Some Illustrations Of Mr. Froude’s Historical Methods -- By: Alfred H. Hall
BSac 45:179 (July 1888) p. 425
Some Illustrations Of Mr. Froude’s Historical Methods
Two years ago last December, the fifth day, Mr. Froude wrote the preface to “Oceana,” or “England and her Colonies.” The book gives us Mr. Froude’s impressions of the political, social, and material condition of Australia and New Zealand. Two years later, Mr. Froude writes a second book on the English Colonies. This time, he gives us a picture of “The English in the West Indies.” Both these works come to us from one who is essayist, historian*, traveller, a scholar of exceptional attainments, a writer whose style is brilliant, fascinating, and all but persuasive.
The design of this paper is not to review either “Oceana” or “The English in the West Indies,” but rather to make them do duty as guides. These books are unlike anything Mr. Froude has written before; yet they are very fair illustrations of his method in writing history. It will not be regarded a misuse of the recent work of this historian, if we make it serve as a glass through which to look at his more remote writings.
For convenience of treatment, “Oceana” will be taken as the guide in these illustrations of Mr. Froude’s historical methods. Before entering on the study of Mr. Froude’s methods, an approximate answer is offered to the question, “What is the true method in writing history?” The impression is abroad that history is an easy study. This is true, if we mean that it is easy to understand, because it is written in language which is untechnical. But it is very far from the
BSac 45:179 (July 1888) p. 426
truth, if we mean that history is an easy subject to master. The department of dogmatic theology in our seminaries is commonly regarded the most difficult to fill. But the opinion is ventured that there is no study which calls for so much as that of historical theology. Whether we look at the preparation demanded in the knowledge of original authorities, in the thorough acquaintance with the spirit, the laws, the customs, the language, of the period whose history is portrayed; or whether we regard that fine prerequisite for all true historical treatment,—honest dealing with authorities, and a sacred purpose to set forth the truth at any price,— from whatever point of view we look at it, the work of the historical theologian demands qualifications of the highest order. This same will hold true of all historical statement, whatever definition we give of history. We may call it with one, “philosophy teaching by example,” or with another, “the precepts of moral philosophy reduced to example,” or with a third, “the knowledge of man as a political being.” With either definition, it is true that history is no easy study to master. ...
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