History, as Edward Gibbon cynically put it, is no more "than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind." Tennyson: "The trouble of ants in the gleam of a million million of suns."
 The Marxian view can be traced back to the French philosopher and founder of the school known as positivism, Auguste Comte (1798-1857). In Comte's aphorism, "Progress is the development of order," one can see the roots of all socialistic or collectivist thought, viz., the belief that man is perfectible and through "science" can be "guided" toward a superior state of civilization.
 "A nation is assigned the accomplishment of one of these stages, it flourishes for a while and then gives way to another. It then disappears and another, superior State emerges." [Alphern, An Outline History of Philosophy (Forum House, 1969) at p. 168-9.]
 See Popper's The Poverty of Historicism. "The fundamental thesis of this book [is that] the belief in historical destiny is sheer superstition, and that there can be no prediction of the course of human history by scientific or any other rational method ... [it is dedicated to] the memory of the countless men and women of all creeds or nations or races who fell victims to the fascist and communist belief in Inexorable Laws of Historical Destiny."
 This, of course, brings Napoleon's declaration to mind: "History is but a fiction agreed upon."
 Except possibly for Euclidian theory (and that has been questioned) nothing can be conclusively proved; one, however, may be able to falsify a proposition. See the works of Sir Karl Popper.
 For anyone who doubts this proposition I need only refer to Newtonian theory which held sway for better than two hundred years, until, in the 20th century, quantum theory came along.
 It was Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) who said, "Whosoever, in writing a modern history, shall follow truth too near the heels, it may haply strike out his teeth." (History of the World, 1614.)
 Lord Acton's The History of Freedom.
 "The Task of the Modern Historian."
 Vol. III, p. 520.
 There are bound to be current works which are good, but I have not the time to wade through them. Paul Johnson, a history writer with some sense of philosophy and economics, is most readable and invariably full of the most interesting tidbits; check out his works, particularly, Modern Times and The Birth of the Modern.
[Essays, First Series]
[Essays, Second Series]
[Essays, Third Series]
[Essays, Fourth Series]