of the art of making pottery (see Ceramics). Hitherto man had been possessed of no permanent utensils that could withstand the action of fire. He could not readily boil water except by some such cumbersome method as the dropping of heated stones into a wooden or skin receptacle. The effect upon his dietary of having at hand earthen vessels in which meat and herbs could be boiled over a fire must have been momentous. Various meats and many vegetables become highly palatable when boiled that are almost or quite inedible when merely roasted before a fire. Bones, sinews and even hides may be made to give up a modicum of nutriment in this way; and doubtless barbaric man, before whom starvation always loomed threateningly, found the crude pot an almost perennial refuge. And of course its use as a cooking utensil was only one of many ways in which the newly discovered mechanism exerted a civilizing influence.
The next great progressive movement, which carried man into the Middle Status of Barbarism, is associated with the domestication of animals in the Eastern hemisphere, and with the use of irrigation in cultivating the soil and of adobe bricks and stone in architecture in the Western Domestic animals. hemisphere. The dog was probably the first animal to be domesticated, but the sheep, the ox, the camel and the horse were doubtless added in relatively rapid succession, so soon as the idea that captive animals could be of service had been clearly conceived. Man now became a herdsman, no longer dependent for food upon the precarious chase of wild animals. Milk, procurable at all seasons, made a highly important addition to his dietary. With the aid of camel and horse he could traverse wide areas hitherto impassable, and come in contact with distant peoples. Thus commerce came to play an extended rôle in the dissemination of both commodities and ideas. In particular the nascent civilization of the Mediterranean region fell heir to numerous products of farther Asia,—gums, spices, oils, and most important of all, the cereals. The cultivation of the latter gave the finishing touch to a comprehensive and varied diet, while emphasizing the value of a fixed abode. For the first time it now became possible for large numbers of people to form localized communities. A natural consequence was the elaboration of political systems, which, however, proceeded along lines already suggested by the experience of earlier epochs. All this tended to establish and emphasize the idea of nationality, based primarily on blood-relationship; and at the same time to develop within the community itself the idea of property,—that is to say, of valuable or desirable commodities which have come into the possession of an individual through his enterprise or labour, and which should therefore be subject to his voluntary disposal. At an earlier stage of development, all property had been of communal, not of individual, ownership. It appears, then, that our mid-period barbarian had attained—if the verbal contradiction be permitted—a relatively high stage of civilization.
There remained, however, one master craft of which he had no conception. This was the art of smelting iron. When, ultimately, his descendants learned the wonderful secrets of that art, they rose in consequence to the Upper Status of Barbarism. This culminating practical invention, Iron. it will be observed, is the first of the great discoveries with which we have to do that was not primarily concerned with the question of man’s food supply. Iron, to be sure, has abundant uses in the same connexion, but its most direct and obvious utilities have to do with weapons of war and with implements calculated to promote such arts of peace as house-building, road-making and the construction of vehicles. Wood and stone could now be fashioned as never before. Houses could be built and cities walled with unexampled facility; to say nothing of the making of a multitude of minor implements and utensils hitherto quite unknown, or at best rare and costly. Nor must we overlook the aesthetic influence of edged implements, with which wood and stone could readily be sculptured when placed in the hands of a race that had long been accustomed to scratch the semblance of living forms on bone or ivory and to fashion crude images of clay. In a word, man, the “tool-making animal,” was now for the first time provided with tools worthy of his wonderful hands and yet more wonderful brain.
Thus through the application of one revolutionary invention after another, the most advanced races of men had arrived, after long ages of effort, at a relatively high stage of development. A very wide range of experiences had enabled man to evolve a complex body politic, based on a fairly secure social basis, and his brain had correspondingly developed into a relatively efficient and stable organ of thought. But as yet he had devised no means of communicating freely with other people at a distance except through the medium of verbal messages; nor had he any method by which he could transmit his experiences to posterity more securely than by fugitive and fallible oral traditions. A vague symbolization of his achievements was preserved from generation to generation in myth-tale and epic, but he knew not how to make permanent record of his history. Until he could devise a means to make such record, he must remain, in the estimate of his descendants, a barbarian, though he might be admitted to have become a highly organized and even in a broad sense a cultured being.
At length, however, this last barrier was broken. Some race or races devised a method of symbolizing events and ultimately of making even abstruse ideas tangible by means of graphic signs. In other words, a system of writing was developed. Man thus achieved a virtualWriting. conquest over time as he had earlier conquered space. He could now transmit the record of his deeds and his thoughts to remote posterity. Thus he stood at the portals of what later generations would term secure history. He had graduated out of barbarism, and become in the narrower sense of the word a civilized being. Henceforth, his knowledge, his poetical dreamings, his moral aspirations might be recorded in such form as to be read not merely by his contemporaries but by successive generations of remote posterity. The inspiring character of such a message is obvious. The validity of making this great culminating intellectual achievement the test of “civilized” existence need not be denied. But we should ill comprehend the character of the message which the earlier generations of civilized beings transmit to us from the period which we term the “dawning of history” did we not bear constantly in mind the long series of progressive stages of “savagery” and “barbarism” that of necessity preceded the final stage of “civilization” proper. The achievements of those earlier stages afforded the secure foundation for the progress of the future. A multitude of minor arts, in addition to the important ones just outlined, had been developed; and for a long time civilized man was to make no other epochal addition to the list of accomplishments that came to him as a heritage from his barbaric progenitor. Indeed, even to this day the list of such additions is not a long one, nor, judged in the relative scale, so important as might at first thought be supposed. Whoever considers the subject carefully must admit the force of Morgan’s suggestion that man’s achievements as a barbarian, considered in their relation to the sum of human progress, “transcend, in relative importance, all his subsequent works.”
