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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Second Epilogue - Chapter 1
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War And Peace - Second Epilogue - Chapter 1 Post by :Iceman Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :963

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War And Peace - Second Epilogue - Chapter 1

History is the life of nations and of humanity. To seize and put
into words, to describe directly the life of humanity or even of a
single nation, appears impossible.

The ancient historians all employed one and the same method to
describe and seize the apparently elusive- the life of a people.
They described the activity of individuals who ruled the people, and
regarded the activity of those men as representing the activity of the
whole nation.

The question: how did individuals make nations act as they wished
and by what was the will of these individuals themselves guided? the
ancients met by recognizing a divinity which subjected the nations
to the will of a chosen man, and guided the will of that chosen man so
as to accomplish ends that were predestined.

For the ancients these questions were solved by a belief in the
direct participation of the Deity in human affairs.

Modern history, in theory, rejects both these principles.

It would seem that having rejected the belief of the ancients in
man's subjection to the Deity and in a predetermined aim toward
which nations are led, modern history should study not the
manifestations of power but the causes that produce it. But modern
history has not done this. Having in theory rejected the view held
by the ancients, it still follows them in practice.

Instead of men endowed with divine authority and directly guided
by the will of God, modern history has given us either heroes
endowed with extraordinary, superhuman capacities, or simply men of
very various kinds, from monarchs to journalists, who lead the masses.
Instead of the former divinely appointed aims of the Jewish, Greek, or
Roman nations, which ancient historians regarded as representing the
progress of humanity, modern history has postulated its own aims-
the welfare of the French, German, or English people, or, in its
highest abstraction, the welfare and civilization of humanity in
general, by which is usually meant that of the peoples occupying a
small northwesterly portion of a large continent.

Modern history has rejected the beliefs of the ancients without
replacing them by a new conception, and the logic of the situation has
obliged the historians, after they had apparently rejected the
divine authority of the kings and the "fate" of the ancients, to reach
the same conclusion by another road, that is, to recognize (1) nations
guided by individual men, and (2) the existence of a known aim to
which these nations and humanity at large are tending.

At the basis of the works of all the modern historians from Gibbon
to Buckle, despite their seeming disagreements and the apparent
novelty of their outlooks, lie those two old, unavoidable assumptions.

In the first place the historian describes the activity of
individuals who in his opinion have directed humanity (one historian
considers only monarchs, generals, and ministers as being such men,
while another includes also orators, learned men, reformers,
philosophers, and poets). Secondly, it is assumed that the goal toward
which humanity is being led is known to the historians: to one of them
this goal is the greatness of the Roman, Spanish, or French realm;
to another it is liberty, equality, and a certain kind of civilization
of a small corner of the world called Europe.

In 1789 a ferment arises in Paris; it grows, spreads, and is
expressed by a movement of peoples from west to east. Several times it
moves eastward and collides with a countermovement from the east
westward. In 1812 it reaches its extreme limit, Moscow, and then, with
remarkable symmetry, a countermovement occurs from east to west,
attracting to it, as the first movement had done, the nations of
middle Europe. The counter movement reaches the starting point of
the first movement in the west- Paris- and subsides.

During that twenty-year period an immense number of fields were left
untilled, houses were burned, trade changed its direction, millions of
men migrated, were impoverished, or were enriched, and millions of
Christian men professing the law of love of their fellows slew one
another.

What does all this mean? Why did it happen? What made those people
burn houses and slay their fellow men? What were the causes of these
events? What force made men act so? These are the instinctive,
plain, and most legitimate questions humanity asks itself when it
encounters the monuments and tradition of that period.

For a reply to these questions the common sense of mankind turns
to the science of history, whose aim is to enable nations and humanity
to know themselves.

If history had retained the conception of the ancients it would have
said that God, to reward or punish his people, gave Napoleon power and
directed his will to the fulfillment of the divine ends, and that
reply, would have been clear and complete. One might believe or
disbelieve in the divine significance of Napoleon, but for anyone
believing in it there would have been nothing unintelligible in the
history of that period, nor would there have been any contradictions.

But modern history cannot give that reply. Science does not admit
the conception of the ancients as to the direct participation of the
Deity in human affairs, and therefore history ought to give other
answers.

