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Old September 21st, 2012, 11:48 PM   #1

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Arnold Toynbee's Opus and Edward Gibbon's Opus


OLD FRIENDS

Part 1:

I want to write here about my experience with two historians and my own still amateurish and formative efforts in the domain of history-writing influenced as this writing has been by these two historians. One of the two historians I will be writing about here saw himself also as a minor poet as much as a historian. As I head into the evening of my life, I have become increasingly aware that I am nothing if not a minor poet. The name of this first historian was Arnold Toynbee(1889-1975). He helped me in the teaching of history because of his wide, his broad, perspectives on the subject, as well as his assumptions about man, life and God. They were assumptions which I shared, for the most part back, in the early 1960s. I still share these assumptions, but they have been refined over those 5 decades.

I write here of some of my personal experience with the writing of this great historian as well as one of his significant mentors, Edward Gibbon(1737-1794). In the early 1990s I read a critique of Toynbee's work, a critique written back in the 1950s in The Journal of the History of Ideas by the Dutch historian, Pieter Geyl(1887-1966). Toynbee made the point in his defence of that critique, that he saw himself as a minor poet. He also made the point that his great opus was “a study of history” as much or more than history itself.

Let me tell you a little about my experience with these two historians over the last half-century. What I write here will serve as a posting at an internet site or two, and as a comment on the development of my interest in and reading of history. Since the 1950s and 1960s when I studied history in Ontario’s public education system and in two of its universities a great deal of water has gone under the bridge of my life, of my teaching of history and my study and reading of history.

In 1962/3, half a century ago, I was a matriculation student preparing for my entrance to a university in Ontario. Both Toynbee and Gibbon were on the far periphery of my intellectual life immersed as I was in nine grade 13 subjects among which was a Canadian history course. I recall reading history in primary school as far back as grade 6 when I was 11 and the year was 1955. By 1962 I was also immersed in a personal struggle with my libido and with my psycho-emotional life which was bubbling to the surface in the beginnings of bipolar disorder.

For the most part this libido was kept under tight control. In 1963/4 I had to deal with the beginnings, as I say, of a lengthy episode of bipolar disorder, as well as the death of my father and my mother’s retirement. Moving away from home and the complexities of my evolving psycho-spiritual life confronting, dealing, as my late adolescent life did, with a faith which claimed to be the newest, the latest, of the Abrahamic religions. This was all part of a transition stage from adolescence to adulthood, part of my personal agenda in those early ‘60s, to say nothing of the great changes in the wider society.

That was 50 years ago. In 1964/5 I bought the ten volumes of Toynbee’s A Study of History. At the time I was in my second year at McMaster university in an honors history and philosophy course. Every once in a while when reading other subjects, I would dip into these volumes and I have been doing so ever since. Reading Toynbee has always been a solid intellectual exercise. His style of writing has always been demanding. So is the true of reading Edward Gibbon who served as Toynbee’s model.

He comes closest, closer than most other historians, to providing what was then and still is a highly useful, a personally meaningful, perspective on history. It is a perspective that is written with a global, universal, cyclical theme—and one that seems particularly relevant to our time in history, the age in which we live. His style and content appealed to me back in 1964 and that was enough to give him an honored place in the pantheon, small as it was at the time, of historians whom I regarded with more than a little interest and enthusiasm, inspite of the density and complexity of both the issues and his writing style. He was not on any of my official reading lists in philosophy and history at the time

Part 2:

I don’t expect everyone or, indeed, even a minority of others to enjoy reading Toynbee or even to agree with his assumptions about history. Most people will never read Toynbee for a variety of reasons, the main one being that his prose is just too difficult and the content is not one that would appeal to a popular culture. This is also true of Gibbon. It took me at least two decades, the years from the 1960s to the 1980s, to be able to read more than a few pages at a time of either of these masters of history.

