Page images
[blocks in formation]
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic]

973.91 Su 50 1930


[ocr errors][merged small]

The writing of OUR TIMES was begun in September, 1923; the first volume appeared in 1926, the others in 1927, 1930, 1932, 1933; the present volume, the concluding one, is finished upon the day these lines are written, October 13, 1935.

While the writing consumed twelve years, the preparation included more than twice twelve, for the time of preparation, the experience that went into the work, were the years of the author's adult life, of which substantially the whole was passed, with eager interest in the flow of the days, in continuously close contact with events and persons and forces in a considerable variety of fields.

[ocr errors]

What should ordinarily be preface is in this history to be found in certain chapters of the books themselves. About the method, there is a statement in Chapter 4 of Volume VI, "Footnote on the Writing of Contemporary History." Some judgment about the influences that make history, and their relative weight, is in Volume I, Chapter 7, "Leaders and Forces.' About the scope, the subjects covered, and the relative emphasis (which puts greater stress on advances in science than on events in politics, and includes aspects of life, such as popular music, not ordinarily taken into account by historians), there is a statement in Chapter 14, of Volume I, "The Larger History": "In a history which aims to keep in mind the average man, it may be that the scientists. who, by discoveries in the field of the prevention and cure of disease, increased by 12 per cent that average man's tenure of existence on this earth, multiplied his defenses against disease, increased his immunity from untimely death, should appropriately be given as much mention



as the politicians and military leaders. . . . The theory of the present history is that accomplishments in engineering and medicine are fully as important as any political events, that the individuals concerned are as deserving of emphasis, and that they and their deeds can be made as interesting to the reader. . . . Henry Ford, as the manufacturer of inexpensive automobiles, may have had a more deep-reaching effect on the lives of average Americans than Warren G. Harding. ... The perfecting of the vacuum cleaner and the electric flatiron may have meant as much to the average woman as the bringing of woman's suffrage."

About the broad purpose of this history there is a statement in the opening lines of Volume I: "The purpose of this narrative is to follow an average American through this quarter-century of his country's history, to re-create the flow of the days as he saw them, to picture events in terms of their influence on him, his daily life and ultimate destiny. The aim is to appraise the actors of history and their activities according to the way they affected the average man, the way he felt about them, the ways in which he was influenced by his leaders, and in which he influenced them."

The period aimed to be treated (and, within the merit of the work, now covered) is the first quarter of the twentieth century in America, from the beginning of 1900 to the end of 1925. But as is quickly discovered by the writer of history (who is more educated by the process than any reader by the result), events do not emerge with the suddenness that might be inferred from the dates associated with the climaxes of them; and as for the forces that make history, they ignore the calendar utterly. So it was necessary or convenient that the first volume should reach back into the Nineties of the last century, and that Volume VI, "The Twenties,"

« PreviousContinue »