Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Conspectus of Hegel’s Book
Lectures On the
Philosophy Of History

Written: 1915
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th Edition, Moscow, 1976, Volume 38, pp. 303-314
Publisher: Progress Publishers
First Published: 1930 in Lenin Miscellany XII
Translated: Clemence Dutt
Edited: Stewart Smith
Transcription & Markup: K. Goins
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2008).You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Conspectus of Hegel’s book “Lectures on the Philosophy of History” consists of a separate notebook on whose cover is written “Hegel.” On the reverse side of the cover, in pencil, there is a list of Plato’s dialogues with references to pages in Vol. XIV of Hegel, which contains the second book of Lectures on the History of Philosophy.
Note that this document has undergone special formating to ensure that Lenin’s sidenotes fit on the page, marking as best as possible where they were located in the original manuscript.


(Edition of E. Gans)

Materials: Notes of the lectures 1822-1831.
Hegel’s manuscript  up to p. 73, etc.

P. 5[1] ...“Speeches ... are transactions be-
tween people”... (hence these speeches
are not mere talk).
7— The French and English are more edu-
cated (“they have more ... national
culture”),—but we Germans rack our
brains to discover how history ought
to be written, rather than writing it.
shrewd and
9— History teaches “that peoples and gov-
 ernments of a people have never
 learned anything from history; each pe-
 riod is too individual for that.”
very clever!

“But what experience and history
teach is this—that peoples and gov-
ernments have never learned any-
thing from history, or acted accord-
ing to the lessons that could have
been drawn from it. Each period has
such peculiar circumstances, it is
a state of things so unique that one
must and can judge of it only on
the basis of itself.”

p. 12—“reason governs the world....”

20:   The substance of Matter is Gravity.
The substance of Spirit is Freedom.
22.   “World history is the progress of the
consciousness of freedom—a progress
which we have to know in its ne-
24— (approach to historical materialism).
What guides the actions of men? Above
all, “Selbstsucht”[3]—motives of love,
etc., are rarer and their sphere nar-
rower. What, then, is the outcome
of this interweaving of passions, etc.?
of needs, etc.?
28   “Nothing great in the world has been
accomplished without passion....” Pas-
sion is the subjective and “therefore
the formal side of energy....”
28   i.f.[4]—History does not begin with
a conscious aim.... What is important
is that which
29   ...appears unconsciously for mankind as
the result of its action....
29   ...In this sense “Reason governs the
30   ...In history through human actions
“something else results in addition
beyond that which they aim at and
obtain, beyond that which they direct-
ly know and desire.”
30   ...“They” (die Menschen[5]) “gratify
their own interest, but something fur-
ther is thereby brought about, which
was latent in their interest, but which
was not in their consciousness or in-
cluded in their intention.”
(cf. Engels[6])
32   ...“Such are the great men in history,
whose own particular aims contain
that substantial element which is the
will of the World Spirit....”
“great men”
36— the religiousness and virtue of a shep-
herd, a peasant, etc., is highly honour-
able (examples!! NB), but ...“the right
of the World Spirit stands above all
special rights....”

Here in Hegel is often to be
found—about God, religion, moral-
ity in general—extremely trite ideal-
istic nonsense.

