The notion of "history" - in its meaning as the objective reality that comprehends the human race's fortunes throughout the ages - was shaped in the modern era in close association with other concepts such as progress and civilization. The development of humanity thus acquired a new significance: a gradual process from an original wild state to barbarianism, and then from barbarianism to civilization. This notion of history raises issues having to do with the direction of this development, the positive or negative meaning of "progress", the "subjects" of the historical process, and history's unitary nature versus the multiplicity of civilizations. Against this background we need to place the work of authors such as Voltaire, Kant, Herder, Hegel, Comte, Marx, Burckhardt, Nietzsche, Spengler, and Toynbee. The author of this book describes this multi-faceted and complex process from its origins to the decline of European centrality, up to the recent advent of a "global history".
Pietro Rossi is professor emeritus at the University of Turin, where he taught History of Philosophy and then Philosophy of History. He is a member of the European Academy, the Accademia dei Lincei, and the Academy of Science in Turin, of which he is currently president.