To celebrate the 100th article in LANDISFREE we ask our chair to write a special essay.
Is history a mere chronicle of events or are there patterns in history? If the second view is correct, then a study of those patterns may not only help us understand how things happened in the past, but may also give us some idea as to how things are likely to happen in the future. If, furthermore, the future is not completely predetermined, it is possible that people may intervene and give future events a twist in the direction they wish them to take. In other words, history – properly understood – is not just a record of the past, but can also be a profoundly important guide for the future.
Many historians have sought to see patterns in history, often to fit their own ideologies. To pagans in the 4th and 5th Centuries, the decline of the Roman Empire was due to Romans forsaking the old gods and turning to Christianity. The gods therefore abandoned the Empire. This view was denied by another man living through the same events. St Augustine of Hippo saw all history as a working out of the purpose of the Christian God and argued that the Christians were a force of preservation, not a force of destruction. Marxists have a view of history radically different from both. To them, the development of feudalism, capitalism and socialism, and the fate of empires, derive, not from intervention by any kind of divinity, but from struggles between social classes. Continue reading