Illustrated English Social History - Vol. 1

Illustrated English Social History - Vol. 1

Illustrated English Social History - Vol. 1

Illustrated English Social History - Vol. 1

Excerpt

Although I have attempted to bring this book up to date in the light of the most recent publications (1941), it was nearly all written before the war. I then had in view a social history of England from the Roman times to our own, but I left to the last the part that I would find most difficult, the centuries preceding the Fourteenth. The war has rendered it impossible for me to complete the work, but it has occurred to me that the chapters which I have already finished constitute a consecutive story of six centuries, from the Fourteenth to the Nineteenth, and as such some readers may give it welcome.

Social history might be defined negatively as the history of a people with the politics left out. It is perhaps difficult to leave out the politics from the history of any people, particularly the English people. But as so many history books have consisted of political annals with little reference to their social environment, a reversal of that method may have its uses to redress the balance. During my own lifetime a third very flourishing sort of history has come into existence, the economic, which greatly assists the serious study of social history. For the social scene grows out of economic conditions, to much the same extent that political events in their turn grow out of social conditions. Without social history, economic history is barren and political history is unintelligible.

But social history does not merely provide the required link between economic and political history. It has also its own positive value and peculiar concern. Its scope may be defined as the daily life of the inhabitants of the land in past ages: this includes the human as well as the economic relation of different classes to one another, the character of family and household life, the conditions of labour and of leisure, the attitude of man to nature, the culture of each age as it arose out of these general conditions of life, and took ever-changing forms in religion, literature and music, architecture, learning and thought.

How far can we know the real life of men in each successive age of the past? Historians and antiquarians have amassed by patient . . .

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