A blupete Essay

History And Tradition, Part 3 to blupete's Essay
"An Essay on History"

Generally speaking, our childhood experiences in school have given us a rather poor image of history books. The trouble with the typical school history book is that it is, like most surveys, too synoptic. To most people when a mention is made of a history book what comes to their mind is a dry thick tome filled with listed events in order of time, interspersed with columns of causes and consequences. History, however, can be, in the hands of a proper history writer, just as sensational, sexy, and spectacular as the best fictional sellers of the day. But the point to be made, and that which is more essential to us in the reading of history, is, that we may find it more interesting to go beyond the reading of the lives and battles of the politically powerful, and, though more difficult it seems to come by, to read of our customs and traditions.
"Nothing is more misleading, then, than the conventional formulae of historians who represent the achievement of a powerful state as the culmination of cultural evolution: it as often marked its end. In this respect students of early history were overly impressed and greatly misled by monuments and documents left by the holders of political power, whereas the true builders of the extended order, who as often as not created the wealth that made the monuments possible, left less tangible and ostentatious testimonies to their achievement." (Hayek, The Fatal Conceit, p. 33.)
While hardly able to tell of their origins, a diligent historian can tell of custom, the great guide to human life, can tell of the experiences (upon which custom is built) of ordinary people; and thus, show how rules for living have evolved, and how these evolved rules for living have contributed and influenced the stable development of society. In such an approach, history might well prove to be more interesting; it certainly is more instructive.
"When the oak tree is felled, the whole forest echoes with it; but a hundred acorns are planted silently by some unnoticed breeze. Battles and war-tumults, which for the time din every ear, and with joy or terror intoxicate every heart, pass away like tavern-brawls; and, except some few Marathons and Morgartens, are remembered by accident, not by desert. Laws themselves, political Constitutions, are not our Life, but only the house wherein our Life is led: nay, they are but the bare walls of the house; all whose essential furniture, the inventions and traditions, and daily habits that regulate and support our existence, are the work not of Dracos and Hampdens, but of Phoenician mariners, of Italian masons and Saxon metallurgists, of philosophers, alchemists, prophets, and all the long-forgotten train of artists and artisans, who from the first have been jointly teaching us how to think and how to act, how to rule over spiritual and over physical Nature. Well may we say that of our History the more important part is lost without recovery." (Carlyle.)
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2011