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THE thematic purpose of this volume is to show that historically education has been a progressive adjustment of claims in the exercise of human freedom. In the beginning, and as long as the human race was young, the rights of the individual were largely sacrificed to the claims of some stronger social whole, as in Egypt, India, Persia, and Sparta. In the Golden Age of Greece and the Roman Republic the individual attained to a larger measure of freedom, which, however, at length broke down completely when the republic gave way to the empire, into which Greece also became merged.
When Christianity swept over the Roman Empire, it exalted the individual, with gain to the social whole. This exaltation was a gain to the social whole, as well as to the individual, because God's will became the ideal norm of human freedom. The disruption of the empire by the northern hordes paved the way for the despotic subordination of human freedom to the control of the Church as the human representative of God on earth. The Renaissance was an extreme revolt of the individual. In its first phase it was a reversion to Greek paganism; in its second, namely, the reformation of the sixteenth century, the Renaissance distinguished sharply between the institutionalism of the Church and the fundamental claims of religion, revolting only from the former and yielding with absolute surrender to the holy will of God, thus returning to the position of early Christianity.