Biographical historians and historians of separate nations understand thi_orce as a power inherent in heroes and rulers. In their narration event_ccur solely by the will of a Napoleon, and Alexander, or in general of th_ersons they describe. The answers given by this kind of historian to th_uestion of what force causes events to happen are satisfactory only as lon_s there is but one historian to each event. As soon as historians o_ifferent nationalities and tendencies begin to describe the same event, th_eplies they give immediately lose all meaning, for this force is understoo_y them all not only differently but often in quite contradictory ways. On_istorian says that an event was produced by Napoleon's power, another that i_as produced by Alexander's, a third that it was due to the power of som_ther person. Besides this, historians of that kind contradict each other eve_n their statement as to the force on which the authority of some particula_erson was based. Thiers, a Bonapartist, says that Napoleon's power was base_n his virtue and genius. Lanfrey, a Republican, says it was based on hi_rickery and deception of the people. So the historians of this class, b_utually destroying one another's positions, destroy the understanding of th_orce which produces events, and furnish no reply to history's essentia_uestion.
Writers of universal history who deal with all the nations seem to recogniz_ow erroneous is the specialist historians' view of the force which produce_vents. They do not recognize it as a power inherent in heroes and rulers, bu_s the resultant of a multiplicity of variously directed forces. In describin_ war or the subjugation of a people, a general historian looks for the caus_f the event not in the power of one man, but in the interaction of man_ersons connected with the event.
According to this view the power of historical personages, represented as th_roduct of many forces, can no longer, it would seem, be regarded as a forc_hat itself produces events. Yet in most cases universal historians stil_mploy the conception of power as a force that itself produces events, an_reat it as their cause. In their exposition, an historic character is firs_he product of his time, and his power only the resultant of various forces,
and then his power is itself a force producing events. Gervinus, Schlosser,
and others, for instance, at one time prove Napoleon to be a product of th_evolution, of the ideas of 1789 and so forth, and at another plainly say tha_he campaign of 1812 and other things they do not like were simply the produc_f Napoleon's misdirected will, and that the very ideas of 1789 were arreste_n their development by Napoleon's caprice. The ideas of the Revolution an_he general temper of the age produced Napoleon's power. But Napoleon's powe_uppressed the ideas of the Revolution and the general temper of the age.
This curious contradiction is not accidental. Not only does it occur at ever_tep, but the universal historians' accounts are all made up of a chain o_uch contradictions. This contradiction occurs because after entering th_ield of analysis the universal historians stop halfway.
To find component forces equal to the composite or resultant force, the sum o_he components must equal the resultant. This condition is never observed b_he universal historians, and so to explain the resultant forces they ar_bliged to admit, in addition to the insufficient components, anothe_nexplained force affecting the resultant action.
Specialist historians describing the campaign of 1813 or the restoration o_he Bourbons plainly assert that these events were produced by the will o_lexander. But the universal historian Gervinus, refuting this opinion of th_pecialist historian, tries to prove that the campaign of 1813 and th_estoration of the Bourbons were due to other things beside Alexander'_ill—such as the activity of Stein, Metternich, Madame de Stael, Talleyrand,
Fichte Chateaubriand, and others. The historian evidently decompose_lexander's power into the components: Talleyrand, Chateaubriand, and th_est—but the sum of the components, that is, the interactions o_hateaubriand, Talleyrand, Madame de Stael, and the others, evidently does no_qual the resultant, namely the phenomenon of millions of Frenchmen submittin_o the Bourbons. That Chateaubriand, Madame de Stael, and others spoke certai_ords to one another only affected their mutual relations but does not accoun_or the submission of millions. And therefore to explain how from thes_elations of theirs the submission of millions of people resulted—that is, ho_omponent forces equal to one A gave a resultant equal to a thousand time_—the historian is again obliged to fall back on power—the force he ha_enied—and to recognize it as the resultant of the forces, that is, he has t_dmit an unexplained force acting on the resultant. And that is just what th_niversal historians do, and consequently they not only contradict th_pecialist historians but contradict themselves.
Peasants having no clear idea of the cause of rain, say, according to whethe_hey want rain or fine weather: "The wind has blown the clouds away," or, "Th_ind has brought up the clouds." And in the same way the universal historian_ometimes, when it pleases them and fits in with their theory, say that powe_s the result of events, and sometimes, when they want to prove somethin_lse, say that power produces events.
A third class of historians—the so-called historians of culture- following th_ath laid down by the universal historians who sometimes accept writers an_adies as forces producing events—again take that force to be something quit_ifferent. They see it in what is called culture—in mental activity.
The historians of culture are quite consistent in regard to their progenitors,
the writers of universal histories, for if historical events may be explaine_y the fact that certain persons treated one another in such and such ways,
why not explain them by the fact that such and such people wrote such and suc_ooks? Of the immense number of indications accompanying every vita_henomenon, these historians select the indication of intellectual activit_nd say that this indication is the cause. But despite their endeavors t_rove that the cause of events lies in intellectual activity, only by a grea_tretch can one admit that there is any connection between intellectua_ctivity and the movement of peoples, and in no case can one admit tha_ntellectual activity controls people's actions, for that view is no_onfirmed by such facts as the very cruel murders of the French Revolutio_esulting from the doctrine of the equality of man, or the very cruel wars an_xecutions resulting from the preaching of love.
But even admitting as correct all the cunningly devised arguments with whic_hese histories are filled—admitting that nations are governed by som_ndefined force called an idea—history's essential question still remain_nanswered, and to the former power of monarchs and to the influence o_dvisers and other people introduced by the universal historians, another,
newer force—the idea—is added, the connection of which with the masses need_xplanation. It is possible to understand that Napoleon had power and s_vents occurred; with some effort one may even conceive that Napoleon togethe_ith other influences was the cause of an event; but how a book, Le Contra_ocial, had the effect of making Frenchmen begin to drown one another canno_e understood without an explanation of the causal nexus of this new forc_ith the event.
Undoubtedly some relation exists between all who live contemporaneously, an_o it is possible to find some connection between the intellectual activity o_en and their historical movements, just as such a connection may be foun_etween the movements of humanity and commerce, handicraft, gardening, o_nything else you please. But why intellectual activity is considered by th_istorians of culture to be the cause or expression of the whole historica_ovement is hard to understand. Only the following considerations can have le_he historians to such a conclusion: (1) that history is written by learne_en, and so it is natural and agreeable for them to think that the activity o_heir class supplies the basis of the movement of all humanity, just as _imilar belief is natural and agreeable to traders, agriculturists, an_oldiers (if they do not express it, that is merely because traders an_oldiers do not write history), and (2) that spiritual activity,
enlightenment, civilization, culture, ideas, are all indistinct, indefinit_onceptions under whose banner it is very easy to use words having a stil_ess definite meaning, and which can therefore be readily introduced into an_heory.
But not to speak of the intrinsic quality of histories of this kind (which ma_ossibly even be of use to someone for something) the histories of culture, t_hich all general histories tend more and more to approximate, are significan_rom the fact that after seriously and minutely examining various religious,
philosophic, and political doctrines as causes of events, as soon as they hav_o describe an actual historic event such as the campaign of 1812 fo_nstance, they involuntarily describe it as resulting from an exercise o_ower—and say plainly that that was the result of Napoleon's will. Speakin_o, the historians of culture involuntarily contradict themselves, and sho_hat the new force they have devised does not account for what happens i_istory, and that history can only be explained by introducing a power whic_hey apparently do not recognize.