[purchase_link id=”25524″ text=”Purchase” style=”button” color=”orange”]
The main reference to write this article, “A Preface to History”, written by Carl G. Gustavson, is a well organized book, and the reader gets involved with the reading because he starts explaining us the reasons one could like reading his book, and then, brings in a different didactic perspective, some of the dimensions we could be in touch, by recognizing the importance of certain evidences, concerning historical facts. His narrative is also analytical, emphasizing reason, logic, and topical sectioning, leading anyone to involvement in the subject. Gustavson’s speech is constant, and we can notice the voices of other authors, subtly buried in clever arguments, and presentation of special arguments. He does not let us question what is being said, because the answers seem to come before. He explores branches of the History, we certainly have studied before, but the nicest aspect, is that he provides us a return to our spiral learning to meet facts in the past, so that we can improve the quality of our knowledge building. His book is like an invitation to search more, as much as we get concerned about the importance to study History. The author does not only present examples, with personages, but discusses essential human values, and analyses the action of forces along our own evolution, by the clarification of our potential capacity to innovate as well as the conflicts we had and will certainly live in a constant transformation of values, although very typical of humans nature, and adapted along the dimensions of time and space.
He also provides us a very substantial roll of sources, with bibliographical notes, but does not paraphrase so much along the narrative. His clarifications, include not only the main point, which is sociological aspects, but also emphasizes economics, politics, philosophical,and cultural passages, which are well connected, so that they can be understood in the general context which is basically sociological and historical. The author does not include added material, like pictures, maps, charts, appendixes, chapter sub-headings, but is absolutely careful with the quality of his analysis along the narrative, which is the main literary resource he well manages.
It’s being reported by Gustavson, in his book “A Preface to History”, (Chs.01, p.02) that students face History, in accordance with their conception of reality, that means the possibility to take part of the historical process, which is relative, depending on their social, cultural, economical and political evolvements. As readers, we can understand his intention to define History, providing us an approach with the concept itself, in different collocations.
“History, similarly is a mountaintop of human knowledge, from whence the doings of our own generation may be scanned and fitted into proper dimensions.” (p. 02)
“History is the story of the successful, or better, the successful write the history”. (p.127)
“History consists of stories, and stories must have heroes and villains”. (p.124)
He also refers to the concept of the determinists which is:
“History is a record of a constant process of evolution toward a predetermined goal in which interruptions may occur, and there may be unforeseen delays and detours, but the ultimate result of foreordained.” (p.124)
Another reference is the concept of Voltaire:
” History is but a picture of crimes and misfortunes”. (p.110)
Although he mentions that History is not science he admits that there is a close relation with people’s conception of reality, so that people can access registrations of facts in different and convenient time. He also compares a historical episode with a game of poker, man can win only with fairly good cards. The participation of the process depends on our lifetime and what our ancestors have to tell us about their past. So, sometimes we are directly or not, insiders of the History, depending on our connections with the facts. Sometimes we can only contemplate them, as outsiders. By different approaches we certainly can understand ourselves much better if we try to answer the questions: Who I am, where I came from, and where I am going. The familiarity with basic concepts and processes, will help students to understand our background as a society, and he/she would probably be included in the History, by searching and looking for his/her roots, even as an outsider. It will probably be helpful to promote the development of competence, and they will become more enlightened citizens, with a good sense of perception in judging public issue (p.5). Anyway, it depends too much of our opportunities. As Políbios reports in his book “History” :
Many of us, in my point of view, wish to perform great attitudes, but few ones are brave enough to try, and among the ones who try, there are rarely ones that are able to go until the end. (01)
For the more reasonable understanding of Historical mindedness, Gustavson divides this task in categories, and basically focuses, the objective way to develop skills to become effectively competent for this goal, providing us a panoramic view of his concerns about it.