Modern history replying to these questions says: you want to know
what this movement means, what caused it, and what force produced
these events? Then listen:

"Louis XIV was a very proud and self-confident man; he had such
and such mistresses and such and such ministers and he ruled France
badly. His descendants were weak men and they too ruled France
badly. And they had such and such favorites and such and such
mistresses. Moreover, certain men wrote some books at that time. At
the end of the eighteenth century there were a couple of dozen men
in Paris who began to talk about all men being free and equal. This
caused people all over France to begin to slash at and drown one
another. They killed the king and many other people. At that time
there was in France a man of genius- Napoleon. He conquered
everybody everywhere- that is, he killed many people because he was
a great genius. And for some reason he went to kill Africans, and
killed them so well and was so cunning and wise that when he
returned to France he ordered everybody to obey him, and they all
obeyed him. Having become an Emperor he again went out to kill
people in Italy, Austria, and Prussia. And there too he killed a great
many. In Russia there was an Emperor, Alexander, who decided to
restore order in Europe and therefore fought against Napoleon. In 1807
he suddenly made friends with him, but in 1811 they again quarreled
and again began killing many people. Napoleon led six hundred thousand
men into Russia and captured Moscow; then he suddenly ran away from
Moscow, and the Emperor Alexander, helped by the advice of Stein and
others, united Europe to arm against the disturber of its peace. All
Napoleon's allies suddenly became his enemies and their forces
advanced against the fresh forces he raised. The Allies defeated
Napoleon, entered Paris, forced Napoleon to abdicate, and sent him
to the island of Elba, not depriving him of the title of Emperor and
showing him every respect, though five years before and one year later
they all regarded him as an outlaw and a brigand. Then Louis XVIII,
who till then had been the laughingstock both of the French and the
Allies, began to reign. And Napoleon, shedding tears before his Old
Guards, renounced the throne and went into exile. Then the skillful
statesmen and diplomatists (especially Talleyrand, who managed to
sit down in a particular chair before anyone else and thereby extended
the frontiers of France) talked in Vienna and by these conversations
made the nations happy or unhappy. Suddenly the diplomatists and
monarchs nearly quarreled and were on the point of again ordering
their armies to kill one another, but just then Napoleon arrived in
France with a battalion, and the French, who had been hating him,
immediately all submitted to him. But the Allied monarchs were angry
at this and went to fight the French once more. And they defeated
the genius Napoleon and, suddenly recognizing him as a brigand, sent
him to the island of St. Helena. And the exile, separated from the
beloved France so dear to his heart, died a lingering death on that
rock and bequeathed his great deeds to posterity. But in Europe a
reaction occurred and the sovereigns once again all began to oppress
their subjects."

It would be a mistake to think that this is ironic- a caricature
of the historical accounts. On the contrary it is a very mild
expression of the contradictory replies, not meeting the questions,
which all the historians give, from the compilers of memoirs and the
histories of separate states to the writers of general histories and
the new histories of the culture of that period.

The strangeness and absurdity of these replies arise from the fact
that modern history, like a deaf man, answers questions no one has
asked.

If the purpose of history be to give a description of the movement
of humanity and of the peoples, the first question- in the absence
of a reply to which all the rest will be incomprehensible- is: what is
the power that moves peoples? To this, modern history laboriously
replies either that Napoleon was a great genius, or that Louis XIV was
very proud, or that certain writers wrote certain books.

All that may be so and mankind is ready to agree with it, but it
is not what was asked. All that would be interesting if we
recognized a divine power based on itself and always consistently
directing its nations through Napoleons, Louis-es, and writers; but we
do not acknowledge such a power, and therefore before speaking about
Napoleons, Louis-es, and authors, we ought to be shown the
connection existing between these men and the movement of the nations.

If instead of a divine power some other force has appeared, it
should be explained in what this new force consists, for the whole
interest of history lies precisely in that force.

History seems to assume that this force is self-evident and known to
everyone. But in spite of every desire to regard it as known, anyone
reading many historical works cannot help doubting whether this new
force, so variously understood by the historians themselves, is really
quite well known to everybody.

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NEXT BOOKS

War And Peace - Second Epilogue - Chapter 2 War And Peace - Second Epilogue - Chapter 2

War And Peace - Second Epilogue - Chapter 2
What force moves the nations?Biographical historians and historians of separate nationsunderstand this force as a power inherent in heroes and rulers. Intheir narration events occur solely by the will of a Napoleon, andAlexander, or in general of the persons they describe. The answersgiven by this kind of historian to the question of what force causesevents to happen are satisfactory only as long as there is but onehistorian to each event. As soon as historians of differentnationalities and tendencies begin to describe the same event, thereplies they give immediately lose all meaning, for this force isunderstood by them all not only differently
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