Scholars recommend caution when selecting books written during or after America’s cultural revolution of the 1960’s and the advent of cultural Marxism. What often passes for history today are poorly-disguised opinions and class struggle, slanted psycho, social and political histories, and introductions which state that “most of the empirical basis of this study derives from two computer databases.”
Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865
History: The Muse and Her Doctors
“The historian may in addition permit himself to digress in order to opine, argue, explain, speculate, moralize and compare. The visions will differ and perhaps clash, but will be nonetheless desirable. But these excursions must not become ends in themselves. The truly historical statements must greatly predominate over the rest. If “truly historical” needs illustration, here is one of the shortest: “Veni, vidi, vici” is a historical statement. “The main spring of his character was conquest” is a psychological statement. “The net effect of his career was destruction, not creation” is a sociological statement.
How radically unlike is the work done by students who use history for their purposes – to find “fresh” answers to questions social and typological – may be seen from a glance at the open page of their books, or at the daily paper. What one may chance upon is a diagram in dots, crosses, and other marks, headed: “Computer-prepared map of violent incidents in France, 1840-1844,” while on the opposite page is a geometrical outline of France, also crossed and dotted, showing the incidence of incidents. Positive and negative numbers to three decimals express the absolute values applying to each of the levels of violence, side by side with a frequency distribution.
A historian need feel no objection or distaste whatever at this use of history; rather, he rejoices that the ancient urge to record the past leads later on to such refined methods for dissecting it.
But he is simultaneously conscious of one certitude and one doubt. He knows as he studies the charts in all directions that he is not reading history; and he feels an uneasiness about the capacity of the graphic-quantitative method for truth telling.”
(History: The Muse and Her Doctors (excerpt), Jacques Barzun, American Historical Review, February 1972, pp. 58-59)