The Transfer of the Sudeten Germans: A Study of Czech-German Relations, 1933-1962

By Radomír Luža | Go to book overview

FOREWORD

THE WRITING of contemporary history is a difficult and controversial art. Those who attempt it can afford to harbor no illusions concerning the risks they run in producing works which may be visibly more than ephemeral and still considerably less than definitive. And yet, despite the dangers involved, great masters of the historical craft as well chroniclers of lesser talents have at some time during their careers tried their hand at the recording and interpretation of the history of their own age. In a sense, Thucydides spoke for them all when he wrote, at the beginning of his history of the "great war" between the Peloponnesians and the Athenians, while that epochmaking conflict was still in course, that he believed it to be "more worthy of relation than any other that had preceded it." Each of the great historians who, from the era of the Renaissance to the twentieth century, wrote of his own times offered some implicit or explicit variant of Thucydides' own motivation. Whether they penned accounts of the tragedy or of the splendor of their ages, of great wars and civil conflicts, of a political system at its height or of a civilization in decay, master-historians of the stature of Guicciardini, Glarendon, Voltaire, Ranke, Burckhardt, Meinecke, and Groce have left unique evidences that they could not escape their present. When Benedetto Grote came to reflect directly upon this universal, historiographical phenomenon, he arrived at the philosophical conclusion that, in a larger sense, all history is contemporary, not only because great historians had written of their own times but chiefly because even when they had turned their gaze upon the past they had really been

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