Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects/On the Present State and Prospects of Historical Study (1)
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On the Present State and Prospects of Historical Study
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ON THE PRESENT STATE AND PROSPECTS OF HISTORICAL STUDY.
(May 17, 1876.)
Some things may be said but not printed, some may be printed and not published; many that are published are not, and need not be, read. Many more would be better left unsaid. The following pages contain a good deal that falls within each of these descriptions. They were written with a full determination that they should not be printed. Circumstances which need not be detailed have led me to alter this resolution. Still there is much in them that would have been said otherwise or omitted if they had been meant for publication. Some things too are omitted that ought to have been said. It is obvious that no attempt has been made at completeness or exhaustiveness of detail. By what I have said or left unsaid, I trust that I have wounded no one. Certainly all was meant in gratitude and kindness.
A few days ago, in turning over the contents of my old lecture drawer, I came upon two newspaper cuttings, which a vanity, pardonable I hope after the lapse of ten years, had conserved in company with even more perishable matter. The slips contained the reviews, of the Pall Mall Gazette and the Saturday Review, of my inaugural lecture as Regius Professor of Modern History. The latter of the two critiques was in itself worth preserving, for it was an early effort of a dear friend who has since made himself a great name in the region of historical study. It was an article full of blessing and good omen, with a sufficient amount of dogmatism to prove that the writer believed himself entitled to criticise; and it contained, with all its precious balm, enough of the element of blister to produce a wholesome irritation: for the one or two points in the lecture on which I had bestowed especial pains were described as praiseworthy but illusory. The Pall Mall review, the authorship of which I never learned, was a kindly article also, giving a fair résumé of what I had said, and ending with the remark that, although it was clear from the tone of my lecture that I should take a somewhat clerical view of history, still that was not to be deplored, as in the interests of truth it was desirable that the clerical view should have its own exponent.
The incident suggested to me that I should once more look at the inaugural lecture, and see for myself how the hopes and anticipations of 1866 looked in 1876. I found myself reading over the record of feelings and impressions of ten years ago with as much freshness as if they had been another man's; and the happy thought struck me of turning my reflexions to account in the form of public lectures. It would relieve me of the puzzling anxiety over which six weeks of spring are wasted every year—what shall I take as the subject of the two solemn statutable lectures imposed upon the unhappy professor, who, without this annual mortification, might be in danger of thinking more highly of himself than he ought to think? It might also seem that, after ten years' occupation of this chair, I might have occasion to review the progress of the study in which I have had so great an interest; and it might also perhaps help me to gauge the amount of interest which the study itself is receiving in Oxford; for a notice that I have something to say about myself, and about those whom I might fairly expect to be present to hear me, would perhaps attract a larger audience than a much more elaborate vindication of S. Dunstan, or an inquiry into the merits of the customs duties as a part of the budget of King Edward I. It is true, I thought, I shall have to say some things about myself; I shall have to blush for my confessions of failure and for my assertions of success; I may, if I am fortunate in my company, have to make some of them blush too. But what is that among friends? and here I know none but friends. There may be some who have a vested interest in stupidity and false criticism, but I am thankful to say that I do not know even their names; and all who take a real and genuine interest in my studies, whether I know them or not, I am proud to look upon as friends with whom I need practise no reticence or concealment. So with your good leave I will dismiss myself first.
The thought that ten of the best years of a man's life have been given to work like this is a very serious one. What have I done? How have I done it? How far have I fulfilled my own hopes? How far have I realised the good wishes of my friends? How have I justified the good opinion of those who placed me where I am? Perhaps it would be more modest if I left it to others to judge and to pass judgment. But I would rather try to report what I have tried to do, and how I have tried to do it, than leave it unsaid. No man is so fit to review a book as the author himself, because he both knows what he meant to say and will be the first to hear and feel what his kind friends the critics would make the world believe that he has said. In the first place, let me say that I have tried to fulfil the promise which I made in my inaugural lecture—' I desire to introduce myself to you not as a philosopher, not as a politician, but as a worker at history.' That I have worked at history is, I think, proved by the bulk of the results: for during the ten years I have completed ten volumes, and nearly an eleventh volume, of the English Historians published by the Master of the Rolls; I have edited the whole of the third volume and assisted in the first and second volumes of the Councils of the English Church; I have published the volume of Select Charters, which has now passed into a third edition, and two volumes of the Constitutional History of England, besides other work edited or passed through the press for practical aid in historical study. I am aware that it is not the bulk but the character of the work by which it must ultimately be tried; I can only say that I hope my work has not been unworthy of Oxford, or of England. Judging from the reception accorded to it, I think I should say that it has met with more appreciative and intelligent reception in Germany than in England; and I may add that I believe that I owe to this the honour, and a very great honour I esteem it, of an invitation to take part as a fellow editor in the great series of German Historical Monuments, known for the last fifty years under the name of Pertz, which has now passed into the hands of a commission of which Dr. Waitz is the chief. I am proud indeed to be an instrument, in the humblest way, in repaying the debt which English history owes to German scholarship.
