Saturday, March 08, 2008

The purpose of history

The anonymous author of Ahistoricality is reading Tosh's Historians on History, and picked this interesting quotation from Hugh Trevor-Roper:

"The exact scientists are a kind of pre-Reformation clergy, and their function is to perform their miracles, to continue their Church, not to make themselves intelligible to laymen: for their control of the means of salvation and damnation makes the lay world so dependent on them that it will tolerate and subsidise them even without understanding. But the humane subjects are quite different from this. They have no direct scientific use; they owe their title to existence to the interest and comprehension of the laity; they exist primarily not for the training of professionals but for the education of laymen; and therefore if they once lose touch with the lay mind, they are rightly condemned to perish." -- H.R. Trevor-Roper, 'History: professional and lay' (1957), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 328-329.

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