Their writing requires a good deal of exposure in order to acquire the tastes of appreciation. Toynbee began writing his A Study of History just after WW1 trying, as he was, to come to grips with the enormity that he and his civilization had just lived through. He finished his review of those ten volumes in a book he entitled, Reconsiderations,in 1961. I did not read that volume until the late 1970s when I was teaching at what is now the university of Tasmania. These eleven volumes were the tour de force of his life. As I near the age of 70, and on a cocktail of medications for my bipolar disorder, I can still only read a few pages. Now, though, this incapacity to read more than a little, is due to the limitations imposed by an anti-psychotic and an anti-depressant drug.

There is something magisterial about these works of erudition. To read Toynbee or Gibbon, or anyone else for that matter, one must be capable of reading and assuming the position of the writer—even if one does not agree with that writer. For this reason most of the students I have ever taught in my more than three decades as a teacher-lecturer would never enjoy Toynbee or Gibbon. They may even agree with the assumptions of these writers, but they would not have had the ability or the persistence or the interest, or all three, to drink-in their prose. The ability to read long and complex sentences and, most importantly, the possession of an interest in the subject matter, are essential prerequisites for getting ‘into’ these wonderful, these brilliant, writers and analysts of the history of our civilization.

At the center of Toynbee’s thesis is what he sees as our global imperative to federate. Our survival depends on it he argues in volume after volume. History, as the relationship between God and man, found its raison d’etre in the higher religions in the world’s civilizations. These religions played a critical role in the story of humankind. This historical ethos or perspective impressed me in 1964 and still does. That is a significant part of why I read Toynbee. I encourage readers who have an interest in what I am writing about here to do some googling, some online research to find out more about what both Toynbee and Gibbon have written. If your interests are, for the most part, in the domain of popular culture: its foods and fashions, its music, mainstream celebrities and political mudslinging, its populist issues like dogs and dolphins, sport and soap-operas, homosexuals and humour-----I'd leave Toynbee and Gibbon right out of your mix for future reading and study.

Part 3:

I have observed three reactions to either Toynbee or Gibbon. The most common one by far is: “who are they?” To most of the post-WW2 generations Toynbee and Gibbon have got lost in a sea of print and images. They are heavy dudes, not the sort of chaps you take to bed for a light night cap or for an engrossing narrative or romantic escape. Others have heard of them but have got caught up with life and its busy highways and byways and the burgeoning print and image-glut of our age. A third group finds them wonderfully stimulating. For me, they are quintessentially the historians, if we needed them, and we do. But one must immediately add the phrase “to each their own” in this pluralistic age. Some prefer reading fashion and celebrity magazines, Facebook posts and posters, romantic novels and books by famous contemporary writers. We all have our proclivities and penchants in our planetizing world of 7.3 billion and rising.

The story of the human experience in history is immensely complex and both Toynbee and Gibbon give readers, at least some readers, a flavor of this complexity. The third group of those who hear their names, also contains a sub-group which has found the time to read Toynbee and Gibbon. They even enjoy their writing, but they disagree with just about all of their major assumptions—Pieter Geyl, a Dutch historian who is highly critical of Toynbee. There have been many who have enjoyed Gibbon's prose but have violently disagreed with many of his lines of thought.

In 1955, the first year I recall reading any history at all, Toynbee responded to a range of criticisms of his work in The Journal of the History of Ideas, one of the many journals in the social sciences. One of the many charges that Toynbee responded to was that he was unconventional and tried to write about too much, tried to cover too much ground in an age when specialists in history were the vogue. Toynbee’s brief response of less than a page to that criticism, was that his work was “a study of history” more than history. Toynbee also said that he felt like a minor poet, a minor historian. He has given us, and certainly me, a lifetime of reading. Given his global perspective, given his assumptions, and the rich diversity of his work, he may come to occupy an important position at some future time. Perhaps after these troubled times become more peaceful and we develop a more literate and cultured sensibility, Toynbee may assume an honored place among historians. Gibbon too.

