J. M. Richardson Has Found The Key

LPTrendsBooks: A Review on J. M. Richardson. By Kathryn Mattingly. A new find in your artist bag of writers that are must reads.

The Apocalypse Mechanism

Brilliant New Orleans Professor James Beauregard’s life is spiraling into complete despair when a startling discovery is made halfway across the globe that requires his expertise. Is there really an ancient machine that could push civilization into the throes of oblivion? As he attempts to unlock the secrets of this waiting apocalypse, Professor Beauregard is hunted by an archaic fundamentalist cult determined to bring about humanity’s end-of-days. Will he find the key to stopping the world’s oldest weapon of mass destruction, or will the cult’s wish to purge all evil be the Earth’s demise?
 

~The Apocalypse Mechanism by J.M. Richardson

Above is an excerpt from Richardson’s second novel, recently released by WinterGoose Publishing. It’s a nice accomplishment for a young father with a love of teaching and an unquenchable thirst for history. Just like his hero in The Apocalypse Mechanism is looking for an important key, Richardson is looking for a key too – the key to merging a love of history with a love of writing. I think he has found it by becoming a novelist who writes about, well, history of course!

Josh was raised in the small town of Franklinton in southeastern Louisiana where his upbringing was among close-knit family and community.  In his early years, Richardson nurtured an interest in the arts, and in developing talents in vocals, guitar, and musical arrangement – along with his need to write ever since an early age and a passion for history that somewhat defines him.

After attending Louisiana State University he began teaching history and sociology in Baton Rouge, LA high schools, because as hard as it was to admit, nothing could compete with his love of history. He married his college sweetheart, Melissa Ware, a literature major and native of Baton Rouge and they moved to the Fort Worth, TX area where Richardson teaches high school history, among a few other subjects, and writes his novels amidst the love and support of his wife and family.

I asked Josh a few questions lately about his budding novelist career and how it came to be.

You’ve been writing your whole life. When did you feel compelled to write that first serious want-to-be-published book?

As far as writing a novel goes, I’ve talked—even joked—about it since college.  But I started writing The Apocalypse Mechanism in 2006.  I put my mind to it, and didn’t stop until it was done.  I tend to write about stuff I know and love—history, society, politics, war.  I’m a social studies teacher, so I’m inspired quite a bit by what I teach and what’s going on in the world today.

When did you decide to become a teacher, and where all have you taught? What subjects do you teach?

I decided to become a teacher after a couple of years of college, finding out that I wasn’t very good at what I was in school for, and treading water, trying to figure it all out.  I had to have a little heart-to-heart with myself about what I was good at and what I loved.  I knew I loved history and loved to talk about history, so it made sense to get paid to do it.  I’ve since taught pretty much anything you can think of to do with social studies—world history, US history, economics, sociology, geography, psychology—you name it. I love it all.  I started teaching in Baton Rouge, LA, and did that for two years.  I’ve been in Keller, TX now for seven years.

What inspires you most about teaching?

I think most teachers (at least the ones that aren’t just in it for summers off) would agree that the biggest pleasure we get out of our work is to watch the little light bulbs click on over these kids’ heads.  It’s hard to engage someone with all the media in the world at their fingertips.  Knowing you taught someone something they didn’t already know comes with a great deal of satisfaction.  And that’s part of the satisfaction I get out of writing.  It’s another platform I use to teach.  In the classroom, I teach by putting things into a context or into a story.  It’s the easiest way to get anyone to learn anything aside from someone learning from experience.  So the writing stories thing comes naturally, and I intentionally write things that are either based in reality or reflect reality, even the speculative stories.  I don’t just want to entertain my readers or invoke emotion.  I want to teach them something either about the world or about themselves.

What do you find most frustrating about your students?

One of the most frustrating things is really more of a social problem than a classroom problem.  Somehow, in the United States, the value of working hard for something has been cast to the wayside.  My grandfather’s generation worked their butts off and those are the backs that American prosperity is built on.  Somehow, American culture has switched to a culture that places more value on gaining fame and fortune with the least possible effort.  We’re coasting on previous prosperity.  Everyone’s going to get rich on a game show, or win a dancing competition.  Everyone’s going to be a rock star or pro athlete.  Our culture teaches that and unfortunately, a lot of parents aren’t interested in teaching any different.  Fewer households place importance on education.  And more of our youth are being taught to take more and earn less.  Self-esteem for no good reason.  Students expect grades GIVEN to them without much work in return.  So we’re seeing less and less effort in the classroom and a DEMAND for high grades to be given for no reason.

