The Gateway to History

The Gateway to History

The Gateway to History

The Gateway to History

Excerpt

Books about history are numerous enough in all conscience. But most of them are books which try to make history more complex, recondite, and uninteresting--books forbidding and even terrifying. This is an attempt to bring out certain of the richer meanings of history, to explain in some detail its objects and difficulties, and to make clear its proper standards; and yet while doing this to illustrate its wonderful variety, and to show how engrossing its pursuit may be made. The volume is written by an amateur of history in the hope that it may aid other amateurs. When I say that I am in amateur standing I do not mean that my affection for history is of recent date or has not passed through several phases. It began when I was a child in an Illinois farmhouse, reading Macaulay and Parkman (for the family library was sizable and austerely serious) on the rainy days that meant a relief from labor; and it has continued ever since. At first my liking for history was simply for the stories it told and the scenes it painted. A little later, as a newspaperman, I tried to apply some of it to current events. Later still I have had the task of teaching it. I have come to wish both that more people read history, and that more of them did so with feeling and passion, not as a means to a limited end. I have come to wish also that history was a little freer--that readers and writers alike would abstain from fettering it with dogmas, and let it be as varied, mutable, catholic, and progressive as so great a branch of literature ought to be. Here I have tried, without worrying about that pseudo-philosophic jargon . . .

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