Without insisting on this comparison, however, let us ask what discoveries and inventions man has made within the historical period that may fairly be ranked with the half-dozen great epochal achievements that have been put forward as furnishing the keys to all the progress of the prehistoric periods. In other words, let us sketch the history of progress during the ten thousand years or so that have elapsed since man learned the art of writing, adapting our sketch to the same scale which we have already applied to the unnumbered millenniums of the prehistoric period. The view of world-history thus outlined will be a very different one from what might be expected by the student of national history; but it will present the essentials of the progress of civilization in a suggestive light.
Without pretending to fix an exact date,—which the historical records do not at present permit,—we may assume that the most advanced race of men elaborated a system of writing not less than six thousand years before the beginning of the Christian era. Holding to the Civilization proper. terminology already suggested for the earlier periods, we may speak of man’s position during the ensuing generations as that of the First or Lowest Status of civilization. If we review the history of this period we shall find that it extends unbroken over a stretch of at least four or five thousand years. During the early part of this period such localized civilizations as those of the Egyptians, the Sumerians, the Babylonians and the Hittites rose, grew strong and passed beyond their meridian. This suggests that we must now admit the word “civilization” to yet another definition, within its larger meaning: we must speak of “a civilization,” as that of Egypt, of Babylonia, of Assyria, and we must understand thereby a localized phase of society bearing the same relation to civilization as a whole that a wave bears to the ocean or a tree to the forest. Such other localized civilizations as those of Phoenicia, Carthage, Greece, Rome, Byzantium, the Sassanids, in due course waxed and waned, leaving a tremendous imprint on national history, but creating only minor and transitory ripples in the great ocean of civilization. Progress in the elaboration of the details of earlier methods and inventions took place as a matter of course. Some nation, probably the Phoenicians, gave a new impetus to the art of writing by developing a phonetic alphabet; but this achievement, remarkable as it was in itself, added nothing fundamental to human capacity. Literatures had previously flourished through the use of hieroglyphic and syllabic symbols; and the Babylonian syllabics continued in vogue throughout western Asia for a long time after the Phoenician alphabet had demonstrated its intrinsic superiority.
Similarly the art of Egyptian and Assyrian and Greek was but the elaboration and perfection of methods that barbaric man had practised away back in the days when he was a cave-dweller. The weapons of warfare of Greek and Roman were the spear and the bow and arrow that their ancestors had used in the period of savagery, aided by sword and helmet dating from the upper period of barbarism. Greek and Roman government at their best were founded upon the system of gentes that barbaric man had profoundly studied,—as witness, for example, the federal system of the barbaric Iroquois Indians existing in America before the coming of Columbus. And if the Greeks had better literature, the Romans better roads and larger cities, than their predecessors, these are but matters of detailed development, the like of which had marked the progress of the more important arts and the introduction of less important ancillary ones in each antecedent period. The axe of steel is no new implement, but a mere perfecting of the axe of chipped flint. The Iliad represents the perfecting of an art that unnumbered generations of barbarians practised before their camp-fires.
Thus for six or seven thousand years after man achieved civilization there was rhythmic progress in many lines, but there came no great epochal invention to usher in a new ethnic period. Then, towards the close of what historians of to-day are accustomed to call the middle Great inventions of the middle ages. ages, there appeared in rapid sequence three or four inventions and a great scientific discovery that, taken together, were destined to change the entire aspect of European civilization. The inventions were gunpowder, the mariner’s compass, paper and the printing-press, three of which appear to have been brought into Europe by the Moors, whether or not they originated in the remote East. The scientific discovery which must be coupled with these inventions was the Copernican demonstration that the sun and not the earth is the centre of our planetary system. The generations of men that found themselves (1) confronted with the revolutionary conception of the universe given by the Copernican theory; (2) supplied with the new means of warfare provided by gunpowder; (3) equipped with an undreamed-of guide across the waters of the earth; and (4) enabled to promulgate knowledge with unexampled speed and cheapness through the aid of paper and printing-press—such generations of men might well be said to have entered upon a new ethnic period. The transition in their mode of thought and in their methods of practical life was as great as can be supposed to have resulted, in an early generation, from the introduction of iron, or in a yet earlier from the invention of the bow and arrow. So the Europeans of about the 15th century of the Christian era may be said to have entered upon the Second or Middle Status of civilization.
