A History of the American People

A History of the American People

A History of the American People

A History of the American People

Excerpt

J. B. BLACK in The Art of History contends that every age interprets "the record of the past in the light of its own ideas." We have preferred to take Black's words as a warning to historians rather than as a definition of written history, for we have made a conscious effort to judge the past in the light of the past and to avoid imposing the standards of our generation upon preceding generations. On the other hand, we have not renounced our right to interpret the past, for we have constantly tried to present the events of American history in meaningful patterns and to point out what we think is the significance of these events.

Our approach to history is eclectic. We do not think that the past should be studied from a single viewpoint or that it can be explained by one theory to the exclusion of all other theories. But, while rejecting any over-all thesis, we have not failed to take a stand on controversial issues. In each instance the nature of the issue has helped to determine our stand; and the fact that we have advanced a succession of different interpretations rather than used the same interpretations for a succession of events accurately reflects our conviction that every historical event is unique.

The organization of these volumes represents a compromise between the chronological and topical approaches to the material under consideration. We have divided American history into a number of comparatively large periods, and within each period we have dealt with a series of major topics. This method necessitates some repetition, but in a book that is designed for students repetition in our view is an asset rather than a defect. In addition, the organization makes it possible for the student at the instructor's discretion to omit certain chapters or sections without destroying the thread of the narrative. In the selection of topics, we have proceeded on the hypothesis that no part or period of American history is inherently more important than any other, and we have therefore sought to present fully the political, diplomatic, intellectual, social, economic, and religious history of the American people.

HARRY J. CARMAN HAROLD C. SYRETT

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