The Politics of Progress: The Origins and Development of the Commercial Republic, 1600-1835

The Politics of Progress: The Origins and Development of the Commercial Republic, 1600-1835

The Politics of Progress: The Origins and Development of the Commercial Republic, 1600-1835

The Politics of Progress: The Origins and Development of the Commercial Republic, 1600-1835

Excerpt

The present volume is a study of polytechnic rationality under the aspect of the political program with which it was most intimately identified, here called the politics of progress. I have undertaken to describe its origins and successive legitimations, its main transformations, and its notable achievements. I have also been attentive to its limitations, liabilities, and defeats.

The commercial republic mentioned in the subtitle refers to the regime typically favored by exponents of progress. The term is drawn from the vocabulary of preindustrial politics. Writers of the last century were more comfortable with liberalism, democracy, and capitalism. I have settled on the older usage because it dominated until about 1800, when the influence of Adam Smith brought the liberal system into currency.

The termination of this study in 1835, with an account of the polarization of labor and capital in Great Britain, is a temporary resting point. A more satisfactory periodization would carry the story forward to 1914. I intend to cover this period in another volume.

Since the historiography of progress is a legacy of "Whig history," the orientation of my study may in some measure be characterized by reference to that tradition. Whig history is more aptly called liberal history. Its monuments are the Cambridge Modern History (1902-12), published under the editorship of LordActon, and the Histoire de France (1910), edited by Ernest Lavisse. The presiding concept of liberal historiography was the idea of universal, scientific history promoted by Leopold Ranke during his prolific career as scholar and teacher. Acton was . . .

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