The new period was destined to be a brief one. It had compassed only about four hundred years when, towards the close of the 18th century, James Watt gave to the world the perfected steam-engine. Almost contemporaneously Arkwright and Hargreaves developed revolutionary processes Steam machinery.of spinning and weaving by machinery. Meantime James Hutton and William Smith and their successors on the one hand, and Erasmus Darwin, François Lamarck, and (a half-century later) Charles Darwin on the other, turned men’s ideas topsy-turvy by demonstrating that the world as the abiding-place of animals and man is enormously old, and that man himself instead of deteriorating from a single perfect pair six thousand years removed, has ascended from bestiality through a slow process of evolution extending over hundreds of centuries. The revolution in practical life and in the mental life of our race that followed these inventions and this new presentation of truth probably exceeded in suddenness and in its far-reaching effects the metamorphosis effected at any previous transition from one ethnic period to another. The men of the 19th century, living now in the period that may be termed the Upper Status of civilization, saw such changes effected in the practical affairs of their everyday lives as had not been wrought before during the entire historical period. Their fathers had travelled in vehicles drawn by horses, quite as their remoter ancestors had done since the time of higher barbarism. It may be doubted whether there existed in the world in the year 1800 a postal service that could compare in speed and efficiency with the express service of the Romans of the time of Caesar; far less was there a telegraph service that could compare with that of the ancient Persians. Nor was there a ship sailing the seas that a Phoenician trireme might not have overhauled. But now within the lifetime of a single man the world was covered with a network of steel rails on which locomotives drew gigantic vehicles, laden with passengers at an hourly speed almost equalling Caesar’s best journey of a day; over the land and under the seas were stretched wires along which messages coursed from continent to continent literally with the speed of lightning; and the waters of the earth were made to teem with gigantic craft propelled without sail or oar at a speed which the Phoenician captain of three thousand years ago and the English captain of the 18th century would alike have held incredible.
There is no need to give further details here of the industrial revolutions that have been achieved in this newest period of civilization, since in their broader outlines at least they are familiar to every one. Nor need we dwell upon the revolution in thought whereby man has for Social and political organization. the first time been given a clear inkling as to his origin and destiny. It suffices to point out that such periods of fermentation of ideas as this suggests have probably always been concomitant with those outbursts of creative genius that gave the world the practical inventions upon which human progress has been conditioned. The same attitude of receptivity to new ideas is pre-requisite to one form of discovery as to the other. Nor, it may be added, can either form of idea become effective for the progress of civilization except in proportion as a large body of any given generation are prepared to receive it. Doubtless here and there a dreamer played with fire, in a literal sense, for generations before the utility of fire as a practical aid to human progress came to be recognized in practice. And—to seek an illustration at the other end of the scale—we know that the advanced thinkers of Greece and Rome believed in the antiquity of the earth and in the evolution of man two thousand years before the coming of Darwin. We have but partly solved the mysteries of the progress of civilization, then, when we have pointed out that each tangible stage of progress owed its initiative to a new invention or discovery of science. To go to the root of the matter we must needs explain how it came about that a given generation of men was in mental mood to receive the new invention or discovery.
The pursuit of this question would carry us farther into the realm of communal and racial psychology—to say nothing of the realm of conjecture—than comports with the purpose of this article. It must suffice to point out that alertness of mind—that all mentality—is, in the last analysis, a reaction to the influences of the environment. It follows that man may subject himself to new influences and thus give his mind a new stimulus by changing his habitat. A fundamental secret of progress is revealed in this fact. Man probably never would have evolved from savagery had he remained in the Tropics where he doubtless originated. But successive scientific inventions enabled him, as has been suggested, to migrate to distant latitudes, and thus more or less involuntarily to become the recipient of new creative and progressive impulses. After migrations in many directions had resulted in the development of divers races, each with certain capacities and acquirements due to its unique environment, there was opportunity for the application of the principle of environmental stimulus in an indirect way, through the mingling and physical intermixture of one race with another. Each of the great localized civilizations of antiquity appears to have owed its prominence in part at least—perhaps very largely—to such intermingling of two or more races. Each of these civilizations began to decay so soon as the nation had remained for a considerable number of generations in its localized environment, and had practically ceased to receive accretions from distant races at approximately the same stage of development. There is a suggestive lesson for present-day civilization in that thought-compelling fact. Further evidence of the application of the principle of environmental stimulus, operating through changed habitat and racial intermixture, is furnished by the virility of the colonial peoples of our own day. The receptiveness to new ideas and the rapidity of material progress of Americans, South Africans and Australians are proverbial. No one doubts, probably, that one or another of these countries will give a new stimulus to the progress of civilization, through the promulgation of some great epochal discovery, in the not distant future. Again, the value of racial intermingling is shown yet nearer home in the long-continued vitality of the British nation, which is explicable, in some measure at least, by the fact that the Celtic element held aloof from the Anglo-Saxon element century after century sufficiently to maintain racial integrity, yet mingled sufficiently to give and receive the fresh stimulus of “new blood.” It is interesting in this connexion to examine the map of Great Britain with reference to the birthplaces of the men named above as being the originators of the inventions and discoveries that made the close of the 18th century memorable as ushering in a new ethnic era. It may be added that these names suggest yet another element in the causation of progress: the fact, namely, that, however necessary racial receptivity may be to the dynamitic upheaval of a new ethnic era, it is after all individual genius that applies its detonating spark.
