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“Parliament," "Ireland," "The Corn Laws." With a few exceptions, these events have been already mentioned in the General Outline.
Many may differ from us at various points about our selection or omission of events. Our general principle has been to keep clearly in view, as our main object, the development of the political history of England, and especially the growth of the English Constitution. We have omitted therefore, with reluctance, but for clearness' sake, many social, literary, and other facts of great importance in their bearing upon the general growth of the nation.
We have been led also to believe, from the encouragement given us by various teachers, and from use made in teaching of part of the work privately printed, that the book may be found useful as a kind of syllabus, or outline for building upon, in lecturing and class-teaching. It would appear that of late oral teaching by means of simple lectures has gained ground, as a method of instruction, in our Public Schools and High Schools, in preference to the method of only asking questions upon a previously prepared portion of a text-book.
For many reasons it might be desired that the course of historyteaching in higher schools should be wider than it is at present, that it should be more European, less insular, and that ancient, mediæval, and modern history should be taught as parts of one continuous whole. The outlines of “world history" may be taught very early in the course of a child's education, first in their simplest form, conveying perhaps little more than an idea of the distance of events from one another. As time goes on these outlines may be more and more filled in. That the value of such a system is considerable, the results of much of the higher school teaching in France and Germany show.
But in any case it would seem that the method of teaching the whole outline from the beginning, and steadily and systematically filling in that outline in its various parts, is to be preferred as a method to that of stimulating interest in various isolated portions of the history, without being first sure that the general outline of the “ before and after" has been grasped.
While a multitude of histories of persons and periods, excellently written, are put into the hands of young people, the dry bones of history are rather at a discount. The old unintelligent schoolroom drill, which involved learning strings of dates, had, with many disadvantages, at least some advantages. And a boy or girl may be better prepared to take an intelligent interest in history in the future if they know, so that they will never forget them, the dates of the Kings of England, of some leading events, and of the Prime Ministers from Walpole to the present time, than if they have been prematurely interested in the detail of special periods, to the exclusion of a knowledge of the general outlines. If the outlines have been insisted on and intelligently taught, the interest in private reading of history, for its own sake, will be increased rather than lessened.
At present English history is the only part of modern history which is largely taught in schools. One of the main advantages for teaching purposes of English history is its continuity. If this continuity is lost sight of it is a great disadvantage to the learner. The grammar, or continuous outline of English history, may be taught while the memory is fresh and strong, and on this foundation the knowledge of the whole constitutional and political history may be gradually built up. Our aim, however inadequately carried out, has been to keep this principle of continuity in view; not to encourage “cram,” except so far as this sometimes misused word may include accurate and well-arranged knowledge.
The present book, of course, could only be used by the higher forms in schools. Should it be thought desirable, an abridged form, on exactly the same method, would be published, and a third form simpler still. In this way, the same plan being preserved, the pupil would advance from the simplest outline, not to a new book, but merely to one containing additional facts surrounding the old facts, and thus confusion of ideas would be avoided.
It may be said that all abstracts of history should be made by pupils themselves, but the use of a book like this, by way of grammar or for reference, in no way precludes the pupil from making abstracts of his text-book or of larger books, which, when independently done, will often be of more use than any ready-made analysis.
At the risk of apparent presumption, it has seemed well to explain as clearly as we could the way in which, as it appeared to us, this book might be made useful in the teaching of history.
We have to acknowledge the useful criticisms of Mr. Watson, Fellow of B.N.C., Oxford, and Mr. York Powell of Christ Church, Oxford, and also the help of Mr. Beaven of Preston, Lancashire, who has generously placed at our disposal many of the results of his learned studies in English political history, but who is in no way responsible for any errors that we may have made.
We shall be grateful to any one who will take the trouble to call our attention to any mistakes which may, notwithstanding a good deal of care, have crept into the book.