Further than this I shall not speak of my books, except to point out how, by giving a clerical complexion to my work, I have fulfilled the auguries of the kindly critic in the Pall Mall. A kindly critic in the New York Nation, reviewing the first volume of the Constitutional History, has described the writer as entirely free from political bias, and adds that, 'what is more surprising, he appears to be scarcely influenced by ecclesiastical sentiment or prejudice.' Well, I thought, when I read that notice, here is at last a man who takes a right view of the clerical character. Here am I, steeped, as I fondly believe, in clerical and conservative principles, and yet able to take such a view of matters as scarcely to betray ecclesiastical prejudice or political bias. Seriously speaking, that is just what I wish. I understand the clerical spirit and mind to be that which regards truth and justice above all things, which believes what it believes firmly and intelligently, but with a belief that is folly convinced that truth and justice must in the end confirm the doctrine that it upholds; with a belief that party statement, and highly coloured pictures of friend and foe, are dangerous enemies of truth and justice, and damage in the long run the cause that employs them; that all sides have everything to gain and nothing to lose by full and fair knowledge of the truth. And a clerical view of professional responsibility I take to be the knowledge that I am working in God's sight and for His purposes. If such be a right view, I rejoice to have evidence of my success in realising it. If it be a mistaken one, well, I will claim credit for good intentions as well as steady work.
I wish that my conscience were equally clear as to the other branch of professorial usefulness, oral teaching or lecturing. On this topic I proposed in my inaugural lecture to set before myself two leading principles: the first was to begin at the beginning—'We must begin at the right end, work from the past forwards, not backwards from the present.' I meant, of course, not merely that I did not intend to read history backwards, which would be a difficult process in lecture, but that I should start from the beginning of the modern period and treat the course of historical progress generally and in natural order, rather than, by choosing topics which owed their importance to the interests of the day, work in the reverse order. I intended, in fact, to trace the gradual development of the modern world rather than to trace back particular points of development to their original germs. I have on the whole followed out that idea, although from time to time I have varied it with a course of analytical lectures. The result has been that, during these ten years I have never got beyond the year 1648. I have gone over the whole of the political history of Europe generally, and over that of England and Germany, with great minuteness, throughout the greater part of that long series of years; but beyond the Thirty Years' War I have not gone. I may add that there were two reasons for this; one, because I found the later history already in very good hands, a favourite subject with my colleague the Chichele Professor, and very well represented by the College Lecturers on History; the other, that my own separate line of study and work lay in the earlier portion mainly, and it would have been somewhat distracting to be treating widely distant periods of history at the same time. A third reason, I am free to confess, was that I had some misgivings as to the usefulness of the later period as a topic of historical education, until the foundation of the earlier knowledge had been well and strongly laid. I have often questioned whether it were indeed desirable to exercise the minds of young men, old enough to have strong political feelings, not old enough to exert a calm historical judgment, on periods of history teeming with the very same influences as those which are at work at this moment; at least before they had had an adequate training in the earlier history and were able to account for the origin and trace the earlier workings of those influences, so as to be able at least to accord an equitable sufferance to those who take a view contrary to their own. My apprehensions have not been shared by other teachers here, and it is well that no misgivings of mine should have acted so as to leave the treatment of modem history in this respect inadequate. I do not decide the matter, but simply state my own reason for holding back.