Without further elaboration of this aspect of the subject it may be useful to recapitulate the analysis of the evolution of civilization above given, prior to characterizing it from another standpoint. It appears that the entire period of human progress up to the present may be Nine periods of progress. divided into nine periods which, if of necessity more or less arbitrary, yet are not without certain warrant of logic. They may be defined as follows: (1) The Lower Period of Savagery, terminating with the discovery and application of the uses of fire. (2) The Middle Period of Savagery, terminating with the invention of the bow and arrow. (3) The Upper Period of Savagery, terminating with the invention of pottery. (4) The Lower Period of Barbarism, terminating with the domestication of animals. (5) The Middle Period of Barbarism, terminating with the discovery of the process of smelting iron ore. (6) The Upper Period of Barbarism, terminating with the development of a system of writing meeting the requirements of literary composition. (7) The First Period of Civilization (proper) terminating with the introduction of gunpowder. (8) The Second Period of Civilization, terminating with the invention of a practical steam-engine. (9) The Upper Period of Civilization, which is still in progress, but which, as will be suggested in a moment, is probably nearing its termination.
It requires but a glance at the characteristics of these successive epochs to show the ever-increasing complexity of the inventions that delimit them and of the conditions of life that they connote. Were we to attempt to characterize in a few phrases the entire story of achievement thus outlined, we might say that during the three stages of Savagery man was attempting to make himself master of the geographical climates. His unconscious ideal was, to gain a foothold and the means of subsistence in every zone. During the three periods of Barbarism the ideal of conquest was extended to the beasts of the field, the vegetable world, and the mineral contents of the earth’s crust. During the three periods of Civilization proper the ideal of conquest has become still more intellectual and subtle, being now extended to such abstractions as an analysis of speech-sounds, and to such intangibles as expanding gases and still more elusive electric currents: in other words, to the forces of nature, no less than to tangible substances. Hand in hand with this growing complexity of man’s relations with the external world has gone a like increase of complexity in the social and political organizations that characterize man’s relations with his fellowmen. In savagery the family expanded into the tribe; in barbarism the tribe developed into the nation. The epoch of civilization proper is aptly named, because it has been a time in which citizenship, in the narrower national significance, has probably been developed to its apogee. Throughout this period, in every land, the highest virtue has been considered to be patriotism,—by which must be understood an instinctive willingness on the part of every individual to defend even with his life the interests of the nation into which he chances to be born, regardless of whether the national cause in which he struggles be in any given case good or bad, right or wrong. The communal judgment of this epoch pronounces any man a traitor who will not uphold his own nation even in a wrong cause—and the word “traitor” marks the utmost brand of ignominy.
But while the idea of nationality has thus been accentuated,
there has been a never-ending struggle within the bounds of the
nation itself to adjust the relations of one citizen to
another. The ideas that might makes right, that the
strong man must dominate the weak, that leadership
Nationality and cosmopol-
itanism. in the community properly belongs to the man who is physically most competent to lead—these ideas were a perfectly natural, and indeed an inevitable, outgrowth of the conditions under which man fought his way up through savagery and barbarism. Man in the first period of civilization inherited these ideas, along with the conditions of society that were their concomitants. So throughout the periods when the oriental civilizations of Egypt and Babylonia and Assyria and Persia were dominant, a despotic form of government was accepted as the natural order of things. It does not appear that any other form was even considered as a practicality. A despot might indeed be overthrown, but only to make way for the coronation of another despot. A little later the Greeks and Romans modified the conception of a heaven-sent individual monarch; but they went no further than to substitute a heaven-favoured community, with specially favoured groups (Patricii) within the community. With this, national egoism reached its climax; for each people regarded its own citizens as the only exemplars of civilization, openly branding all the rest of the world as “barbarians,” fit subjects for the exaction of tribute or for the imposition of the bonds of actual slavery. During the middle ages there was a reaction towards individualism as opposed to nationalism: but the entire system of feudalism, with its clearly recognized conditions of over-lordship and of vassaldom, gave expression, no less clearly than oriental despotism and classical “democracy” had done, to the idea of individual inequality; of divergence of moral and legal status based on natural inheritance. Thus this idea, a reminiscence of barbarism, maintained its dominance throughout the first period of civilization.
