IT MAY be, as Hegel said in his Philosophy of History,that the one thing history teaches is that "peoples and governments never have learned anything from history." A more encouraging, though still portentous view, is expressed in the saying that those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. Whichever judgment comes closer to truth, men do often ponder over their history, worry about it, and try to puzzle out its direction and meaning.
Our modern era, sensitive and self-conscious, has turned its interests upon itself in an unprecedented way. Through the studies of Sigmund Freud and his followers man has penetrated far into the inner workings of his own mind and personality. Similarly man has tried to probe the inner working of his social life and history, as is evident in the wide response to works like those of Spengler and Toynbee.
Neither of these interests is entirely new. In Socrates' "Know thyself," and the Psalmist "What is man that Thou art mindful of him?," the ancients raised the question of man's nature. And the reader of modern psychology may find many an illuminating insight in the Platonic or biblical writings. Similarly the inquirer into the meaning and workings of history may find paths marked out by the seers of Apollo and the prophets of Israel's God. But modern thought is unique in combining with intense personal and historical self-concern a mastery of techniques for determining what goes on within the human being and within history.