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The Civilization of West Europe: Making Steps towards the Progress Essay

Because of various factors influencing the development of nations and the shaping of the specific national peculiarities, the pace of West Europe development is considerably different from the one of the other parts of the world, which predetermines the specific features of the West European countries and their unusual features that distinguish them from the rest of the world.

Analyzing the specific changes that occurred to the West Europe in the course of its development, one will be able not only to come to certain conclusions concerning the peculiarities of the West European culture, but also understand what issues and circumstances predetermined the given change. Thus, the reasons for the cultural difference between various countries will be found.

In addition, the prerequisites of several major changes in the world politics, economics, financial and cultural life can be found if analyzing the changes in the West Europe carefully, which calls for an all-embracing consideration of the West Europe in XIX and the specifics of its development.

It seems that there could not have been anything more romantic than the XIX-century England Victorian epoch. Introducing a whole world of refinement and elegance, the Victorian morals, though claimed by a number of people pretentious and fake (Pionke xvi), still seem to be an attempt on introducing certain flair of romantics into the prosaic world of the ordinary.

However, it is necessary to admit that the Victorian Romanism also enhanced the evolution of privacy ideas and the concept of private exchange of letters, which, in its turn, must have served as a powerful incentive for the further personal rights campaign and the development of post service secrecy.

According to Pionke, the Victorian epoch neglected the privacy rules until a certain event that served as a turning point of the Victorian mail history:

Welsh observes that Victorian novels with blackmail plots often endorse not a revelation, but a reconcealing, of the truth as the proper and of ethical behavior whereas Vincent uses the Post Office scandal of 1844 – when it was discovered that the Post Office regularly opened suspicious mail, including potentially that of radical MPs – as an introduction to ways in which certain forms of information were concealed from public in the name of national security. (xvii)

Therefore, the necessity to reconsider the conspiracy of private correspondence in the Victorian culture was obvious. Predetermined by the ideas of human rights and freedoms, the given situation was an obvious violation of people’s rights.

However, it is quite debatable whether it was the notorious Post Office scandal of 1844 that changed the situation completely, or the advent of Romantic individualism, which “with its overwhelming valuation of the secret self and the poetic soul, as well as the pressures of political and economic instability” (Pionke xvii) speeded up the development of the mail privacy significance.

One of the most tragic events in the history of the humankind, the epoch of battling with cholera, as well as the thousands of lives that cholera had taken, will always remain the darkest page of the world history – and at the same time the period when people displayed incredible courage and the willingness to survive and save the rest of the humanity.

Induced by the lack – or, one had better said, complete absence – of sanitation, the disease was spreading at the increasing pace, despite the medics’ attempts to stop it. However, it is worth noting that the reaction of medics and the government towards the surge of the disease differed considerably, which was predetermined by specific financial and economical factors.

Because of taking different approaches to vanquish the same problem of poverty and the anti-sanitation issue, as well as the amazing discovery made by Robert Koch, the epidemic was successfully defeated.

As Oppemheimer and Susser explained, “the cholera poison, subsequently germinated in the soil, would be transmitted locally through the atmosphere, but, contrary to Koch’s assertion, never by water or person-to-person” (1239).Not being able to control the cholera dispersion, the government should have implemented certain sanitary reforms, as Oppemheimer and Susser (1239) argued.

Therefore, the course of actions of the government in the time when cholera was raging concerned issuing the acts concerning the norms of sanity, while medics focused on the medicine that could serve as the protection from the cholera virus.

Because of the deplorable state of sanitation in the countries in the XIX century, the reason for the epidemic was quite complicated to spot. Hence, the ideas that Koch offered were quite novel and not really credible.

However, Oppemheimer and Susser claim that as soon as the treatment offered by Koch proved efficient, the situation changed radically: “In Hamburg, he ordered interventions that von Pettenkofer regularly repudiated – isolation, quarantine, disinfection, and the boiling of water before its consumption” (1240).

