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BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.
Set up and electrotyped. Published October, 1906. Reprinted February, 1908; October, 1911,
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.
A COLLEGE course in English history must introduce the student to a number of great authorities on special periods and topics. It is not enough that these authorities should be casually read; they should be studied as carefully as a case-book in law, and then critically considered in the classroom. It is also necessary that all the students should do this special reading at the time when the particular topic is reached in the text-book or lectures.
The teacher is therefore confronted with the problem of controlling this additional reading, and of satisfying himself that it is well done by all the students. If he has large classes, he constantly meets the complaint that the students have not been able to secure the required book at the proper time, and concerted class work is thereby destroyed. If he seeks to avoid this difficulty by requiring the students to hand in notes, he not only makes class discussion impossible, but he doubtless discovers that a great deal of the note-taking is perfunctory, and that some have copied from the more industrious.
Finding my own experience confirmed by that of many other teachers of English history, I venture to issue this volume of readings as an attempt at a partial solution of the problem stated above. I am conscious of the difficulties accompanying such an enterprise, and realize fully the great and legitimate divergence of opinion that teachers will have in selecting assignments for their students. It seems, however, that all the topics included in this collection are of first-rate importance, and that the authorities represented are those worthy of careful study. That there are hundreds of equally important selections and other writers on English history of quite as high rank, there can be no doubt; but every undertaking has its limitations. Moreover, the problem of proportion is a difficult one; but I believe many excellent arguments might be advanced for devoting one half the book to the last three centuries of English history.
Such a collection as this does not obviate the necessity of recourse to the authorities themselves; it only enables the teacher to compel a thorough study of minimum requirements. Indeed, the extracts given here should stimulate an interest in the great historians and lead the student further afield. All the books quoted below should be in the library of every college.
In addition to introducing the student to many English historians, these readings may serve as the basis for critical operations of great disciplinary value. By having the students turn to the original volumes from which these extracts are taken and specially examine the foot-notes and citations of evidence, an understanding of the constructive methods of the various authors may be developed. This analysis of secondary authorities should prove as useful in training the critical faculties as an attempt to build up a narrative from the sources.
It might prove more useful, since most college students in after life will do far more reading than research. The art of scholarly appreciation is certainly a desirable permanent possession.
To further facilitate critical operations, short bibliographies have been added, especially to those extracts which need amplification or contain controverted views. The selections are reproduced exactly as they stand in the works from which they are taken; no attempt has been made to modify or suppress the opinions of the respective authors. No foot-notes are added, for they are not usually read by the college student. The critical work must be done by the teacher and the students themselves if it is to be of any real value. The bibliographies merely indicate some of the important materials to which they may turn for divergent views. This work may be helpfully supplemented by constant reference to the source books by Kendall, Colby, Lee, Stubbs, Gee and Hardy, Prothero, Gardiner, Robertson, and Adams and Stephens, which are fortunately known to most college teachers and should be in every teaching library.
I am greatly indebted to the authors and publishers who have generously allowed me to make these selections, and due acknowledgment is made with each extract. I am also under obligations to several teachers of English history, whose names I will not associate with an undertaking so experimental in character.
CHARLES A. BEARD. COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY,