An Indian Civilizational Perspective

How the World changed in the last Century

Sometimes you have to read old books to know and appreciate how the world of today has changed in many areas!

Interesting article on author’s reading of the 1911 Brittanica Encyclopedia.. since then a lot has changed in this world. For example in the topic on Solar System, there was no mention of Pluto.. which was discovered in 1930.

Similarly women and Blacks were given rough treatment that today will be considered downright offensive!!

Back in the living room that evening, I find that the article has two authors. Thomas Athol Joyce, assistant in the department of ethnography at the British Museum, astonishes by saying not only that “Mentally, the negro is inferior to the white,” but also that “the arrest or even deterioration in mental development is no doubt very largely due to the fact that after puberty sexual matters take the first place in the negro’s life and thoughts.” A more nuanced section on “The Negro in the United States” was composed by Walter Francis Willcox, chief statistician of the United States Census Bureau. “The negroes in the United States have played and are playing an important and necessary part in the industrial and economic life of the southern states,” he wrote. But those states were “changing with marvellous rapidity,” he said, and it was impossible to say “whether the negroes would be given an equal or a fair opportunity to show that they could be as serviceable or more serviceable” as they had been in the past.

For comparison’s sake, I look up Frederick Douglass, whose life is summarized approvingly (“He was widely known for his eloquence, and was one of the most effective orators whom the negro race has produced in America”), and Booker T. Washington, who gets a workmanlike half-column (“Harvard conferred upon him the honorary degree of A.M. in 1896, and Dartmouth that of LL.D. in 1901.”).

The article on WOMEN notes the gains they made in the 19th century, “primarily due to the movement for women’s higher education and its results,” but then adds condescendingly, “The temperate, calm, earnest demeanour of women, both in the schools and in university life, awakened admiration and respect from all.” A long article on JEWS, dense with information from biblical times, concludes this way: “It is saddening to be compelled to close this record with the statement that the progress of the European Jews received a serious check by the rise of modern anti-Semitism in the last quarter of the 19th century. While in Russia this took the form of actual massacre, in Germany and Austria it assumed the shape of social and civic ostracism.”

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