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On the Rational Ideal of the World Historian

“The desire to be free from all prejudice in the judgment of historical facts is, then, the keynote of all our philosophy of historical criticism; and the desire to retain interest – human interest – is the keynote of our philosophy of historical composition”

“To attain [this]… There must be no race prejudice, no national prejudice. There must be no attempt to blacken or whiten historical characters, in correspondence with the personal bias. There must be no special pleading for or against any form of government, any racial propensity, or any individual deed. In a word, there must be freedom from prejudice in every field – except indeed that prejudice in favor of the broad principles of right, regarding which all civilized nations of every age have been in virtual agreement. But the deeds, the motives, the superstitions of all times and of all races must be viewed, so far as such a thing is possible, though the same clear atmosphere of impartiality.”

“Equally must there be freedom from prejudice regarding various classes of ideas. ‘Whatever concerns mankind is of interest to me,’ must be the…motto. Some persons are interested only in military events, in battles, treaties, and the like; others care only for constitutional and governmental affairs; yet others think most of literature and of art, or of science. But the…spirit of a world history should show a [universality] of taste that is receptive of each and all of these…each in proportion to its relative influence, excite the sympathetic attention of the historian.”

Excerpted from: The Historians' History of the World: Prolegomena; Egypt, Mesopotamia edited by Henry Smith Williams, Volume 1, 1907. (28-29)

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