The Meaning of History, and Other Historical Pieces

The Meaning of History, and Other Historical Pieces

Read FREE!

The Meaning of History, and Other Historical Pieces

The Meaning of History, and Other Historical Pieces

Read FREE!

Excerpt

What is the use of historical knowledge? Is an acquaintance with the events, the men, the ideas of the past, of any real use to us in these days -- has it any practical bearing upon happiness and conduct in life?

Two very different answers may be given to this question. The Gradgrinds and the Jack Cades assure us that there is no use at all. We are, they would say with Bacon, the mature age of the world; with us lies the gathered wisdom of ages. To waste our time in studying exploded fallacies, in reproducing worn-out forms of society, or in recalling men who were only conspicuous because they lived amidst a crowd of ignorant or benighted barbarians, is to wander from the path of progress, and to injure and not to improve our understandings.

On the other hand, the commonplace of literary gossip declares that history has fifty different uses. It is amusing to hear what curious things they did in bygone times. Then, again, it is very instructive as a study of character; we see in history the working of the human mind and will. Besides, it is necessary to avoid the blunders they committed in past days: there we collect a store of moral examples, and of political maxims; we learn to watch the signs of the times, and to be prepared for situations when-

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