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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 39


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The following pages contain two lectures recently addressed to a mixed audience in London, as an introduction to a course of teaching in History, which, was subsequently commenced by the writer. They are printed (nearly as they were spoken) at the request and chiefly for the use of those who heard them. It will be seen that they belong to the most elementary kind of popular instruction, and they will have little interest for the general reader, much less for the regular student of history. I was led to attempt the course of lectures, and afterwards to print these pages, by my conviction that the first want of our time is the spread amongst the intelligent body of our people of solid materials to form political and social opinion. To stimulate an interest in history seems to me the only means of giving a fresh meaning to popular education, and a higher intelligence to popular opinion.

I am aware that nearly every sentence in this outline, were it not too slight, might give room for serious question, and possibly for severe criticism. But if opposite opinions are not noticed, they have still been carefully weighed. If I have spoken of many still debated topics almost as though they were decided, it is only because in such a plan as this any sort of controversy is out of place, not that I forget or slight all that has been urged on the other side. But discussion, like research, must have an end page break somewhere, and the great need now is not to increase but to use our stores of historical learning. After all, the only real answer to any theory of history, professing to be complete and not manifestly inconsistent, is the production of a counter theory at once more complete and consistent. The view of history here put forward it will be seen is in no sense my own. It is drawn with some care from the various writings of Auguste Comte. Although far from being able to adopt all his philosophical and religious conclusions, I am persuaded that the conception of the past, which is embodied in his works, and the political and social principles of which that conception forms the basis, point out the sole path towards all future improvement.

F. H.