58 THE ANCESTOR THE ENGLISH GENTLEMAN' I THE RISE OF THE GENTRY NOT even our mobile columns in South Africa are quite so heavily equipped as the modern historian. He is expected to possess an impartial judgment, a sound knowledge of the classics, a style which will carry him through deep places and along paths which shine only with reflected light, an understanding of most European languages, a power of marshalling statistics, and some acquaintance with the geology and natural features of the country he proposes to traverse. Of late years it has been thought that if he chooses also to study the people who live in that country ; if he masters their speech and handwriting ; if he makes himself familiar with their beliefs and superstitions, with their popular poems and romances, with their arts and architecture, with their manners and customs, with their mode of dress and style of living ; if, in short, no longer satisfied with impressions derived at second hand from others, he turns the light of his own lantern upon the past, he cannot fairly be charged with mere frivolousness, or with a disregard for the dignity of his office. It would, perhaps, be pushing these new and dangerous ideas too far to suggest that the historian might also pay a little attention to the difi^erent classes and orders of society in the age of which he is treating ; and indeed, as the intelligent British public is well aware, such studies are of purely antiquarian or archaeo- logical interest. Yet history would be better written if medieval society were better understood. It may fairly be maintained that the growth and development of a nation depend not so much upon its geographical position and natural resources, not so much upon the military strength or weakness of its neigh- bours, as upon the division of classes and their relation to each other and to the soil. This in a degree is true of the world in general, but in how much higher a degree of the island in ^ This article is part of a study of medieval classes, dealing also with the franklin, husbandman, yeoman and villein, which the writer hopes some day to publish in book form.
Page:The Ancestor Number 1.djvu/98
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