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HIS 389 Race, Progress & Civilization in Anglo-American Thought from the 17th to the 20th Centuries Communication & Journalism Program Fall 2021 Semester CEA & AAU Hybrid - Prague

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HIS 389 Race, Progress & Civilization in Anglo-American Thought from the 17th to the 20th Centuries

HIS 389 Race, Progress & Civilization in Anglo-American Thought from the 17th to the 20th Centuries Course Overview


CEA CAPA Partner Institution: Anglo-American University
Location: Prague, Czech Republic
Primary Subject Area: History
Instruction in: English
Transcript Source: Partner Institution
Course Details: Level 300
Recommended Semester Credits: 3
Contact Hours: 42


The Enlightenment tended to assume that human nature was similar everywhere, and that civilisations advanced according to universal material and environmental laws. From the late 18th century through to the first half of the 20th century, this universalist model was challenged by a growing belief in human difference - and human inequality. Throughout the 19th century, materialist explanations of human progress based on universal developmental laws would gradually give way to theories of human order and progress based upon racial hierarchy as the determining factor in historical development. Racial doctrines which justified slavery and imperialism also increasingly provided nineteenth century anthropologists, archaeologists and historians with the explanation for the rise of civilisation itself.

But throughout the 19th century, such inequitable visions of progress were challenged by the continuity of the Enlightenment tradition in the form of theories of technologically-driven progress (the Danish Three Age system), universal stages of material and mental development (Darwin, Tylor and Lubbock) or economic development and class struggle (Marx and his followers).

The course centres upon the tension between theories of progress and those of degeneration. Between conceptions of the human past envisaged as a primaeval Arcadia of ?Noble Savages,? and one characterised by poverty, ignorance and ?nasty, brutish and short? lives. Between the rise of civilisation understood as a universal process of progression through universal stages of social, religious and economic development on one hand, and theories which saw civilisation as arising in one place and being spread to other areas ? diffusionism ? often through the presumed activity of ?superior? racial elements.
The seminar will be based upon the interpretation of original documents. It is intended as a course in intellectual, rather than social and political, history. The seminar will be concentrate on British and North American anthropology, although the work of some relevant German (F. Max Muller, Baron Christian Carl Josias Bunsen and Rudolf Virchow), Danish (Thomsen and Worsaae) and French thinkers (Renan and Gobineau) will also feature. (No knowledge of these languages is necessary or assumed, however.)

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