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and on the other hand, it is far more difficult to make a successful beginning, to lay a good foundation in history, than in the other studies included in the usual public course. This it is which makes the most useful employment of the little time allowed so perplexing a problem.
The conclusion to which the editor arrived was, that in the impossibility of communicating a thorough knowledge of history in this time, thus much should be attempted: 1. The study of some judicious work of general history ; 2. The study of some good specimen of the philosophy of history, as it is called, or the method of generalizing and reflecting upon the facts of history; and 3. The thorough investigation of some small portion of special history. The editor recommended the work of Guizot, referred to above, as a good specimen of philosophical reflection upon history; and he knows no work on general history better adapted to the purpose of public instruction than the present.
C. S. H. NEW YORK, December 11, 1844.
The use of history is not to load the memory with facts, but to store the mind with principles—to collect from the experience of past ages rules for our conduct as individuals and as members of society. Every historical work, therefore, professes to give only a selection of events; and the writer's choice is determined by the nature of his history : the general historian directs attention to the occurrences that have changed the general aspect of society, the revolutions of states and empires, the causes that led to them, and the consequences by which they were followed. The special historian confines his attention to one class of facts, specified in the title of his work : thus the ecclesiastical historian writes only of the affairs of the church; the military historian confines his narrative to wars and battles; and the commercial historian devotes his attention exclusively to trade.
But even general histories may, in some degree, be regarded as special; their object may be called “political,” that is, they profess to describe the destinies of nations, both in their external relations with foreign states, and in their internal affairs. Under the first head are comprised wars, treaties of peace or alliance, and commercial intercourse ; under the second, governments, institutions, and manners. Such a history must, to a certain extent, be a history of civilization ; for it will describe the progress of social improvement, and the progress of the human mind. These essential parts of civilization must not be confounded; for we shall have more than once occasion to remark, that the social system, or, in other words, the relations between the different parts of society, may display great wisdom and justice, while men, in their individual capacity, continue the slaves of ignorance and superstition.
A distinction is usually made between the narrative and the philoso
phy of history : in the former are included the actions of kings and rulers, the accounts of wars and treaties, the rise and fall of empires ; in the latter are comprehended descriptions of the political and religious institutions, the organization of society, the amount of knowledge, the state of industry and the arts, the morals, the habits, and the prevailing prejudices in any age or nation; and the facts thus ascertained by philosophy, are shown to be the causes of the events detailed in the narrative. It is possible to go back a step further, and to trace the origin of these institutions and manners in the succession of opinions, and gradual development of the human intellect. But unassisted reason can go no further; the law fixed by Providence for the succession of opinions and development of mind, can only be known to its omniscient Author, but that such a law exists, is proved to us by the fulfilment of prophecy, by the frequent instances of unconscious agents working out the great designs of God.
It is proposed in the following pages to unite the philosophy with the narrative of history, to combine events with their causes, and direct occasionally the attention of the student to the progress of civilization, both in its effect on society and on individuals. Sacred history—the account of the direct operations of the Divine agency on his chosen servants and chosen people—is necessarily excluded from a political history; but the general course of Providence displayed in the moral government of his creatures is an essential element of our plan : it is, in fact, the principle of unity that binds together its several parts.
The necessary companions of history are chronology and geography; they determine the time when, and the place where, each event occurred. The difficulties of chronology arise both from the imperfection of records, and from varieties in the mode of computation : the former can not be remedied; but, to prevent the mistakes which may arise from this cause, uncertain dates have been marked with an asterisk : the second source of confusion is removed by using throughout solar years for a measure of time, and the birth of Christ as an era from which to reckon.
Instead of constructing a general system of ancient geography, it has seemed better to prefix a geographical outline of the history of each separate country, and to combine with it some account of the nature of the soil, and its most remarkable animal and vegetable produccions. There is no doubt that the position, climate, and fertility of a country, have a powerful influence over the character, condition, and destiny of its inhabitants, and ought not to be omitted in the consideration of their history.
The arrangement of this work is both chronological and geographical; the history of each country is given separately, but the states are arranged in the order of their attaining a commanding influence in the world. To this there are two exceptions—Egypt, which is placed first, on account of its being the earliest organized government of which we have any authentic record ; and India, which is placed last, because it exercised no marked influence over the most remarkable nations of ancient times.
The history of Greece in this volume has a less orderly appearance than in most similar works, because it contains not merely the histories of Athens and Sparta, to which most writers confine their attention, but also those of the minor states, the islands and the colonies. A chapter has been added on the colonial policy of the Greeks—a subject of great importance in itself, and peculiarly interesting to a commercial country.
To the Roman history there is prefixed a brief account of the ancient inhabitants of Italy before the era usually assigned for the foundation of Rome. In the earlier period of the republic, notice is taken of the reasonable doubts that have been raised respecting the authenticity of the common narrative ; but care has been taken to avoid an excess of skepticism, which is at least as bad as an excess of credulity.
In the chapter on India, attention has been directed to the ancient routes of trade between that country and eastern Europe : many of these subsist to the present day; projects have been formed for reopening others; some account of them consequently appears necessary, for illustrating both ancient commerce and modern policy.
In a general summary, restricted within narrow limits, it is scarcely possible to avoid dryness of details; notes have therefore been added, consisting for the most part of illustrations and anecdotes, that may serve both to relieve the mind, and to place important traits of character, national and individual, in a clearer light.
It has been deemed advisable to take some notice of the mythology, as well as the real history, of nations ; for though mythic traditions may in many or in most instances have had no foundation, yet they should not be wholly neglected by the historian, for they had a share in forming, and they help to illustrate, the character of the nation by which they were once believed. At the same time, care has been taken to separate these traditions from the authenticated narrative, and to discriminate between those that have, and those that have not, some probable foundation in fact.
Political reflections and moral inferences from the narrative have, in general, been avoided : the instructive lessons of history are, for the most part, found on the surface, and may best be collected by the students themselves. It is not quite fair to prejudge questions for the mind; the chief business of those who write for the young should be to make them think, not to think for them.
The author has to acknowledge his great obligations to the works of Professor Heeren, whose volumes on the Politics, Intercourse, and Trade of Ancient Nations, should form part of every historical library ; he has also borrowed very copiously from the valuable essays that have appeared in the Memoirs of the French Academy of Inscriptions; his particular obligations in the several chapters need not be specified, most of them being mentioned in the notes.
The design of this introduction is merely to explain the plan of the work; some few suggestions, however, may be added on the mode of using it. Students should compare the geographical chapters with maps, and fix in their minds the most characteristic natural features of the country whose history they are about to commence. One division should be thoroughly mastered before another is begun; and when the whole is gone through, it will be found a most useful exercise to synchronize the events in the history of one country with the events ir, the history of another; for instance, to trace the condition of the Ro. man republic at the time of the battle of Arbéla.