The Science of History and the Hope of Mankind/Chapter 2

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SECTION II

THE SCOPE AND FUNCTION OF HISTORY

ANSWERS to such queries regarding the hopes and the future of mankind are to be expected of the historian. But of late the cultivation of learning has been considerably guided by the principle of the Division of Labour. The tendency has been towards a breaking up of the province of knowledge into several departments and the relegation of each to a separate treatment, with the result that the sciences have become specialised and their scope greatly narrowed.

Historical studies, also, have been attacked by this principle of isolation and specialisation, and have had their boundaries confined exclusively to the facts and phenomena of the statal life of a people. Workers in the field of history consider their sole responsibility to be the study of only the political affairs of a community, e.g., administration of the state, international diplomacy, wars and treaties, expansion and secession of territories, growth or decay of the sense of nationality or political unity. Only such facts or principles as are directly or indirectly connected with the political aspects of human life receive their whole attention and absorb their total activity. The tendency of historians nowadays is to neglect completely the study of the influences on State of Man's domestic, social, industrial, religious, and intellectual life, and of the diverse effects on human life and institutions of the working of the political machinery. For this is considered to be the function of special classes of scholars, e.g., sociologists, economists, and pedagogists.

The introduction of the principle of Division of Labour in the cultivation of science has no doubt led to rapid growth and development of the several sciences, and by differentiating and rigidly demarcating their scope and function has helped forward the speedy realisation of the end of each. But this differentiation and limitation of the range of study has been attended with the necessary evils and imperfections of the consequent diversity and multiplicity. For the absence of uniformity and of synthetic comprehensive treatment is unfavourable to the discovery and formulation of universal principles and fundamental laws that may be generalised out of the facts and phenomena of the world. History has, thus, on the one hand, been able to supply out of its general stock special facts and materials for an altogether new branch of learning, viz., Political Science, and has thus contributed to the richness and variety of human knowledge. But these specialised activities have, on the other hand, withdrawn the attention of scholars from the study of the hopes and aspirations of man, the progress and decay of civilisations, and the ultimate gains and losses of humanity.

Man is not wholly a political animal, and therefore the state alone is not the sole indicator and standard in regard to human happiness and misery. No knowledge about man can be complete until and unless it is based on a study of all human passions and tendencies, institutions and activities. And so history must necessarily be incomplete and quite unable to guess the future destiny of mankind or to suggest the lines of advance suitable to any stage, so long as it does not concern itself with the whole of human life and its thousand and one manifestations. The historian, therefore, will have to use at every step the laws of life and living organisms. Biology is thus the true basis of Sociology and the science of History. Founded on the science of Life, History will be competent to formulate clear and definite principles about the course of human progress, the development of society and the evolution of civilisation.