Carl Becker

Carl Becker

Carl Becker

Carl Becker

Excerpt

This study was begun as a work in American historiography, not as an attempt at biography. I intended to deal with historical relativism as developed and expressed by Carl Becker. I did not intend to concern myself very much with his life, which appeared to have been quite uneventful, or with his political writings or opinions except insofar as they influenced his beliefs and his practice in writing history. All of these intentions, and the assumption on which they were based, turned out to be naive. The material as it grew failed to fit into the pigeonholes I had provided--pigeonholes labeled with appropriate rubrics: the man, the teacher, the writer, the historian, the citizen, the philosopher, and so on. First, I could not disentangle the writer from the historian; next, Becker's beliefs about democracy came to seem entirely germane to his beliefs about how history should be written; finally, Becker's life ceased to appear uneventful except in the most external sense. In the realm of imagination Becker's life was exciting--a tale of difficulties overcome, of tragedy and pain accepted, the high adventure of a courageous and discriminating mind confronting the universe without fear and without illusion. What Becker was, what he did, and what he thought about all manner of things were somehow all of a piece. But it was not at all a simple piece. Simplicity there was in him, but it was . . .

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