But gunpowder, marking the transition to the second period of civilization, came as a great levelling influence. With its aid the weakest peasant might prove more than a match for the most powerful knight. Before its assaults the castle of the lord ceased to be an impregnable fortress. And while gunpowder thus levelled down the power of the mighty, the printing-press levelled up the intelligence, and hence the power and influence of the lowly. Meantime the mariner’s compass opened up new territories beyond the seas, and in due course men of lowly origin were seen to attain to wealth and power through commercial pursuits, thus tending to break in upon the established social order. In the colonial territories themselves all men were subjected more or less to the same perils and dependent upon their own efforts. Success and prominence in the community came not as a birthright, but as the result of demonstrated fitness. The great lesson that the interests of all members of a community are, in the last analysis, mutual could be more clearly distinguished in these small colonies than in larger and older bodies politic. Through various channels, therefore, in the successive generations of this middle period of civilization, the idea gained ground that intelligence and moral worth, rather than physical prowess, should be the test of greatness; that it is incumbent on the strong in the interests of the body politic to protect the weak; and that, in the long run, the best interests of the community are conserved if all its members, without exception, are given moral equality before the law. This idea of equal rights and privileges for all members of the community—for each individual “the greatest amount of liberty consistent with a like liberty of every other individual”—first found expression as a philosophical doctrine towards the close of the 18th century; at which time also tentative efforts were made to put it into practice. It may be said therefore to represent the culminating sociological doctrine of the middle period of civilization,—the ideal towards which all the influences of the period had tended to impel the race.
It will be observed, however, that this ideal of individual equality within the body politic in no direct wise influences the status of the body politic itself as the centre of a localized civilization that may be regarded as in a sense antagonistic to all other similarly localized civilizations. If there were any such influence, it would rather operate in the direction of accentuating the patriotism of the member of a democratical community, as against that of the subject of a despot, through the sense of personal responsibility developed in the former. The developments of the middle period of civilization cannot be considered, therefore, to have tended to decrease the spirit of nationality, with its concomitant penalty of what is sometimes called provincialism. The history of this entire period, as commonly presented, is largely made up of the records of international rivalries and jealousies, perennially culminating in bitterly contested wars. It was only towards the close of the epoch that the desirability of free commercial intercourse among nations began to find expression as a philosophical creed through the efforts of Quesnay and his followers; and the doctrine that both parties to an international commercial transaction are gainers thereby found its first clear expression in the year 1776 in the pages of Condillac and of Adam Smith.
But the discoveries that ushered in the third period of civilization were destined to work powerfully from the outset for the breaking down of international barriers, though, of course, their effects would not be at once manifest. Thus the substitution of steam power for water power, besides giving a tremendous impetus to manufacturing in general, mapped out new industrial centres in regions that nature had supplied with coal but not always with other raw materials. To note a single result, England became the manufacturing centre of the world, drawing its raw materials from every corner of the globe; but in so doing it ceased to be self-supporting as regards the production of food-supplies. While growing in national wealth, as a result of the new inventions, England has therefore lost immeasurably in national self-sufficiency and independence; having become in large measure dependent upon other countries both for the raw materials without which her industries must perish and for the foods to maintain the very life of her people.
What is true of England in this regard is of course true in greater or less measure of all other countries. Everywhere, thanks to the new mechanisms that increase industrial efficiency, there has been an increasing tendency to specialization; and since the manufacturer must often find his raw materials in one part of the world and his markets in another, this implies an ever-increasing intercommunication and interdependence between the nations. This spirit is obviously fostered by the new means of transportation by locomotive and steamship, and by the electric communication that enables the Londoner, for example, to transact business in New York or in Tokio with scarcely an hour’s delay; and that puts every one in touch at to-day’s breakfast table with the happenings of the entire world. Thanks to the new mechanisms, national isolation is no longer possible; globe-trotting has become a habit with thousands of individuals of many nations; and Orient and Occident, representing civilizations that for thousands of years were almost absolutely severed and mutually oblivious of each other, have been brought again into close touch for mutual education and betterment. The Western mind has learned with amazement that the aforetime Terra Incognita of the far East has nurtured a gigantic civilization having ideals in many ways far different from our own. The Eastern mind has proved itself capable, in self-defence, of absorbing the essential practicalities of Western civilization within a single generation. Some of the most important problems of world-civilization of the immediate future hinge upon the mutual relations of these two long-severed communities, branched at some early stage of progress to opposite hemispheres of the globe, but now brought by the new mechanisms into daily and even hourly communication.
While the new conditions of the industrial world have thus tended to develop a new national outlook, there has come about, as a result of the scientific discoveries already referred to, a no less significant broadening of the mental and spiritual horizons. Here also the trend is away from Modern humanism. the narrowly egoistic and towards the cosmopolitan view. About the middle of the 19th century Dr Pritchard declared that many people debated whether it might not be permissible for the Australian settlers to shoot the natives as food for their dogs; some of the disputants arguing that savages were without the pale of human brotherhood. To-day the thesis that all mankind are one brotherhood needs no defence. The most primitive of existing aborigines are regarded merely as brethren who, through some defect or neglect of opportunity, have lagged behind in the race. Similarly the defective and criminal classes that make up so significant a part of the population of even our highest present-day civilizations, are no longer regarded with anger or contempt, as beings who are suffering just punishment for wilful transgressions, but are considered as pitiful victims of hereditary and environmental influences that they could neither choose nor control. Insanity is no longer thought of as demoniac possession, but as the most lamentable of diseases.