The author does not exclude the participation of educators in contribution to students needs, but it is clear that interpretation of History depends on the approach each of us can have in accordance with our personality. In this educative process, we ought to consider the necessity of reasonable reading, which he makes reference by saying:
“The more one knows, the more one learns”. (p. 08)
We understand that this acquisition depends on the evolvement of the individual to what he/she is looking for, day after day. As Fairclough questions:
“Whose voice is this, the students’ or that of the University administration? (02)
Even incorporating voices we will be connected with history, specially in the academy, where relevant subjects are being presented, but it has no relation with personal interest to be engaged with the attitude to study, which is variable in accordance with our interests. Our speech is formed by multiple voices, as Bakhtin said once. And History is a subtract for these voices. It makes sense to see the speech in opposition to History.
Though, this interest will move her/him to be plugged in daily news about his/her emergent interests. Different readings and ‘inputs’ would probably lead him/her to intertextuality and development of his/her cognitive perception formulating his/her speech in accordance with his data processing. Contrastive ideas of our personal concerns, and the others, will give us a chance to share our existence. He mentions Cicero and Santayana to reinforce the importance of flashing back to the past, which is sometimes very important . But also flashforward, so that we can have better perspectives for the future.
Anyway it depends of our perception of how linked with the present the past is. There are evidences to reinforce the idea that we do improve our “modus vivendi“as much as we know about our surroundings, so that we can better satisfy our necessities. The author mentions some examples of how History can be determined along the time, like fashion, furniture, Arts, Anthropological and geological features, hunting and fishing: the use of the fur in confection: weather. (p.12-24)
The author mentions the importance of weather, reinforcing the idea that we can predict it. Rain, snow, wind, are weather phenomena that also contribute on our culture, and the way we behave. In terms of History, we can have perceptions about facts. He refers to water vapor in the air, establishing a very clear analogy which permits us to face how dynamic the society is and how new facts can change our destines. Weather dissipated civilizations. We never know when new facts will happen. Sometimes it escapes of any prediction. So, when he says contours of the society changes, we’d understand that it is in the limit of our comprehension, which is very relative. Nobody knows when antagonic forces will act, where the answers for those ideologies will overcome. It’s like hot lava in a volcano.
It can or won’t come up. Gustavson well explains that Social Forces create basic Historical Patterns, recognizing that although we have many questions about it, much is the result of accident, of coincidence, of the efforts of individual personalities which includes individuals and institutions.
Periods like Renaissance in Italy, ancient Greece, medieval Russia, the, mercantilism in different cities, are examples of the emerging social forces, in the long perspective, their histories show comparable patterns. He mentions:
“Social forces are human energies which originating in individual motivations, coalesce manifestation of power”.
“Society is dynamic. These contours change, however slowly”. (p..26)
Economic Groups also have the control of the power, which means the right to vote, and participate in the society. Then, the mobility of the classes is in dependence of their economical forces. One could be considered marginal if this citizen could not acquire a property. The religious forces also influenced people’s lives, and orders like the Dominicans and Franciscans, dominated many communities specially in the medieval period. Nobility was also a force. As he mentions, Nobles served as a social force to prevent the absolute rule by the monarch. (p..37). Nomads is also important, considering the adaptation they would have for the new land That should be considered Diaspora, and all the involvement’s surrounding it, because moving people are also suffering interference on the way they behave, by the conception of hybrid cultures, depending on the resistance they’d have, against superior ones.
The author also makes references to the Reformation, considering the necessity to identify differences between good and bad, as emerging feeling of a frustrated society, which feels like being explored by highest social classes. The society claims for salvation, and gets scared of satanic power. At the other side, he sets the forces from Crown and Church, which dominated the planet for centuries. He also reinforces the way the reader can investigate the action of the forces, by looking for causes, background of agitation, involvement of personalities, potent ideas, economical forces, religious forces, technological developments, explanation of the events by weakened and strengthened institutions. He also makes reference to the changes, which conduce the others to behave like that, considering Renaissance and the effects of this movement throughout the world as well as Reformation. He quotes Cheyney who says in Law in History:
“Actual origins elude us: everything is the outcome of something proceeding“.
