Lawrence Davidson writes at Consortiumnews:
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Prior to the Eighteenth Century – that is prior to the Enlightenment – if you had asked a literate Westerner when he or she thought the most ideal of human societies did or would exist, most of them would have located that society in the past.
The religious majority might have placed it in the biblical age of Solomon or the early Christian communities of the First Century after Christ. Both would have been considered divinely inspired times.
Now, come forward a hundred years, say to the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, and ask the same question. You would notice that the answer was beginning to change.