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a complex stream of interest, thought, and action which has been calmly but imperiously moving on its course down through the ages. It is not peculiar to one region or to one people, but is the common denominator of all history from the very beginning of man's existence down to the present moment. Nations rise and fall, warriors and politicians come upon the scene only to disappear from view, while the rank and file of men in every age continue to make history in their own modest fashion. Their quest for food and clothing and other necessities of existence never ceases; they continue their struggle for the acquisition of wealth and power; they constantly strive to safeguard health and happiness through the establishment of various social institutions; they seek æsthetic satisfaction in the production of works of art and music and literature; they search for wisdom in the fields of invention, discovery, and intellectual discipline; and they ever yearn for protection and help in the presence of those mysterious forces of the universe which have so often become objects of fear, love, and worshipful adoration.

With this widening of vision the historian is no longer content to center attention simply upon political happenings. The scope of his observation enlarges to include those common daily interests which have characterized the life of men in general at all times. But no one of these interests has been more conspicuous or persistent than religion. Of humanity's past it can still be said with a large measure of truth that "a man's religion is the chief fact with regard to him-a man's or a nation of men's" Therefore the study of religion falls properly and of necessity within the domain of the historian.

During recent times the horizon of the theologian has also been enlarging. Formerly he was concerned for the most part with maintaining the validity of beliefs and practices current in the religion of his own day. He was interested in the past only as it was thought to furnish guaranties for the present, and he unconsciously overlooked, or deliberately ignored as

unessential to his religion, those features of the past that he found no longer tenable. He saw only the world of his own immediate interests, and so did his work quite unaware of the distortions that inevitably resulted from his lack of historical perspective.

The developments of recent years have tended seriously to disturb the accustomed complacency of the theologian. The static world of yesterday has become the dynamic and evolving universe of the twentieth century. Past and present no longer coincide, but are clearly differentiated stages in the historic process. This process of becoming is disclosed to view throughout the whole range of mankind's experience, not excepting even his religion. Hence the theologian is gradually coming to recognize that religion-even Christianity-is a genuinely historical phenomenon and that if he is to remain master in his own household he must learn the ways of the scientific historian.

The application of scientific historical principles to the study of religion might be a somewhat simpler task if historians were entirely agreed among themselves regarding their own methodology. But just as there is a "new" theology, whose propriety and validity have often been called in question, so there is a "new" history which has been gradually winning its way to recognition in recent times. In the first place, we shall attempt to state in summary fashion the distinctive characteristics of this modern science of history.


Probably not even the most ardent champion of new methods in the study of history would care to deny the fundamental importance of documents, or to abandon the slogan "no documents, no history." If historical investigation is to be in any sense scientific it must deal with concrete data. Where specific documents or other similarly tangible evidences from the past are lacking, no sound historical knowledge is

obtainable. The new history shares with the old the latter's insistence upon the acquisition of accurate statistics.

On the other hand mere study of documents may become a serious handicap to the would-be historian. The ultimate unit in history is not the document, but the contemporary social order, of which the document may have been merely an incidental product. Yet sometimes the study of literary records and archaeological remains becomes so inherently absorbing that no appreciable effort is made to visualize the social background necessary for the correct interpretation of all historical data. One may be an expert in documentary statistics and yet utterly ignore the task of the historian in the larger sense of the term. The new history asks its representatives to make society rather than documents their point of departure in reconstructing the story of the past.

Now society in any age is an exceedingly complex affair. Even our professional sociologists, with the rich materials of the present at their disposal, do not find it easy to unravel the intricacies of the modern social nexus. Much less can it be expected that the historian, dependent as he is upon relatively meager sources of information, will be able to lay bare all the secrets of society's life during the centuries that have passed. Nevertheless acceptance of the social point of view does signify some very definite things for the historian's method.

At the very outset this social emphasis calls for the abandonment of the static conception of history attaching so readily to the notion of documents, which by their fixity of form have become specific entities for all time. Similarly the historical institutions of any period or people have often been treated as though they were fixed quantities that might be studied in isolation from the social milieu by which they were produced and maintained. When, on the other hand, one centers attention upon the great on-going process of society's evolution, out of which documents and institutions have from time to time emerged, history can no longer be regarded as primarily

a study of static entities. Its more comprehensive and fundamental aim must be to exhibit, as far as possible, the on-flowing currents of real life throughout the ages. Thus a developmental conception of the past dominates in the method of the modern historian.

Adoption of the developmental point of view in historical thinking leads on to another important item in the definition of method. Frequently historians assume that their task is simply to describe, with such accuracy of detail as the records may justify, the happenings of the past. They deliberately refrain from attempting to discover the causes that have determined the course of events. So long as it was customary to seek these causes entirely in the realms of supernaturalism and metaphysical speculation the historian wisely left this quest to theologians and philosophers. He, as a mere historian, had no objective data from the realms in question. But when historical processes are viewed as facts of social evolution they become amenable to laws of empirical investigation and so constitute a suitable subject for scientific inquiry. In fact it is an established canon of the new history that he alone is historically minded in the true sense of the term who sees the happenings of the past in their proper genetic connections. To have real historical knowledge one must be familiar, not only with specific events, but also with the casual nexus underlying phenomena.

Search for the genetic forces that enter into the determination of the historical process leads, further, to consideration of the environment by which men of the past have found themselves surrounded. Since society in the last analysis is an aggregation of human beings more or less closely organized and acting under the impetus of varied stimuli, the question of environmental contacts justly occupies a place of considerable importance in the historian's attention. Peculiarities distinguishing different groups of the human family from one another used to be dismissed offhand on the hypothesis of

inherent racial traits, but nowadays the influence of habitat and climate is taken into account as among the significant factors determining racial characteristics. Even within more homogeneous groups the physical environment cannot be ignored in one's quest for the genetic forces that have determined the course of history

When observation is centered upon the smaller units of society the importance of environment usually increases in proportion to the minuteness of one's analysis. Within a complex organism a multiplicity of social stimuli are in constant operation shaping the direction of history. The power of inherited customs and ideas is easily recognized by even a casual observer in the field of social motivations. At times crucial political experiences have furnished noteworthy incentives for action. Less spectacular and also less sporadic in its occurrence is the pressure of the never ceasing economic quest in which the vast majority of men are always involved. These are but a few of the more easily recognizable forces to be taken account of by one who would even approximate a full analysis of the genetic forces that operate within the average social order.

While man is a social creature, it is also true that he is possessed of both conscious and unconscious mental life. No study of his past is scientific which does not recognize the significance of the psychological factor in history. There is on the one hand the mental life of the individual and, perhaps more significant for history as a whole, the psychology of the group. The mental interests and activities of the group, as it reacts to heritages and environmental stimuli, determine the social customs of any particular age or people. It is also in this psychological world of the mass, so to speak, that new tendencies and convictions, emerging from time to time in the course of historical evolution, attain general recognition.

The new history does not deny the great man a place in its esteem, nor would it necessarily reject outright the familiar

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