And this leads me to recur to the other principle upon which I proposed to act, and which struck the imagination of my reviewer as illusory or useless. My idea was and is, that, as mankind is roughly divided between the advocates of order and the advocates of change, and as both classes contain about an equal number of good, bad, and indifferent, of the wise, of the sensible and of the stupid, it was a function of the historical teacher, not to try to make them all think alike or to set himself up as a judge, saying to the one side you are all wrong, or to the other you are all right, but to present to both the facts and courses of events, which are the stores out of which both sides must draw their weapons, in such a fair and just view that they might be safely used by either. Simply, it was not my work to make men Whigs or Tories, but to do my best, having Whigs and Tories by nature as the matter I was to work upon, to make the Whigs good, wise, sensible Whigs, and the Tories good, wise, sensible Tories; to teach them to choose their weapons and to use them fairly and honestly. Well, I still adhere to that view, and every year what I see in public life around me confirms my belief in the truth and value of the principle. How far I have been successful in acting upon it I cannot of course say; but I feel sure that the growth of sound historical teaching would have spared us such national humiliation as we have undergone, during the last few years, in the treatment of the Public Worship Act, the Judicature Act, and the Royal Titles Act. I am quite sure that both the speakers and writers on those subjects would have been very much wiser and more modest men, if they had, I will not say attended my lectures, but passed a stiff examination in the History School: if we could not have made them wiser, we would at all events have made them sadder.
Well, are these statements of principle made merely to cover the sad fact that I have not been a successful lecturer 1 that I have to join in the professorial chorus of complaint that the professorial and tutorial systems have not yet dovetailed into one another with all the completeness that could be wished? Perhaps it is so. I have sometimes felt a little hurt that, after preparing and advertising a good course of lectures,—and I feel no modesty in speaking thus, because I believe that good and thoughtful work will make good lectures,—I have had to deliver them to two or three listless men; sometimes I have felt hurt that, in the combined lecture list, when it appeared, I found the junior assistant tutor advertising a course on the same subject, or at the very same hours as my own. But I will allow gratefully that such occasions have been few; I am pleased to remember that my classes, although they have never been very large, have as a rule been very faithful; that the combination system has brought me far more men than, on the most sanguine computation, it could have taken from me; and that I believe the real cause why professorial lectures are less useful than they should be, is the perhaps unfortunate fact that nearly all study in Oxford is directed towards the securing of honours in the Class Lists. Tutors, lecturers, and pupils are all working for the Schools; even the professorial statutes are drawn with a view to usefulness mainly in that direction; nor could any professor, however eminent, expect to get a considerable class to attend eighteen or even twelve lectures a term on any subject that would not pay—if I may use the current language on so solemn an occasion. The result is that, so far as lectures go, the professor has to take his chance of a class among the general run of college lecturers, without that power of commanding attendance which the college lecturers have. It is scarcely surprising that the weaker goes to the wall, and that the professor has to yield his place to younger men who perhaps may themselves owe some portion of their success to what they have learned from him. In saying this, I am not speaking of myself, for it would not be exactly true of me, but on the general question. For myself I am quite ready to accept the consolation and to declare that it is really much better, both for the growth of historical study, and for the development of the educational instrument, that there should be a dozen or fifteen college lecturers working away with large classes when I have only a few stray men, than that I should be lecturing to large assemblies of men who came to me simply because they had nowhere else to go. And I am quite willing that my character as a professor should stand or fall by my other work.
And now let me cease to speak of myself. It will be best perhaps that I should arrange what I have to say in circles; and, taking Oxford first, proceed to remark next on the position of historical study in England generally, and then outside England in Europe and America. Oxford first. There can, I think, be no doubt that the growth of the study of History at Oxford during the last ten years has been continuous and very rapid. I have no hesitation in saying this, because no one will think that I claim any credit for myself in it. The foundation work was done before I became professor, and the principal teachers who helped in the laying that foundation, are working vigorously now at the superstructure. We have had great losses, I grieve to say, and great gains. I think I will not mention names: your memories will advert at once to the losses; the gains are here to speak for themselves. It is no small ground of congratulation to be able to say that, whilst our losses have not weakened us, our gains have very greatly strengthened us; our position is strong enough not to be shaken by the loss; our study is still in such a growing state as to be able to incorporate and amalgamate or assimilate all new helps. And that result speaks well for us in several ways. In the first place, our corporate strength is much greater. The History teaching in the colleges is not left to the accidental supply of teachers who have an aptitude for the subject in common with all the other subjects of the University course, but every college has its own recognised History Tutor or Lecturer; and these, or most of them, are acting together. Whether in the Board of Studies or in the meetings of combined lecturers, they are able to exert on the study itself a concentrated influence which tells very effectively on the students who are reading for the Schools. The objection that might suggest itself to those who do not know Oxford, that such a corporate union may tend to cramp the freedom of study and, in preventing desultory or straggling reading, may discourage independent research, will not hold here, so long at least as the system of examinations remains what it is. There is no risk of the History Lecturers ever forming a clique, or close school of History, as a single glance at the list of them is sufficient to prove. But in the second place, the multiplication and association of lecturers enables us to offer a systematic and continuous reading of History to the student. Each lecturer will, as time advances, find out his own strongest period, or his friends will find it for him; and then the student, who chooses to give his time to the work, will be able to obtain a thorough guidance through the several stages of his subject; and the historical training will be both continuous and complete. And, in the third place, the opportunity of reading continuously, under a series of able teachers of different tones of mind and different schools of thought, will most certainly be a great advantage to the student who wishes to take History as a real part of his mental training. I hope and trust that this will always be the case; and that, although we may be earnest and glad to work together, we may never be in danger of thinking all alike, on those topics at least upon which constitutional opinion and controversial criticism must be content to permit difference of view. In this aspect the training for the School of History may become a beneficial training for public life; and although that is not the sole or the primary object in my eyes of the study of History here, it is a most important one; we must try to furnish men who will not be merely good historians, but good citizens, or, as I said before, good Whigs and good Tories. And there is another point in which great advantage may be hoped from the increase and combination of teachers, which I can only just indicate now—I mean the connexion which is to be looked forward to between the University course and the teaching of our great schools and local institutions of education.
