The Cambridge Modern History
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The Cambridge Modern History

J.b. Bury, Mandell Creighton, R. Nisbet Bain, G. W. Prothero, Adolphus William Ward, Lord Acton, The griffin classics

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eBook - ePub

The Cambridge Modern History

J.b. Bury, Mandell Creighton, R. Nisbet Bain, G. W. Prothero, Adolphus William Ward, Lord Acton, The griffin classics

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The Cambridge Modern History is a comprehensive modern history of the world, beginning with the 15th century Age of Discovery. The first series was planned by Lord Acton and edited by him with Stanley Leathes, Adolphus Ward and George Prothero. The Cambridge Modern History Collection features all five original volumes: Volume I: The RenaissanceVolume II: The Reformation, the End of the Middle AgesVolume III The Wars of ReligionVolume IV: The 30 Years' WarVolume V: The Age of Louis XIV

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Volume I: The Renaissance


THE plan of this History, as is indicated on the title-page, was conceived and mapped out by the late Lord Acton. To him is due, in its main features, the division of the work into the volumes and chapters of which it consists; and it was at his request that most of the contributors agreed to take a specified part in the execution of his scheme. In the brief statement which follows, intended to set forth the principles on which that scheme is based, we have adhered scrupulously to the spirit of his design, and in more than one passage we have made use of his own words. We had hoped during the progress of this work to be encouraged by his approval, and perhaps to be occasionally aided by his counsel; but this hope has been taken away by an event, sudden at the last, which is deeply mourned by his University and by all students of history.
The aim of this work is to record, in the way most useful to the greatest number of readers, the fulness of knowledge in the field of modern history which the nineteenth century has bequeathed to its successor. The idea of a universal Modern History is not in itself new; it has already been successfully carried into execution both in France and Germany. But we believe that the present work may, without presumption, aim higher than its predecessors, and may seek to be something more than a useful compilation or than a standard work of reference.
By a universal Modern History we mean something distinct from the combined History of all countries—in other words, we mean a narrative which is not a mere string of episodes, but displays a continuous development. It moves in a succession to which the nations are subsidiary. Their stories will accordingly be told here, not for their own sakes, but in reference and subordination to a higher process, and according to the time and the degree in which they influence the common fortunes of mankind.
A mere reproduction of accepted facts, even when selected in accordance with this principle, would not attain the end which we have in view. In some instances, where there is nothing new to tell, the contributors to this History must console themselves with the words of Thiers, “On est déjà bien assez nouveau par cela seul qu’on est vrai”; but it is not often that their labours will be found to have been confined to a recasting of existing material. Great additions have of late been made to our knowledge of the past; the long conspiracy against the revelation of truth has gradually given way; and competing historians all over the civilised world have been zealous to take advantage of the change. The printing of archives has kept pace with the admission of enquirers; and the total mass of new matter, which the last half-century has accumulated, amounts to many thousands of volumes. In view of changes and of gains such as these, it has become impossible for the historical writer of the present age to trust without reserve even to the most respected secondary authorities. The honest student finds himself continually deserted, retarded, misled by the classics of historical literature, and has to hew his own way through multitudinous transactions, periodicals and official publications, in order to reach the truth.
Ultimate history cannot be obtained in this generation; but, so far as documentary evidence is at command, conventional history can be discarded, and the point can be shown that has been reached on the road from the one to the other. To discharge this task satisfactorily, however, requires a judicious division of labour. The abundance of original records, of monographs and works of detail, that have been published within the last fifty years, surpasses by far the grasp of a single mind. To work up their results into a uniform whole demands the application of the cooperative principle—a principle to which we already owe such notable achievements of historical research as the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, our own Rolls Series, and the Dictionary of National Biography. Without such organised collaboration, an adequate and comprehensive history of modern times has become impossible. Hence the plan of the present work, the execution of which is divided among a large and varied body of scholars.
The general history of Europe and of her colonies since the fifteenth century, which it is proposed to narrate in accordance with the principles stated above, is to be treated in twelve volumes. For each of these some historical fact of signal importance has been chosen as the central idea round which individual developments are grouped, not accidentally, but of reasoned purpose. The Renaissance, the Reformation, the United States of America, the French Revolution, Napoleon, are examples of such ideas, achievements or figures which give to each of these volumes in succession a unity not of name alone. The use of such characteristic designations frees us, to some extent, from the necessity of adhering rigorously to the precise limits of chronology or geography.
Thus the subject of the present volume—the Renaissance—possesses a unity of subject matter rather than of time. Neither the anterior nor the posterior limits of the movement are precisely marked. Again, the history of the United States of America, although intimately connected with that of Europe, and with that of Great Britain in particular, has an inner coherence of its own, which is best preserved by a distinct and continuous treatment. In another part of this work, dealing with the same events from a British or French point of view, the American War of Liberation will again find its place, in so far as it affected the national progress or interests of either country. What in one volume or in one chapter constitutes the main subject, in another may form a digression or furnish an illustration. But, throughout the varied treatments of successive periods, each in its turn dominated by historic ideas or movements of prominent significance, we shall consistently adhere to the conception of modern history, and of the history of modern Europe in particular, as a single entity. This conception has regulated the choice and the distribution of matter and the assignment of space to each division.
Certain nations or countries may at times require relatively full treatment. Italy, for instance, fills an exceptionally large space in the present volume. And the reason is obvious. From Italy proceeded the movement which aroused the mind of Europe to fresh activity; in Italy this movement bore its earliest and, in some branches, its finest fruit. Moreover, in the general play of forces before the Reformation, it was on Italian soil that nearly all the chief powers of Europe met for battle and intrigue. If to these considerations are added the importance of Rome as the capital of the Catholic world and that of Venice as the capital of commercial Europe, it will be seen that there is nothing disproportionate in the share allotted to Italy and Italian affairs in this volume. Other countries within the geographical limits of the European continent had little influence during the period of the Renaissance, and are therefore comparatively neglected. The Scandinavian nations were still in the main confined to their own immediate sphere of action; and it needed the Reformation to bring them into the circle of general European politics. Russia remained, as yet, inert, while the other Eastern races of Europe played but a minor part either in its material or in its intellectual development.
Our first volume is not merely intended to describe and discuss the Renaissance as a movement of European history. It is also designed as an introductory volume whose business it is, as it were, to bring upon the stage the nations, forces, and interests which will bear the chief parts in the action. Each chapter of this volume includes so much of antecedent, especially of institutional history, as seemed necessary for the clear understanding of the conditions with which it is concerned. Such an introduction was not thought requisite, in the case of Great Britain, in a book written for English readers.
That no place has been found in this volume for a separate account of the development of the pictorial, plastic, and decorative art of the Renaissance, may appear to some a serious omission. But to have attempted a review of this subject in the period dealt with in our first volume, would have inevitably entailed a history of artistic progress during later periods—an extension of the scope of this work which considerations of space have compelled us to renounce. Politics, economics, and social life must remain the chief concern of this History; art and literature, except in their direct bearing on these subjects, are best treated in separate and special works; nor indeed is this direct influence so great as is frequently supposed.
A full index to the whole work will be published when the series of volumes has been completed. A carefully constructed table of contents and a brief index of names accompany each volume. Footnotes are deliberately excluded, and quotations, even from contemporary authorities, are sparingly introduced. On the other hand, each chapter is supplemented by a full working bibliography of the subject. These bibliographies are not intended to be exhaustive. Obsolete works are intentionally excluded, and a careful selection has been made with the view of supplying historical students with a compendious survey of trustworthy and accessible literature.
Some of the points of view, to which this preface has referred, have been urged again in the introductory note from the pen of the late Bishop of London which is prefixed to the present volume. We have printed it with a few changes of a kind which we had Dr Creighton’s express authority to make, and we are glad to think that it shows both the cordial interest taken by him in the scheme designed by Lord Acton, and the agreement as to its main principles between the late Regius Professor and the eminent historian who like him formerly filled a chair in this University.
On behalf of the Syndics of the Press, and on our own behalf, we desire to express our thanks, in which we feel assured that Lord Acton would have cordially joined, for valuable assistance given in regard to the present volume by the Rev. J. N. Figgis, of St Catharine’s College, and Mr W. A. J. Archbold, of Peterhouse. Mr Archbold was also of much service in advancing the general distribution of chapters and other editorial arrangements. The advice of Professor F. W. Maitland has been invaluable to all concerned, and will, we trust, continue to be given. The ready and courteous cooperation of the Secretary to the Syndics, Mr R. T. Wright, of Christ’s College, has from the first been of the greatest advantage to the Editors. They confidently hope for a continuation of the aid which they have received and are receiving from historical scholars in this University and elsewhere. While all readers of this work will regret the loss of the guidance to which the undertaking had been originally entrusted, it is most keenly felt by those who are endeavouring to carry out the late Lord Acton’s conception.
A. W. W.
G. W. P.
S. L.
August 1902.

