George bancroft the progress of mankind 1854
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George Bancroft The Progress of Mankind (1854). Historical Context. Father was a distinguished revolutionary soldier Entered Harvard at age thirteen, then studied abroad Was expected to join the ministry, but was unsuccessful Became a statesmen and historian

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George Bancroft The Progress of Mankind (1854)

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George bancroft the progress of mankind 1854

George BancroftThe Progress of Mankind (1854)


Historical context

Historical Context

Father was a distinguished revolutionary soldier

Entered Harvard at age thirteen, then studied abroad

Was expected to join the ministry, but was unsuccessful

Became a statesmen and historian

Leaned towards romanticism and humanist beliefs

Gained favor with Polk and became Secretary of the Navy

Established the United States Naval Academy

Was assigned the position of Minister to Britain and Prussia

Was a supporter of Jacksonian Democracy

Was prolific writer, including his book History of the United States of America, from the discovery of the American continent


Main points

Main Points

  • Bancroft stresses the wisdom of the majority. “The many are wiser than the few; the multitude than the philosopher; the race than the individual; and each successive generation than its predecessor.” This relays the idea that majority is always right, and coincides with the Jacksonian ideal.

  • Addresses the role of the individual contributing to the whole consciousness saying “Common sense implies by its very name, that each individual is to contribute some share toward the general intelligence.” Bancroft suggests through the collective experiences of the past, the people understand what is best for all and constantly move forward.

  • Believes truth and morality to be universal and unchangeable, saying “The relation of good to evil is from the beginning, and is unalterable.”


Main points cont

Main Points (cont.)

  • States that Divine will constitutes progress…”and when any part of the destiny of humanity is fulfilled, we see the ways of Providence vindicated,” which is his reference to a divine creator.

  • Last section addresses women and their role in nature as a “lily among thorns” to be “not man’s slave, but his companion.” Bancroft places women in an inferior role with subtle hints of the superiority of men.

  • In concluding his speech, he hopes that following generations will approach…”not only toward unity, but universality.” Meaning even more enlightenment and general consensus of good.


Historical significance

Historical Significance

  • This speech speaks for a career dedicated to justifying democracy

  • Bancroft’s ideas influenced many people, including the politicians which admired and awarded him with positions

  • As a historian, his volume of United States history helped put the nation’s past in a comprehensive framework


Questions to consider

Questions to Consider

  • Does history ever demonstrate any retrograde motions?

  • Who or what is responsible for human progress?

  • What is the role of women in history?


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