Next to the strengthening of the historical staff, the separation of the School of Jurisprudence from the School of History is the most important point of our Oxford history. And this change, although it was anxiously desired by many teachers of both subjects, was not adopted without some serious apprehensions. Whether the joint School, so young as it was, was sufficiently strong to bear the shock of division; whether the supply of teachers would be sufficient; whether each subject by itself was substantive enough to furnish the training for a class examination of high character; whether the separation would not produce a tendency to eliminate History from the Law teaching and Law from the History teaching, were questions which might well cause misgiving. Some of them have been solved in the process of experiment. Both Schools have increased their numbers and raised their standard since the division; as to the supply of teachers, what I have just said as to the increase and co-operation of the History teachers is a sufficient answer for them; the Law professors can, I believe, give a like answer. As to the third point, the substantive value of historical training, opinions will still differ; I for my part have no desire that, as an educational instrument, the History training should take the place of the classical and mathematical training, which must always form the chief part of the school education, and the strongest and favourite work of the University career. But as a further stage of training, I maintain that the reading of History may claim an equal place with all the other studies pursued here: I believe that a man who has taken a good Class in Moderations would, so far as mental training is concerned, do wisely in taking up a fresh subject, especially Modern History. As a piece of professional training for the work of a schoolmaster or a clergyman, it may not be so, at all events during the present state of school education; I only allege it as a means of mental culture. There is however a fourth question, which time will have to answer, and for which time must supply a remedy, if the mischief comes. It will be a fatal thing for the study of History here, if the study of Law should ever be quite eliminated from the History course; and as fatal for the study of Law if it should ever come to be read on its merely scientific or on its merely empiric sides. With our present Law teachers both of these are alike impossible. The lectures of Sir Henry Maine, Dr. Bryce, and Mr. Holland are to a great extent historical lectures, and are as great an advantage to the History students as they are to the Law students. I hope that in a humble sort of way some work of the other School is found useful to the lawyers. But this may not always be so. I think that it is a point that will need watching. The great fault of the old combined School was that there was no unity about the prescribed reading. Much of the Law, that was superadded to the History, had no more real connexion with it than a similar bulk of entomological reading might have had; and the really important historical side of Law was not brought in. I am not sure that, even now, both Schools would not be benefited by a more distinct method; and, whilst I should be glad to have a section of legal history more definitely and generally made a part of the History examination, I should very greatly regret to see the Law Board proceeding further than they have done in shutting out History from their scheme. But this is going beyond my last. It seems to me, however, in connexion with my own study, that the growth of jurisprudence, the history of foreign codes, ancient and modem, and the connexion between legal and constitutional growth, are, as well as international law, a common ground between the two studies; and I am not inclined to surrender the rights of my School in them any more than I should wish the lawyers to leave them wholly to us. To some extent the relation of the studies is the same as that which subsists between Ecclesiastical History and Theology; each is a very maimed affair without the other. It will not be our fault if the common ground is altogether lost.