Part 4:

In the meantime I will continue to dip into both their minds from time to time. A second fifty years will do me fine, say, 2012/14-2062/64. I will be 118/20 if I last that long. We still await that federation which Toynbee hoped for but was convinced that he, or we, would never live to see. A certain pertinacity and persistence, determination and desire are required in taking Toynbee or Gibbon along for a ride. An elan vital, an intellectual energy, is crucial to overcome incipient fatigue; concentration’s lapses and one’s own sheer ignorance is exposed. If one stays with them they become part of one’s own backbone of thought. Interest in the content is, as I say above, crucial if one is to make of either Toynbee or Gibbon a friend. They have come to occupy several essential strands in my intellectual make-up. Their volumes are getting both warn and warm, although that new edition my son gave me in 2010 is fresh and new.

Back in the early 1960s Toynbee’s volumes cost three or four dollars each. For years I lived with D.M. Low’s one volume abridgement, Penguin 1960. I began reading it about 1980. They are now history friends—not fiction—not historical fiction—but wonderfully imaginative, stimulating and, for me, erudite historians. Are their conceptions correct? I’m not sure how much it matters. They are only two voices, hardly known in today’s world, in the endless and burgeoning world of print. If one is interested in whether they are right one can read the many critiques of their work. After reading their work and many of the critiques, I am caught-up in the issues, issues which in our age will not be resolved: at least not by or for me.

Today I picked-up Edward Gibbon, and read a dozen pages of David Womersley’s 1994 three-volume edition of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that my son Daniel(1977- ) bought for me as a gift as I was settling-in to the first decade of my life on an old-age pension, 2009-2019, as I had seriously begun to reinvent myself as a writer and author, poet and publisher, researcher and scholar, editor and online-journalist and blogger in the immense commentariat that is the world-wide-web. I first heard about Gibbon on or about 1962 when I bought a copy of Shoghi Effendi’s God Passes By. Shoghi Effendi had been reading Gibbon for years, enjoying his use of language and utilizing his style for his own writing. So it is that my life with Gibbon goes back, with Toynbee, half a century.

T.H. Breen, the William Smith Mason Professor of American History at Northwestern University wrote in his article in The New York Times1 more than twenty years ago that Gibbon “changed forever how historians went about the business of imagining the past.” This was certainly true of me; Toynbee had the same effect on me. Both Gibbon and Toynbee seem to have been genuinely happy people who fully appreciated those moments when they were able to give themselves over to the pleasures of reading and thinking. This was also true of me in my years of retirement after the age of 65, and to a lesser extent after 55 when I took an early retirement and gradually weaned myself away from as much of quotidian reality as I could in order to satisfy my seemingly unquenchable intellectual curiosity, and enjoy those pleasures of reading and thinking.

The demands of family, employment and community responsibilities slowly, sensibly and insensibly slipped to the periphery of my life and I was able to write, not as prolifically as these two mentors I have written about above, but sufficiently to give my daily life an exquisite pleasure inspite of the several slings and arrows of life’s outrageous fortunes that seem to have been part of my life as far back as my first memories in the late 1940s. –Ron Price with thanks to 1T.H. Breen, “Making History,” The New York Times, 7 May 2000.

I, too, had to find some form
for my historical analysis and,
after half a century, I’m still
working on the interpretive
strategies to shape the writing
that I do in these years of the
evening of my life based as it
is on impeccable erudition to
a popular everyday culture with
my own distinct approach to the
life of the mind with that Secret
of Divine Civilization being one
of many critical and formative
influences in the family of many(1)
modernities and post-modernities
on what I write, on the myriad......

of topics with one major over-arching
topic, namely, the transformation of
a heterodox and seemingly negligible
offshoot of the Shaykhi school of the
Ithna-Ashariyyih sect of Shi’ah Islam
into a world religion, the newest, & the
latest of the Abrahamic religions that
have been at the center of civilization.

1 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, Wilmette, 1970(1927/1875).

