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Henry Kissinger

The Meaning of History: Reflections on Spengler, Toynbee and Kant

The Meaning of History is the senior thesis written by Henry Kissinger at Harvard University in 1950.

Here, Kissinger explores the work of three great thinkers in the Western philosophical and historical canon: Oswald Spengler (1880-1936), German historian and philosopher; Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975), British historian and philosopher; and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), a Prussian of the Eiropean Enlightenment era and one of the most important moral and political philosophers to emerge from this time.

The study wrestles with some of the first-order dilemmas of Western political, philosophical, and moral thought. Its scope ranges from the Enlightenment through to the midpoint of the twentieth century – an era scourged by two world wars and the advent of the nuclear age. Equally important, it provides great insight into the conceptual perspective of its author, Henry Kissinger, who was to become the most influential American scholar-statesman of the post-1945 period.

Therese Melander

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