Next, to descend from the higher regions to the lower, I would say a word about the Historical Prizes. And in what I have to say, I hope I shall not be understood to east any slight on the very meritorious essays which have in the last few years received the Arnold, Stanhope, and Lothian Prizes. I have been on each occasion a judge, and have very carefully and anxiously observed the character of the productions sent in. The fact that in several instances the Prizes have not been awarded is a proof that where they have been awarded they have been, in the opinion of the judges, thoroughly well merited. But the experience of these years has not, on the whole, been encouraging. Of the Stanhope I need say little: it is intended to be an undergraduate prize; the style of writing is scarcely of less importance in the estimation of the judges, as guided by the intention of the donor, than is the matter of the essay. For the Stanhope, too, there have always been plenty of competitors and no lack of creditable, very creditable, essays. But for the Arnold, which is a graduates' prize, and for the Lothian, which is common to both bachelors and undergraduates, I am sorry to say that there has not been lately good competition. I speak primarily of the modern side of the Arnold Prize; the ancient side has been still more unproductive of good work. This lack of competition is not, I am sure, a sign of flagging interest in these studies. It is to be explained by a very obvious circumstance—namely, that urgent desire which at present prevails among the Honour men to get speedy returns for their accumulation of class knowledge. Quick returns are generally associated with small profits; and I cannot help thinking that many men, who rush into tutorial work as soon as they have got through the Schools, would do much better, and make ultimately much greater profit, by continuing their reading, or at all events by blending tutorial work with some literary industry such as writing for the Prizes. It looks rather as if they were afraid that the stores of knowledge which have received the brand of the Examination School might loose their freshness and applicability unless they were immediately put to use in one particular way. I am aware that this is no new snare; and twenty-eight years ago, when I myself was subjected to the temptation, it was hardly less a snare than it is now. But then, as a rule, men went into the Schools younger than they do now; there were fewer Schools and fewer first class men; less ardent competition perhaps among private tutors, and on the whole more leisure for continued reading. There may be other reasons for the result that I complain of. The ignorance with which the Lothian Prize, a handsome prize of £40, open to all graduates and undergraduates up to their twenty-seventh term, has been disregarded, is, to say the least, curious. The subjects proposed, for which I am in a measure responsible, have perhaps not carried on their face the recommendations of general or popular interest; and Foreign History does not of course receive so much attention as English History. But none of these is a satisfactory reason. The view which I have every reason to believe that the founder of the Lothian Prize had before him was not merely to stimulate historical reading but really to help to increase the stores of historical knowledge by the production of valuable monographs on points of foreign history. My own idea of what we should look for is something like the small but most valuable dissertations which are produced in some of the German Universities as exercises for the doctorate. These are the work of men of twenty-three or twenty-four, just the age at which our high-class men graduate; and they are the result of their private reading, approved and authorised, so to speak, by their professors. Within the last few weeks I have received two such essays on subjects mainly of English interest, in fact upon portions of our history which I myself have treated: a tract on the 'Dialogus de Scaccario,' by Mr. Liebermann, of Göttingen; and one on the capture of Lisbon by the English crusaders in 1 147, by Mr. Cosack, of the University of Halle. I mention these not because I have any credit to claim for them, for I am criticised quite as calmly and unsparingly as any other Englishman may expect to be in German reviews, but because I take them to be a sign of a sort of literary culture which we ought not to be ashamed to imitate. Unlike most of our ordinary historic reviews, they have a permanent value: they are not condemned, as some very good English work of the kind is, to be the padding of popular magazines,— the ever uncut leaves that interpose between the two sensational stories by which the magazine lives,— but they are put together and stored up for the days when either the writers or some who have profited by the reading of them can use them in more continuous, more consolidated, work. Now it is useless to argue that we cannot do this. Mr. Dicey's Essay on the Privy Council, which took the Arnold Prize in 1860, is a proof that our prize system is not incapable of such success, although it cannot ensure it. Dr. Bryce's Essay on the Holy Roman Empire, in 1863, is not exactly a case in point, for it is not a study of some minute fact or institution, but a brilliant sketch of the whole course of one of the great influences which make up modern history; but not to be invidious, there are other essays which do more or less approach the standard of deep research and sound criticism which I wish to see adopted. I have sometimes thought that it would be a good plan to give a number of alternative theses for such a valuable prize; but I will content myself with a recommendation that, if any new benefactor wishes at once to encourage critical study and reward research, he should establish a prize for which the competitors should choose their own subject, to be approved by the judges a year before the time fixed for sending in the essays. Such an experiment might fairly be tried. There are, I believe, quite sufficient inducements of a local and personal kind, connected with History, which would draw the intelligent student into much more earnest work than any thesis simply imposed as a test of his powers. Local history, family history, the possession of important documents such as may be found in every country house, and almost every parish register or court roll, open ways of access to historical interest of a varied kind, in which the extent of research may be almost unbounded, in which a critical spirit may be trained and disciplined, and the results of which are sure to be valuable, certainly invaluable to the worker himself. Well, I do not wish to see the Lothian essays devoted to points of very minute history, and it is of foreign history that they are, by the injunction of the founder, to treat; but I think that some latitude in the choice of subjects for prize dissertations might be conveniently adopted, say for college prizes; and if any college will try the experiment, I will gladly serve as a judge for the purpose.
