Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Then, now

Woodrow Wilson, president of Princeton University (Universal Exposition in St. Louis, 1904):

"History must be revealed, not recorded, conceived before it is written, and we must all in our several degrees be seers, not clerks. It is a high calling, and should not be belittled. Statesmen are guided and formed by what we write, patriots stimulated, tyrants checked.... We must not suffer ourselves to fall dull and pedantic, must not lose our visions or cease to speak the large words of inspiration and guidance."

About these ads

Jonathan Spence, Sterling professor of history at Yale University (1999):

"I do not believe that history will be able to regain its once-vaunted status as a science.... But historians are still needed, to apply their intellects to the workings of the past, to scrutinize whatever records they can find with integrity, intelligence, and imaginative strength. They should not be afraid to judge, when they think judgment is needed, but they should try to prevent their will to judge form dictating what parts of the record they choose to emphasize. They will never again believe emphatically in the idea of progress, and they will be cautious of myths of national origins and of national self- aggrandizement. Their ranks will be filled with both men and women. They will regard no field of experience as closed to their investigations.

Two questions will always be with those who practice history: Will they have the courage to keep working on certain topics when they are instructed by political powers not to do so? And will anyone want to read what they write?"

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.