How long did it take you to finish your first book and what were some of the challenges with the writing process? 

Well, the first book I wrote was the one that was just released, The Apocalypse Mechanism.  That one took me the longest.  There was a learning curve.  They are normal learning experiences; finding my voice, the language I want to use, my style, how much description I want to use, etc.  Just finding my identity as an author, really.  The biggest challenge that I still deal with is time.  Between a day job and a family, it’s hard to find time to write, and now that I do have books published, I also have to find time to market my work and such.

Both of your books seem to be intense, with complex plots. What genre (or genres) would you classify them in and why?  

They are intense.  I guess at the foundation of it all, I would call them suspense, and probably both could be considered action/adventure.  There is a lot of warfare, chases, and danger.  I love social and political concepts.  I love writing about history, and trying to put together hypothetical alternate history stories.  But I have a love for that high pulse rate, nail-biting experience.  I appreciate literary fiction—grandeur in a story for the sheer drama of it—but for now, that’s not really what I’m interested in writing.

Who do you read for entertainment and what authors are you inspired by?

novelist, J. M. Richardson

I don’t get a lot of time to read for pleasure anymore.  I’d love to.  There are some great books that I’d love to crack open, but time does not permit.  I like Steinbeck and Stephen King.  I think they are/were excellent writers and amazing wordsmiths.  They are true artists in literature.  But my favorite author, I think, is Anne Rice.  She writes so elegantly and does such a good job at showing you what’s in her mind’s eye.  But even more than that, I admire her ability to create a complex story out of so many seemingly unrelated parts.  And it works.  She makes it look easy.  Everything she writes is epic and beautiful, albeit dark and monstrous.  That’s another thing I love about her—the darkness she sees and shows in humankind.

What mentors have you had along the way – whether authors whose work you have studied, classes you have taken and/or friends/loved ones that support your goals and dreams? 

I wish I could name an author or two that have taken me under their wing as some sort of protégé, but it really hasn’t happened that way.  But there are some people along the way that have given me what I need to grow as an author.  My wife has been here throughout the process and has been very supportive.  I have a friend who is a huge reader and former librarian.  His name is Francis MacFarlane.  He’s been wonderfully supportive, and is there to offer help and critique.  Of course my publisher, Jessica Kristie, has been a great resource not only on the artistic side, but for the business side of things, too.  She’s good at keeping me focused and level through ups and the inevitable downs.

Where did you get the idea for the Apocalypse Mechanism? 

The Apocalypse Mechanism’s idea came when I was watching a History Channel story on ancient technology.  Adventure and history-related stories intrigue me always, so I started just playing around with a story in my head, and I came up with this idea that the Dark Ages, the collapse of great empires, and eventually the Apocalypse were caused and would be caused by some sort of ancient machine.  I began writing this at the height of our wars in the Middle East, so I added an aspect of religious fundamentalism (in a different ancient religion) and a hero, and I was off!  An American professor must follow ancient clues to track down an ancient weapon of mass destruction and shut it down, all while a fundamentalist cult hunts him and tries to stop that from happening.

Did The Apocalypse Mechanism have more, less, or just different challenges than The Twenty-Nine?

Writing it first, I had more trouble and obstacles with writing The Apocalypse Mechanism than with The Twenty-Nine.  I was inexperienced and slow.  I’d go through month-long lulls in writing.  I was determined, but not yet committed to following through.  I was gaining experience, so I felt like a pro, when I was certainly a novice.  Plus, I became a father in the middle of it, and so time constraints increasingly became problematic.  So it ended up taking two and a half years to write.  Writing The Twenty-Nine after was a cinch—thirteen months.  I had honed my style, found my niche, etc.

The Twenty-Nine

America is in turmoil. The states are no longer united, and the path of their division may be leading us all to annihilation. When young Derek joined the Marine Corps his intentions were simply to provide himself with a better life. He never dreamed he would be facing combat against fellow Americans, or staring down a mushroom cloud on his own home soil. Americans are beginning to wonder if our differences will be the end of our great nation, or if we will find a way to unite our people and reclaim our freedom.

~The Twenty-Nine by J.M. Richardson

As a history buff, do you enjoy doing a lot of research for your books?

