The idea of world history as a progressive movement toward ever greater human freedom and dignity had been proposed by Kant in his Idee zu einer allgemeinen Geschichte in weltbürgerlicher Absicht in 1784 and again by Schiller in his inaugural lecture, “Was heisst und zu welchem Ende studiert man Universalgeschichte? at the University of Jena in 1789, and Michelet had read Schiller’s short work in February 1828. (“Journal de mes lectures,” in Ecrits de jeunesse: Journal (1820-1823), Mémorial, Journal des idées, ed. Paul Viallaneix [Paris: Gallimard, 1959], p. 329) But Kant and Schiller were calling for a history that they themselves believed would be difficult, if not impossible to write and that they did not even sketch out in its broad lines. In addition, the point of view of both Kant and Schiller was that of the cosmopolitan Enlightenment. Neither had Michelet’s keen interest in the particular character and contribution of different peoples or his insight into the complexities of an historical development often promoted by seemingly “reactionary” and “unenlightened” behaviours and actions. [Return to “Jules Michelet: A Pioneering French Historian in Victorian England”]

Last modified 1 December 2020/p>