Historian's Quest

Historian's Quest

Historian's Quest

Historian's Quest

Excerpt

I should like to begin by explaining the title of this book. During the years 1960-4, while I was writing The Spanish Republic and the Civil War, I frequently regretted the amount of material in my notes which was not appropriate to the kind of objective, scholarly history I was then composing. I knew very well that my conversations with veterans of the war, my visits to historic monuments and orphanages, had no place in such a history. Yet when I thought in terms of human value, of what was worth retaining and communicating, it seemed to me that many of those materials were as important as anything currently entering the scholarly book. My original impulse, then, was that after completing the formal history I would write a short book or a series of loosely connected essays based upon those facets of my work in Spain which were not to be included under the heading of scholarship.

When I began directly to plan that new writing, it seemed to me desirable, and even necessary, that my Spanish experience be related to my principles and practices as a historian, and also to the portions of my personal life which I knew to have affected my work as a historian. The germ of this further purpose may well have come from my repeated readings of the endlessly stimulating and suggestive work of Américo Castro, The Structure of Spanish History. The great Spanish scholar had shown that much of the passion and humor of his nation's literature flows from a current of "personal integralism," definable as the effort to absorb all experience into the self, not for purposes of narrative or anecdote, but as a way of comprehending a world in which the individual finds it extremely difficult to arrive at reliable, unfluctuating, objective criteria of understanding. Hence, in works both of fiction and of nonfiction, the writer could not be satisfied to express him-

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