Enlightenment ideals ...

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Enlightenment ideals ...

From Brian K. Yoder

Published before 2005


I think that attitudes about race and sex in 19th century Europe and America are rather skewed by historians and commentators with contemporary fish to fry. What was remarkable about the 19th century in these areas was not how backward people's ideas on these topics were, but how for the first time in history they were not so backward. Remember, until that time every major culture in history had engaged in slavery, and pretty serious racial/ethnic provincialism. The astounding thing about 19th century Europe and America was that they eliminated slavery and started doing crazy new things like letting women vote, own property, and so on. Of course these changes for the better didn't happen overnight and it wasn't instantly perfect (how could it have been otherwise?) but overall I think that Victorians and their contemporaries primarily deserve credit for moving away from these evils, not blame for not having done so instantly and perfectly.

--Brian