Ron Price
20 September 2012

Last edited by RonPrice; September 22nd, 2012 at 01:14 AM. Reason: to add some words
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Old September 22nd, 2012, 02:16 AM   #2

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Since corrections can not be posted after a certain interval-of-time, I will post my single correction below.-Ron
----------------------------------------
The second-to-last sentence in the first paragraph has a comma misplaced. As it is the sentence reads: They were assumptions which I shared, for the most part back, in the early 1960s." That comma in the corrected version would be found before the word "back" and not after the word "back."

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Old September 22nd, 2012, 03:29 PM   #3

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Apologies


The initial post in this thread was a little too long even for the conventions and literary standards of this history site. For that I apologize. Readers might prefer to skim or scan this post when their eyes start to glaze over. After posting some 50,000 words in the last several years in the form of some 150 posts, I have enjoyed the feedback I have received and I thank those who have commented on my writing, my prose-poems for the most part.

Waldemar Januszczak has been described as, "a passionate art lover, art critic and writer. His presentation style is casual but informed, enthusiastic, evocative and humorous. He bumbles about on our TV screens, doing for art what David Attenborough has done for the natural world," and someone who acts out of "a refusal to present art as elitist in any way. Both Attenborough and Januszczak make their respective fields of interest and study utterly accessible and understandable."

I know of no way to make either Gibbon or Toynbee accessible unless some history teacher reduces the many thousands of pages written by these two famous historians to bite-sized, scaled-down, paragraphs containing their main ideas in a simpler language. To some extent, this has already been done in cyberpsace and, for those readers with the interest, I encourage you to do some googling and reading at your search-engines.

-Ron Price, Australia

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Old October 1st, 2012, 02:03 AM   #4

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Carpe diem


Since posting the above items on this thread some 10 days ago, I've been reading more of Toynbee's A Study of History. The following prose-poem on the 1st day of October is the result of this reading.-Ron Price, Tasmania
------------------------------------------------------------------------
CARPE DIEM


In Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History Volume 10, he writes that the historian is ultimately involved in a quest for a vision of God at work in history.(1) I found this idea a challenging and stimulating one when I first came across it as a student of history and philosophy at McMaster university in 1964/5 in the lunch-pail city of Hamilton Ontario. I belonged then, as I do now, to a religion which claimed to be the latest, the newest, of the Abrahamic religions, the Baha’i Faith.

This Faith, which I had been associated with for more than a decade by then, by 1963, possessed a fascinating historical vision of God at work in human civilization. This new Faith’s vision of both the past and the future was based on the periodic intervention in history by God in the form of a prophet. The Baha’i Faith has a prophet, Baha’u’llah, Who claimed to be the source of a unifying cross-cultural messianism, a charismatic, a spiritual centre for the global civilization that had been, and would be, in the making in our modern history over several centuries.-Ron Price with thanks to (1) Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol. 10, Galaxy Books, 1963(1954), p.42.

In our world’s fast westernizing,
planetizing, global civilization, a
process has been taking place along
the long years of my time, a virtual
unification, a tour de force, the result
of science and new technology…..an
apparently fortuitous conjunction of
circumstances, a quite extraordinary
achievement, crystallization of unity
across more than 200 nations…but it
was a unity that had yet to take place
politically, economically, and socially.

This process had recaptured-reproduced a
freshness and radiance of a dawn in which
a new World Order was going from strength
to strength,(1) & it was bliss to be alive...(2)

A new dispensation in which a new Abrahamic
faith and its members, a People of a new Book,
were fortified by the conviction that they had
been chosen by God to become instruments of
His will and purpose. A vision and dispensation
caught my imagination-intuition in my teens, and
twenties as a key to the understanding of history.

The religious teaching of a prophet as the only
basis on which a great-powerful civilization with
its esprit de corps, could be established, and the
failure of worldly, secular sociological explanations,
their moribund paganism & cancerous materialistic
humanism staring us all squarely-sadly in the face.

I had the good fortune to be born into a time of troubles,
a climacteric far more profound and little understood by
the generations of these epochs. I had many experiences
resulting in
a creative fertility, a germ of inspired thought,
a fragment of mental wealth poured into my lap sensibly
and insensibly over several decades, gleaning from huge
potential harvests, and my watchful muse did not fail to
seize her fleeting opportunity of gaining access to a mind.