What I have said about the Lothian Prize, its value, and the really important work which, if it were taken up by classmen after they have passed through the Schools, it might be made to ensure, will, I hope, have fallen on some ears that will attend to it. The mention of these prizes leads on to the further point, the encouragement given to the study of History at this moment by scholarships, exhibitions and fellowships bestowed after a competitive examination in History. On this a very few words will suffice, and those shall not be dogmatic or even positive. I would not say a word to discourage the idea, or a word that might seem to show that I wished to determine my own way the result of the experiment that is being at present tried. But, until public school education, until school education generally, has much more completely assimilated, and found a more comfortable place for historical teaching, I should deprecate any large increase of historical exhibitions for boys coming up to the University. Holding, as I do, that a sound classical training must be the foundation of successful historical study, and sure as I am that nothing but such training can prepare a man to be a good historical teacher, I should not give a historical exhibition to a boy who does not show some promise of taking good Honours in Moderations. In most instances I think it would be better not to give it until Moderations are over; of course, however, I am speaking with a view to the study of History, and not to the pecuniary interests of candidates for scholarships. Example has shown us that it is of little use to hope to promote a study like this by over-nursing. One reason, I think, that we have had such success as we have had, is that we have had no such nursing; that the study itself, and such a modicum of honour as could be gained in the Class Schools, has been the main incentive to historical reading here. We are, I am quite willing to allow,—nay, I am most anxious that we should remember,—but at the beginning of our work; we have very much to do still before the History School of Oxford can take its stand besides the historical schools of Paris, or Bonn, or Göttingen, or Munich, or Vienna; but having well begun, we have half won our place already.
"What I have said of scholarships is in its way true of competitive examination for fellowships. If a college desires simply to acquire a creditable Fellow, a mere historic examination may be as good as any other; if a college desires a good History Tutor, I conceive that the best way to get | him would be to subject the History candidates (selected in the first instance on the ground of their Honours acquired in the History Schools) to a sound examination in the work of the Literæ Humaniores School, in which teaching power is at present most fully developed. If a college desires to have what is called a man of research, I am not sure but the best way to obtain him would be to choose him without examination. There are not, I believe, many men worthy of such distinction who are not already marked out by work done.
The whole question of research is difficult, the direction as well as the endowment of it. I confess that I do not like the idea of giving a man an income which would by itself be sufficient to make work unnecessary, and telling him to devote himself to research as he pleases. Not to consider cases in which the duty of research would, like other duties heretofore, be eluded,—and idle professorships would take the place of idle fellowships,—the temptation to desultory research must in every case be very great, and desultory research, however it may amuse or benefit the investigator, seldom adds much to the real stock of human knowledge. We have had enough spent already on self-culture taken for granted. If we would provide for research it must, so far as History is concerned, be done by paying for results. Let me not be misunderstood. For results I should rather say work done. There are fields of work in History as well as in Natural Science in which experiment is to be treated as result. If a scientific man tries some new and costly combination of chemicals, if a practical gunfounder or shipbuilder attempts some grand and novel scheme of artillery or naval architecture, and, after making careful calculations, fails, his failure is a result for which he has a right to be paid; it is an addition to our knowledge to have learned that such and such combinations do not produce the effect which it was calculated that they would produce. So in historical study I should place among the lawful researches and results, the investigation of foreign libraries, the exploration of unsearched districts for the purpose of collecting inscriptions, the calendaring and cataloguing of manuscripts,—all sorts, in fact, of investigations on which it was, a priori, reasonably probable that discoveries would he made; provided such investigations were carried out systematically, provided the work were well done, even if, in that sense of result, there were no result but the discovery that there was nothing to discover. I do not mean to say that the successful researcher should be placed on a level with the unsuccessful, although his success would probably be in itself remunerative, and the element of good fortune should not be left out of account.
Well, I should like to see us send an occasional envoy to the Vatican Library, or to the great libraries of the Roman princes; or to send a trained scholar, chosen not by competition, but because his peculiar qualifications forced him upon our notice, to watch the explorations at Olympia or at Troy. More generally, however, I think that the endowment of research should take the form of payment for actual results. Find your man of research, and set him to the work of research; pay him something by way of retaining fee, which you may safely do when you have caught him, but let the liberal remuneration for work actually produced be the real endowment, be it books written, books edited, coins or manuscripts collected, as the case may be. The further point, how to reward men of research when their day of research is over, scarcely belongs to this subject; for the rule must be the same, I conceive, in all departments of knowledge: it is a question of pensioning those who have deserved well of us, not of securing any further addition to the sum of knowledge.
The rule that we should first find the man of research and then endow him, not found a chair of research and then find the man to fill it, applies to another important matter which is very much forced upon our minds at this moment. And I must request you to take what I have to say upon it not as any final conclusion, but as the view which at this moment presents itself to me as most feasible, but which circumstances may at any time modify. If we are to look on the measures of change which are at present imminent, as likely to settle the future of the University for any considerable number of years, we must look about us and see whether our staff of historical teachers and searchers is sufficient for present needs, if it is likely to be sufficient for future needs, how by careful speculation and economic arrangement we can best utilise the means which we have a right to expect under any re-apportionment of academic resources. Now I am not prepared to allow that our staff of historical teachers is either sufficient in itself or organised in the best way at the present moment. I am quite sure that, if our study advances during the next ten years in anything like the same ratio in which it has advanced during the last ten years, we shall need more professors and an organisation of teaching, which, like the present organisation of Natural Science professors, may be not so much dependent as we now are on the tutorial system in the colleges. It is most important to observe that, if impending changes alter the collegiate system or affect its available resources, the University will have to supply a large part of the teaching power, now provided by the colleges, in the shape of an increased professoriate or sub-professoriate. I should not like to have to make even an estimate now of the staff that we may require in ten or twenty years, and I should very much deprecate any measure which, taking the present as the standard of our needs, should prevent us from securing such development as the occasion for it may arise. At the present moment we want a Professor of Later Ecclesiastical History, to take up the subject at the point at which the department assigned to the Regius Professor comes to an end. We want a permanent chair of Indian History. The labours of our friend the present Indian Reader have shown us how thoroughly that study, the importance of which can scarcely be over-rated by Englishmen, falls in with the current of our University work. I say a permanent chair, because that is a subject of permanent necessity, not a subject like palæography or numismatology, in which the labours of one good professor may serve for two or three generations, and the endowment of the man is of equal importance with the endowment of the chair or study. It is the belief of a large class of scholars that we require a professorship of English History by itself; and it is certainly desirable that no chance should be allowed of English History being without adequate representation. I think it is unlikely that that should be the case, or that both the Regius and Chichele Professors at the same time should devote themselves to Foreign History; but it might as well be made certain, and English History is a subject which might well employ the energies of three or four professors. I am not, however, an 'advocate for tying down the History professors to particular branches of the subject; I am sure that each will work best if he is left to devote himself to his own specially chosen department, and that, provided the whole field of teaching be sufficiently well covered, the more freedom that can be given, the better for both teacher and learner.
However, whilst with this limitation the permanent chairs may be expected to represent the whole field of teaching, it seems to me most important that for our greater extension we should employ the means which the Board of Historical Studies were among the first to suggest in their answer to the questions of the late Vice-Chancellor, and avail ourselves of the services of professors-extraordinary: that is, as I have begun by saying, find a man who is making himself a great authority and teacher in a special department, and bring him here and make him a professor, not considering whether, when he is gone, we can find another as good to fill his place, but simply taking him as a very good godsend and making the best of him. Of course we should never choose the professor of a worthless subject, but worthless subjects do not often attract the men whose services would be otherwise worth having. Historical teaching, method and criticism, may however be exemplified in very many sections of the great subject: and it might be very well indeed, the general balance being otherwise preserved, to have a professor-extraordinary who would exemplify them, for instance, in the minute working out of the lessons of the reign of Edward III, or of the age of the Reformation, or of the reign of Charles I or Queen Anne. So research might be combined with teaching, the discipline of research might be itself inculcated, and the voice of research be made to attune itself to the work of teaching.
But whether we want a present reinforcement, or content ourselves with looking forward to a probable development, we must not let the opportunity escape. We must not ask too much, but we must ask the University to keep its eyes open to what we believe to be our certain and noble future, and not to make the modesty of our present petitions the limit of her prospective liabilities in our behalf. We must ask her to secure for us a competence for the moment and ample freedom for growth and expansion. As to any definite finality, any perfect and exhaustive division of periods and duties, any theoretically complete staff of professors of History, I confess that I am not disposed to be anxious. If the study flourishes and is not cramped for means, the completeness and the neatness of system will grow as it grows: and we may be content to let it grow so.