INTRODUCTORY NOTE, by Mandell Creighton

ANY division of history is doubtless arbitrary. But it is impossible for history to discharge all the obligations which, from a strictly scientific point of view, are incumbent upon it. If we accept the position that history is concerned with tracing the evolution of human affairs, we are continually being driven further back for our starting-point. The word “affairs” is generally supposed to indicate some definite movement; and the forces which rendered a movement possible must be supposed to have depended upon institutions which produced organised action. These institutions arose from attempts to grapple with circumstances by the application of ideas. We are thus carried back to an enquiry into the influence of physical environment and into the origin of ideas relating to society. We pass insensibly from the region of recorded facts into a region of hypothesis, where the qualities requisite for an historian have to be supplemented by those of the anthropologist and the metaphysician. A pause must be made somewhere. Humanity must be seized at some period of its development, if a beginning is to be made at all. The selection of that point must be determined by some recognisable motive of convenience.
The limitation implied by the term modern history depends on such a motive, and is to be defended on that ground only. Modern history professes to deal with mankind in a period when they had reached the stage of civilisation which is in its broad outlines familiar to us, during the period in which the problems that still occupy us came into conscious recognition, and were dealt with in ways intelligible to us as resembling our own. It is this sense of familiarity which leads us to draw a line and mark out the beginnings of modern history. On the hither side of this line men speak a language which we can readily understand; they are animated by ideas and aspirations which resemble those animating ourselves; the forms in which they express their thoughts and the records of their activity are the same as those still prevailing among us. Any one who works through the records of the fifteenth and the sixteenth century becomes conscious of an extraordinary change of mental attitude, showing itself on all sides in unexpected ways. He finds at the same time that all attempts to analyse and account for this change are to a great extent unsatisfactory. After marshalling all the forces and ideas which were at work to produce it, he still feels that there was behind all these an animating spirit which he cannot but most imperfectly catch, whose power blended all else together and gave a sudden cohesion to the whole. This modern spirit formed itself with surprising rapidity, and we cannot fully explain the process. Modern history accepts it as already in existence, and herein has a great advantage. It does not ask the reader to leave the sphere of ideas which he knows. It makes but slight claims on his power of imagination, or on his sympathy with alien modes of thought. He moves at his ease in a world which is already related at every point with the world in which he lives. Things are written clearly for his understanding.
It is of course possible to investigate the causes of this change, and to lay bare the broad lines of difference between the medieval and the modern world. In outward matters, the great distinction is the frank recognition in the latter of nationality, and all that it involves. The remoteness of the Middle Ages is partly due to the technicalities which arose from the persistent attempt to regard international relationships as merely forming part of a universal system of customary law. Motives which we regard as primary had to find expression in complicated methods, and in order to become operative had to wait for a convenient season. A definite conception had been promulgated of a European commonwealth, regulated by rigid principles; and this conception was cherished as an ideal, however much it might be disregarded in actual practice. Practical issues had always to justify themselves by reference to this ideal system, so that it is hard to disentangle them accurately in terms of modern science. This system wore away gradually, and was replaced by the plain issue of a competition between nations, which is the starting point of modern history. This division of history is mainly concerned with the rise and fall of nations, and with an estimate of the contributions made by each to the stock of ideas or experiments which influenced the welfare of mankind.
The growth of national feeling, and its recognition as the dominant force in human affairs, went side by side with a fuller recognition of the individual. The strength of national life depended upon the force of the individuals of whom the nation was composed. International competition implied a development of national sentiment, which needed the aid of each and all. As the individual citizen became conscious of increased importance, he was inclined to turn to criticism of the institutions by which he had previously been kept in a state of tutelage. The Church was the first to suffer from the results of this criticism, and modern history begins with a struggle for liberty on the ground which was thelargest, the right of free self-realisation as towards God. The conflict which ensued was long and bitter. The issue could not be restricted solely to the domain of religion, but rapidly invaded civil relations. The demands of the individual constantly increased, and every country had to readjust in some form or another its old institutions to meet the ever growing pressure.
Hence, the two main features of modern history are the development of nationalities and the growth of individual freedom. The interest which above all others is its own lies in tracing these processes, intimately connected as they are with one another. We delight to see how peoples, in proportion to their power of finding expression for their capabilities, became more able to enrich human life at large not only by adapting in each case means to ends, but also by pursuing a common progressive purpose.
Side by side with this increase of energy went an extension of the sphere with which European history was concerned. The discovery of the New World is a great event which stands on the threshold of modern history, and which has mightily influenced its course. New spheres of enterprise were opened for adventurous nations, and colonisation led to an endless series of new discoveries. The growth of sea power altered the conditions on which national greatness depended. Intercourse with unknown peoples raised unexpected problems. Trade was gradually revolutionised, and economic questions of the utmost complexity were raised.
