(18th century – 1980s)

The United States Constitution was drafted by scholars of the Enlightenment. It established the US as the first major country with no king or state religion. The American model of democracy spread through the Western world after WWII.

The time scale of the last few centuries is probably the most widely studied period in any history curriculum.  In fact, it would be fair to argue that this is the most over-represented time scale in the collective consciousness.  That is a blessing and a curse for an overview like this book.  The 18th – 20th centuries were so fast-paced, and so well memorialized, that it would be literally impossible to stuff a thorough chronology into one chapter.  On the other hand, you are probably already so familiar with George Washington and Adolf Hitler that I won’t need to waste much time introducing them.  I am forced to take a step back to analyze the broadest of trends.  Rather than rehashing the world wars battle by battle, I will tackle the more abstract theses of why this chapter had to climax in such a catastrophe, and what the world learned from it.

With such major potboilers as the American, French, and Russian Revolutions, world wars, post-colonialism, and the UN, the headlines of the last few centuries are dominated by geopolitical history.  We cannot overlook the silent but pervasive trends that were changing the world down at the level of common man.  From the Industrial Revolution to the internet, from universal human rights to birth control and that head-spinning decade of the 1960s, lifestyles changed the world from the ground up.  This was the period when “we the people” started to steal the show.

Download Ch. 2 on PDF

I. The Enlightenment and its Revolutions

II. Industry

III. The World Wars

IV. Modern Culture

V. Summary and Conclusions

VI. Chapter 2 Margin Notes (blog posts about ongoing research)

Image:  National Archives and Records Administration, public domain

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