I’m not one of these writers that go into research mode just to find the idea.  I like to at least start with something I know.  I’d hate to get into a discussion about one of my books, and not really know enough about the subject to hold a comfortable conversation about it.  I have a wealth of knowledge about a lot of things from history and economy, to politics and psych.  So I have an endless array of ideas for books that I can pull from.  And they are all things I can easily discuss.  Stuff I teach and stuff I’m just interested in.  But when I get into the actual formulation of plots, culture, history, and places that I’m less familiar with, I do have to research a lot, especially with writing about places I’ve never been to.  I’ve taught geography for seven years.  I know my stuff.  But currently, I’m writing about things that takes place in Hyderabad, Pakistan.  Google Earth is my friend.

Do you already have the idea in mind for your next book, or do you have a lot of plots floating around in your head, or maybe written down somewhere and you just need to pick one?

When Winter Goose picked up The Twenty-Nine, I was working on a sequel to The Apocalypse Mechanism.  I’m forty thousand words into it.  But I had to set it aside to write the follow-up to The Twenty-Nine, which is what I’m writing now.  So as soon as I get a contract down on A Line in the Sand, I’m going right back to the sequel to The Apocalypse Mechanism.  So I’m good for at least two more books.  Beyond that, I have at least one more idea for the James Beauregard (The Apocalypse Mechanism) series.  And it’s pretty well mapped out.  So I’ve literally got ideas for years to come.

___________________________________________

The Apocalypse Mechanism is available in paperback through: Barnes & Noble and Amazon *  eBook:  Kindle and Barnes & Noble * The Twenty-Nine is available in paperback through BarnesNoble and Amazon / Amazon UK * eBook:  Kindle You can follow J.M. on Twitter & Facebook and you can keep up with his latest news by following his website.

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Filmmaker Travis Andrade Dreams Big

#LPTRendsFilm: Interview w/Travis Andrade. An online database and mobile app to experience histories greatest…writer Kathryn Mattingly takes you a journey of dreams, clouds, and talent as she introduces you to a filmmaker we know you’ll hear more of, and just one more example of innovation and creative intelligence at work in today’s technological wonderland._______________________

“What is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future on the past.”

                                                                                                                         ~Victor Hugo

Recently I went to the CloudBiography website looking for information on Ghandi and there it was – at least all the important stuff. For my purposes that would be the highlights of who he was and what he did, and when he did it… rather than the nitty-gritty details of his every angst from birth to death.

You might say the video on CloudBiography kept my head out of the clouds – where daydreaming happens if bored to death by pointless details. The short films are stimulating, interesting and a far cry from high school history class! No monotone voice to deal with either. It’s a pleasant accented gentlemen you can easily envision sitting beside on a hot day while sporting khakis and leaning against some ancient stone wall, pondering the mysteries of life. Or should I say pondering the mysterious of those who lived life so beautifully out-of-the-box?

“All of these historical figures, for better or worse, changed the world.”

                                                                                                            ~CloudBiography

Travis Andrade and his masterful team founded this online database, comprised of short videos on approximately 80 worthy historical figures so far. They plan to have hundreds within the year. You can find these informative clips on the well-known greats at: http://www.cloudbiography.com/

Everyone from Beethoven to Karl Marx and the Wright Brothers are there. I learned more from these ‘video cliff notes’ (as Travis fondly calls them) than I ever did in school. Travis and his team successfully raised funds through Kickstarter.com (an online fundraising platform for entrepreneurs) to build a mobile app for their site. Because of this app, Travis and his team have reached several hundred thousand people in over 150 countries between their website, blog and YouTube channel Cloud Bio.

The Interview

I recently asked Travis some questions about the past that formed him, the present that drives him – and the future he’s planning.

I know that you’re originally from the Bay area, but where else have you lived and where are you presently located?

I live in Brooklyn, NY. At 13 years old my family moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Memphis, Tennessee. I attended High School in Memphis and graduated from Middle Tennessee State University, which is located outside of Nashville.

When were you first interested in history?

I think my interest in history evolved as a byproduct of diving into countless period films and documentaries. I enjoy the experience of witnessing character drama that unfolds as a result of any cultural implications that may serve as story anchors. I find this both in fiction and nonfiction. Even when these stories are of some ancient or medieval culture, the drama still manages to feel fresh and real.

Who are your team for the CloudBiographies website and how did you meet them?