These are obvious facts, but their bearing upon the sphere and scope of historical writing is frequently overlooked. It is no longer possible for the historian of modern times to content himself with a picturesque presentation of outward events. In fact, however much he may try to limit the ground which he intends to occupy, he finds himself drawn insensibly into a larger sphere. His subject reveals unsuspected relations with problems which afterwards became important. He perceives tendencies to have been at work which helped to produce definite results under the unforeseen conditions of a later age. He discovers illustrations, all the more valuable because they represent an unconscious process, of forces destined to become powerful. His work expands indefinitely in spite of his efforts to curtail it; and he may sigh to find that the main outline before him insensibly loses itself in a multitude of necessary details. If he is to tell the truth, he cannot isolate one set of principles or tendencies; for he knows that many of equal importance were at work at the same time. He is bound to take them all into consideration, and to show their mutual action. What wonder that his book grows in spite of all his efforts to restrain it within definite limits?
Indeed history, unlike other branches of knowledge, cannot prescribe limitations for itself. It is not only that men need the experience of the past to help them in practical endeavours, to enable them to understand the position of actual questions with which they and their age are engaged. For this purpose accurate facts are needed,—not opinions, however plausible, which are unsustained by facts. At the same time, the variety of the matters with which history is bound to concern itself steadily increases. As more interest is taken in questions relating to social organisation, researches are conducted in fields which before were neglected. It is useless for the science of history to plead established precedent for its methods, or to refuse to lend itself willingly to the demands made upon its resources. The writer of history has to struggle as he best may with multifarious requirements, which threaten to turn him from a man of letters into the compiler of an encyclopaedia.
This continual increase of curiosity, this widening of interest introduces a succession of new subjects for historical research. Documents once disregarded as unimportant are found to yield information as to the silent growth of tendencies which gradually became influential. The mass of letters and papers, increasing at a rate that seems to be accelerated from year to year, offers a continual series of new suggestions. They not only supplement what was known before, but frequently require so much readjustment of previous judgments, that a new presentation of the whole subject becomes necessary. This process goes on without a break, and it is hard in any branch of history to keep pace with the stock of monographs, or illustrations of particular points, which research and industry are constantly producing. However much a writer may strive to know all that can be known, new knowledge is always flowing in. Modern history in this resembles the chief branches of Natural Science; before the results of the last experiments can be tabulated and arranged in their relation to the whole knowledge of the subject, new experiments have been commenced which promise to carry the process still further.
In sciences, however, which deal with nature, the object of research is fixed and stable: it is only man’s power of observation that increases. But history deals with a subject which is constantly varying in itself and which is regarded by each succeeding generation from a different point of view. We search the records of the past of mankind, in order that we may learn wisdom for the present, and hope for the future. We wish to discover tendencies which are permanent, ideas which promise to be fruitful, conceptions by which we may judge the course most likely to secure abiding results. We are bound to assume, as the scientific hypothesis on which history is to be written, a progress in human affairs. This progress must inevitably be towards some end; and we find it difficult to escape the temptation, while we keep that end in view, of treating certain events as great landmarks on the road. A mode of historical presentation thus comes into fashion based upon an inspiring assumption. But the present is always criticising the past, and events which occur pass judgment on events which have occurred. Time is always revealing the weaknesses of past achievements, and suggesting doubts as to the methods by which they were won. Each generation, as it looks back, sees a change in the perspective, and cannot look with the same eyes as its predecessor.
There are other reasons of a like kind which might further explain the exceeding difficulty of writing a history of modern times on any consecutive plan. The possibility of effective and adequate condensation is almost abandoned, except for rudimentary purposes. The point of view of any individual writer influences not only his judgment of what he presents, but his principle of selection; and such is the wealth of matter with which the writer of modern history has to deal, that selection is imperative. In the vast and diversified area of modern history, the point of view determines the whole nature of the record, or else the whole work sinks to the level of a mass of details uninformed by any luminous idea. The writer who strives to avoid any tendency becomes dull, and the cult of impartiality paralyses the judgment.
The present work is an attempt to avoid this result on an intelligible system. Every period and every subject has features of its own which strike the mind of the student who has made that period or subject the field of his investigations. His impressions are not derived from previous conceptions of necessary relations between what he has studied and what went before or after; they are formed directly from the results of his own labours. Round some definite nucleus, carefully selected, these impressions can be gathered together; and the age can be presented as speaking for itself. No guide is so sure for an historian as an overmastering sense of the importance of events as they appeared to those who took part in them. There can be no other basis on which to found any truly sympathetic treatment.
From this point of view a series of monographs, conceived on a connected system, instead of presenting a collection of fragments, possesses a definite unity of its own. The selection and arrangemen...

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