When history mattered
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When we consider some of the contributions that historians claimed to make to the modern state, it is not hard to see why de la Ruelle's attack on the historical profession might be read as satirical. For King Henri III needed sagacious counselors. Perilously positioned in the aftermath of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, Henri is likely to have found learned advisors, who promised to be able to share and understand the present with reference to the past, much more valuable than bluff, belligerent aristocrats. The Renaissance was an era defined by a self-consciousness about the past. It was also an age of profound technological change and both religious and political insecurity. Historians flourished amid the uncertainties of this historical age, often in paradoxical ways: as military tactics evolved and larger armies used cannon and gun powder to revolutionize warfare, they advocated learning from the Romans. As rulers such as Philip II created bureaucratic institutions that redefined the way the state worked, historians offered J)roof of dynastic right to rule. And in the face of religious revolution, they provided historical justifications for the forms in which Christian factions presented themselves. ln a period of swirling change, historians, like today's economists,promised an empirically safe haven and the foundation on which solid structures could be built. Whatever de la Ruelle's criticisms, the power of historians and their subject had never been greater. (From Conclusion)
Stenhouse, W. (2023, May). When history mattered. Chronos, 2022-2023, 128-139.
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