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WILLIAM STUBBS Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects

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WILLIAM STUBBS
Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects
page 110



I04 SCHOLASTIC SCIENCE. [IV. great men among them were so great that even such a method did not destroy them : in reading Thomas Aquinas, for instance, one is constantly provoked to say, What could not such a mind have done if it had not been fettered by such a method ? Such, I imagine, must be the result of every attempt to substitute abstract reasonings for minute examination of facts in the study of History. History repeats itself we know, parallels and cycles recur, the speculative mind can evaluate the curve in which political progress moves, trace the contortions of the unruly spiral, and eschew a cusp as a historic anomaly. But the dealings of human wills, in countless combinations, and circumstances which no theory can ever exhaustively calculate, are not the field for dogmatic assumption or for speculative classification. Perhaps you may think that I am talking at random, that no people ever were so foolish as to suppose that even an exhaustive knowledge of past history could enable a man to prophesy ; for such should be the result of a scientific treatment, even if the subject-matter be akin rather to the subject-matter of meteorology than to that of astronomy. It may be so ; but the idea is not strange. Experience of life, it is argued, qualifies us for dealing with men; knowledge of human history must qualify us for calculating on the results of even historical contingencies ; the practical politician can arrange the factors of his problem so as to work out the solution beforehand ; the theoretic explorer of History may so manipulate his factors as to provide for every conceivable combination. Again, I say, it may be so ; but not in the regions of life that are worthy of real study ; vague generalisations may form the stock-in-trade of the political empiric, but he is an empiric notwithstanding; readiness of observation and fertility of expedient, political genius, the power that interprets events and realises character and motive,


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