My mind could very well have remained impervious to
such divine promptings. But I slowly divined my work
as epic, part of a greater epic, the most spectacular, the
most tragic and heroic, during such a brief span of time,
in the historical annals of mankind's religious experience.

Mine was no flash of inspiration but, rather, it was a long
and drawn-out
evocation of a solemn consciousness, itself
the
wellspring of the most exquisite celebratory joy, & the
workings of a mind on a joyous and sorrowful
subject, the
meaning of an unprecedented project
that had its complex
beginnings over a century-and-
a-half ago on the eastern
periphery, the dead end, of our Western Civilization.(3)


1 Psalm 84, verse 7.

2 William Wordsworth, Prelude, Book XI, line 108.

3 Wonders are many, but none there be
So strange, so fell, as the Child of Man.
-Sophocles, Antigone, quoted in Toynbee, op. cit., p.118.

Ron Price
1 October 2012

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Old November 17th, 2012, 05:12 PM   #5

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Several Weeks Later


To keep this thread alive with history, I'll post the following piece I wrote today:
--------------------
A NOTE ON DIARIES

There are a host of electronic journals online--available on the world-wide-web to enrich the reading of retirees like myself---to say nothing of some of the two to three billion readers who now have internet access. One such journal that I was reading this morning is entitled IDEA. As I was reading the 29 November 1999 issue, Vol.4, No.1, my experiential and memory bank, somewhere in my hippocampus where memories are recorded, reacted to a book review of The Good Man of Nanking: The Diaries of John Rabe. I had never heard of John Rabe, but I had heard of the rape of Nanking in my years of studying and teaching modern history in the last half of the 20th century: 1949-1999.

The book was published in my last year of FT teaching, 1998/99, in Western Australia, and the review appeared in the first two months of my retirement years, my years of a sea-change from the world of being jobbed. I was 55.

On 22 September 1937, right at the start of the first teaching plan of the North American Baha’i community, a plan I have now been associated with for nearly 60 years, a John Rabe picked up his pen with the same determination that the Japanese soldiers advancing on Nanking picked up their rifles. He began to record the terrible atrocities and he produced a testament that will confound those cynical about altruism, as well as naysayers who deny the brutality, or even the occurrence, of what came to be known to historians as The Rape of Nanking.

Rabe was a Hamburg businessman posted to the city of Nanking. When Japanese forces advanced on Nanking, he organized a sprawling International Safety Zone, "that eventually saved over 250,000 lives even as an equal number of people reportedly lost theirs". His diary details his activities and what he witnessed during the several weeks of murder, rape and pillage that started in mid-December 1937.

If you are interested you can google more of the details of both this review and this diary of John Rabe’s. I’ve been keeping a diary for more than 25 years and recording a far-different war. It’s a war that the American writer, Henry Miller described as follows back in 1941 in the midst of WW2:

“When the destruction brought about by the Second World War is complete another set of destructions will set in. And it will be far more drastic, far more terrible than the destruction which we are now witnessing in the midst of this global war. The whole planet will be in the throes of revolution. And the fires will rage until the very foundations of the present world crumble.-Henry Miller in The Phoenix and the Ashes, Geoffrey Nash, George Ronald, Oxford, 1984, p.55.

Some of the observations of Carl Von Clausewitz(1780-1831), a Prussian soldier and military theorist who stressed the moral, psychological, and political aspects of war, are found in his most notable work, On War, which was unfinished at his death.


His observations on war can be said to apply in this new ‘far more drastic, far more terrible’ destruction. Some military strategists argue that Clausewitz’s work was the first written effort to systematize the principles of conflict. His essays appeared from 1817 to 1828 and were published in On War(Princeton UP, 1976). He said “everything in strategy is simple but not easy”(p.656) and “there is no higher or simpler law...than keeping one’s forces concentrated.”(p.664). Both principles apply in this new style of war, but I must add the caveat that ‘forces’ are those that operate in the private theatre of one’s inner life. Here, in this inner life: detachment and persistence, virtues and character, determine success in battle, a success which is itself difficult to quantify. -Ron Price, comment on Clausewitz’s On War.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Five Epochs, Updated on 18/11/’12.