In conclusion, that is, of this part of my subject,—the condition and prospects of historical education, apart from the general subject of the bona fide development of historical study,—I should say a word or two about teaching in schools. And this I do with great diffidence, because I have no experience in such work; at the same time I trust that I shall not make any impracticable suggestions. For the growth and development of the study, as an instrument of education, we must look for much help to the public schools and other great feeders of University life. If they find it possible to incorporate it permanently with their course of work introductory to the University career, the men will come up better prepared for such training as we can give them, and so more and more ready to assist in the growth of the growing study. Now although this seems simple enough to say, in reality it involves a great deal. It means not only that the great schools should have History masters who can keep themselves abreast with the rising tide of knowledge, but a constant revision or provision of improved text-books. It seems to me that the great schools are awake to the necessity, and that the publishers of school books are vying with one another m the production of manuals which will combine the conclusions of the most advanced students with simplicity of plan, and, we may hope, attractiveness in treatment. Only there is no finality to be looked for. We must not expect manuals that, like the old grammars, will keep their places for two or three centuries. Every few years great discoveries are made; the use of the comparative method, long ago applied superficially and partially to History, has now become, owing to its employment in other fields of work, far more valuable and remunerative; and more especially in regard to early periods with respect to which error and misapprehension are the greatest among fairly educated people, and almost ineradicable from otherwise fairly useful text-books. To take the simple instance, which will perhaps have occurred to some of you: the proved discovery of the forgery of Ingulf's History of Crowland Abbey was a fact that necessitated the revision of every standard book on early English History. It is more than forty years since that discovery, long ago suspected, was proved beyond the possibility of doubt. Yet to this day the Ingulfine leaven remains in our elementary books, nay, in more than elementary books, in standard works of History, from which it is almost impossible to eliminate it; it remains as a warning light—a wandering marsh-fire—to caution the reader not to accept too abjectly the conclusions of his authority. Even the recently published list of landowners of England, called somewhat fantastically by the leaders of public opinion the new Domesday, contains in its introduction a quotation from Ingulf, made apparently without any suspicion of falseness. But it is not only the name of the writer, but the more subtle influence of conclusions drawn from his fabrications that are to be guarded against: and these lie at the very basis of our popular histories. For school books it is absolutely necessary that such primary errors should be corrected at once; for it is impossible, at least at present, to suppose that the reading of original authorities can be to any great extent introduced into the scholastic course as is done in Germany. And this will necessitate constant revision.
Another point to be watched is the not unnatural desire of teachers to attract the minds of boys to the picturesque and dramatic sides of the subject, to the neglect of the greater lesson, the investigation of causes and effects and the connexion of events. I would almost rather that boys were attracted by the reading of Ivanhoe and the Talisman, books which do not pretend to be true, and are full of strange misrepresentations of manners and thought, than by a serious history composed with a view to the picturesque only or mainly. The ivy may conceal the structure of the building far too much for safety. We cannot safely content ourselves with fanciful grouping or imaginary drawing of character and situation. Let us trust the novelist so far. There are novels that may well be trusted so far; Miss Yonge's Chaplet of Pearls, and Dove in the Eagle's Nest, for instance—beautiful and, I think, perfect pictures of manners and reflexions of ideas. We will attract but not educate by such books. Our real education in History must not be less precise or severe than the discipline of language or of natural science; it cannot be valuable if it be desultory.
One point more. If the study of periods of History is to become part of a school education, I trust that due care will be taken not to dwell unnecessarily on, or to choose for exaggerated illustration, those periods which are connected most closely with the questions and controversies of to-day. Of all things in the world except a controversial woman, a controversial boy is the most disagreeable, the most pragmatic, the most irrepressible, the most aggressive. Now even in the training of children we want to train the judgment. That training is the great educational or disciplinary object of historic teaching, the formative as distinct from the material acquisition that results or should result from it. The judgment must be trained in cooler air and by milder methods than are found in the battle-field of modern politics. Surely boys and girls should be taught elementary history, should be trained in the exercise of the powers that can trace cause and effect in historical narrative, should be given credit for the germs of a critical faculty and helped to cultivate it, before they are plunged into the details of the struggles of puritanism and absolutism, or the deep religious divisions, that for three centuries have separated Christendom into two camps and do so still. Let them learn the history of early England and early France before they are called to exert their tender judgment on the Great Rebellion or the French Revolution. If the teachers had been so taught the experiment would never have been tried.