The Historian and His Times

Historians are often rightly accused of carrying contemporary ideas and values back into the past and using them inappropriately to evaluate actors and institutions of bygone days. The presumption in this accusation is that historians know a lot about their own times and relatively little about former times. But such need not be the case.
I remember reading long ago a collection of essays by the distinguished political and intellectual historian of 16th and 17th century Britain J. H. Hexter. In the book’s introduction, Hexter notes how much he is at home in those remote times and how relatively ignorant and

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