It’s necessary to know about the facts to have a reasonable understanding of causation, searching about the reasons and evidences, as well as controversies, so that one can formulate interpretation of the events. We also have to focus different forms of society themselves because of the process of alteration by having change and continuity as lights in our ways. They are abstract concepts. He provides some examples of how things change along the way, like: automobiles; football, and Rugby; Parliament; Reformation; The continuity of the British Empire, and the Commonwealth. We do have to attempt to use History in order to understand the present and how our concerns in the XXth century in terms of perspectives can distort our view of the past. Writing History is not the same as novels. We have to confirm our sources. Evidences have to be found even in referential material, like objects of Arts, and documents.
Archeologists have been rediscovering forgotten empires, and facts urge for explanations. New ones are uncovered, although writing of History changes because of the constant new researches. It is a cooperative effort. We do have to give the precise importance to footnotes and source references, respecting people’s comments about a certain subject in order to identify the voices along the speech. We have to face every event of history as unique (p.117)
They guide our decisions. We also have to take care of distortions of the past by the explication of present days attitudes to historical situations. The conclusion is that present can be better understood if we also have our eyes turned to the past, whenever interpreting facts in the present. (p..178)
(01) Políbios, História, Editora Universidade de Brasília, 1985. BOOK XXVII.
(02) Fairclough, Norman, Discourse and Social Change, 1992, Polity Press, p.105.
02. Gustavson states that methods of historical thinking can be profitably used in everyday life. Apply historical mindedness to personal or professional experiences. In accordance with Gustavson Historical-windiness is a way of thinking, a form of reasoning when dealing with historical materials and present day problems. There are lots of fields, which can be helpful besides history, like: economies, political science, philosophy, literature, and geology, which are among these. 5-8,10 -174-178.
Gustavson affirms that Historical mindedness is a way of thinking, a form of reasoning when dealing with historical materials and present-day problems. Use of it occurs to a greater or lesser extend in other fields besides history proper: economics, political science, philosophy, literature, and geology are among these. In mastering this way of thinking, a student is also enhancing his capacities in this other fields He presents seven categories.
1- Observations of the personages who take decisions, according to a moral code, perhaps in according to their successes and failures. Even as the reader enjoys the story, we can never see the events clearly, because it depends on who tells it, and the information this person has about the facts.
2- The historically minded person knows that events do not occur in isolation: every happening is brought about and conditioned by a series of events. He will, consequently, be impelled to seek for associations between the particular events. Historians come back to the past inevitably.
3- The student of society has to discern the shapes and contours of the forces, which are dynamic in society.
4- The historian has to take care with the inequities. So he or she has to take care whenever considering the analysis of facts considering time: present, past and future.
5- Changes in society are absolute. The process is the main point for historians
6- Historians must have humility so that they can recognize tenacious reality.
7- Gustavson affirms History is not a science even though scientific methodology is used as much as possible.
We don’t teach History, but we are sure about the necessity to study it, so that we can have reasonable arguments, in our conversations in the Academic context or not. Professors cannot expect too much of the students. Is it truth? The decision to select what they are going to teach is theirs. They should expect to start getting more involved with what is going on, so that his/her pupils can have and open mind and well open-eyes for the perspectives of the History. We also have to take care with the distortion of History whenever interpreting facts in the present. So it’s more than familiarities. Historians should analyze history through a telescope. Generalizations are always present, because he/she will be facing a specific point, like a blueprint in the ocean. This initial stage in the development of historical mindedness is definitely over when we visit another country we are in fact foreigners in a strange land, in touch with different cultures. Internet, reduced this necessity so much. So, we can also be outsiders. Anyway, mental frontiers can be easily broken nowadays.
The study of the past helps us to obtain bases for perspectives on the present. People should necessarily view the past from the present, because the mature historical-mindedness will occur, only if the person has the view of present from various vantagepoints in the past.
