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When The World Woke Up

( Originally Published 1916 )

JOHN FISKE calls the thirteenth century "the glorious century." In H. L. Chamberlain's recent volume is a list of some of the wonders of that time. I condense them here, to give the reader a bird's-eye view of that century, in which the world woke up.

In Europe the Hansa and Rhenish Alliance of Cities was formed, "paving the way," says Ranke, "for civic liberty and the formation of powerful states."

The Magna Charta was proclaimed in England in 1215, "a solemn proclamation of the inviolability of the great principle of personal freedom and personal security."

During this century the slave trade disappeared from European countries (except Spain).

Money begins to take the place of barter in buying and selling; the foundation of modern business is laid.

Paper is first manufactured, "the most momentous industrial achievement till the invention of the locomotive."

The religious awakening under Francis of Assisi occurred. Thode says : "This movement gives men the first forewarning of universal freedom of thought.''

Scholars like Albertus Magnus and Roger Bacon prepared the ground for modern natural science by turning the attention of men from logical disputes to mathematics, physics, astronomy, and chemistry.

"A new era in mathematical science began," says Cantor; this was especially the work of Leonardo of Pisa, who was the first to introduce to Europe the Indian (falsely called Arabian) numerical signs; also Jordanus Saxo, who initiated us into the art of algebraic calculation (also originally invented by the Hindoos) .

The first dissection of a human body took place at the close of this century.

Dante lived in the thirteenth century.

Adam de la Halle, born in 1240, was the first master of note in the treatment of counterpoint, so that with him modern music in a strict sense begins. Gevaert, the musical authority, writes: "Henceforward we must consider the thirteenth century, formerly so despised, as the beginner of all modern art."

Giotto, Cimabue, and Niccolo Pisano were of the thirteenth century; and to them the world is indebted for a perfectly new art, that of modern painting.

Almost all the masterpieces of Gothic architecture, "the incomparable beauty of which we today admire, but cannot imitate," originated in this century.

The first purely secular university, Bologna, was founded shortly before 1200.

In the thirteenth century Marco Polo made his expeditions of discovery which laid the foundations of our knowledge of the earth's surface. This beginning of world geography is the germ that ripens into world-civilization and world-government, which we are now commencing to grasp as an ideal.

But, most significant of all, it was in the thirteenth century that the long and horrid darkness that had closed upon men's minds began to lift.

The western world ceased to sleep and to dream and began to awaken, to live, to do.

"Men, so to speak, turned a corner in their course, the past vanished from their sight, hence-forth they belong to the future."

The declaration of the Magna Charta sounds as a trumpet blast for all modern morals, a sentiment not yet realized, but understood and toward which we aim :

"No one may be condemned except in accordance with the laws of the land. Right and justice may not be bought nor refused."

Since June 15, 1215, when this decree went forth, it has become a law above all laws; senates and kings must bow to it.

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