Conclusions to blupete's Essay
"An Essay on History"
The first challenge to one who would choose a history book is to make a determination as to whether what they have in hand is a true history book, or is it but a fable. Some works, undoubtedly are fables but time has allowed them to be rested on our history shelves.
"No anchor, no cable, no fences, avail to keep a fact a fact. Babylon, Troy, Tyre, Palestine, and even early Rome, are passing already into fiction. The Garden of Eden, the sun standing still in Gibeon, is poetry thenceforward to all nations. Who cares what the fact was, when we have made a constellation of it to hang in heaven an immortal sign? London and Paris and New York must go the same way." (From Emerson's Essays.)
Fables can, of course, make for interesting reading; but if one wants a true account of the past one generally must first carry out some research on the historian (just as one should on all writers) before plunging into his books. A person can not go wrong if he or she sticks to the classics, which by definition are those which have been tested with time.13 A sampling:
Through the reading of history we gain knowledge of our past. It can be an exciting and an entertaining adventure; but, importantly, it is one of the primary methods by which we gain knowledge, an essential guide to our future conduct. In the process, as we gain new ones, we are bound, at times, to throw out old beliefs, ones that are often more comfortable and possibly more widely held; but, if it is properly concluded that the old belief is wrong, then throw it out we must. The test for knowledge is whether the particular belief or hypothesis is true, or not; not whether it may or may not be offensive. To initiate the process we must examine the beliefs of other men; history books (as well as good literature) is one of the best sources. But, time is short and books are many; so, first, in the order of things, as I hope I have been able to get across in my pages, one must choose a good history book: best to start (as with any book) by carefully choosing the author: by first getting to know the historian and his reputation.
Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire;
- Thomas Babington Macaulay,
History of England;
- Thomas Carlyle,
The French Revolution;
- Francis Parkman,
France and England in North America;
- George Macaulay Trevelyan,
British History in the Nineteenth Century, and;
- Will Durant,
The Story of Civilization.
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