Imagine a man who is both ruler of his kingdom and the vassal to another king for vast lands he possesses in that king’s country–a man who is at once sovereign, and beholden to another lord–a man whose whim is law in one context, but whose obligations in another context constrict his every move. You have in this remarkable circumstance the root cause of a fantastic, centuries-long debacle between nations far beyond the ken of almost any fiction writer.
Can you name the kings and the nations of this true scenario from history? Can you surmise its significance in determining the fate of the entire world?
(You will be able to, when you take Powell History’s history of Europe, starting July 18th.)
Man’s past is replete with characters and situations so compelling that they rival the greatest dramas of literature. It is no wonder that one of my students proclaimed about Powell History’s A First History for AdultsTM, “It keeps me more thrilled than any movie!”
European history, in particular, is full of passionate conflicts, driven by deeply held beliefs, intermixed with power-lust and ambition. It is a story of popes and emperors vying for ultimate authority within the “Holy Roman Empire.” It is the tale of knights and kings crusading in the name of “God’s will” and their own dynastic aspirations. It is a saga of exploration and empire, charged with the romance of discovery and tragedy of generations wasted in war.
Considered from our vantage point in present-day America, the story of Europe is thoroughly engrossing in both its familiarity and its foreignness, even when its actors are loathsome and its outcomes abhorrent. Who can be bored in the presence of William “the Conqueror,” Peter “the Great,” and Napoleon–let alone Prince Henry “the Navigator” of Portugal, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, or Queen Elizabeth of England?!
Sadly, all too many people are convinced that history, and European history especially, is boring and irrelevant. Objectivists in particular often take the view that European history is unconnected to their world and rife with irrationality, and hence not worthy of attention.
The only way one can feel this way, however, is if one has accepted that traditional historical pedagogy has actually presented Europe’s story properly.
European history is at once fascinating as a story in itself, instructive as a source of stimulating cognitive material, and relevant as a factor in the development of America’s identity. It is a universe of untapped intellectual values.
Indeed, how can the home of the Renaissance and Enlightenment be anything else?!
But for the story to serve as both inspiration and true cognitive fuel, it must presented in an appropriate manner. That it be chock-full of fascinating details is not enough. Nor does it suffice for its myriad concretes to be illuminated by a proper philosophy. History—like every other subject—must be studied in a certain way, to yield a profitable, long-range context of knowledge.
Powell History’s A First History for AdultsTM was created to meet this need…
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