The changed attitude towards savage races and defective classes affords tangible illustrations of a fundamental transformation of point of view which doubtless represents the most important result of the operation of new scientific knowledge in the course of the 19th century. It is a transformation that is only partially effected as yet, to be sure; but it is rapidly making headway, and when fully achieved it will represent, probably, the most radical metamorphosis of mental view that has taken place in the entire course of the historical period. The essence of the new view is this: to recognize the universality and the invariability of natural law; stated otherwise, to understand that the word “supernatural” involves a contradiction of terms and has in fact no meaning. Whoever has grasped the full import of this truth is privileged to sweep mental horizons wider by far than ever opened to the view of any thinker of an earlier epoch. He is privileged to forecast, as the sure heritage of the future, a civilization freed from the last ghost of superstition—an Age of Reason in which mankind shall at last find refuge from the hosts of occult and invisible powers, the fearsome galaxies of deities and demons, which have haunted him thus far at every stage of his long journey through savagery, barbarism and civilization. Doubtless here and there a thinker, even in the barbaric eras, may have realized that these ghosts that so influenced the everyday lives of his fellows were but children of the imagination. But the certainty that such is the case could not have come with the force of demonstration even to the most clear-sighted thinker until 19th-century science had investigated with penetrating vision the realm of molecule and atom; had revealed the awe-inspiring principle of the conservation of energy; and had offered a comprehensible explanation of the evolution of one form of life from another, from monad to man, that did not presuppose the intervention of powers more “supernatural” than those that operate about us everywhere to-day.
The stupendous import of these new truths could not, of course, make itself evident to the generality of mankind in a single generation, when opposed to superstitions of a thousand generations’ standing. But the new knowledge has made its way more expeditiously than could have been anticipated; and its effects are seen on every side, even where its agency is scarcely recognized. As a single illustration, we may note the familiar observation that the entire complexion of orthodox teaching of religion has been more altered in the past fifty years than in two thousand years before. This of course is not entirely due to the influence of physical and biological science; no effect has a unique cause, in the complex sociological scheme. Archaeology, comparative philology and textual criticism have also contributed their share; and the comparative study of religions has further tended to broaden the outlook and to make for universality, as opposed to insularity, of view. It is coming to be more and more widely recognized that all theologies are but the reflex of the more or less faulty knowledge of the times in which they originate, that the true and abiding purpose of religion should be the practical betterment of humanity—the advancement of civilization in the best sense of the word; and that this end may perhaps be best subserved by different systems of theology, adapted to the varied genius of different times and divers races. Wherefore there is not the same enthusiastic desire to-day that found expression a generation ago, to impose upon the cultured millions of the East a religion that seems to them alien to their manner of thought, unsuited to their needs and less distinctly ethical in teaching than their own religions.
Such are but a few of the illustrations that might be cited from many fields to suggest that the mind of our generation is becoming receptive to a changed point of view that augurs the coming of a new ethnic era. If one may be permitted to enter very tentatively the field of prophecy, it seems not unlikely that the great revolutionary invention which will close the third period of civilization and usher in a new era is already being evolved. It seems not over-hazardous to predict that the air-ship, in one form or another, is destined to be the mechanism that will give the new impetus to human civilization; that the next era will have as one of its practical ideals the conquest of the air; and that this conquest will become a factor in the final emergence of humanity from the insularity of nationalism to the broad view of cosmopolitanism, towards which, as we have seen, the tendencies of the present era are verging. That the gap to be covered is a vastly wide one no one need be reminded who recalls that the civilized nations of Europe, together with America and Japan, are at present accustomed to spend more than three hundred million pounds each year merely that they may keep armaments in readiness to fly at one another’s throats should occasion arise. Formidable as these armaments now seem, however, the developments of the not very distant future will probably make them quite obsolete; and sooner or later, as science develops yet more deadly implements of destruction, the time must come when communal intelligence will rebel at the suicidal folly of the international attitude that characterized, for example, the opening decade of the 20th century. At some time, after the first period of cosmopolitanism shall be ushered in as a tenth ethnic period, it will come to be recognized that there is a word fraught with fuller meanings even than the word patriotism. That word is humanitarianism. The enlightened generation that realizes the full implications of that word will doubtless marvel that their ancestors of the third period of civilization should have risen up as nations and slaughtered one another by thousands to settle a dispute about a geographical boundary. Such a procedure will appear to have been quite as barbarous as the cannibalistic practices of their yet more remote ancestors, and distinctly less rational, since cannibalism might sometimes save its practiser from starvation, whereas warfare of the civilized type was a purely destructive agency.
