Magazine article UNESCO Courier
1789: An Idea That Changed the World
1789 AN IDEA THAT CHANGED THE WORLD
RARE are the ideas that, in response to some hitherto unexpressed popular expectation, trigger a determination for change, mark a break between the past and the future, and quicken the pace of history.
Rarer still are those ideas which have crossed the frontiers of the time and place of their conception, and germinated much later in other parts of the world.
How does the great idea of 1789, that of "man as a citizen", stand up today? Rooted in a specific culture--that of Europe--and a particular century--the age of the Enlightenment--it is now universally accepted. After, it is true, a circuitous journey which saw it by turn debated and rejected, ignored and rediscovered, tolerated by some and demanded by others, until in 1948 it inspired a Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted by the international community.
Out of this idea, diffused around the world by both French and foreign contemporaries of the 1789 Revolution--Bonaparte, Jefferson, Goethe, Miranda--arose a great hope for universal fraternity. …