A History of Economic Progress in the United States

A History of Economic Progress in the United States

A History of Economic Progress in the United States

A History of Economic Progress in the United States

Excerpt

The word "history" is employed in two senses--to denote a record of events and as the events themselves. In its widest sense, history is all that has ever happened, not only the things of human life, but the phenomena of the natural world also. In this broad sense, because science shows that nothing is absolutely static, the entire universe with all of its parts has had its history.

From earliest historical records, poetry and inscriptions, for instance, history advanced to the story telling of Herodotus and to the science of Thucydides, but later an eclipse came. With the advent of Christianity history was long dominated by the church and it was controlled by that viewpoint. Modern historians began with politics, but in more recent times, the social, economic, and commercial motives have been strongly emphasized. In 1847 Karl Marx in his Misere de la philosophie laid down the principle that social relationships depended largely upon the modes of production and that consequently the principles evolved were historical and transitory products, a theory which found expression in the Manifesto of the Communist Party the next year in explaining how the industrial revolution had substituted modern for feudal conditions. But not until the third volume of Das Kapital was published in 1894 did continental scholars realize the importance of this contribution. In the meantime, H. T. Buckle in his History of Civilization in England, 1857, had shown the effect of the material world upon history through food, soil, and the general aspect of nature. Yet he did not, as many insist, make these three factors control all history, for he urged that "the advance of European civilization is characterized by a diminishing influence of physical laws and an increasing influence of mental laws" and that "the measure of civilization is the triumph of mind over external agents."

But according to Marx and his associate, Frederick Engels, history has always been determined by economic factors. They believed that changes in modes of production changed society, that the handmill created a society with its feudal lord and the steam mill a society with its industrial capitalist. Yet economic history is neither materialism nor the economic interpretation of history. We need to realize that the economic aspect is one side only. The colonial boycotts of England and the vote on the ratification of the Constitution cannot be explained by the economic motive alone, though Professors A. M. Schlesinger and C. A. Beard have . . .

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