The Development of the International Community, Human Personality, and the Question of Universal History in the Thought of Luigi Sturzo

Luigi Sturzo (1871–1959) was an Italian priest, social reformer and the founder in 1919 of the Popular Party that later became the Christian Democratic Party, and social theorist who wrote extensively about history during the last century. Regarding history, Sturzo’s great contribution is his account of the formation and development of the “International Community” as one of the concrete forms of human society subject to its general laws. Sturzo locates the roots of this concept in the Christian revelation of human equality before God and the subsequent religious duty to love one’s neighbor in a manner that transcends the traditional boundaries of the ancient world. Thus the social values of the pre-Christian world are inverted, and human personality assumes the mantle previously held by the social and ethnic bonds of that era.

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Transnational History as Historical Subject

Transnational history has emerged in the wake of the sprouting of international history, global history, and post-colonial history as historical subject fields in the 1990s academic marketplace. Chris Bayly’s 2004 book Birth of the Modern World, 1780–1914 is a landmark in the emergence of transnational history as an academic subject stressing the connectedness of history, as a narrative of accelerating cross-border métissage and intercontextuality. As another historian in this school, Sven Beckert, reminds us, transnational history is more than an academic brand; it is a fundamentally different analytical space and a social movement in itself. On the cover of Bayly’s book is a portrait by Anne-Louis Giradet, student of Jacques Louis David, who would be exiled in Brussels after 1815 with Emmanuel Sièyes as revolutionaries turned supporters of Bonaparte. Ironically, it hangs in in the Trianon at Versailles. It is a portrait of Citoyen Jean-Baptiste Belley of Saint Dominique, native of the slave port of Gorée in Senegal, comrade-in-arms of Toussaint L’Ouverture and the first Black Deputy to both the National Convention and the National Assembly. Belley’s silk cummerbund and the decoration of his hat assert the universalizing intention of the French Revolution, His light breaches express the sexual power of Rousseau’s noble savage, and refer to Bayly’s emphasis on bodily regimes. Belley leans against a bust on a marble plinth: the bust of the Encyclopèdiste Raynal, the most radical critic of slavery and the colonial policy of the Ancien Régime.

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Roundtable: The Future of History

From the 2015 Telos Conference in New York, the following is a video of the roundtable discussion on “The Future of History: A New Universal Vision or Dissolving into Particularities?” Moderated by Adrian Pabst, the roundtable included Wayne Hudson, Joseph Bendersky, Greg Melleuish, Aryeh Botwinick, Jonathan Israel, and Tim Luke. The video of an earlier roundtable on “Universal History” can be viewed here.

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Jonathan Israel: The Enlightenment Reconsidered

From the 2015 Telos Conference in New York City, the following is a video of Jonathan Israel’s keynote presentation, “The Enlightenment Reconsidered: A Contemporary Controversy.” For further details about the conference, which addressed the theme of “Universal History, Philosophical History, and the Fate of Humanity,” visit the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute website.

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Roundtable: Universal History, the West, the East, and the Rest

From the 2015 Telos Conference in New York, the following is a video of the roundtable discussion on “Universal History, the West, the East, and the Rest.” Moderated by Marcia Pally, the roundtable included Russell A. Berman, Adrian Pabst, Ulrike Kistner, Jay Gupta, Christopher Coker, and Wayne Hudson.

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Karl Jaspers' Concept of Universal History in the Context of his Age and Ours

Already in the first third of the 20th century, Karl Jaspers began formulating a philosophy that addressed the collapse of Enlightenment concepts of universal history and offered a perspective that could help us reformulate “universal history” as a viable concept. Jaspers’ work in this area is, I believe, underappreciated, and constitutes a realistic “cosmopolitan vision” that could help us address many of the thorny issues of global cultural conflict and diversity that we face today.

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