Angevin Kingship

Angevin Kingship

Angevin Kingship

Angevin Kingship

Excerpt

There are difficulties for the constitutional historian of any country or period, and certain temptations. He shares them with any historian who professes to divide the substance of history. To write constitutional history, economic history, social history, is at once to presuppose a kind of functionalism, to suggest to oneself that some separate parts of the flow of human experience will have each a law of its own and present a developing pattern. It may, for those who are attracted by it, impose a kind of means-to-end treatment, the idea, often unconscious, that 'the constitution', 'the social economy', or whatever it is, is working towards a consummation--usually towards the state of things in the writer's own day. The danger--if it be a danger --is here obvious; from the writer's very assumptions, he is prone to give a special kind of importance to those factors in the period of his study which resemble or anticipate or lead towards the dominant factors in the same field in his own present; he will not, if his critical faculty is weak, be writing period history, but tracing a receding perspective of his own time back and back until it encloses so small a sector of the past that his prospect of it becomes gravely contracted. The facts to which his lines of observation lead may be facts, but they may bear only a small proportion to the whole, and the mere process of their selection may give him a very untrue picture of the age.

It is a very different proposition to say, as we may too often hear it said, that history cannot be impartial, even that it ought not to be so. Those who say it do so in ignorance or because some political nostrum would be less vulnerable if it were true. It is dangerous to pretend that the historian has a social duty, essential to realize that he has an intellectual duty; that is, to see . . .

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