If it had not been for the dramatic discovery of Robert Koch, the history of the humankind must have turned out much shorter and less glorious. However, it is worth mentioning that the government also conducted the course of actions that were targeted at vanquishing the plague. Despite certain discrepancies in the policy of the government and Koch’s course of actions, cholera was finally defeated, though with huge losses.

Considering the main problems of the XIX-century world, one must admit that slavery was the main scourge of the society in the distant 1810-1890ies.

However, with the help of certain factors concerning the religious and economical issues, the idea of slavery as a part and parcel of the social structure and the economical model of the society started to wear off, which resulted in another stupendous change in the course of the humankind development.

However, it should be acknowledged that, out of all reasons for the abolition of slavery, the economical ones were the most essential. With the advent of the new technologies and the development of machinery-based manufacturing, the need in slavery wore out, which drove to the reason for abolition. As Milwood admits,

There is a falseness of the claim that Britain abolished slavery. From the concrete evidence, British and European abolition of slavery was a paper gesture only. Abolition was not on moral grounds, ethical or theological grounds. (99)

Meanwhile, the role of the religion in the process of the slave abolition, in contrast to what one might have expected, was to sustain the slavery regime, supporting it by the fact that religion must offer the slaves the consolation, not the way out of their dominated position. According to Milwood, religion was used in order to persuade people in the necessity of slavery as the stronghold of the society:

Reverend John Smith, when he was dispatched on his mission to Demerara in 1816, was told ‘Not a word must escape you in public or private which might dislocate or render the slaves to be displeased with their situation. You are not sent to relieve then from their servitude condition, but to offer them the consolation of religion.’ (Milwood 100)

Thus, slavery was obviously being ousted by the capitalistic ideas. However, operating the religious ideas, the authorities were trying to create obstacles in the way of the abolitionist movement. Nevertheless, the social and technological changes were too great for the slavery regime to continue.

Another peculiar phenomenon in the history of Europe, the phenomenon of charivari should also be considered thoroughly. Being one of the ways in which justice was restored in the XIX century, charivari in French, or samosud in Russian, was considered the way in which justice could be restored when the authorities could not pass the adequate judgement. As Vogler explained,

Within the category of the unmediated popular justice, the strongest legacies of traditional practices lie in the unsanctioned vigilantism which erupts in even highly developed or urban communities.

In the English tradition, these have been represented by ‘skimmingtons,’ ‘chivarees’ and ‘rough music’ which essentially involved community victimization and punishment of deviants […]. Such anarchic practices were merely part of popular rural justice which, for example, in France took the form of the charivari and in Russia the samosud […].

Therefore, people considered it their moral authority to accept the role of vigilantes and restore the justice that has been scorned and the violated rights of the population. As Vogler explains, in most cases, the issue in question concerned the problem of property crime (225) and demonstrated the lack of efficiency that the legal justice system had on the criminals and the criminal situation in the countries (46).

Thus, Vogler emphasized the fact that the justice system of the XIX century left much to be desired, which enhanced the surge of the samosud incidents. Declaring complete helplessness of the existing system of justice, samosud and charivari peaked in such climaxes as lynch mobs and Ku-Klux-Klan (Vogler 2005), which meant that charivari was not the means to fight crimes but were themselves another variation of the latter.

Together with the major changes concerning the sphere of economics, politics and the social life, emancipation of the society took place in the XIX century. However, despite the attempts of the adepts of feminist movement to inhale certain social ideas in the emancipation of the world, these were obviously the economical reasons that spurred women’s participation in economics and obtaining jobs in department stores.

It is quite peculiar, thought, that in the United States by the XIX century, women employment was no longer a problem, in contrast to the situation in Europe. As Barth marks, “throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, the absence of women in the center of London, Paris, Berlin or Vienna struck American travelers in Europe” (Barth 121).

However, it is worth mentioning that, because of the emancipation ideas that came to the forth in the XIX century, the necessity to offer women certain job opportunities was obvious.