Val is one member of our team whom I met in film school. She’s a filmmaker and web designer. I had the opportunity to make a short film and during post-production in Rome I taught English, both privately and in a few elementary and middle schools. That experience led me to become friends with a married couple who are both teachers. Tim is originally from England and his wife Anne is from New Zealand. About 9 months after moving to NYC, I contacted them to see if they were interested in working with me on a website that hosted short video biographies of historical figures. They both live in New Zealand now, but fortunately we’re still able to work quite well together. We speak so frequently through Skype and email that I sometimes forget they’re thousands of miles away.

What inspired you to research, write and edit short video biographies of historical figures? 

I’ve always liked to read biographies of historical figures. Sometimes I had trouble finding a reliable source for this information that was visual and relatively consistent. I wanted the bullet points, the “cliff notes.”

I decided to create a place where people could go to watch a short video of a historical figure that would more or less be a highlight reel of their accomplishments and overall influence.  I wanted to keep the videos simple and succinct.

CloudBiography.com is a jump off point and perhaps our site can help people understand who and what they’re looking for.

Are you planning on doing more ‘video cliff notes’ or do you have other interests in mind to pursue?

My real pursuit in life is filmmaking. In LA I worked mainly in the camera department for film and television. I wrote and directed a short film, which shot in Tuscany, Italy in 2010. “Viola” went on to win the Rome Independent film festival. It also played at the Manhattan Film Festival here in New York as well as a few smaller festivals. Here’s the IMDB link http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1734564/

I did watch a clip from your film and thought that it was very well done – suspenseful, dramatic, really perfectly timed and artistically directed. When did you know filmmaking in general was the line of work you wished to pursue? 

My first job was at a movie theater in Collierville, TN when I was 15 or 16. I worked there part-time for roughly 4 years. That experience had an enormous impact on me.  Then I worked at a production company in Nashville while in college.  I met a Director of Photography on a music video shoot who was working on some big projects.  He was an LA guy who had this unapologetic swagger about him. We were on lunch and he said to me, “So what do you wanna do in film dude? Do you wanna shoot?” (Shoot, meaning be a DP.)

My response was about how I like cameras, but I’m really interested in screenwriting and directing. He kind of smirked at me and finished his lunch. What I didn’t realize at the time, as the words were falling out of my mouth, was that a huge DP was extending his hand and I smacked it away by telling him I wanted the other guy’s job. I felt deflated later when I saw how well he directed his camera crew, how loyal they were to him and how they broke their necks to create the scene he and the director had envisioned.

This and many other experiences all sort of culminated in a decision to go to film school.

Researching and writing about historical figures is a lot different than writing a screenplay. What possessed you to tackle the screenplay for Viola?

Funny enough, I graduated from college with a degree in Journalism, but decided to study cinematography in film school. I didn’t really get into screenwriting until later. There was a SAG strike and a WGA strike when I got out of school. The first few gigs I had were in reality television because the shows I was on were non-union. The technical experience was great, but I was coming home a little unsatisfied. An early draft of my first script was almost entirely written in the early hours of the morning, after I got home from the set.

Do you plan to write more screenplays?

I’ve written scripts for others in the past, but have at least two of my own that I hope to make someday. Screenwriting is essential for absolutely any young director. At the studio level the jobs are often separated. In indy filmmaking it’s crucial to have a hand in creating the characters and their respective paths. It will only help you to realize those characters as you communicate the story to producers, actors, the director of photography, the production designer and other essential crew personnel.

What were your biggest challenges filming your first movie?

With any film the biggest challenges will always be time and money, regardless of scope. We certainly struggled with both of those things.

Did winning the award for your short film open the door for any future opportunities?

To some extent, yes. But I can assure you that the experience itself was far more valuable.

What will you do differently based on what you learned filming Viola?

There are probably too many things to list… but next time I’ll try to relax and have a little more fun!

What are your future goals with movie making?

I’m interested in both feature film and documentary film. My next immediate project will be in the fall. I’ll be shooting a documentary in Burma/Myanmar. We’re planning to begin in a little border town called Mae Sot, in Thailand – and will then head west.

The documentary will focus on the youth of Burma and how they perceive their world to be changing as the National League for Democracy, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, struggles to instill democracy in Burma. This change, however slow and painful, is happening organically. Our goal is to take a brief look at the generation that will make that change possible. We’ll be there to observe and document during this critically significant time.