When Gustavson refers to inventions, he explains two very different activities but very close. The first one is spinning of the cotton into thread, and the wearing of the thread into cloth. James Hargreaves invented spinning jenny, and it made a considerable difference.
Two different facts could be observed. The industry of iron and the industry of cotton. Time after time, people could find out the importance of water, to create energy enough so that hands and foot could be substituted. Hands made the extraction of the cotton and this required lots of work. So, as soon as machines took place, it acted on slavery. The cotton gin should be separated from the seed. So even with the machines, men’s action was very necessary. Many other inventions were elaborated, like the automobile, planes, telegraph, telephone, evolution theories, magnetism, x-rays, steamboat, electric light, printing press, which had a great importance for life in society. Printing press should be destroyed because it was considered a creation of the devil. Some development in astronomy could be observed too. Nicolau Copernicus and Ptolomeu develop studies about celestial machines. “The earth moved about the sun, rather than the earth being the center of the university’. Another things like; telescope, microscope, barometer and air pump could be invented. Printing press permitted Reformation. Whenever we consider retarding, we would consider that he transmission of knowledge to the following generations was difficult. ( p.151) – The outburst of technological change did move than merely act as a social force in history narrative. Every inventor stands on the shoulders of those who proceeded him.
3. Gustavson represents several driving forces that influence and change history, each the subject of a separate chapter (Chess 4,7,8,10,12,14,15, Discuss, analyze and comment upon 2 of these forces.
It’s interesting to observe that a good history starts with the interference of someone in a certain context. Then, it sounds that people react with the new present person, and gives the coordinates to the future. This is what we can observe in Gustavson’s narrative about Francis Drake, Christopher’s Columbus, and merchants, How involved they get, combining their efforts, considering their interests. He finally defines that, “Social Forces are human energies, which originating in individual motivations, coalesce into a collective manifestation of power’. He presents Religious and Technological Social Forces. The first one is further illustrated with examples, especially to the point of leadership, and inferences through influence of ideas. (p.132) Bartolomé de Las Casas, the event-making man, whose father had sailed with Columbus inherited his spirit, and also land, and Indians enough, to start his career as a planter. We can notice the presence of the voices by a sermon which theme was “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness”.
They managed the interests of the people by offering sacraments. Anyway, when Las Casas came back to Spain, he was named the Protector- General of the Indians. He had power among Indians. Francis Xavier, another personage, who went to Paris. He got in touch with Loyola; being called “The Alexander the Great of the Church. He worked in the Orient with the colonies, mainly in Malacaa, Goa, Japan. He dies close to China. What Gustavson wants to reinforce is the forces that condemned many people, like Las Casas and Xavier. They both left the pomp and power of the mother church far behind and came, simply dressed, far away from the church itself, only to pray with people and advocate the Word of God, and how important their lives were, to reach the power throughout the world, mainly the ones where Islamic religions were official. The second one: The author suggests we have to backtrack a little in the story of the development of the ocean-going vessel, and a special focus has to be given to means of transportation especially by the knowledge of navigation. Portuguese people, developed Caravels, and Spanish people, large sailing ships like English navigators.
Basically they had very specific interests, like the possibility to carry more food, for all the crew and gunpowder. Then, man’s capacity to develop new devices, or inventions, or ways of doing things. An example of how important this fact is could be given, by taking the Turks whose success in their conquests over Christians was attributed to their modern means of warfare. These new inventions can illustrate a third type of social force. Weapons improved a lot Influences of ideas and the military originates in the necessities of armed defense.
