Taking its cue from psychology, the twentieth century has put its emphasis on the role of the unconscious in human thought and action, on the non-rationality of much human behavior. Foremost among the thinkers responsible for this emphasis was Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), a physician trained in Vienna in the rationalist medical tradition of the late nineteenth century.
Twentieth-Century Thought and Letters
In the latter part of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century, a number of fields of inquiry became professionalized, and those who mastered these fields had a major impact on elite thought and indirectly on popular public opinion.
Foremost among these fields were psychology, history, political science, sociology, and philosophy. All but the last subject had direct influence on the shaping of public policy.
Societies reveal much about themselves in what they choose to take pride in—what they consciously preserve from their past and from their environment. Societies also reveal much about themselves in what they exclude, as when history until recently passed over the underclasses in near-silence or neglected the role of women in national development.
History is constantly changing. So, too, is the way that we view history. Obviously, history extends forward in time, each day bringing new events that make a mockery of any attempt to survey the entire historical past of any one culture, much less of all cultures, or of all Western civilization.