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This book grew out of a practical need which the writer experienced for a series of short explanations of some typical modes of political thought illustrating what may be figured as the background of modern history. The method employed has been to take a leading thinker or statesman representing a distinct school or point of view, to expound the ideas which he taught or upon which he acted, and to connect with this biographical nucleus cognate systems of thought. For example, the study of "Rousseau and the Rights of Man" discusses the philosophy of political rights expounded by Rousseau, and connects it with the question of slavery. By the choice of typical examples an attempt has been made to illustrate the main currents of political and social thought in recent times. In each instance the aim has been to state the case fairly from the point of view of the thinker or statesman selected, and to indicate opposing views. The object is to make diverse modes of thinking understood, not to advocate any particular one.
If the book professed to be either a comprehensive history of events or a complete exposition of political thought it would certainly fail to satisfy reasonable requirements in either direction. But it has a more modest purpose. It selects twenty-four men, each of whom is representative of some particular way of looking at things, and in considering their personality presents a critical view of their outlook and philosophy.
There was not room for representing in one book every point of view concerning subjects which cover so wide a field, since each of the chapters might easily be expanded into a volume of august proportions, and, in fact, each of the subjects has been considered in many works. But as the author wished to indicate as many aspects as possible he determined to append to every chapter a handful of
things well said by men of various ways of thinking. These short expressions of opinion should open up fresh trains of thought.
The bibliographical notes at the end of each chapter have been purposely confined to very brief dimensions. Longer lists of books might easily have been supplied, but might have alarmed instead of inciting some readers,