Another Kind of History

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I’m teaching a class on early church history. Our main text is The Church History by Eusebius. The parallels to today are hard to ignore and I hope to bring some of these out in a few articles soon. But, for now, a quick quote from Eusebius:

Other historians have limited their coverage to recording victories in war, the exploits of commanders, and the heroics of soldiers stained with the blood of the thousands they have slaughtered for the sake of country, family, and property. My account, instead, will make indelible the wars fought for the peace of the soul and the men who battled courageously in such wars for truth rather than country, piety rather than family. [Book 5]

I’m reminded of a striking passage from Karl Popper:

What people have in mind when they speak of the history of mankind is, rather, the history of the Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Macedonian and Roman Empires, and so on, down to our own day. In other words: They speak about the history of mankind, but what they mean, and what they have learned about in school, is the history of political power.

There is no history of mankind, there is only an indefinite number of histories of all kinds of aspects of human life. And one of these is the history of political power. This is elevated into the history of the world. But this, I hold, is an offence against every decent conception of mankind. It is hardly better than to treat the history of embezzlement or of robbery or of poisoning as the history of mankind. For the history of power politics is nothing but the history of international crime and mass murder (including, it is true, some of the attempts to suppress them). This history is taught in schools, and some of the greatest criminals are extolled as its heroes. [The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. II, p. 270]

1:18 pm on October 2, 2006