Source Problems in English History/Introduction
TWENTY years ago the value of the use of sources in teaching history was generally recognized. But usually only detached fragments were employed, and these served only to interest the student and to vivify the narrative. There were a few exceptions, such as some of the numbers in the series of Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, published by the University of Pennsylvania. Even these, however, did not furnish any setting for the problem, or suggest the important questions which were to be solved. Consequently the average teacher was not able to employ such material to the best advantage.
When the first volume in this series, by Duncalf and Krey, was published, a very important advance was made. For then there was a sufficient amount of apparatus to enable teachers to use the material in a satisfactory manner. One keen reviewer wrote, “The thorough carrying out of the method even in this small field will afford critical training such as few students of history, we fear, now get in either school or college.” The same may be said of the present volume.
Among its strong points, three especially may be enumerated. The stress is laid upon the development of the English government, which is the most important feature to be emphasized in the study of English history. The connection between English institutions and those of New England is brought out in one of the problems. This suggests the self-evident truth that the early settlers in New England got their experience in governmental affairs not from their knowledge of or participation in the central government of England, but because they were necessarily concerned with the affairs of their own parish. This truth, although self-evident, has too frequently been lost sight of in our teaching of English history. Lastly, the connection between the present and the past is well brought out, notably in the last problem, so that the student will be led to feel that the history which he has been studying is essential for an understanding of present-day conditions.It was a fortunate chance that two scholars, one of whom had specialized in medieval English history and the other in the modern history of Great Britain, should have been found to undertake this task. Probably no one author could have been as well equipped for this work. Two results are especially noteworthy. First, that the translations of the medieval documents are scholarly and accurate; no one, except a specialist, realizes how difficult it is to make an adequate translation. Secondly, some of the material included is distinctly novel in character, and bears witness to the broad knowledge of the editors. It was a happy idea to publish, in the Appendix, some of the more important documents for the development of the English government. This will, in many cases, obviate the necessity of the purchase of an additional volume. I am confident that this book is the most valuable aid which has been prepared for the teaching of English history in secondary schools or in elementary college classes.
Dana C. Munro.
University of Wisconsin.