Unless West Europe offered women workplace in a certain field, Europe would not have been recognized as a developed country by the United States, where the ideas of emancipation had already took the hold of the social life standards and promoted equality between men and women, touching upon the issue of employment as well. As Barth explained, “the department store made the new phenomenon of a feminine public possible” (121).

Therefore, predetermined by the necessity to keep in pace with the progress, the West European countries were to offer job propositions to women.

Though the job prospects were at first limited by department stores which “thrived on the concentrated urban markets and on the industrial sector of the American economy” (Barth 121) and clerk desks, later on women managed to get the access to more responsible positions. However, judging from the current state of affairs, department stores are still mostly the realm of women, mostly due to the specifics of the work (Barth 122).

The last, but not the least issue concerning the development of the West European countries and the obstacles that stood in their way to the progress, the World War I must be mentioned.

Although the war can be considered an inevitable step on the way of the humankind development and reaching for another stage of progress, it cannot be denied that war took away millions of lives all over Europe and is one of the most tragic events ever occurring not only in the history of Europe, but also in the history of the world.

Because of constant threat of being killed and even more dreadful prospect that the Triple Alliance could capture the entire world, the soldiers’ perception of reality changed completely once they faced their first battle. In addition to the lack of physical comfort, people were suffering the change of world perception, which, in its turn, contributed to the creation of such idea as “there are no atheists in the foxholes.”

However, according to Upshur et al., the given observation is not quite true, since “hardly one soldier in a hundred was inspired by religious feeling of even the crudest kind. It would have been difficult to remain religious in the trenches even if one had survived the irreligion of the training battalion at home” (756).

Indeed, in the place where people have to kill the foes without thinking, religion would have been rather a nuisance. Therefore, the idea that “there are no atheists in the foxholes” is wrong.

Hence, it cam be concluded that the development of West Europe was far from being integral and well-paced; moreover, it is worth mentioning that the West European progress was often introduced by the harsh changes and a variety of consequences.

Hence, it is important to mark that in West Europe, several essential steps towards progress were made in the XIX century, which enhanced the development of the rest of the world, like the ideas on slavery abolition, which further on spread to the United States and enhanced a revolution in the country.

Therefore, the significance of the changes in West Europe cannot be denied; moreover, it is obvious that the changes in the West European society triggered a number of events that contributed to the world progress.

Thus, West Europe of the XIX century played a crucial role in establishing the new moral values and introducing a new way of life that was further on considered the stronghold of the civilization, which allows to suggest that the development of West Europe has enhanced the progress of the rest of the world and contributed to the history of the humankind considerably.

Works Cited

Barth, Gunther. City People: The Rise of Modern City Culture in Nineteenth-Century America. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1982. Print.

Milwood, Robinson A. European Christianity and the Atlantic Slave Trade: A Black Hermeneutical Study. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2007. Print.

Oppenheimer, Gerald M. and Elza Susser. “Invited Commentary: The Context and Challenge of von Pettenkofer’s Contribution to Epidemiology.” American Journal of epidemiology, 166.11, 2007: 1239-1241.

Pionke, Albert D. Plots of Opportunity: Representing Conspiracy in Victorian England. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 2004. Print.

Vogler, Richard. A World View of Criminal Justice. Farnham, UK: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2005. Print.

Upshur, Jiu-Hwa, et al. World History: Advantage Edition. Stamford, CN: Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.

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"The Civilization of West Europe: Making Steps towards the Progress." IvyPanda, 17 May 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/the-civilization-of-west-europe-making-steps-towards-the-progress-essay/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Civilization of West Europe: Making Steps towards the Progress." May 17, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-civilization-of-west-europe-making-steps-towards-the-progress-essay/.


IvyPanda. "The Civilization of West Europe: Making Steps towards the Progress." May 17, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-civilization-of-west-europe-making-steps-towards-the-progress-essay/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "The Civilization of West Europe: Making Steps towards the Progress." May 17, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-civilization-of-west-europe-making-steps-towards-the-progress-essay/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Civilization of West Europe: Making Steps towards the Progress'. 17 May.

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