Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 76.djvu/175

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171
SCIENTIFIC PRESENTATION OF HISTORY

It should emphasize some "facts" as essential, treat others as subordinate, omit others entirely. The only standard in this process of selection and discrimination, the sole guide in finding what the logic of events may be, seems to be the source material itself which Bernheim expects will suggest modes of treating the "facts" derived from it. These vague and inadequate recommendations as to method in historical writing at least show Bernheim's ideal of history to be not a detailed and systematic investigation of the past by analysis and classification but a well-proportioned narrative bringing events, characters and conditions vividly before the reader. Indeed he goes so far as to say, "Die litterarische Form der Darstellung welche man wählt. in entsprechender Weise die Auswahl des Mitzuteilenden bestimmt."[1]

Justin Winsor, writing in 1890 in The Atlantic Monthly on "The Perils of Historical Narrative,"[2] affirms distinctly that history's proper method is epic and that connected action should be its exclusive theme. He wants no " maundering method "; he desires with Milton an absence of "frequent interspersions of sentiment or a prolix dissertation on transactions which interrupt the series of events"; he demands "training and large familiarity," but instead of scientific presentation is content with a "story that travels steadily to the end." "To tell the story with Herodotus," he says, "is what we have come to, after all experimenting." In the writer of history Winsor thinks desirable the same faculties that make for the merchant his fortune, by which is probably meant a sort of snap judgment. Indeed we presently hear of the historian's divination. Moreover, the historian's personality and environment are sure to affect his work. "The interlacing of the ages makes the new telling of old stories a part of the intellectual development cf the race and this retelling is necessarily subject to the writer's personality and to the influence upon him of his clay and generation." But Winsor does not draw the conclusion that in an age of science history too should attain to scientific form.

M. Gabriel Monod, in two recent articles in La Revue Bleue on "La Méthode en Histoire" writes in much the same vein.[3] For him again the historian seems to be the spinner of one connected story and rather more of an artist than scientist. He "reconstructs in his brain the image of the past."[4] Again we hear of the essential facts, of others merely accessory to these, of still others to be omitted entirely from the history, though all should be present in the historian's thought to influence his selection or to aid his constructive imagination in bridging the gaps in the sources by logical inference. Monod, however, believes that the historian can not only pick out the nuggets of "essential

  1. Bernheim, "Lehrbuch der Historischen Methode," Leipzig, 1903, p. 724.
  2. Volume 66. pp. 289 et seq. The quotations which follow in the text occur on pp. 292-294.
  3. Fifth Series, Vol. IX.. April 11 and 18. 1908.
  4. Ibid., p. 487.