A Study of History


Mr. D. C. Somervell explains in his own following prefatory note how he came to make this abridgement of the first six volumes of my book. Before I knew anything about it, a number of inquiries had been reaching me, particularly from the United States, as to whether there was any likelihood of an abridgement of these volumes being published pending the time—now inevitably postponed far beyond all original expectations owing to the war—when I should be able to publish the rest of the work. I had been feeling the force of this demand, but had not seen how to meet it (being, as I was, very fully occupied with war-work) until the problem was solved in a most happy way by a letter from Mr. Somervell telling me that an abridgement, made by him, was now in existence.

When Mr. Somervell sent me his manuscript, more than four years had already passed since the publication of volumes IV-VI and more than nine years since that of volumes I-III. For a writer the act of publication always, I suppose, has the effect of turning into a foreign body the work that, so long as it was in the making, was a part of its maker's life; and in this case the war of 1939-1945, with the changes of circumstance and occupation that it brought with it, had also intervened between my book and me (volumes IV-VI were published forty-one days before the war broke out). In working over Mr. Somervell's manuscript, I have therefore been able—notwithstanding his skill in retaining my own words—to read the abridgement almost as though it were a new book from another hand than mine. I have now made it fully my own by here and there recasting the language (with Mr. Somervell's goodnatured acquiescence) as I have gone along, but I have not compared the abridgement with the original line by line, and I have made a point of never reinserting any passage that Mr. Somervell had left out—believing, as I do, that the author himself is unlikely to be the best judge of what is and is not an indispensable part of his work.

The maker of a skilful abridgement does an author a most valuable service which his own hand cannot readily do for him, and readers of the present volume who are acquainted with the original text will, I am sure, agree with me that Mr. Somervell's literary craftsmanship has been skilful indeed. He has managed to preserve tile argument of the book, to present it for the most part in the original words and at the same time to abridge six volumes into

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • New York
Publication year:
  • 1947


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