97: “the gradual abolition of slav-
ery is better than its sudden re-

50.   The constitution of a state together
with its religion ... philosophy, thought,
culture, “external forces” (climate,
neighbours...) comprise “one substance,
one Spirit....”
51   In nature movement takes place only
in a cycle (!!)—in history, something
new arises....
62.   Language is richer among peoples in
an undeveloped, primitive state—lan-
guage becomes poorer with the advance
of civilisation and the development
of grammar.
67:   “World history develops on a higher
ground than that on which morality
has its position (Stätte)....”
73:   An excellent picture of history: the
sum of individual passions, actions,
etc. (“everywhere something akin to
ourselves, and therefore everywhere
something that excites our interest for
or against”), sometimes the mass of
some general interest, sometimes a
multitude of “minute forces
(“an infinite exertion of minute forces
which produce a tremendous result
from what appears insignificant”).
very good
Sehr wich-
tig![7] see
below this
The result? The result is “exhaustion.” fully[8]
P. 74. End of the “Introduction.”
P. 75 —“The Geographical Basis of World
” (a characteristic heading):
75— “Under the mild Ionic sky,” a Homer
could more easily arise—but this is
not the only cause.—“Not under Turk-
ish rule,” etc.
cf. Plekha-
82— Emigration to America removes “dis-
content,” “and the continued exist-
ence of the contemporary civil order is
guaranteed...” (but this Zustand[10]
“riches and poverty” 81)....
82.   In Europe there is no such outlet:
had the forests of Germany still been
in existence, the French Revolution
would not have occurred.
102:   Three forms of world history: 1) des-
potism, 2) democracy and aristocracy,
3) monarchy.
Subdiv isions: The Oriental World—The
Greek—The Roman—The German
World. Empty phrase-mongering about
morality, etc., etc.
China. Chapter I (113 to 139). Description
of the Chinese character, institutions,
etc., etc. Nil, nil, nil!
India —to 176—To...
Persia (and Egypt)—to 231. Why did the
Persian Empire fall, but not China
or India? Dauer[11] is not as such
vortreffliches[12] (229)—“The imperish-
able mountains are not superior to
the rose that quickly loses its petals
in its fleeting existence.” (229) Persia
fell because the “spiritual view of
things” began here 230, but the Greeks
proved superior, “higher principle” of
organisation, “self-conscious freedom.”
232:   “The Greek World” ... the principle
of “pure individuality”—the period of
its development, flowering and decline,
encounter with the succeeding organ
of world history
” (233)—Rome with
its “substance” (ibidem).
world history
as a whole
and the
234:   The geographical conditions of Greece:
the diversity of its nature (in con-
trast to the monotony of the East).
242 —The colonies in Greece. Amassing
of wealth. Want and poverty “always”
bound up with it....
Wealth and
246.   “The natural, as explained by men,
its internal, essential element, is the
beginning of the divine in general”
(in connection with the mythology of
the Greeks).
Hegel and
251:   “Man with his requirements behaves
in a practical way in relation to ex-
ternal nature; in making it serve for
his satisfaction, he wears it away, there-
by setting to work as an intermediary.
For natural objects are powerful and
offer resistance in many different ways.
In order to subdue them, man intro-
duces other natural objects, thus turn-
ing nature against itself, and he in-
vents tools for this purpose. These hu-
man inventions belong to the spirit,
Germs of
in Hegel
and such a tool must be regarded as
higher than a natural object.... The
honour of human invention for sub-
jugating nature is ascribed to the Gods”
(among the Greeks).
264:   Democracy in Greece was bound up
with the small size of the states.
Speech, living speech, united the cit-
izens, created Erwärmung.[14]
“Hence” in the French Revolution
there was never a republican consti-
322- 323. “He” (Caesar) “removed the in-
ternal contradiction” (by abolishing
the republic, which had become a
“shadow”) “and created a new one. For
world rule had hitherto reached only
to the rim of the Alps, but Caesar open-
ed a new arena: he founded the theatre
which was now to become the centre
of world history.”
Hegel and
tions” in
And then on the murder of Caesar:
...“In general, a political revolu-
tion is, as it were, sanctioned in man’s
opinion if it is repeated” (Napoleon,
the Bourbons).... “By repetition that
which at first appeared merely a mat-
ter of chance and possibility becomes
something real and confirmed.” (323)
of the
possible and
versus act-
uality and
in history
“Christianity.” (328-346) Banal, cleric-
al, idealistic chatter about the greatness
of Christianity (with quotations from
the Gospels!!). Disgusting, stinking!
420- 421: Why was the Reformation lim-
ited to a few nations? Among other
reasons—“the Slav nations were agri-
” (421) and this brings with
it “the relation of lords and serfs,”
less “Betriebsamkeit,[15]” etc. But why
the Romanic nations? Their character
(Grundcharakter[16] 421 i.f.)
429  ...“Polish freedom likewise was noth-
ing but the freedom of the barons
against the monarchs.... Hence the
people had the same interest against
the barons as the kings.... When free-
dom is mentioned, one must always
be careful to see whether it is not really
private interests that are being spoken
of.” (430)
439:   On the French Revolution... Why did
the French pass “immediately from the
theoretical to the practical,” but not
the Germans? Among the Germans, the
Reformation had “schon Alles gebes-
sert,”[17] abolished “das unsägliche Un-
recht,”[18] etc.
441:   For the first time (in the French
Revolution) humanity had arrived at
the conclusion “that man bases himself
on the head, i.e., on thought, and
builds reality accordingly....” “This
was ... a glorious dawn....”
In considering further the “course of
the Revolution in France” (441) Hegel
stresses in freedom in general—freedom
of property, and of industry (ibid.).
...The promulgation of laws? The will
of all.... “The few should represent
the many, but they often merely re-
them....” (442) “The power of the
cf. Marx and
majority over the minority is to
no less degree a great inconsistency”
444:   ...“In its content this event” (the French
Revolution) “is world historical....”
“Liberalism,” (444) “liberal institu-
tions” (443) spread over Europe.

p. 446—      

446: “World history is nothing but the
development of the notion of free-
Most impor-
tant is Ein-
where there
is much that
is magni-
ficent in the
of the

In general the philosophy of history
yields very, very little—this is compre-
hensible, for it is precisely here, in
this field, in this science, that Marx
and Engels made the greatest step for-
ward. Here most of all, Hegel is obso-
lete and antiquated.
            (see the next page[21])



“If then, finally, we regard world history from the standpoint of the category through which it should be considered, we have before us an endless picture of human life and activity under the most varied circumstances, with all kinds of aims and the most diverse events and destinies. In all these occurrences and events we see human action and effort in the forefront; everywhere something akin to ourselves, and therefore everywhere something that excites our interest for or against. Sometimes it attracts us by beauty, freedom and richness, sometimes by energy, sometimes even vice succeeds in making itself important. Often there is the comprehensive mass of some general interest that cumbrously moves forward, but still more often the infinite exertion of minute forces, which produce a tremendous result from what appears insignificant; every where the motleyest spectacle, and as soon as one vanishes another takes its place.

“But the immediate result of this consideration, however attractive it may be, is exhaustion, such as follows after a very varied spectacle, a magic lantern show; and even if we accord to each individual representation its true worth, the question nevertheless arises in our minds, what is the final aim of all these particular events, is each one exhausted by its special aim, or ought one not rather think of a single ultimate aim of all these events; behind the loud noises at the surface is there not going on the labour and production of a work, an internal, quiet, secret work in which the essential force of all those transitory phenomena is stored up? But if one does not bring thought, rational cognition, to world history from the beginning, one must at least approach it with the firm unshakable faith that it has reason in it, or at least that the world of the intellect and self-conscious will is not a victim of chance but must reveal itself in the light of the self-knowing idea.” (73-74)[22]

((NB. In the Preface, p. XVIII, the publisher, i.e., the editor, Ed. Gans, states that up to p.73 the text was written by Hegel in 1830; the manuscript is an “Ausarbeitung[23]))




[1] Hegel, Werke, Bd. IX, Berlin, 1837.—Ed.

[2] feeble—Ed.

[3] “self-interest”—Ed.

[4] in fine—at the end—Ed.

[5] human beings—Ed.

[6] See F. Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, Chapter IV (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, 1958, p. 391).

[7] very important!—Ed.

[8] See p. 313 of this volume.—Ed.

[9] Regarding the influence of geographical conditions on the development of society see G. V. Plekhanov, “Fundamental Questions of Marxism,” Chapter VI, and “N. G. Chernyshevsky,” Chapter II.

[10] order—Ed.

[11] duration—Ed.

[12] something excellent—Ed.

[13] Lenin is evidently comparing the formulations of Hegel and Feuerbach, who approach the question of the origin of religion from opposite standpoints. See, for example, Feuerbach’s thesis: “in a deified being, he (i.e., man-Ed.) objectifies solely his own being.” [See Feuerbach’s Essence of Christianity: Introduction §2, The Essence of Religion in General]

[14] ardour—Ed.

[15] “industriousness”—Ed.

[16] fundamental character—Ed.

[17] “already changed everything for the better”—Ed.

[18] “unspeakable injustice”—Ed.

[19] Lenin is probably referring to the following passage in Marx’s work The Civil War in France: “Instead of deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to misrepresent the people in Parliament, universal suffrage was to serve the people, constituted in Communes....” (See Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, p. 520.)

[20] introduction—Ed.

[21] On the next page of the manuscript the excerpt “Hegel on World History” begins.—Ed.

[22] Hegel, Werke, Bd. IX, Berlin, 1837.—Ed.

[23] “elaboration”—Ed.


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