The Hope and Optimism of the 19th Century

I have always been amazed at the confidence that mankind has had in itself throughout the 19th century.  Everyone looked to the future with hope.  They knew all the way down to their bones that life would be better for their children than it was for them.  I remember reading old news papers for history papers and being so interested in how optimistic they were.   At the end of the 19th century and at the turn of the 20th century, all the newspapers in the country wrote about how amazing the inventions were and how much progress had taken place in the last century.  People were amazed by technology and wrote how someday soon human beings would invent the “Aeroplane” and reach the heavens for the first time in history.  Human ingenuity seemed limitless.  All the problems of the world seemed solvable (it is interesting to compare this to the yawn that modern civilization let out when we passed into the 21st Century with much greater technology.)

It was an era of peace throughout civilization with only small skirmishes happening every so often on the periphery.  There was not a major war between any of the European powers for almost a century.  For the first time in history a middle class rose up and was able to live at and above a bare subsistence level.  They were able to buy things that used to be reserved for the kings of old. The most popular books at the time were about the immigrant from Europe coming over to America to work in a factory and eventually becoming a Titan of the industry.  These were not just stories either, this stuff actually happened.  It was thought that a resourceful individual could accomplish anything with ingenuity, hard work, and a little luck.  No longer did people have to be born with noble blood to become influential in the world.  No longer did people feel that their destinies were somehow manipulated by powers outside their control.  Politics was more like a spectator sport because bureaucrats had such little power to influence people in any significant manner.

How collectivist philosophy eventual brought it all down is a sad story for another day but, here is a good video on what it was like before.

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