The Evolution of England: A Commentary on the Facts

The Evolution of England: A Commentary on the Facts

The Evolution of England: A Commentary on the Facts

The Evolution of England: A Commentary on the Facts

Excerpt

The reader who is not a professed student of history is often shy of text-books which give him an array of dates and details without indicating the relative significance of the events recorded. It is for this reader that the present volume is designed. It is not a text-book, since it omits many things with which a text-book of its size would be obliged to deal. Instead, it selects those transactions which best illuminate the central theme, the development of the English community and of the country it inhabits. For such a purpose, to cite an example, the Wars of the Roses are important because they helped to eliminate the feudal aristocracy and to prepare the ground for Tudor rule and the growth of a national spirit; but the general character of the wars demands our attention rather than the details of the battles.

Throughout the book I have tried to give due prominence to the geographical factors--in the earlier periods, to the physical geography of England as it was, and in the later, to the English consequences of the discovery of the outer world by Europeans. The evolution of a nation cannot be explained on political lines alone. The stage is important as well as the company, and each has its reactions upon the other. Geographic circumstance, economic motive, and political action, are an ever-recurring sequence. Politics, however, are the major interest, not only the politics that are shaped by economic motive, but those also that spring from religious beliefs and the general spirit of the age. To describe and account for movements of the spirit is generally more easy than convincing, but it is at least possible to register their results as shown in laws and institutions and acknowledged principles of conduct.

A commentary of the kind here attempted involves the expression of opinions, and few opinions can hope to please everybody. It is possible to be provocative in discussing the sixteenthcentury . . .

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