A source book of Greek history (1907) PDF- by Fred Morrow Fling

A sourcebook of Greek history




This book was published in 1907 by Scientific historian Fred Morrow Fling, The book is an attempt to illustrates Greek history with references to the sources. 


Excerpt from the book introduction:

During the past fifteen years, the question of the use of sources in the teaching of history in secondary schools has occupied somewhat constantly the attention of history teachers and has given rise to considerable controversial literature. 

The discussion has evidently passed through a first stage, and one thing, at least, seems to be settled: it is the opinion of the best-trained teachers of history the country over that historical sources should be used in the secondary schools. That the publishers of textbooks believe that there is a demand for this kind of material and that the demand is likely to increase is demonstrated by the number of sourcebooks issued in the last few years. 

Another proof of the change that has come over the teaching of history is found in the recent historical narratives intended for secondary schools and in revised editions of old texts. In all of these books, a prominent place is given to references to the sources. If the question " Shall sources be used ? " may be regarded as settled in the affirmative, the further question " How shall sources be used ? " is still a matter of controversy. 


The common practice is to use them as collateral reading or as " illustrative material." In regard to the benefits derived from this use of source material, there is no difference of opinion. It is only when the possibility of doing something more than simply substitute sources for secondary narratives in the assignment of collateral reading, the possibility of doing something with sources that cannot be done with secondary narratives is pointed out, — it is only then that the trouble begins. Before speaking of this second use of the sources, I wish to state briefly what the controlling motives were in the construction of the present sourcebook. It was my aim to make a collection of sources that would reflect the life and thought of the Greek people, and, to some degree, the evolution of that life and thought. 

The Greeks are distinguished for their work in literature, art, and philosophy. To arouse in the pupil some feeling for the beauty of Greek literature and Greek art, I have incorporated into the text extracts of somewhat unusual length, and have used a considerable number of full-page photographs. The first is intended to be read as literature and the last area to be looked at again and again until they have become a permanent part of the mental resources of the pupil. Many of the extracts should be read aloud, some might even be committed and recited. 


This side of the work should not be overdone. The teacher should lead the pupil gently on, should endeavour to place him in the right attitude so that he may fall under the spell of these great works. Without dwelling too long at one time upon this extract or that photograph, let him come back again and again, with gentle insistence, until at length the pupil begins to feel the old Greek masters speaking to him out of poem or speech, statue or temple. If this atmosphere can be created about the historical events, it will give them a reality such as we seem to find in the historical novel.


 The difference would be that here we would have a real historical atmosphere and not the creation of the brain of a modern novelist. If this work is properly done, it may not be difficult to induce the pupil to read a play of Sophocles, the whole of the Iliad, a book or two of Herodotus the whole of Thucydides, several speeches of Demosthenes some of the Lives of Plutarch, and even the Apology of Plato in place of less valuable reading. An enthusiastic teacher who loves these things himself and is able to communicate his enthusiasm to his pupils will accomplish something that is really worthwhile, even with young pupils, the majority of teachers, these sources will probably be used as "illustrative material" and to introduce the pupil to Greek literature and art. 

While I am very much in favour of these uses, I wish to make a strong plea in favour of further use, to my mind one of the most important uses to which the . sources can be put; I mean the critical study of them. So long as the pupil does not appreciate the relation of the source to the event, of the affirmation of a witness to the fact he affirms, of the process by which we reconstruct the past, reflected im- perfectly and often incorrectly in the sources, so long as he accepts without question the results of the investigations of another, just so long must he be regarded as without insight into the real meaning of historical study.

 I do not advocate the substitution of source study for the study of secondary narratives, nor do I believe that all sources should be studied intensively, but I do believe that the critical study of the sources should be made the very foundation-stone of historical instruction. But what is meant by the " critical study of the sources "? Naturally, something rather simple for the first year of high school, something fairly solid for the last year, if the pupil studies history during the four years. 

The teacher should have a good knowledge of what the historical method is; a knowledge derived both from practical experience in research work and from a good text on method. He must have this preparation if he would do his work effectively, but he will not attempt to teach the method systematically in the class. 

What he can do, I have endeavoured to show in the questions appended to the extracts. If he does what he can do intelligently and keeps doing it, the boy who has not gained some insight into the meaning of critical historical work before the year is out will be stupid indeed. If the teacher does not feel equal to this sort of work, he may omit the questions upon evidence. If he would like to attempt it but does not feel quite sure of himself, let him choose the easier problems, leaving the more difficult ones for the future. 

These questions upon evidence can sometimes be answered by a study of the source extract, sometimes it is necessary to make use of the information in the critical bibliography, and, finally, sometimes they cannot be answered at all, or can be answered only by way of conjecture. For instance, jthe question might be, "Where did Thucydides obtain his information about the Sicilian expedition? " Possibly the extract gives no informa- tion, and nothing is found in the bibliographical notice that seems to cast any light on the problem.

 It is clear that Thu- cydides was not in Sicily and could not have described the events as an eye-witness, as he did in the case of the plague. He must have learned of the events from others, either in the Peloponnesus or in Athens after his return from banishment. The object of these questions is to impress the thought that this indirect information is less valuable than the statements of a good eye-witness and that the less we know of the sources of information from which a writer drew, the less confidence we have in his statements. Among the more difficult questions are those touching on the relationship of the sources. 

I have given a few examples of this kind, quoting from three sources, at times, that the pupil may have a chance to see that they often draw from one another and that it is only by the agreement of independent sources that the truth is determined. One of the main purposes of this critical work is to make the pupil comprehend the uncertainty and unreliability of much of our information upon Greek history, and that this is due to the character of the evidence with which we are obliged to work. A further purpose is to bring out the idea that in history the only " authority " is the source, and that the writer of a historical narrative cannot take refuge behind the dogma of infallibility, but must prove all that he asserts by the citation of evidence.


Some contents of the book

PRIMITIVE GREEK SOCIETY
A. Greek Life as shown in the Iliad and the Odyssey - Family Life
b. Occupations
c. Government
d. Warfare
e. Religion
f. The Life of the Greek Farmer according -to Hesiod

11. COLONIZATION
Greek Life on the Coasts of the Mediterranean
III. UNIFICATION OF GREEK LIFE
A. Oracles . . ....
B. Amphictvonies
C. Games and Festivals.
IV. THE RISE OF SPARTA AND ATHENS.
A. Spartan Conquests and Spartan Society u. Conquest of the Peloponnesus.
b. Spartan Society...
B. Development of the Athenian Constitution
a. Unification of Attica .....
b. The Athenian Constitution before Draco.
c. Changes made by Draco in the Constitution
d. Reformation of the Government and Society by Solon
e. The Tyranny of Pisistratus and of his Sons
f. The Reforms of Cleisthenes

  • Author: Fred Morrow Fling (American Historian)
  • Publication date: (1907) 
  • Company: Boston, D. C. Heath & co.

  • Download A sourcebook of Greek history  - 9 MB

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