Equally obvious must it appear to the cosmopolite of some generation of the future that quality rather than mere numbers must determine the efficiency of any given community. Race suicide will then cease to be a bugbear; and it will no longer be considered rational to keep up the census at the cost of propagating low orders of intelligence, to feed the ranks of paupers, defectives and criminals. On the contrary it will be thought fitting that man should become the conscious arbiter of his own racial destiny to the extent of applying whatever laws of heredity he knows or may acquire in the interests of his own species, as he has long applied them in the case of domesticated animals. The survival and procreation of the unfit will then cease to be a menace to the progress of civilization. It does not follow that all men will be brought to a dead level of equality of body and mind, nor that individual competition will cease; but the average physical mental status of the race will be raised immeasurably through the virtual elimination of that vast company of defectives which to-day constitutes so threatening an obstacle to racial progress. There are millions of men in Europe and America to-day whose whole mental equipment—despite the fact that they have been taught to read and write—is far more closely akin to the average of the Upper Period of Barbarism than to the highest standards of their own time; and these undeveloped or atavistic persons have on the average more offspring than are produced by the more highly cultured and intelligent among their contemporaries. “Race suicide” is thereby prevented, but the progress of civilization is no less surely handicapped. We may well believe that the cosmopolite of the future, aided by science, will find rational means to remedy this strange illogicality. In so doing he will exercise a more consciously purposeful function, and perhaps a more directly potent influence, in determining the line of human progress than he has hitherto attempted to assume, notwithstanding the almost infinitely varied character of the experiments through which he has worked his way from savagery to civilization.
All these considerations tend to define yet more clearly the ultimate goal towards which the progressive civilization of past and present appears to be trending. The contemplation of this goal brings into view the outlines of a vastly suggestive evolutionary cycle. For it appears that Ethical evolution. the social condition of cosmopolite man, so far as the present-day view can predict it, will represent a state of things, magnified to world-dimensions, that was curiously adumbrated by the social system of the earliest savage. At the very beginning of the journey through savagery, mankind, we may well believe, consisted of a limited tribe, representing no great range or variety of capacity, and an almost absolute identity of interests. Thanks to this community of interests,—which was fortified by the recognition of blood-relationship among all members of the tribe,—a principle which we now define as “the greatest ultimate good to the greatest number” found practical, even if unwitting, recognition; and therein lay the germs of all the moral development of the future. But obvious identity of interests could be recognized only so long as the tribe remained very small. So soon as its numbers became large, patent diversities of interest, based on individual selfishness, must appear, to obscure the larger harmony. And as savage man migrated hither and thither, occupying new regions and thus developing new tribes and ultimately a diversity of “races,” all idea of community of interests, as between race and race, must have been absolutely banished. It was the obvious and patent fact that each race was more or less at rivalry, in disharmony, with all the others. In the hard struggle for subsistence, the expansion of one race meant the downfall of another. So far as any principle of “greatest good” remained in evidence, it applied solely to the members of one’s own community, or even to one’s particular phratry or gens.
Barbaric man, thanks to his conquest of animal and vegetable nature, was able to extend the size of the unified community, and hence to develop through diverse and intricate channels the application of the principle of “greatest good” out of which the idea of right and wrong was elaborated. But quite as little as the savage did he think of extending the application of the principle beyond the bounds of his own race. The laws with which he gave expression to his ethical conceptions applied, of necessity, to his own people alone. The gods with which his imagination peopled the world were local in habitat, devoted to the interests of his race only, and at enmity with the gods of rival peoples. As between nation and nation, the only principle of ethics that ever occurred to him was that might makes right. Civilized man for a long time advanced but slowly upon this view of international morality. No Egyptian or Babylonian or Hebrew or Greek or Roman ever hesitated to attack a weaker nation on the ground that it would be wrong to do so. And few indeed are the instances in which even a modern nation has judged an international question on any other basis than that of self-interest. It was not till towards the close of the 19th century that an International Peace Conference gave tangible witness that the idea of fellowship of nations was finding recognition; and in the same recent period history has recorded the first instance of a powerful nation vanquishing a weaker one without attempting to exact at least an “indemnifying” tribute.
But the citizen of the future, if the auguries of the present prove true, will be able to apply principles of right and wrong without reference to national boundaries. He will understand that the interests of the entire human family are, in the last analysis, common interests. The census through which he attempts to estimate “the greatest good of the greatest number” must include, not his own nation merely, but the remotest member of the human race. On this universal basis must be founded that absolute standard of ethics which will determine the relations of cosmopolite man with his fellows. When this ideal is attained, mankind will again represent a single family, as it did in the day when our primeval ancestors first entered on the pathway of progress; but it will be a family whose habitat has been extended from the narrow glade of some tropical forest to the utmost habitable confines of the globe. Each member of this family will be permitted to enjoy the greatest amount of liberty consistent with the like liberty of every other member; but the interests of the few will everywhere be recognized as subservient to the interests of the many, and such recognition of mutual interests will establish the practical criterion for the interpretation of international affairs.
