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Thirteenth: Greatest of Centuries

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It cannot but seem a paradox to say that the Thirteenth was the greatest of centuries. To most people the idea will appear at once so preposterous that they may not even care to consider it. A certain number, of course, will have their curiosity piqued by the thought that anyone should evolve so curious a notion. Either of these attitudes of mind will yield at once to a more properly receptive mood if it is recalled that the Thirteenth is the century of the Gothic cathedrals, of the foundation of the university, of the signing of Magna Charta, and of the origin of representative government with something like constitutional guarantees throughout the west of Europe. The cathedrals represent a development in the arts that has probably never been equaled either before or since. The university was a definite creation of these generations that has lived and maintained its usefulness practically in the same form in which it was then cast for the seven centuries ever since. The foundation stones of modern liberties are to be found in the documents which for the first time declared the rights of man during this precious period. (Summary from Preface)
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