Did you have any especially inspiring teachers or family members who helped shape who you are today as a person?

My greatest teachers are my experiences. But that goes back to both of my parents who gave me every opportunity and always insisted that I dream big.

Travis is a perfect example of how dreaming big can turn into successful achievements. You can find CloudBiographies at: www.CloudBiography.com and on facebook: www.Facebook.com/cloudbio or at twitter: www.Twitter.com/cloudbiography. A clip from the award winning film Viola can be viewed at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1734564/.

Albert Rodda – The Great Historian

Senator Albert Rodda, who served with extraordinary integrity

Albert Rodda, California State Senator who passed away in 2011, wrote a series of extraordinary works. This one on history and the import of it is something you should read if you are a person on the path of understanding yourself in this chaotic world:

Course Syllabus Supplement – Western Civilization
Sacramento Community College
1966

History: Does It Have Meaning?

By Albert S. Rodda

Asiatic nationalism, the population explosion, the demand for immediate democracy and freedom, the urgent need to industrialize the backward nations, relative scarcity of natural resources, and the fragile nature of the earth’s environment create today world conditions which might well drive the course of world events toward a third world war. Since this would be disastrous to world civilization, we are justified in making it, the possibility of world war, the number one world problem confronting mankind.

In a world situation such a ours, characterized by a peaceful coexistence resting on a delicate balance of terror, any number of conditions can serve as destabilizing factors and bring the world to the threshold of war.

We are compelled, therefore, to raise several questions: Is there anything that can be done to establish peace? Has mankind the freedom of will to do what is necessary? Has he the social intelligence?

On this point Arthur T. Hadley comments most interestingly as follows in “The Nation’s Safety and Arms Control:”

“…necessity has never been a particularly impressive argument to mankind. Nor is there any guarantee that the skills necessary to handle the nuclear world lies within human capacity.”

He observed, also, that in Scottish law there is a verdict of “not proven” – not innocent and set free; not guilty and condemned, simply not proven. This would seem, he said, to be the only verdict on mankind’s ability to survive in the nuclear age: “not proven.”

Emery Reves in The Anatomy of Peace rejects the contention of many that war cannot be abolished. War, in his view is neither “inexplicable” nor “inevitable.” It is the consequence of clearly definable conditions; and occurs with the “mathematical regularity of natural laws…..”

Reves predicates his argument upon two verities of history: (1) that war between groups of men organized into social units always occur when such groups exercise sovereign power and (2) that wars between social groups cease immediately upon the transference of sovereign power to a larger or higher unit of social organization.

It is the contact between “non-integrate social units of equal sovereignty,” he reasons, that produces the juxtaposition of conflicting social forces which inevitably lead to war, or organized destruction engaged in by mutually incompatible sovereign entities.

History, in Reves’ view, consists of recurring periods of armed truce or peace interrupted by recurring periods of conflict or war. The period of a power balance is better understood, therefore, not as a condition of peace but a pre-condition to war. In seeking to organize rationally the conditions of peace, Reves suggests, therefore, that it cannot be accomplished by the device of a power balance.

History provides ample evidence of the futility of such endeavor. On this point he wryly comments that “technical equipment, and arms, has as much to do with peace as frogs with the weather” and that “conscription and large armies are just as incapable of maintaining peace as no conscription and disarmament.”

He concludes and I quote:

“Logical thinking and historical empiricism agree that there is a way to solve this problem…once and for all. But with equal clarity they that there is one way and one way alone:…The integration of the scattered conflicting national sovereignties into one unified, higher sovereignty, capable of creating a legal order within which all peoples may enjoy equal security, equal obligation and equal rights under the law.”

Assuming the correctness of Reves’ analysis, the question remains: Does mankind have the freedom to structure a world in which peace can survive? Admittedly, human beings are, in a sense, victims of the social, economic, and political context in which they are born and live. If the structure of society possesses an inherent orientation toward social conflict, can man change it? Is there reason to believe, or even hope, that some latitude exists for man to create an environment in which peace, and not war, is the reasonable probability?

In his War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy comments significantly in describing the Napoleonic invasion of Russia as follows:

“We are forced to fall back upon fatalism in history to explain irrational events…The more we try to explain events in history rationally, the more irrational and incomprehensible they seem to us:”

“The higher a man’s place in the social scale, the more conspicuous is the inevitability and predestination of every act he commits.”

