2005 | 3 | 391-401
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The topic of this paper is the attitude of societies from the West European cultural range towards other civilisations from the Early Middle Ages to contemporary times. The author stressed that 'Latin' culture was the only cultural circle in history to perpetually confront its own reality with others. Originally, the point of reference was the civilisation of ancient Rome, which the intellectuals perceived as a peerless model for mediaeval Europe. From the twelfth-thirteenth century, the Reconquista in Spain and the Crusades, this confrontation of cultures was expanded by including the Byzantine and Moslem circles, and once the Mongols opened trade routes to the Far East it encompassed also the Chinese. West Europeans noticed the inferiority of their culture in comparison with others; hence the numerous borrowings, with the sole exception - religion, considered the main determinant of 'Latin' culture. Not until the sixteenth century did the relatively easy conquests of vast terrains, mainly in the Americas, produce a feeling of superiority . Expanded and consolidated in the course of conquests of overseas territories up to the nineteenth century, this feeling gradually assumed the form of a doctrine about the duty of the colonial rulers to civilise the 'savages', or an opinion which adapted Darwin's theory of evolution for the purposes of politics and proclaimed a battle of the races for domination over the Earth. This process remained unaffected by transformations taking place in Europe itself, which from a circle sharing the Roman creed of Christianity, changed into a community based on shared models of widely comprehended culture. From that time on, Western societies, whose centre now moved to the USA, reveal an ambivalent attitude towards other civilisations. On the one hand, they declare the equality of all cultures, with criticism hampered by the demands of 'political correctness'; on the other hand , the West is trying, as a rule successfully, to impose its legal, cultural, political and economic norms upon the whole world.
  • K. Pomian, Uniwersytet Mikolaja Kopernika w Toruniu, Katedra Historii Sztuki i Kultury, Zaklad Historii Kultury, ul. Matejki 28, Torun, Poland
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