The writing of history - Fred Morrow Fling (1920) PDF-ebook

The writing of history: an introduction to historical method

The writing of history
The writing of history 


The present volume is the second work published by the Yale University Press on the Theodore L. Glasgow Memorial Publication Fund. 

This volume is not a revised edition of my Outline of Historical Method; it is an entirely new work. It was written for college students who are beginning their studies in historical research, for teachers of history who have had no critical historical training, and for students of history who are hoping to find in the private study some compensation for opportunities not enjoyed in college. 

This book does not aspire to fill the place of Bernheim's Lehrbuch, but rather to guide the student through his first steps in research, and to prepare him for the study of Bern- helm. In a word, it is an "introduction" to the historical method. Although the simple reading of the text might not, I venture to hope, prove unprofitable, it will, nevertheless, yield the best return when studied in connection with a bit of research exemplifying the process I have endeavoured to describe. I would suggest that some limited topics be carefully worked over, all the steps in the method being taken from the criticism of the sources to the construction of the final narrative with notes. 

Only by such an experience can one fully understand what critical historical study means and how difficult and exacting the work of the scientific historian is.  Although this volume does not deal with the teaching of history, it has, nevertheless, an important bearing upon it.

 A teacher who has not read at least an elementary text on historical method and completed a piece of careful scholarly research lacks one of the most important parts of the equipment of a well-prepared teacher of history. However much historical information such a teacher may have ac- cumulated, he lacks a scientific standard that would enable him to separate the true from the false, to deal scientifically with contradictory statements in secondary works and to protect himself and his pupils against unsound and superficial historical narratives. 


It seems extraordinary that it should be necessary to insist upon the importance of what should be self-evident, but the really extraordinary thing about the pedagogical situation is that a large majority of the teachers of history in secondary schools neither possess an elementary knowledge of historical method nor consider such knowledge a necessary part of their equipment as teachers.

 A teacher of chemistry who could not direct experimental work in a laboratory could neither secure nor hold a position in a good high school today, but the history courses in the high schools are still "passed around" to teachers without technical training. Fifteen years ago, in the introduction to my Outline of Historical Method, I wrote that "it is the popular belief that any intelligent person, without  technical training, can teach a class in history." \

The statement is almost as true today as it was then, and I am convinced that there will be little improvement in the situation until the technical side of the history teacher's preparation is insisted upon, and he is required to be as much of a professional as the teacher of the natural sciences. Chemistry would be taught in the high schools today by any person who could hold a textbook, had not the practice been rendered impossible by the introduction of laboratory work into the secondary schools, thus making a technically trained teacher a necessity. Why should an acquaintance with the theory and practice of historical methods not be required of every high school teacher of history? 

The examples in the text have been drawn almost exclusively from the period of the French Revolution. The period is important and interesting enough to justify such a course, but it is probable that I would not have exploited it to quite the same extent had it not been the chosen field for my own researches. I should be glad to attract workers to a field "already white for the harvest." Not only does it offer great opportunities, but for no other period, outside of English or American history, is it so easy to acquire the language equipment which makes possible the reading of the sources in the original text. 

The manuscript of my book has been read by Professor George L. Burr, and I have profited from many excellent suggestions touching both matters and form. It is but one of many kindnesses that have marked the long years of our friendship. It is with a feeling of gratitude that I dedicate this volume to Professor Bernheim. I was groping my way in method at a German university when his Lehrbuch appeared; it led me out into the light. It has saved many another lost soul in the quarter of a century of its existence. Bernheim's name should be as familiar to the student of history as Euclid's to the student of mathematics.


book details :
  • Author: Fred Morrow Fling
  • Publication date: 1920
  • Publisher:  New Haven: Yale university press

  • Download The writing of history - PDF ebook -6 MB

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