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point of view is "the point of view” in history, preëminently.
And yet when we are confronted with the immense mass of material under any given historical topic, and recognize how small a percentage of the whole has any right to bear the epithet “judicial," we may be for the moment puzzled. Only for a moment, however, because we can, (still following the analogy of the court of law), describe all of this less acceptable portion as "materials for history." In just this same way, all the papers which are introduced in connection with the trial of a case in court are materials for the final decision, including the documents of various kinds, the correspondence, the stenographic report of the testimony, and the pleas made by the counsel. In the domain of history, as has been noticed, we have not only the documents and correspondence, but also the “annals,” painfully compiled by rude and unpractised hands, and also the various "pleas,” (more or less consciously partisan) known as “memoirs," "vindications," "apologies," etc. These occupy the field until the coming of some historical work which shall sum up the substance of them all, presenting in an adequate manner what they expressed only inadequately.
As in all questions of "names and things," discrimination in this matter is usually difficult and sometimes dangerous. We shall be content, in ordinary conversation, at least, to adopt the conventional designation, “historian”, as applying to the writers of all alike, rather than assume a pedantic attitude,-just as one does not quarrel with the census enumerator who, with unconscious humor, perhaps, would affix the same label, “pianist”, alike to Paderewski, and to some half-fledged pounder of the keys who rents an office for instructing pupils.
Nor must we forget that some of these “memoirs" which fall short most flagrantly, of the judicial standard,-and indeed because of thus falling short of it,-have a value of
their own as “human documents.” So unrestrained, so genuine, so natural, so lifelike, is their picture of the event or period, that one's heart almost goes out to them in reading them.
Our own literature, fortunately, is full of these biographies, and autobiographical memoirs, whose very charm is in their subjective character, and their freedom from self-consciousness. Othello's last injunction to his two friends ran thus:
“When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,
Nor set down aught in malice." And when, says Agnes Repplier, he thus implored them, "he offered the best and most comprehensive advice which the great race of biographers and memoir writers have ever listened to and discarded.” She adds: "For half truths", “those broken utterances which come bubbling up the well from the great unloved goddess whom we all unite in holding below the water, there are no such mediums as the memoir and the biography.”2
It is evident that the impulse to find enjoyment as well as information in the mass of historical literature which the world has seen gradually accumulating, is a deep-seated one. But so also is the impulse to find in it instruction,wisdom, guidance, a lesson for the future. That there is risk, not to say peril, in such a tendency as this, no one who has made himself familiar with the scientific point of view in history can for a moment doubt. For example, one feels like asking: “If history “teaches”, what does it teach, and how?” “How can one be assured of the correctness of the supposed lessons, or inferences?” Assuredly, the pages of history are full of erroneous inferences. Doubtless also there have been many instances of "disputed" inferences. To this day, there are two different schools
1Shakespeare's "Othello," Act. 5, scene 2, lines 414-16. 3' Counsel upon the reading of books," p. 97-98.
of interpretation, so far as the "lessons” of the French Revolution are concerned; and each of the opposite schools is quite sure that the other is alarmingly wrong.
Perhaps a question which goes to the root of the matter is this;—“Should the lesson be an explicit one, or merely implicit?” Should it be driven in,-almost “rubbed in”, one might say,-or should it be left there to be discovered by any reader who is in possession of his reasoning powers?
The sober second thought will point to the latter.'
ALTERNATIONS OF OPINION AS TO THE POINT OF VIEW.
No one who examines critically the body of historical literature from century to century,—and from decade to decade,—can fail to be impressed by the extent to which it has reflected the tendencies of the time. A writer who should have published his history in the early part of the Nineteenth Century could hardly fail to be influenced by the theories of natural rights, which were universally discussed at that period. Likewise, one who wrote during the later years of that century would necessarily be influenced, and most profoundly, by the doctrine of evolution.
But there are also tendencies to be observed,-or rather violent oscillations from one extreme to the other,--so far
An analogous question is that which relates to "ethical values in history." One view, (namely, that the historian should take account of these data), is held by Mr. Goldwin Smith and Lord Acton.
"The treatment of history,” by Goldwin Smith, (President's address to the American Historical Association, Dec. 28. 1904), American Historical Review, April, 1905, v. 10, p. 511-20.
"A lecture on the study of history," (inaugural lecture at the University of Cambridge, June 11, 1895), by Lord Acton, London: Macmillan & Co., 1895, P. 63-73.
On the contrary, Mr. Lea and the late Bishop Creighton hold that history should be little more than a photograph of what took place, not considering whether it ought to have taken place.
