taking sides in ancient history
August 26, 2010 Leave a comment
Murray Rothbard often praised leftist historians while recommending as a policy that the reader skip the last chapter, that is, the policy chapter. He also often agreed with non-Austrian economists when they were criticizing the theoretical framework of different, non-Austrian schools.
I think HG Wells, in his Outline of History, can be really great when he’s on the attack. Here he talks about the political history of the late-republican Rome:
Many of the historians of this period betray a disposition to take sides, and are either aristocratic in tone or fiercely democratic; but, indeed, neither side in these complex and intricate disputes has a record of high aims or clean hands. The Senate and the rich Equestrians were vulgar and greedy spirits, hostile and contemptuous towards the poor mob; and the populace was ignorant, unstable, and at least equally greedy. The Scipios in all this record shine by comparison, a group of gentlemen. To the motives of one or the other figures of the time, to Tiberius Gracchus, for example, we may perhaps extend the benefit of the doubt. But for the rest, they do but demonstrate how clever and cunning men may be, how subtle in contention, how brilliant in pretence, and how utterly wanting in wisdom or grace of spirit. "A shambling, hairy, brutish, but probably very cunning creature with a big brain behind"; so someone, I think it was Sir Harry Johnston, has described Homo Neanderthalensis.
To this day we must still use similar terms to describe the soul of the politician.