USE AND ABUSE OF HISTORY by Pleter Geyl

USE AND ABUSE OF HISTORY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

All theories and propagations about history, the author contends, are fore-doomed to failure if only from selectivity, imposition of ideas and conclusions, and an underlying belief in historical purposiveness. Hegel, for example, was with equal ease twisted to the ideals of Germany's destiny and Marx's Utopia, while his reasoning itself, founded upon identification with the Cosmic Spirit, ended in a system of self-enslavement go on its tenets, an enslavement no better nor more valid than that achieved in other systems,- St. Augustine, Nietzsche, Toynbee The ""evidence"" of history can be squeezed into any mold. Prof. Geyl holds a distinguished chair in modern history at the University of Utrecht. He makes here a plea for modesty and scholarship in historical research. From the multitude of conflicting interpretations of Napoleon, he tries to show that even the most limited grasp of historical truth, let alone theorizing, lies barely with the historian's reach. Taine, Michelet, Carlyle, Vico fall under his resolute blows. Regrettably, Spengler is scarcely touched upon. Rejecting Spengler in the same hardy manner of all historical theoreticians, Prof. Geyl leaves himself open to criticism. For Spengler squarely faced the inadequacy of his theories as being permanently or inescapably true; he described his philosophy as merely the outgrowth of the contemporary stage of human development in the West. Prof. Geyl, in refusing to put history on the evolutionary wheel, argues from a pure academic position, which it is his duty to justify and demand. These Terry Lectures take their place as a strictly pedagogic affair, unquestionable for historical conservatives.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1955
ISBN: 030013651X
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press