Miller continues: “To most men the past is never yesterday, or five minutes ago, but distant, misty epochs and centuries some of which are glorious and others abominable, Each one reconstructs the past according to his temperament and experience. We read history to corroborate our own views, not to learn what scholars think to be true. About the future there is as little agreement as bout the past, I’ve noticed.

We stand in relation to the past very much like the cow in the meadow, endlessly chewing the cud. It is not something finished and done with, as we sometimes fondly imagine, but something alive, constantly changing, and perpetually with us. But the future too is with us perpetually, and alive and constantly changing. The difference between the two, a thoroughly fictive one, incidentally, is that the future we create whereas the past can only be recreated. As for that constantly vanishing point called the present, that fulcrum which melts simultaneously into past and future, only those who deal with the eternal know and live in it, acknowledging it to be all.1 See 1Maria Popova, Henry Miller on Art, War and the Future of Mankind, Brain Pickings, 7 November 2012.

These reflections of mine
with less than two weeks
to go to another Australian
summer, observing some of
that third war Henry Miller
describes above, I can hear
my neighbour watering his
grass and my wife talking on
the telephone downstairs. It
does not look like war from
this vantage point, Henry, but
what one sees around one is a
mask for that destruction you
described back in the midst of
that first global war: 1939-45.

Ron Price
18/11/’12

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Old November 17th, 2012, 05:49 PM   #6

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My introduction to Edward Gibbon is amusing to say the least- I got an abridged copy of his magnus opus in a room where there were books being stored for recycling, of all places-and so I got the two volume set for free. This was almost 20 years ago, and after using duct tape to secure the bindings that were falling apart and years of occasionally stuffing them into my luggage or bookbag I still have the set. I would never have had the interest I did in Roman and Byzantine history without it!

Amazon.com: Great Books of the Western World, 40 & 41. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: Edward Gibbon: Books
Amazon.com: Great Books of the Western World, 40 & 41. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: Edward Gibbon: Books


That being said, Gibbon is very matter-of-fact about what happened, and you can tell he has a definitive opinion on how the Roman empires functioned. I will always appreciate an introduction to this world, but I could not after what I know now treat it as the definitive source of this period, as Kirialax and others could attest to.

I find it interesting that you also brought up Toynbee, who to me is a tragic figure in the debate over Turkish, Greek and Armenian history in the early 20th century. Historians should always let the facts drive their work or pieces that lead to a logical conclusion, but not using their work as a drum for an agenda. Toynbee did something I feel that is extremely important- he realized that his earlier works had been tainted and set out to get a complete picture of the region. By doing so, he in my eyes elevated himself greatly and deserves a lot of respect for that.

Thank you for your contributions, and I thoroughly enjoy more than light reading (which is exactly what you don't get with Toynbee, but I enjoy it!).
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Old November 17th, 2012, 05:59 PM   #7

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You've Been Busy, monsieurdl


You've Been Busy, monsieurdl, at this site over the last few years. I appreciated your thoughtful comments on my posts. Indeed, it was a pleasure to read about your experience as well as your thoughts on both Toynbee and Gibbon.

In these years of retirement from my 50+ year student and teaching life, 1949-2005, posts like yours enrich these my years when reading and writing are my main daily activity without having to concern myself with students in classrooms, with marking papers, and the complexities of systems of education. "Gudonyer", as they say Downunder, and thanks again.-Ron
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Old November 17th, 2012, 06:16 PM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by RonPrice View Post
You've Been Busy, monsieurdl, at this site over the last few years. I appreciated your thoughtful comments on my posts. Indeed, it was a pleasure to read about your experience as well as your thoughts on both Toynbee and Gibbon.

