Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/190

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Later Historians

one political party was right and but one kind of man was great.

The change that came into these ideas amounts to a revolution. The scientific trend of the mid-century period reached history and transformed it. Detachment of the author from his feelings, accuracy of statement, dependence on original sources, study of institutions, and increasing attention to social and economic phenomena became the chief characteristics of a new school of historians. Under such conditions history became didactic, informational, and philosophical; and at the same time it became less unified and vivid. This change came at a time when the general tendency in literature was toward the clever and amusing. In the view of the serious-minded man, history today is better written than ever before, but it does not maintain the place it held in 1876 in the esteem of the average reader of intelligence. This chapter deals with the transition from the old to the new school.

Three Underlying Movements. Accompanying the development of the new school are three movements which are not to be ignored by one who wishes to understand the subject as a whole: the wide growth of historical societies, the creation and publication of historical "collections" and other documents, and the transformation of historical instruction in the colleges and universities.

The beginning of the first goes back to 1791, when the Massachusetts Historical Society was founded through the efforts of Jeremy Belknap.[1] Other societies followed, among them the New York Historical Society in 1804, the American Antiquarian Society in 1812, the Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Maine Historical Societies in 1822, the New Hampshire Historical Society in 1823, the Georgia Historical Society in 1839, the Maryland Historical Society in 1844, the New Jersey Historical Society in 1845, the Virginia Historical Society in 1851, and the Delaware Historical Society in 1864. Through Belknap's efforts the Massachusetts society had a vigorous life from the beginning, collecting and publishing valuable material steadily. None of the other societies mentioned did so well. Most of them were the offsprings of local pride and lived thin and shallow lives until we come to the period treated in this

  1. See Book II, Chap. XVII.