If we consider the power of the Church, we also have to focus its controversies about its position in the world, the diversity of religion, especially Islamic, the paper of Reformation with Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican. Later, Protestants. He establishes the relation between knowledge acquisition, and the importance of the book. The main point is that when printing was spread, people became literate, and the church did not get in doubt to excommunicate people with the interdict. People thought about salvation. People had two to reduce their guilty: by confessional, and duty of penance. The influence of the clergy is notorious. Then, the answer of Reformation was the reinforcement of Papal infallibility as a response to XXth century, treating French Revolution, nationalism and Materialistic Marxism XVII Th and XVIIIth centuries, and nowadays, individualism (p.138). The king was not an absolute sovereign. The importance of Parliament is remarkable. A strong army guaranteed the royal power. The main passage of the triumph of monarchy should be illustrated with the passage in the Palace of Versailles: “Létat cést moi” (I am the state) (p.91) Different ideologies of French statements do not matter much more the Rhine, whether the despotic Louis XIV. By the other side one of the dominant geographical influence for Modern Britain was the sea (p.93) it gets easier to understand British Expansion by the Colonial Ventures. England did not want the Unification of Europe. Then some alliances started to be enhanced. It justifies some characteristic qualities of self-preservation and aggrandizement in the attempt of balance of power. The Founding Fathers of the US helped to establish new concepts of checks and balances between the three branches – Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary. Institutional power can lead with anarchy and tyranny. It can be really observed by checking growth of enlightened self-interest, by a domestic balance of power and by law itself. This limitation of power during XXth century has been driving to in international affairs. (p.98).
If we consider the Revolution, we would have to see Commercial, Industrial, Russian, French ones, so that we can understand the phenomenon we are about to examine “however is one in which a social or economic group is supersedes in control of the state by another group under circumstances of violence. (p.99)
So this facts are probably related with the destination of the people, so that they formulate new conceptions of life. Ideological forces are correlated with the speech, which conduces to changes. When they are not pacific, they should be discussed or imposed, but caused by poverty of people. Gustavson considers it is an error to affirm misery of the people is the main reason for a revolution, but admits a little verity. This poverty should be combated only with the intensification of commercial trade that was very dependent of weather conditions of navigation. Misery was not the case of a Revolution before the end of XVIII century. So, it’s not correct to affirm it was the main reason for a revolution, mainly in France and England until 1789. What we understand is that power, not only of the monarchy but clergyman, started to lose force. The governments show incompetence and the church its inequities. The first provides a sort of privileges, and the second, restrictions. So, enlightenment, took place in the history. (England –1680). The decadence of the aristocracy and absolutism instigated revolution.
This fact is reinforced by subsidiary sources (BURNS, 589-592). If we had it quite strong before, with the Renascence, Reform, we would say things could have changed the speech. (BURNS 572-580). Specially the one that destroyed faith in existent institutions, suggesting reform (Gustavson, 109). For sure these forces help to determine the course of the history. As Gustavson mentions: “We prefer to believe in man’s free will, in his capacity to make decisions both as private individual and public figure. (p.123).
We could also point Determinism and Great Man Theory. We all know history is also made of stories, including villains and heroes constituting Historical Figures, and getting our attention, more than the forces do. The proponents of Determinism believe History is a record of constant process of evolution toward a predetermined goal, in which interruptions may occur, and there may be unforeseen delays and detours, but the ultimate result is foreordained.
We also have to reinforce that the power of religious was depending on the conception of the crown. A good example is the fact that king Henry VIII of England assuredly changed the religious history of his country by establishing a free church of England of foreign control and seems to have made England Protestant when it was only important in Germany. The Church of England remains Catholic to this day in some aspects. The real Protestant Reformation in England fated to take permanent control of the country. If we consider the forces among people. Even what they wear should be approved or not by the church. Clothes reflect people’s behavior. A necessity to be accepted leads to do conformity. We also conventionalize our axiomatic premises in certain patterns familiar and acceptable to all. (p.152). We have to undergone experiences so that we can shape our ideas, select features, integrating it to our personalities, and direct ourselves to a specific point of reference, rediscovering ourselves toward to a sense of reality and conviction. Ideas are the threads, which bind the minds of men together sufficiently for joint action to occur (p.153). When we make reference to technological forces. We have to recognize the importance of certain inventions. They come from certain needs or by curiosity. The acceptance of ideas, like the creation of inventions, is dependent up on the cultural level of a people. May be this is the point where the forces collide. The spirit of innovation and creation, we humans do have, could not be manifested because it was against the principles of the church. As Gustavson mentions: “In periods of cultural lag (where ideas have failed to keep pace with physical progress) the maladjustment between ideology and human reality spurs the search for new insights.”(p.155). We also had the influence of ideologies, varying from Nationalism, Socialism, Individualism, Communism, Marxism, Capitalism, mainly. The main point here is how those systems came to people’s mind, interacting with religious statements. Sure the base of everything has always been the working class unions and the balance between commanders and commanded people. “Marxism became as possessive of a man’s soul and mind as a religion (p.160). Ideas can also be imposed by force. Even if it is accepted, it can be completely changed. (Social forces).
