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PREFACE. - François Guizot, General History of Civilization in Europe 
General History of Civilization in Europe by François Pierre Guillaume Guizot, edited, with critical and supplementary notes, by George Wells Knight (New York: D Appleton and Co., 1896).
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The lectures which are comprised in this book were delivered by M. Guizot in 1828 before the students of the Sorbonne in Paris, where he occupied the chair of history. They were soon published in book form, both in French and in English, and attracted immediate attention for their grasp of facts, philosophical breadth, and clear generalizations. Their intrinsic merit and their value for the student is attested by the fact that, at the expiration of nearly seventy years, during which historical study has marvelously developed, historical methods greatly changed, and historical knowledge vastly increased, they are still widely read and studied by the general reader and by students in colleges and universities.
While no extended discussion of the lectures constituting this volume is needed, a brief statement is fitting concerning the place they occupy, the class to which they belong, among historical writings. There are three sorts of written history:
1. A mere orderly statement of facts, unconnected in the narrative save by the order of succession. This is hardly more than a catalogue of facts and events, and does not properly constitute history. Such were the annalistic writings and the chronicles of earlier ages; some of the modern “elementary histories” belong in this group, if anywhere among historical writings.
2. A detailed recital of events and facts, so framed as to show the more immediate causes and the direct consequences and results of those events and facts. Here the causal relation between events, not widely separated in time or place, is brought into view. This is the aim of general histories, histories of individual countries, and most histories of special periods. This group includes the larger part of historical writings.
3. A study of the growth of historical ideas, of the forces that have moved men and nations, of the causes which have been operative through long periods directing the tendencies of peoples, of the development of institutions, and of their relation to the general march of history and to the advance of civilization. Such are works which trace the history of political institutions and of the ideas and forces that have shaped them. It is obvious that the aim of this last group is really the ultimate aim of all historical inquiry—not merely to know facts, but to learn the deeper purpose and meaning which run through all history, and to which each event of history is in greater or less degree contributory.
A historical study of the last class—and to this belongs in high degree the present work—presupposes on the part of the writer a thorough acquaintance with all essential facts in the period covered, and for its thorough comprehension by the reader and student, a good general knowledge of history.
In the present work the author has directed his chief attention to the external forms of political society, and has sought to trace the changes in these forms and institutions back to their causes and forward to their consequences. Both the forms themselves and their changes are traceable only in the facts of history, while the causes for the changes are the forces which have moved man to political, social, and industrial action. Such a study is not, then, a recital, but an interpretation, of facts; it is an inquiry into the meaning—the result, of external events—the philosophy of history, if I may use that high-sounding and much abused expression. It is not a history of the facts of the past fourteen centuries, nor even a substitute for such history. It is an analysis and interpretation of that history so far as it has affected the development of social and political institutions.
The lectures were originally delivered before a group of students fairly well versed in the facts of history as they were then known. In the lectures, the statements of facts are therefore brief, often hardly more than mere allusions, while the generalizations are rapid, as befitted the nature of the course.
In this country, the lectures as published have found general use as a text-book in colleges, and often for those who have not had a wide preliminary knowledge of history. When so used, the book has usually been supplemented by lectures by the instructor, supplying, so far as possible, the underlying basis of fact necessary for the comprehension of the original work. Of late years, the more frequent use of the book in colleges has doubtless been in connection with or as a conclusion of an undergraduate course in general mediæval and modern history. While the place accorded these lectures in a historical course has thus slightly changed, there has been, at the same time, during the seventy years since they were delivered a great advance in knowledge of the period covered by the lectures. During that time the unwearied researches of scholars have brought to view many hitherto unknown or obscure facts in mediæval history and institutions; for example, touching the origin of the feudal system or the relation of the trade gilds to the mediæval cities. Some of these results have an important bearing on the verification or modification of views presented in the lectures of M. Guizot.
The object had constantly in view in the making of the present edition and in the preparation of the notes has been twofold: (1) To furnish such brief historical data as may be helpful in recalling to the reader the fuller significance of the facts on which the lectures are based, and (2) to note the opinions of modern scholars and the results of later researches where they seem to supplement or to controvert the conclusions of the author. It will be found that the notes fall into three groups: (1) historical, (2) critical, and (3) supplementary. At the end of several of the lectures an extended note has been inserted, giving a rapid summary of events during the historical period whose institutions and tendencies are discussed in the lecture. Wherever a special point has seemed worthy of notice beyond the scope of a note, or wherever it has seemed probable that further information than that given in a note would be desired, references have been made to authorities usually accessible in reference libraries. The constant aim has been, without desecrating the lectures by a mutilation of the original form, to make the book more useful for all classes of readers. It is not intended as a revision of M. Guizot’s work. I have not presumed to rewrite, restate, or even to modernize the lectures. The work has been strictly that of annotation for the purposes mentioned. I have been increasingly surprised, as the work progressed, to find how well the lectures have stood the test of three quarters of a century, and how few of the statements are noticeably at variance with modern knowledge or opinion.
It is assumed that those into whose hands this volume comes are familiar with the general facts of history. When that is not the case, general outlines may be used in connection with this work, such as Duruy’s History of the Middle Ages, Duruy’s History of Modern Times, and Fisher’s Outlines of Universal History.
The present edition is based on the edition of 1842, annotated by Professor C. S. Henry. The text of that edition has been retained, save that a few errors of translation and an occasional bad English sentence have been corrected. A considerable number of Professor Henry’s notes have been retained, while several have been omitted as unnecessary or have been replaced by others. In one case, a long note of the former edition has been broken into parts which now appear as unconnected notes on separate passages. To all of Professor Henry’s notes the initial “H.” has been appended, thus distinguishing them from those which now appear for the first time. For all not so indicated the present editor is responsible. My thanks are due to my colleague, Dr. F. C. Clark, for his assistance in the annotation of the last three lectures.
G. W. K.
Ohio State University,May 27, 1896.