"The History of the World is nothing but the development of the Idea of Freedom."
The Philosophy of World History was originally composed for lectures at the University of Berlin in 1822, 1828, and 1830. The text was first published in 1837, after Hegel's death from cholera in 1831. It presents world history in terms of the Hegelian philosophy to show that history follows the dictates of reason and that the natural progress of history is due to the workings of Absolute Spirit.
"Spirit is the “nature” of individuals, their immediate substance, and its movement and necessity; it is as much the personal consciousness in their existence as it is their pure consciousness, their life, their actuality."
"That world history is governed by an ultimate design, that it is a rational process... this is a proposition whose truth we must assume; its proof lies in the study of world history itself, which is the image and enactment of reason."
"we must first of all know what the ultimate design of the world really is, and secondly, we must see that this design has been realized and that evil has not been able to maintain a position of equality beside it."
"World history... represents the development of the spirit's consciousness of its own freedom and of the consequent realization of this freedom."
This realization is seen by studying the various cultures that have developed over millennia, and trying to understand the way that freedom has worked itself out through them. Hegel's account of history begins with ancient cultures as he understood them. His account of the civilizations relied upon 19th century European scholarship, and contains an unavoidable Eurocentric bias. At the same time, the developmental nature of Hegel's philosophy meant that rather than simply deprecating ancient civilizations and non-European cultures, he saw them as necessary steps, though incomplete or underdeveloped, in the workings of absolute spirit. Hegel's lectures on the philosophy of history contain one of his most well-known and controversial claims about the notion of freedom:
"World history is the record of the spirit's efforts to attain knowledge of what it is in itself. The Orientals do not know that the spirit or man as such are free in themselves. And because they do not know that, they are not themselves free. They only know that One is free.... The consciousness of freedom first awoke among the Greeks, and they were accordingly free; but, like the Romans, they only knew that Some, and not all men as such, are free.... The Germanic nations, with the rise of Christianity, were the first to realize that All men are by nature free, and that freedom of spirit is his very essence."