Secularism and the 1870’s

Beginning around 1870, the Nation-States of Europe appropriated to themselves the power over the principles of society: the formation of marriages and the education of children. Civil marriage came to be in Austria in 1868, and its introduction seems pretty clearly the start of a much larger trend which introduced it to Italy in 1873; Switzerland in 1874; The German Empire in 1875; and France in 1881. The opening of State-run secular schools with mandatory attendance policies also dates from about this time: Austria 1869; England 1870; Switzerland 1874; Netherlands 1876; Italy 1877; Belgium 1879; France in the early/ mid 1880’s. Germany’s public schools pre-dated this, but became secularized at around this time.

I have no strong opinion on this. Presumably, Libertarians and Conservatives are supposed to see this as the beginning of the end and Liberals are supposed to see this as the moment that the state finally got its act together. But even without making either of these judgments it’s still interesting to see it as a choice that was made. Given the speed and extent of these changes, it was certainly a very significant upheaval, and one that certainly can’t be seen as an organic development. It looks far more like a prairie fire or revolution.

%d bloggers like this: