Architects and Craftsmen in History

Architects and Craftsmen in History

Architects and Craftsmen in History

Architects and Craftsmen in History

Excerpt

It is a commonplace to say that progress in the "study of man" has not kept pace with the advances in natural science. Human phenomena, it is sometimes said, are more complex, experiment is impossible, and prejudice inevitable. Statistical analysis of measurable data fails to touch the inner springs of human action. "Insight," derived from a fallible introspection, fails to convince beyond a limited circle close to the observer. The first often leaves us unduly cold, while the second sometimes makes us excessively warm in our disagreement. In this dilemma, the study of man, and especially the study of the history of human life, has suffered a bifurcation between the minute and the mystical.

Recent controversy over the work of ARNOLD TOYNBEE has focussed attention on the problem of a "middle way" in historical studies. ISAIAH BERLIN, in a recent essay, more or less devoted to TOLSTOY, has developed the theme with an amusing quotation from Archilochus. The problem of scope, however, has sometimes been confused with the related, but separate problem of method. Narrative history of the most minute range may in fact be organized around a core of whimsy and prejudice. Pretentious worldsystems, on the other hand, may be derived from a collection of statistically measurable aggregates. Generally, however, in history-writing, shortsightedness and fact-mindedness have gone together, while lofty visions have sprung unashamedly from their creators' own breasts. History books have tended to grow either trivial and dull or vague and flamboyant.

Serious attempts have been made during the present century to hold together these two mutually repulsive and essentially escapist tendencies, and to harness them to useful scientific work. The program for social history evolved by SCHMOLLER and his followers in Germany, although now out of fashion even in its homeland, was a noble experiment in the combination of careful scholarship with bold generalization. Despite their scorn for classical economic theorizing and their insistence on descriptive work, the "historical school" had a weakness for social theory. Their program, however, found only limited expression in their work, which -- like much of German thought -- remained split between detail and dream. Practicing social historians outside Germany -- men like PIRENNE and ROSTOVTZEFF -- could do little with the German program in any organized way. They responded to the new impulses that led away from political . . .

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