By the way, if we consider power, we have to say that it is the way one can exert control of certain groups, by an efficient organization, which can devise and carry through such a campaign, and a necessity. Although, power is not limited to verbal persuasion (p.182). There are types of power. It is for the society what energy is to the physical world. Gustavson mentions that law is necessary only for a few, and police means that the regime is facing strong internal opposition. In England, power meant the ability to produce weapons. By the other side, we also have spiritual power, which comes from the effects of religious and men’s convictions.
Technological power is an emerging form which has not yet, been brought, fully into use. (A way to control the forces of the nature). (p.181) – technologists and scientists tend to get the power, cause they know some very objective forces. Education leads to leadership, which also means, power. Americans are joiners. A good example is the Labor Associations. The abuse of the use of weapons “Ideas are weapons”(p.196) created a myth, with the propaganda that the final result justifies the ways. It gets people involved with a certain aim which does not have anything correlated. The maintenance of jurisdiction over the others leads to liberty suppression. The science of the government becomes simply a science of how to keep the people working, and how to keep them quiet. (p.196). Applying authority doesn’t mean touch the right of freedom of the individual and of the associations.
War became a constant danger. We needed prevention. Circumstances guided men more than men made circumstances. So, a general conscience emerged to piece rather than war. Not always. His own country repudiated Ex. Wilson the prophet of a New World order. (p.202). In consequence, some minor wars, suppression of slavery, white slavery, peddling of narcotics, were some of the League’s conquests. Agreements about shipment specially embargo on arms. In accordance with the League of Nations, war was not morally acceptable. Then this statement: The life of an individual sees a constant process of adjustment to environment mainly because technological change which had produced a dramatic change in the physical surroundings of the nations (p.206). There are moments in the history; we face the reaction of people to invaders, like Syria and Lebanon – French people. So, ending wars is Utopia. Admitting it, is Barbarism. Social forces will still furnish the muscles and individual ambitions will still be fingers that write history (p.210).
To sum up our considerations about his concerns, we have to say that by reading this book, we could understand the complexity of some events, more than a simple presentation of facts, the place of continuity and change in history, by a very organized sequence of presentation, that demonstrates the great capacity of the author to comment and clarify certain relevant historical events by a different angle.
His enthusiasm specially about the mission of an educator to transmit knowledge, engages in a hard campaign against the evidence, we are all very interested to live the present, rarely examining the past, and confident about the future, which is absolutely important for us, educators, conductors of successive actions of the students who sometimes need to read about it, not only listen. If we run on this way, just oral speeches, we will be like Dad and Mom, with very typical speech of recommends. It’s up to them to face the importance of their on existence in the total and global context, and no remedy for indifference which is normally observed, not by students only, but mainly by educators. It sounds that we breath History, and Gustavson’s book is a good filter, so that the quality of our concerns can emerge from a very dark whole, where fundamental knowledge remains, in deep silence, unless we have the chance to reflect about the importance of these studies, by listening to the voices wherever they are.
Burns, Edward McNall, History of the Occidental Civilization, Globo Ed. 1971.
Gustavson, Carl G., A preface to History, Copyright. 1955, McGraw HILL.
Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, New York:
Modern Language Association, 1988.