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A BRIEF HISTORY OF CULTURE.
INTRODUCTION SECTION 1. Grandeur of the Subject. This book, though small, is ambitious. It is the result of long studies, undertaken with the idea that the development of our race is the grandest and most instructive of all historical subjects, and deserves the best treatment which any author can give to it. I have tried to present a comprehensive statement of the growth of humanity, an epitome of the experience of our race, explaining all the main steps by which mankind has advanced from primeral savagism to the enlightenment of our own day, with express or implied judgments on the mechanism, science, and political, social, military, ecclesiastical, moral, and philosophical systems of the different ages, races, and nations. I have done my best to compress within a few hours' reading the chief lessons of historical philosophy, to show that man is a progressive animal; that his advancement has been constant; that, though his speed has sometimes been checked for a brief period relatively, his career has never turned backward ; that the useful arts have made the chief epochs in history, and are the main bases of civilization; and that progress increases in geometrical ratio with the course of time, and tends, since the beginning of the Iron Age, to greater liberty and the emancipation of human nature from the restrictions imposed upon it by barbarism.
Having sought to avoid display of erudition, complexity of detail, and pretension of style, and to present my information in a manner adapted to simple understandings, I hope that my work will be found serviceable in schools, and also valuable to general readers, while not without interest to philosophic students. The magnitude of the subject demands a book ten or twenty times as large as this, and my studies were undertaken and carried through in the intention of completing such a work; but, when I made an examination of the material, I was impressed with the idea that the first and most urgent want is a manual prepared for the multitude, to give them a summary of the ideas that fill the mind of the student who has gone over the whole range of human progress, to popularize the history of culture, and to stimulate a taste for a higher class of historical works, not filled up with the pedigrees, whims, personal peculiarities, and adventures, of kings, commanders, and courtiers, and the petty events of cabinet intrigues, military campaigns, public festivals, and popular commotions. Besides, I believe that a good history of culture, adapted to the comprehension of the million (I trust I have not failed in my efforts to make mine such a book), may be of vast service in the cause of progress toward political, social, educational, and industrial equality—a cause which has taken wonderful hold on the intelligence and conscience of our time.
SEC. 2. Its Newness.—The subject is new, as well as important. It has never been handled before in English. Buckle's “ History of Civilization in Eng.
land” is an introductory philosophical disquisition, and was never completed. Guizot's “ History of Civilization in France” is only a history of a few political changes which occurred in feudal times. These are the only books, accessible to the general reader, purporting to be histories of civilization, and neither deserves its title. One is not historical in character; the other is restricted to a small part of its subject. The only comprehensive histories of culture are those of Wachsmuth (1850) and Kolb (1870), in German. Neither has been translated into English, and, while the latter has many merits, yet it has also many deficiencies, and any competent translator, undertaking to supply them, would find himself compelled to prepare a new work. Gustav Klemm has published a German work, of about thirty-five hundred pages, called “ A History of Universal Culture;” but it is a series of essays describing the customs, laws, and religions, of different tribes and nations, with no mention of historical connection between them. The most notable French book in this branch, after Guizot's, is Voltaire's “Essai sur les Meurs," which was the first attempt at a history of culture, and is written with much ability and learning, but is out of date.
Persons familiar with the literature of the last twenty-five years will not need to be reminded that many of our most celebrated authors have complained that our history has been studied from a low standpoint, and should be rewritten. Buckle tells us that “the important facts have been neglected, and the unimportant ones preserved.” Comte says that our historical literature is “an incoherent compilation ;” and, in the opinion of John Stuart Mill, it is “antiquarian," not “philosophic.” I might quote expressions to the