How Chesterton read history

Inquiry 39 (3 & 4):343 – 358 (1996)
Abstract
Chesterton was a serious and even excellent philosopher, whose reputation has suffered because his style was so striking, and his conversion to Catholicism so unpopular with Whiggish Britons. He had many ?politically incorrect? opinions, but those ?faults? were symptoms of a greater virtue, his insistence that ?the whole object of history is to make us realize that humanity can be great and glorious, under conditions quite different and even contrary to our own?. His desire for a United Europe was not for a larger, self?willed State, but for a continent of peasant proprietors, workers owning their own tools, citizens alive to their own local heritage. What he distrusted was the Laodicean mood that best defines modernity, that nothing is worth dying for but life is not worth living. What he consistently opposed was the power of businessmen and aristocrats, and their Whiggish supporters? habit of supposing that the actual course of history was inevitable. Speculation about might?have?beens (including the great might?have?been of medieval Christendom) is a way to subvert the oppressive weight of the present. His hope was for a revolution ('we may or may not see the New Jerusalem rebuilt. .. on our fields, but in the flesh we shall see Babylon fall'), one made easier by the realization that Babylon need never have been built
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