From the Union of the Crowns to the Present DayIn giving the name The Groundwork of British History to this book, the writers seek to make clear the plan on which it is constructed.
If in reading it a boy comes to carry with him some idea of the origin and sequence and relation of events, and gains some notion of history as a whole, he is beginning to build on what may be called a groundwork. Much will remain to be learnt and many details to be added, but these will fall naturally into their places, if the mind is already prepared with a groundwork or general plan on which to fit them.
If, on the other hand, there is no such groundwork in his mind, additional knowledge may merely produce additional confusion, Every teacher in history is only too familiar with the painful method of "learning" -so called by which a boy will get up some pages of a book so thoroughly as to be able to answer every question on the pages set, and yet have no grip of his history as a whole. Take him "outside the lesson" and he is at once bewildered and lost - with perhaps a suppressed sense of injustice; feeling that to ask questions "outside the lesson" is not playing the game.
Such a perplexed learner often deserves more sympathy than he gets. He dutifully burdens his memory with all the names and dates and facts which he finds on the pages prescribed, not knowing which are the most important, not having been taught to connect events with their past causes or their future developments. Now and again his memory, being unsupported by any general sense of where hi is. plays him false, and he produces those grotesque onslaughts upon chronology and probability with which we are all acquainted.
It is to meet such difficulties that our book is directed. Our aim is to provide the reader with a groundwork at once solid and broad-based, upon which increasing knowledge may gradually be built; to trace out the main threads of British history, omitting small and unfruitful details; to treat events in logical sequence by pursuing one subject at a time; and to concentrate the mind upon what was the chief policy or course of action in each age.
In order to do this the book strives to encourage the faculties of understanding and reason rather than mere memory; and to make boys think why things happened and what the consequences were. For example, in the seventeenth century, the chief place is given to the struggle between King and Parliament, whilst in the eighteenth century the series of great wars, the story of domestic politics, the " Industrial Revolution" and its effects, are made the subject of separate chapters. And, jn the later portions of the history, particular attention has been paid to the growth and development of the British Empire, and to the various social and economic changes that occurred in Great Britain during the nineteenth century.
The method is the same as that followed in Mr. Warner's Brief Survey of British History, but the book is intended for those who have got beyond the elementary outlines, and who require a general view of the broadening stream of our national history.
Mr. Marten would like to thank Mr. Urquhart, Fellow and Tutor of Balliol College, and Mr. G. W. Headlam, his colleague at Eton, for kindly reading the proof sheets, and the Rev. A. B. Beaven, of Leamington, and Professor Hearnshaw for providing valuable lists of corrigenda.
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