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Index: Spring-Summer Serial 2012

The Invention of the Modern World 17.

Spring-Summer Serial 2012. Chapter 17: THE ENGLISH PATH By Alan Macfarlane. THERE ARE FOUR possible views about when ‘The Great Divergence’ which led to our modern world began.  One is that it is a very ancient divergence. This would argue that in terms, not of productive output, but of religion, politics, society, ecology, economic organization […]

The Invention of the Modern World 16.

Alan Macfarlane: “It was this pugnacious, self-confident, independent character which many thought was the secret of English success in the nineteenth century. Tocqueville wrote ‘seeing the Englishman, certain of the support of his laws, relying on himself and unaware of any obstacle except the limit of his own powers, acting without constraint; seeing him inspired by the sense that he can do anything, look restlessly at what now is, always in search of the best, seeing him like that, I am in no hurry to inquire whether nature has scooped out ports for him, and given him coal and iron. The reason for his commercial prosperity is not there at all: it is in himself.'”

The Invention of the Modern World 15.

Alan Macfarlane: The Anglican Church…seems to have operated very much like English law – as a form of oil which lay between the different spheres of English life. It tolerated ambiguities and conflicts and adjudicated between them.

The Invention of the Modern World 14.

Alan Macfarlane: America faced the future and not the past. England is a hybrid case. It reverences and tries to preserve the past and is in some way a vast museum. Yet it also systematically and largely successfully forgets the divisions and conflicts, thus allowing a sense of unity, a combining together at the cenotaph, or the King’s College Carols. ‘Let bygones be bygones’ was a favourite phrase of my mother’s parents and many English would agree.

The Invention of the Modern World 13.

Alan Macfarlane: ‘More important than specific inventions or events were other less direct features. One was that the universities, along with the Inns of Court, preserved a tradition of enquiry by contest, by confrontation, by argument and disputation, by putting forward a hypothesis and testing it. Francis Bacon summarized this in what we call the ‘experimental method’. It sped up the evolution of ideas in the same way as selective breeding of animals sped up stock improvement. And both changed the world.’

The Invention of the Modern World 12.

Alan Macfarlane: ‘The system of grammar and public schools and the university education in England is unusual. To a considerable extent, the system was designed to teach people to think – to remember, to argue, to disagree, to try out new ideas, to invent new solutions, to persuade others.’

The Invention of the Modern World 11.

Alan Macfarlane: ‘If the essence of modernity is the separation and tension between the contrary demands of politics, religion, economy and society, it is the legal system which holds them in balance – and which underpins them all. It is difficult to conceive of a game of football or cricket without rules, referee or umpire. ‘

The Invention of the Modern World 10.

Alan Macfarlane: ‘Finally,’ said Toqueville, ‘the Englishman’s great objection to allowing the government to do his business even well, is simply his wish to do it himself. This passion for being master at home, even to act foolishly, essentially characterises the British race. “I had rather plough badly for myself than give up the stilts into the hands of the government”.’

The Invention of the Modern World 9

Spring-Summer Serial 2012. Chapter 9: CIVIL SOCIETY  By Alan Macfarlane. THE ESSENCE OF modernity is the elimination of all three traditional means of enforcing co-operation – kinship, an absolutist State and an absolutist Church.  Yet modern societies, if anything, need more self-sacrifice of the individual for the general good than ever. How can this be […]

The Invention of the Modern World 8.

Alan Macfarlane: The spread of the modern family system was noticed as something that was happening all over Western Europe in the nineteenth century and since then has spread over the world.[1. See Goode, World.] For long it was believed that the ‘modern’ family system with its bundle of characteristics was a product of the disruption of the industrial and urban revolutions – with the entire world having an ancien regime system before that.

The Invention of the Modern World 7.

Alan Macfarlane: One sign of ‘modernity’ is the importance of competitive games and sports. Here we find one of the earliest and most important of British exports, including the games which can claim to be the new world religion – cricket and football. India is united by cricket, and Brazil by football…Playing games of all kinds was a hugely important and old phenomenon in Britain – we see it in art, literature and other sources from the Middle Ages. To a very considerable extent, the ‘imagined Empire’ of Britain was held together by games.

The Invention of the Modern World 6.

Spring-Summer Serial 2012. Chapter 6: CASTE AND CLASS  By Alan Macfarlane. IT WAS TOCQUEVILLE who first brought home to me the importance and peculiarity of the English class system.  As a French nobleman who had watched the Revolution in France, visited America, and married an English lady, he saw something which was almost invisible to […]

The Invention of the Modern World 5.

Alan Macfarlane: ‘By the end of the seventeenth century there could be no doubt in Englishmen’s minds that, along with Holland, they were living in the wealthiest land in the world. “The working manufacturing people of England eat the fat, and drink the sweet, live better, and fare better, than the working poor of any other nation in Europe…

The Invention of the Modern World 4.

Spring-Summer Serial 2012. Chapter 4: THE ORIGINS OF CAPITALISM By Alan Macfarlane. THE INDUSTRIAL AND agricultural revolutions were part of something even bigger – namely market capitalism, a complex set of attitudes, beliefs, institutions and networks within which economy and technology are situated. The quintessential features of this system have often been described. At its […]

The Invention of the Modern World 3.

Spring-Summer Serial 2012. Chapter 3: MODERN TECHNOLOGY By Alan Macfarlane. IT IS USUAL to separate the industrial and agricultural revolutions, but in the short space here available, I shall treat them together and over a much longer time frame than is normal. The final break-through to steam power in the later eighteenth century is only […]