Public School History of England and Canada

Public School History of England and Canada

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Excerpt from Public School History of England and Canada: With Introduction, Hints to Teachers, and Brief Examination Questions

It is useless to expect a teacher to instil into the minds of his pupils a love of historical reading and research, unless he himself appreciates and enjoys the study, and is fully alive to its educational and political value. The apathy or distaste so frequently exhibited by pupils when called upon to master the most elementary historical facts is largely due to the superficiality of the teacher's knowledge. Without a good acquaintance with the subject he can make it neither profitable nor interesting.

"History is past politics." This may be accepted as a fairly correct definition, if we enlarge the ordinary conception of "politics," so as to comprehend all the facts connected with the moral, intellectual, and social life of a community. History deals with something more than the struggles of contending princes for power and fame; its main incidents are not battles and sieges. Nor is it limited to the discussion and explanation of the varying fortunes of great political parties. It includes these things; but it includes also many other matters of equal or even greater importance. It aims to reveal to us the joys and sorrows, the triumphs and defeats, the virtues and vices, of the different classes that make up a nation. It tells us how rude, semi-civilized tribes and peoples develop into powerful commonwealths, enjoying the advantages of good government, pure morals, high culture, and literary excellence. It tells us, too, of the gradual or rapid decline of great monarchies and strong republics; and shows us the reason why one nation prospered and another suffered ruin or disaster.

History also gives us ample opportunities of studying human character as manifested on an extended scale. The wise and the unvise, the just and the unjust, the cruel and the merciful, the pure and the impure; all kinds of actors on life's stage are placed before us for moral discrimination and judgment. Rightly studied, history teaches us to admire and esteem the brave, the honest, and the self-denying; and to despise and condemn the cowardly, the base, and the selfish. We are led to see that virtue preserves and strengthens a nation, while vice inevitably causes decay and weakness. Not the least of the important uses of history is its tendency to broaden our sympathies and to enlarge our views of human life and action. History, then, is a great teacher of morals. It is, also, a powerful means of developing the intellectual faculties. It leads us to compare nation with nation; institutions with institutions; laws with laws. It prompts us to discover the links that connect events apparently isolated; in other words, to find causes for effects.

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