But such an extension of the altruistic principle by no means presupposes the elimination of egoistic impulses—of individualism. On the contrary, we must suppose that man at the highest stages of culture will be, even as was the savage, a seeker after the greatest attainable degree of comfort Progress and efficiency.for the least necessary expenditure of energy. The pursuit of this ideal has been from first to last the ultimate impelling force in nature urging man forward. The only change has been a change in the interpretation of the ideal, an altered estimate as to what manner of things are most worth the purchase-price of toil and self-denial. That the things most worth the having cannot, generally speaking, be secured without such toil and self-denial, is a lesson that began to be inculcated while man was a savage, and that has never ceased to be reiterated generation after generation. It is the final test of progressive civilization that a given effort shall produce a larger and larger modicum of average individual comfort. That is why the great inventions that have increased man’s efficiency as a worker have been the necessary prerequisites to racial progress. Stated otherwise, that is why the industrial factor is everywhere the most powerful factor in civilization; and why the economic interpretation is the most searching interpretation of history at its every stage. It is the basal fact that progress implies increased average working efficiency—a growing ratio between average effort and average achievement—that gives sure warrant for such a prognostication as has just been attempted concerning the future industrial unification of our race. The efforts of civilized man provide him, on the average, with a marvellous range of comforts, as contrasted with those that rewarded the most strenuous efforts of savage or barbarian, to whom present-day necessaries would have been undreamed-of luxuries. But the ideal ratio between effort and result has by no means been achieved; nor will it have been until the inventive brain of man has provided a civilization in which a far higher percentage of citizens will find the life-vocations to which they are best adapted by nature, and in which, therefore, the efforts of the average worker may be directed with such vigour, enthusiasm and interest as can alone make for true efficiency; a civilization adjusted to such an economic balance that the average man may live in reasonable comfort without heart-breaking strain, and yet accumulate a sufficient surplus to ensure ease and serenity for his declining days. Such, seemingly, should be the normal goal of progressive civilization. Doubtless mankind in advancing towards that goal will institute many changes that could by no possibility be foretold, but (to summarize the views just presented) it seems a safe augury from present-day conditions and tendencies that the important lines of progress will include (1) the organic betterment of the race through wise application of the laws of heredity; (2) the lessening of international jealousies and the consequent minimizing of the drain upon communal resources that attends a military régime; and (3) an ever-increasing movement towards the industrial and economic unification of the world. (H. S. Wi.)
Authorities.—A list of works dealing with the savage and barbarous periods of human development will be found appended to the article Anthropology. Special reference may here be made to E. B. Tylor’s Early History of Mankind (1865), Primitive Culture (1871) and Anthropology (1881); Lord Avebury’s Prehistoric Times (new edition, 1900) and Origin of Civilization (new edition, 1902); A. H. Keane’s Man Past and Present (1899); and Lewis H. Morgan’s Ancient Society (1877). The earliest attempt at writing a history of civilization which has any value for the 20th-century reader was F. Guizot’s in 1828–1830, a handy English translation by William Hazlitt being included in Bohn’s Standard Library under the title of The History of Civilization. The earlier lectures, delivered at the Old Sorbonne, deal with the general progress of European civilization, whilst the greater part of the work is an account of the growth of civilization in France. Guizot’s attitude is somewhat antiquated, but this book still has usefulness as a storehouse of facts. T. H. Buckle’s famous work, The History of Civilization in England (1857–1861), though only a gigantic unfinished introduction to the author’s proposed enterprise, holds an important place in historical literature on account of the new method which it introduced, and has given birth to a considerable number of valuable books on similar lines, such as Lecky’s History of European Morals (1869) and Rise and Influence of Rationalism in Europe (1865). J. W. Draper’s History of the Intellectual Development of Europe (1861) undertook, from the American stand-point, “the labour of arranging the evidence offered by the intellectual history of Europe in accordance with physiological principles, so as to illustrate the orderly progress of civilization.” Its objective treatment and wealth of learning still give it great value to the student. Since the third quarter of the 19th century it may be said that all serious historical work has been more or less a history of civilization as displayed in all countries and ages, and a bibliography of the works bearing on the subject would be coextensive with the catalogue of a complete historical library. Special mention, however, may be made of such important and suggestive works as C. H. Pearson’s National Life and Character (1893); Benjamin Kidd’s Social Evolution (1894) and Principles of Western Civilization (1902); Edward Eggleston’s Transit of Civilization (1901); C. Seignobos’s Histoire de la civilisation (1887); C. Faulmann’s Illustrirte Culturgeschichte (1881); G. Ducoudray’s Histoire de la civilisation (1886); J. von Hellwald’s Kulturgeschichte (1896); J. Lippert’s Kulturgeschichte der Menschheit (1886); O. Henne-am-Rhyn’s Die Kultur der Vergangenheit, Gegenwart und Zukunft (1890); G. Kurth’s Origines de la civilisation moderne (1886), &c. The vast collection of modern works on sociology, from Herbert Spencer onwards, should also be consulted; see bibliography attached to the article Sociology. The historical method on which practically all the articles of the present edition of the Ency. Brit. are planned, makes the whole work itself in essentials the most comprehensive history of civilization in existence.