1

Can anyone help me interpret this sentence? I don't understand its meaning.

But these ideas now collided with the dirtiest stain on Europe's conscience.

... Their revolutionary version of the Enlightenment, the equality of man, was also spreading beyond Europe. But these ideas now collided with the dirtiest stain on Europe's conscience. ...

  • A "stain on one's conscience" is a sense of guilt for some past act. – Hot Licks Dec 13 '15 at 2:53
  • @NES Indeed. I've deleted my question since it was misleading. – deadrat Dec 13 '15 at 19:56
2

"Collided with" in this context usually means something like stood in contradiction to etc. As an example, you might say that it was hypocritical of them to promote the notion of "equality of man" while still supporting human slavery (that slavery being a stain on their conscience—or, in other words, something to be ashamed of).

Collide: clash, conflict.

  • Indeed! And the author was talking about French's slavery - their slavery is a dirty stain on Europe conscience. – Duy Dong Hoang Dec 15 '15 at 5:14
2

"The dirtiest stain on Europe's conscience" appears to have been the slave trade. I initially thought it would be the Holocaust but I googled your quote and though I can't find much more info than you gave, it does seem clear the author was discussing slavery.

The French contribution to The Enlightenment (a period of reason in the history of mankind) is the idea of Fraternity, or "the equality of man" (according to the author), and this had been exported in the form of democracy (the French had their own, famous democratic revolution, but also had a famous role in other democracies, let's just say it was a French brand (see: Statue of Liberty), and this is logically in direct conflict (colliding) with their burgeoning involvement in the growing slave trade.

This is the quote I found: "The British had at least been determined there would be no slavery in Australia. But what of the great enemies, the French? Their revolutionary version of the Enlightenment, the equality of man, was also spreading beyond Europe. But these ideas now collided with the dirtiest stain on Europe’s conscience."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.