“The King,” says Tolstoy “is the slave of history.” “Every action that seems…an act of (individual) freewill, is in an historical sense not free at all, but in bondage to the whole course of previous history, and predestined from all eternity.”

The question might very well be asked: Is Tolstoy right? Does history reveal that man is helplessly swinging upon the hinge of fate?

Definition of History

We might very well, in exploring this question, begin by defining what history is.

History is not the event itself – not the deeds of yesterday themselves–it is the written record of the significant events of the past which is developed from surviving evidence, written and unwritten. It is each generation’s interpretation of what happened.

A good definition of history is that of John Huizinga: “History is the intellectual form in which a civilization renders account to itself of its past.”

It is not “bunk” as observed by Henry Ford and it is not, as described by Napoleon Bonaparte, the number of lies that men will agree to believe.

History is as close to the truth as historical method can attain. Even so it has its limitations. Anatole Mazour, professor of history at Stanford University, described them when he wryly observed that “History is complicated truth transformed into simplified falsehood.” Here he was simply trying to emphasize that the truth about a thing suffers as a result of the process of generalization or abstraction. This observation should not encourage the view that generalization should not be attempted since it tends to distort the truth; since generalization and abstraction are the result of intellectualizing about something, the statement should serve only to caution us about hasty and reckless generalization.

Historical Method

During the 19th century, German historians made an effort to place historical research upon a scientific or empirical basis. They contributed substantially to the development, therefore, of modern historical method–a method for determining and presenting the record of the past and scientifically as possible.

The historical method involves the utilization of deductive and inductive reasoning, the development of hypothesis, the careful and objective organization and examination of historical data, and, whenever and to the extent possible, the verification of hypothesis and interpretation.

Essential to sound historical scholarship are the following:

(1) a rational interpretation of the data
(2) an objective attitude toward historical evidence and fact
(3) careful and comprehensive research in order to uncover as fully as possible the relevant historical evidence
(4) establishment of the validity and meaning of the evidence–and internal criticism–establishing the real meaning of the historical record
(5) utilization of auxiliary aids: such as the sister disciplines of anthropology, sociology, economics, statistics and technology, for example, aerial photography, computers, the chemical laboratory, etc. (carbon-14 time dating and x-ray)

Today historians are troubled about their discipline. They recognize that history can provide only limited and not absolute truth and they are afraid that it has only limited usefulness.

Modern scholars are, therefore, less optimistic and certain than were the 19th century German, scientific historians. These men, confident in their methodology, believed that history could determine the past as it actually happened–“Wie es eigentlich gewesen”–both the facts and the casual relationships.

Historians today, influenced by Freudian and behaviorist psychology, philosophical pragmatism, existentialism, and scientific indeterminism are most modest. They are aware of the tendency of man toward irrationalism; they are aware of his non-objectivity, and they recognize the danger in intellectual generalization or simplification.

Historians, therefore, tend to regard historical truth as tentative, not permanent; relative, not absolute; and subjective, not objective. They believe that each generation must write its own history, reach its own idea of truth, and give to history its own meaning–if it has meaning.

Does History Have Meaning

In this respect there are different approaches to the study and interpretation of history. And one’s approach to history will depend upon whether one assumes or believes that history is determinant, non-determinant, or whether it does or does not have meaning, purpose, or ends.

There is an approach called historicism. When used in the Popperian sense, it is a belief in determinism or law in history. The historian who accepts this view of the meaning of history regards historical truth as the unfolding of historical law. History becomes revelation. Marxists are determinists—economic determinists. They hold to the belief that economic institutions and forces govern the historical process, and they view historical development, therefore, as a movement toward a classless, socialistic society–the certain outcome of natural law.

In this, the determinists view, man possesses both the freedom and the power of mind and will to put history to work, to make it a tool for his own self-chosen purpose through knowledge of the laws and principles to which it responds.

Edward P. Cheney stated this point of view in 1927 in an essay on Law in History as follows:

“May I repeat that I do not conceive of these generalizations as principles which it would be well for us to accept, or as ideals which we may hope to attain; but as natural laws, which we must accept whether we want to or not; whose workings we cannot obviate, however much we may thwart them to our own failure and disadvantage; laws to be reckoned with, much as are the laws of gravitation, or of the chemical affinity, or of organic evolution, or of human psychology.”

