In dealing with American history for the benefit of a well-informed American reading public, this French-born and French-educated writer is admittedly bringing coals to Newcastle. His justification for so doing is a growing awareness that the time in which we live impresses upon us all the urgency of emerging from our ivory tower. The hour is so very late.

It is generally taken for granted nowadays that the dream of a purely objective, so-called scientific history, cherished by a previous generation, has faded away into the limbo of dead ideologies. To say that we study the past for its own sake, and without the slightest intention of fitting events into our presuppositions, cannot possibly imply that we are in a position to rid our mind of all such presuppositions. The plain fact is that it is impossible to write history without presuppositions. No one may be said to think in a vacuum, especially when crucial issues are at stake. Some kind of faith-principle is necessarily involved. The better this is realized, the less danger for a personal equation to deflect the course of an honest quest after truth.


Let me therefore, at the outset, state the basic assumption upon which I am going to proceed. It may be summed up in the simple statement that our destiny as a nation is forever conditioned by our heritage. However bold our forward look, our progress can only be safe if we keep a steady eye on the landmarks of the receding past. Khrushchev has it that these United States are suffering from the incurable malady of old age. His persuasion once more bears witness to the Russian Communists’ propensity to take credit for every invention. In this particular case, Edward Gibbon happens to have preceded Khrushchev. ...

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