In these years of retirement from my 50+ year student and teaching life, 1949-2005, posts like yours enrich these my years when reading and writing are my main daily activity without having to concern myself with students in classrooms, with marking papers, and the complexities of systems of education. "Gudonyer", as they say Downunder, and thanks again.-Ron
You don't have to explain, believe me- I am currently 15 years into a military career that takes me to a lot of places all over the world. I look forward to the day where I can lay down anchor as we say and enjoy my passion, which is history. I want to be able to one day write the definitive history of naval actions in the American Civil War, a subject I feel is greatly neglected, but all of it takes time and focus I just don't have currently. I can only hope to still have the same mental ability and focus you have when I retire!!
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Old November 17th, 2012, 06:50 PM   #9

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Having a goal and an aim, monsieurdl


Having a goal and an aim, monsieurdl, is half the battle for many historians. There are, of course, many obstacles along the way; for example, Lord Acton waited until he had read everything on the subject before writing and, in the process, he never got to write his history. This English Catholic historian, politician, and writer devoted himself to reading, study and congenial society. With all his capacity for study, he was a man of the world and a man of affairs, not a bookworm.

In 1895, several years before his death, he was appointed to the Regius Professorship of Modern History at Cambridgee, so I am informed at Wikipedia. The Cambridge Modern History, though he did not live to see it, was planned under his editorship. As Toynbee notes, as does Hugh Chisholm, editor of the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica:

"Lord Acton has left too little completed original work to rank among the great historians; his very learning seems to have stood in his way; he knew too much and his literary conscience was too acute for him to write easily, and his copiousness of information overloads his literary style. But he was one of the most deeply learned men of his time, and he will certainly be remembered for his influence on others."

The moral, then, if there is one in relation to your writing that history, monsieurdl, is: take your time as you go through your military career, little by little and day by day as the Persians used to say(and perhaps still do), and don't try to read it all before you start. But there are many ways to skin a cat; the main thing is that you want to skin it in the first place. Take care, and thanks again for your contribution to this thread at Historum.-Ron Price, Australia

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Old November 18th, 2012, 06:23 AM   #10

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Originally Posted by RonPrice View Post
Having a goal and an aim, monsieurdl, is half the battle for many historians. There are, of course, many obstacles along the way; for example, Lord Acton waited until he had read everything on the subject before writing and, in the process, he never got to write his history. This English Catholic historian, politician, and writer devoted himself to reading, study and congenial society. With all his capacity for study, he was a man of the world and a man of affairs, not a bookworm.

In 1895, several years before his death, he was appointed to the Regius Professorship of Modern History at Cambridgee, so I am informed at Wikipedia. The Cambridge Modern History, though he did not live to see it, was planned under his editorship. As Toynbee notes, as does Hugh Chisholm, editor of the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica:

"Lord Acton has left too little completed original work to rank among the great historians; his very learning seems to have stood in his way; he knew too much and his literary conscience was too acute for him to write easily, and his copiousness of information overloads his literary style. But he was one of the most deeply learned men of his time, and he will certainly be remembered for his influence on others."

The moral, then, if there is one in relation to your writing that history, monsieurdl, is: take your time as you go through your military career, little by little and day by day as the Persians used to say(and perhaps still do), and don't try to read it all before you start. But there are many ways to skin a cat; the main thing is that you want to skin it in the first place. Take care, and thanks again for your contribution to this thread at Historum.-Ron Price, Australia
I understand exactly what you are saying, and finding time for bits and pieces to be added to the effort could result in something substantive after I am done with my work. I especially understand Lord Acton being "remembered for his influence on others." as sometimes the enjoyment of learning and actively being involved with others can be the enemy of sitting down for long periods of time and writing. A personal hero of mine, Theodore Roosevelt, managed to do ALL of it and today I am amazed as to how he accomplished it!

Another fascinating story that I have come across is that of Francis Parkman. He was able to write almost all of his books with this horrible pain in his head from daylight and the inability to move around normally. When I think of that, I cannot help but tell myself that I'm lazy...!
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