“Man historically has been in much the same position as men individually. He has been able to deflect slightly to one side or another, the law-controlled course of events. He has been able to give social shape to general movements. If his action has been conformable to law it has been effective; when he has worked along with the great forces of history he has influenced constructively the course of events; when his action has violated historic law the results have been destructive, momentary, subject to reversal. Men always have been free to act; the results of their actions will depend on the conformity or nonconformity of these actions to law.”

There is a view that history is pure description–another approach which is also referred to as historicism. It is, of course, non-Popperian. Such historians see no relationship, no pattern in history. They are romanticists; they see only separate, disconnected, discrete historical events. History has no end, no purpose–no meaning. Their study of history is justified solely by an antiquarian interest in the past for information about the past and for information only.

Another, perhaps, the oldest concept of history is the teleological or providential concept in which history is seen as the development of God’s purpose or plan. It reflects a theistic faith and perspective and tends toward fatalism and the denial of freedom for the individual to give to life’s existence a human meaning or purpose–since man’s fate is the fulfillment of God’s will. It is God directed.

Sometimes referred to as the Augustinian approach to historical meaning, the teleological approach is encountered in the reflections on history of St. Augustine, and, at least inferentially, in the “The Second Inaugural of Abraham Lincoln,” when he said:

“On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it–all sought to avert it. All parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came. The Almighty has His own purpose. Woe unto the world because of offenses: For it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.”

The Germans, in applying the methodology of science to historical study, did not view history as determinant, yet they did not regard it as meaningless. German scholars interpreted the historian’s task to be the discovery of the facts of history and their true casual relations. And they did not visualize history as determinant in the natural of theistic way, nor did they regard it as a pragmatic study. They saw historical study and analysis primarily as a scientific endeavor to understand, for its own sake, what happened and why.

These are the principal views of history as having meaning. How can they answer, one might ask, the question: Can man influence his fate and, thus, avoid world war?
Obviously, several of the views of the historical process are fatalistic, since they regard historical processes as beyond human influence or determination. This is especially true of those who accept the providential concept of historic meaning and, to a less extent, the non-determinist historicists and the adherents to the German ort scientific school of historiography.

The determinists, whether Marxian, Hegelian, economic, geographical, or morphological, interpret history as having an end and as moving under the influence of natural law toward that end. They allow a slight area of human freedom–the liberty to act within the limits of natural law–a circumscribed freedom.

Two contemporary historians assign greater freedom to man than do the traditional determinists. They can be thought of as historical pragmatists. They are Carl Popper and Arnold Toynbee.

In “The Open Society and Its Enemies,” Popper categorically states that history has no meaning in the philosophical or metaphysical sense and joins those who see history as leading no where and being without sense or meaning. And yet, he does not capitulate completely to historical nihilism; for he assigns to history a meaning in a pragmatic or existentialist sense. In his words: “Although history has no meaning, we can give it meaning.”

“…there can be no history of the past as it actually did happen; there can only be historical interpretations and none of them final.”

And so it follows that every generation must write its own history. To Popper, it is not only the right of each generation to rewrite history, but to do so is its duty, since it must discover for itself the historical direction it wishes to take.

The conclusion must not be inferred that history, because it has no meaning, is therefore to Popper a huge joke. He is not saying that; he is merely saying that the purpose of history is not external to man, and that it will baffle us if we seek to find in it the purposes of a divine providence, or the laws of nature which usher man from one stage of development to another–from cocoon to larva, from larva to moth.

History must be of man’s own making; for example, he can strive to make institutions more rational; he can fight for the open society against its enemies; and he can make the rule of reason, justice, equality, freedom and world peace his goals.

But history cannot dictate such a role for him; it must be of his own choosing. The facts of history have in themselves no meaning; they gain meaning only through human evaluation. In other words, meaning is not discovered in history; it is imparted to it. People who study history cannot become prophets; but they may become the makers of their fate. This is Popper’s offering to those seeking meaning in history.

Upon us, then, depends whether there will be historical progress, since history itself is not self-directing, not moving with purpose, but inert. Man’s destination on earth is not then predestined; man is left with the freedom to choose the end and the way.
Popper leaves unanswered whether man has the intelligence to choose rightly, but he more than infers that he will choose rightly, if he chooses righteously–if he chooses human freedoms, social justice, individual equality–and world peace.

Popper hurls a challenge, not a promise.

