2.4.3 What has actually happened in modern history?

Back to 2.4.2

Unit 2 Contents

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EXERCISE

Whether through reading or films or documentaries, you no doubt know about various historical events and developments during the past 300 years or so.  For example, you probably are aware of the abolition of the slave trade, the Great War (a.k.a. the First World War), the Russian Revolution and the Second World War.

See if you can make a chronological list of what you think are some really important historical events and developments in Western history between 1740 and 1960.  I suggest starting at 1740 simply because, as noted earlier (2.3.4), Thompson takes this date as marking the start of the ‘modern’ period – even though of course other, equally plausible candidates could be offered.

You already know that the Enlightenment was at its height in the mid-eighteenth century, so this could be the first item in your list.  A specific event not much later that was hugely significant for Britain and what became the USA (to give a clue) was in 1776.

If you can, put into the chronology too the names of any books or other writings that have had a really big influence in society – this will be more difficult.

 

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RESPONSE TO EXERCISE

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Against the background of this exercise, now read Thompson’s short account of the place of the Catholic Church in relation to other historical events during the same period.  As you will see he divides this up into three sub-periods:

  • The first, from 1740 up to just before Rerum Novarum, was characterised by sharp reaction against modernity, such as the Syllabus of Errors expressed.
  • In the second, from Rerum Novarum to the start of the papacy of John XXIII, who called the Second Vatican Council, the Church engaged much more constructively in the modern world, seeking reforms especially for the sake of justice for workers.
  • The third, basically from the Second Vatican Council to the present, is characterised by Thompson as one of dialogue between the Church and the world, and of mutual transformation.

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Reading (7pp)

Thompson, Introducing Catholic Social Thought, pp. 25-32

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The Exercise on this screen and the reading from Thompson together should stand you in good stead both for the remaining few screens in this unit and, more generally, for engaging with contemporary CST in the rest of this module with some knowledge of its historical background.

For the purpose of this module, we now take forward our outline of the historical context of modern CST by briefly comparing and contrasting it with the most influential visions of political life that emerged during the modern period, ‘liberalism’, ‘conservatism’ and ‘socialism’

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End of 2.4.3

Go to 2.4.4 ‘Liberalism’

Module B outline

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