CHAPTER TWO HISTORY VERSUS THE DOGMATISTS

BECAUSE history has been approached from many different points of view, it has received more amusingly varied definitions than even the novel. The cynic's definition of it as a mensonge convenu, a lie agreed upon, may harmonize with the statement attributed to Disraeli that he preferred romances to history because they told more truth; but it is a piece of baseless flippancy. It is precisely the fact that historians are always ready to disagree with each other which makes any persistence of lies in history--that is, true history--unlikely. Carlyle, approaching the subject from his special predilection, which emphasized the rôle of the individual, termed history the essence of innumerable biographies. But obviously it is a good deal more than that; it takes account of many forces which are not personal at all. John Cotter Morison defined it as "the prose narrative of past events, as probably true as the fallibility of human testimony will allow." Good so far as it goes, that definition is too pedestrian to be wholly satisfactory. Conversely, a familiar modern statement that history is the record of everything in the past which helps explain how the present came to be, is too philosophical and priggish. It emphasizes too much the utilitarian rôle of history, which we often wish to read without any reference whatever to the present--even to get entirely away from the present.

History is any integrated narrative or description of past events or facts written in a spirit of critical inquiry for the whole truth. A definition which attempts to be more precise

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