"Ethical values in history," by Henry Charles Lea, (President's address to the American Historical Association, Dec. 29, 1903), American Historical Review, Jan., 1904, v. 9, p. 233-46. A somewhat kindred subject is treated in the “President's address in 1905, by John B. McMaster, on "Old standards of public morals," American Historical Review, April, 1906, v. 11, p. 515-28.
"Historical ethics,” by the Rt. Rev. Mandell Creighton, late Bishop of London, printed posthumously, (under the direction of his widow), in the Quarterly Review, July, 1905, v. 203, p. 32-46. (Reprinted in the Living Age, Aug. 26, 1905, v. 246, p. 515-24; and in the Churchman, Sept. 9, 1905, v. 92, p. 384-85).
as regards the holding of one or another of the two views of history, considered above. At one time, the pendulum swings towards the literary view of the subject. At another time, it swings far in the other direction, towards the scientific view. One needs scarcely to raise the question as to which of the two views is now in the ascendant. In fact, there has seldom been a time when the pressure has been so emphatically in favor of the scientific view. So completely is this tendency in control, that more than one scholar has raised his voice in lamentation at the passing of the literary standard and literary point of view,' apparently fearful that these may be crowded off the scene altogether. That there has been, says a recent writer, "a decline in historical writing, as judged by the canons of great literature, some might possibly deny, but the most of us would readily concede." *** With the great works of history, those "produced during the last quarter-century, while almost legion in number, are in but very few cases even comparable as pieces of literary art. They may be and without doubt frequently are, better histories, but they are certainly not so good literature”.?
It is quite likely that the true state of the case does not call for extreme concern or anxiety. Not to speak of the fact that the swinging of the pendulum can almost always be relied on to correct a tendency which runs to an extreme, it is to be remembered that there was really very much from which an extreme reaction was needed, in the vogue which has been enjoyed, in the past, by varieties of historical writings which were superficial in treatment, partisan in tone, and prejudiced in motive. It must also be remembered that the present and recent emphasis on the scientific point of view was really nothing more than natural, in view of the profound influence of the doctrine of evolu
'It is not always from this precise point of view that the subject is considered. There is a very thoughtful article on "History and materialism," by Alfred H. Lloyd, in the American Historical Review, July, 1905, v. 10, p. 727-50.
*F. A. Ogg, in the Dial, April 1, 1902, v. 32, p. 233.
tion' on all fields of Nineteenth Century thought. Still further, it should be borne in mind that we are just now in possession of great masses of hitherto unused historical materials, in the record offices and archives of almost every civilized nation, calling for the application of scientific methods to reduce it to order and system. Until more of an impression has been made upon this undigested mass than has as yet been made, we are scarcely likely to see the domination of the scientific view very materially diminished.
There is one final reflection which claims our attention. There are duties in regard to historical narratives which concern the reader of history, as well as the writer of history. Let us return for a moment to the analogy of the court of justice, above referred to. Of those who deal with the evidence brought into court, we have already named the counsel. In accordance with what is expected of him, he presents his case, in the style of an advocate, and an extremist. The second to be noticed is the judge, who tries the case, and seriously, carefully, logically, arrives at his conclusion. But, lastly, there is the jury. We sometimes speak of "the verdicts of history"; but verdicts are rendered, not by the judge, but by the jury.
1The doctrine of evolution indeed has had, upon this whole subject of historical interpretation, an influence not even yet fully comprehended in this country. In Germany, the revolution which has been going on during the last quarter-century, as to historical method, has represented a conflict between the positions taken by Ranke and those taken by Lamprecht. “The new history," says a writer in the American Historical Review,-"and here lies its really fundamental featureholds to the principle of describing the human past from the point of view of rational evolution.” He adds that it asks not “Wie ist es eigentlich gewesen?" (as Ranke did), but rather "Wie ist es eigentlich geworden?" (Article by Earle W. Dow, “Features of the new history," in American Historical Review, April, 1898, v. 3, p. 448.) A very enlightening view of Lamprecht's relation to recent historical discussion in Germany is to be had from W. E. Dodd's article, “Karl Lamprecht and Kulturgeschichte,” in Popular Science Monthly, Sept., 1903, v. 63. p. 418-24. See also the reviews of Lamprecht's "Deutsche Geschichte," by James Tait, in the English Historical Review, July, 1892, v. 7, p. 547-50, and Oct., 1893, v. 8, p. 748-50 Also the review of his “What is history?", (by "A. G."), in the English Historical Review, July, 1905, v. 20, p. 604.
3" To trace causes and effects” says Mr. William R. Thayer, "had long been their purpose," si. e., that of the historians); "now they saw that the principle of growth or development, was itself the very rudder of causation." ("Proceedings" of the Massachusetts Historical Society, May 11, 1905, at p. 280 of v. 19, of the 2d series.)