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Wednesday, October 19, 2011


The best part of history, for me, is the story. Much of histories value lies in how closely it approaches reality. A good story which is true is hard to beat. I would love a history that contained no intention to deceive.

History is the presentation of:
~ knowledge or a source of knowledge,
~ an interpretation,
~ a scholarly synthesis of events,
~ what we value from the past (the taste of this mornings toothpaste?)
~ that which is worth remembering,
~ knowledge obtained by inquiry,
~ an account of one's experience,
~ an account of actual events,
~ the study of a human past,
~ a pointing of the way,
~ knowledge brought to the present,
~ systematically related phenomena,
and stuff like vision, wit, and order.

There may be a history for each category of human experience: love, music, martial arts, smut, science, racing, family, you, war, politics, kings, natural events, blood lines, religion, philosophy, magic, history and everything else.

As each of us preserves and interprets happenings, each of us is a historian. Some historians have been judged to be better than others. Some pass on greater power to us. Some try to pass on attractive lies. Many are learned men or women of fine vision from whom we may learn truly.

I have enjoyed and benefited from well told stories of real events told by worthy persons with deep respect for rules of evidence. There are strange histories that may be a sort of travelogue of happenings and experiences out of time which may have their own value. There are chronologies, tiny and grand, which give order to the doings of man. I like best the well told story told honestly by an honest fellow.

The doing of history includes using a variety of methods of research, analysis, and interpretation. A historian may examine and analyze a sequence of events and present his interpretation to you. He searches the happenings and chronologies for causes and effects and tells one what he sees. A historian may follow a trail back in time until finds a primary source of evidence or until he gets a story which seems complete. He is pleased when he finds an eye-witness. A historian may seek and find patterns, order, and laws in the doings of humanity. He may discover imperfect, but useful cycles and other movements in our activities and teach you how to recognize them and to use them for your benefit.

From a history one may learn a good way of living and doing. Processes of making glass or steel may be learned from histories.

You can find power and joy in history; I do.


  1. "To understand the laws of this continuous movement is the aim of history. But to arrive at these laws, resulting from the sum of all those human wills, men's mind postulates arbitrary and disconnected units. The first method of history is to take an arbitrarily selected series of continuous events and examine it apart from others, though there is and can be no beginning to any event, for one event always flows uninterruptedly from another." I loved this chapter of War and Peace, I think you may find a solace in it, too.

  2. Sounds right to me. Do you remember from which chapter the quote comes?

    I'd almost rather try reading Moby Dick again then wading into War and Peace.

  3. Indeed, I have it bookmarked, it's an excellent section! It's the opening chapter to book XI of the Wordsworth Classics edition, which you can probably get for a buck, ISBN is 1-85326-062-2. It is the unabridged, authorized translation that you want, in any form. If I can give you any more responses, email me (jay [at] lit'] and I'll respond faster!

  4. I looked at the meeting of Pierre and the old Mason in a copy on Project Gutenberg. Found it good reading, but not pertinent.