So does Arnold Toynbee in “A Study of History” in which he develops the challenge-response interpretation of history. Briefly Toynbee contends that civilizations usually die by war and that the historical record is reasonably explicit on this point. Toynbee believes, however, that man himself is responsible for the tragic historical fate which befalls him, since civilization takes direction from human response to historical confrontation. Death comes to civilization because human beings, when challenged by crises, react unrealistically and irrationally. In the past they have borne the consequences of their ways, and they must and will continue to, today and in the future. Toynbee also hurls a challenge and makes no promises.

HISTORY 4A

Lecture–I

The Definition and Purpose of History

Before commencing the course an attempt should be made to explain what is meant by history. Unless we can arrive at a reasonably satisfactory definition of the term, we can hardly succeed in our study.

There have been many definitions of history. Napoleon, for example, called it the “number of lies that men agree to believe.” The English historian, Freeman, defined it as the study of politics. Professor Edward Hulme of Stanford University defined it as the study of the best men have thought and done. Other writers have had different conceptions of the meaning of history. To Allan Nevins of Yale University it means the “study of the development of the national character.”

A number of historians have argued that history is a science and that its study makes possible the discovery of the laws which govern the development of civilization and the prediction of the future of civilization. I regard history as the systematic study of the past behavior and thought of man. Its purpose is better to explain why man behaves and thinks as he does today. I believe that history can do this. However, I believe, also, that history is not governed by law and that it cannot, therefore, be predicted. At best, the historian can suggest probabilities for future historical development. Despite this confessed limitation upon the power of history, its significance must not be underestimated. Historical study is tremendously important; it can be of great practical value to mankind.

The purpose of history is to explain how and why human beings respond as they do to their environment.

Scientifically, man is regarded as an anthropoid–a higher animal form, certainly possessed of intelligence, and thought by some to posses a human soul. Sociologically, man is regarded as a social animal existing in both a natural and an artificial environment. Scientifically and sociologically, human behavior, therefore, can be regarded as either an instinctive, emotional, or rational response to the stimuli provided by the environment.

If the historian can contribute to our understanding of this behavior, he may assist the human race to behave in a fashion which is in true harmony with the best interest of mankind. A better understanding of history as a basis of action might, for example, have made possible the avoidance of the awful dilemma of in which human society finds it’s self today.

In studying the history of particular periods and societies, it must be kept constantly in mind that the purpose of the study is the explanation of human behavior during those periods. This is the first purpose of history–the explanation of historic behavior. Its final end purpose is completely dependent upon the success with which this is done. This final purpose, as you have undoubtedly concluded, is the understanding of the behavior of living man and the improvement of that behavior.

An analysis of human action reveals that much of it is essentially animalistic. It is simple, instinctive, and automatic response to environmental stimuli. It is, therefore, very often extremely irrational, being impulsive, emotional, and involuntary. As such, it is frequently the outcome of the natural compulsion of all life toward self-preservation ands self-perpetuation. It is this basic fact with which all students of individual and social behavior have to deal if their work is to be meaningful.

Much human activity is what may be termed conditioned behavior. It, too, is automatic, irrational, impulsive and involuntary. Such behavior results from the development of unconscious human response to environmental conditions, artificial and natural. This fact explains why human types which are essentially similar in physiological characteristics exhibit such wide variations in behavior. Only a moment of reflection on this will show how much of this type of activity in the human being is undesirable and not in the true interests of humanity.

A third type of behavior is that which is directed by the human intellect. This directive force produces conscious, responsible conduct in mankind. They produce responses in human beings which may be highly ethical, moral, and social. This is behavior which is essentially humanistic and not animalistic; it is this type of behavior which distinguishes Homo sapiens from the lesser animals.

Human progress, if we may be optimistic enough to accept the idea of progress, will depend upon the capacity of the human race to achieve a more human behavior–that is–to bring individual and social behavior more fully under the direction of the conscience, the intellect, the beneficent environmental conditions, and at the same time to free it from the influence of pure animalistic promptings and undesirable social surroundings.

The ultimate purpose of history, therefore, is to help the human race in its creeping progress toward moral, spiritual, and ethical living, or the fulfillment of his innate capacity. It is not exclusively the responsibility of history to give this direction to mankind. It is the joint responsibility of all fields of knowledge; it is also the most important function of education. The success of humanity in this endeavor is of vital significance. Socially and individually we must become superior moral men, or we will cease to exist as all.

If there is any one lesson in history, it is a moral and spiritual one.