Understanding History: And Other Essays

Understanding History: And Other Essays

Understanding History: And Other Essays

Understanding History: And Other Essays

Excerpt

It is not of history as a subject of academic instruction that I wish to write. The newspapers say that the young do not know enough history when they leave school; the young, after cramming for examinations, feel that they know too much, and set to work to forget what they have learnt as soon as possible. In universities, professional historians give lectures of two kinds: survey courses, which are remembered only long enough to secure credits, and advanced courses for those who mean to spend their lives teaching history to people who will teach history to . . . All this is no doubt very valuable, but it is not the subject of this essay. My subject is history as a pleasure, as an agreeable and profitable way of spending such leisure as an exacting world may permit. I am not a professional historian, but I have read much history as an amateur. My purpose is to try to say what I have derived from history, and what many others, I am convinced, could derive without aiming at becoming specialists.

Now in the first place, if history is not necessary to your career, there is no point in reading it unless you enjoy it and find it interesting. I do not mean that the only point of history is to give pleasure--far from it. It has many other uses, which I shall try to explain in the course of this essay. But it will not have these uses . . .

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