20th-century Historian Quotes
Garton Ash immersed himself much more deeply and single-mindedly than Ascherson in the politics of Eastern Europe during the final years of the Cold War. The period may have something to do with the difference. As the Eighties unfolded, the East European oppositions to Communism were steadily drawn into the magnetic field of the West's dominant ideology – the uncompromising doctrines of the Right proclaimed by Reagan and Thatcher. For Garton Ash, then an editor and contributor at the Spectator, this was a natural and desirable evolution. For Ascherson, no friend of Thatcherism, it must have posed more difficulties.
The Soviet Union and something called communism per se had not been the object of Washington's global attacks. There had never been an International Communist Conspiracy. The enemy was, and remains, any government or movement, or even individual, that stands in the way of the expansion of the American Empire; by whatever name the US gives to the enemy - communist, rogue state, drug trafficker, terrorist.
Movie critics have complained that the movie lacks coherent vision. The fault may not be Stone's. We know what [Alexander] did, and it continues to astonish us, but we don't know how or why he did it... Stone suggests some noble purpose for Alexander's mad, bloody tromp across Asia. He and his historical consultant shared a need to give meaning to a meaningless conquest.
Very strange bridges are used to make the passage from one state of things to another; we may lose sight of them in our surveys of general history, but their discovery is the glory of historical research. History is not the study of origins; rather it is the analysis of all the mediations by which the past was turned into our present.
Throughout the world, half of all children go to bed hungry each night and one in seven of God's children is facing starvation. Before such statistics, believers should never forget Dostoevsky's assertion that the suffering of children is the greatest proof against the existence of God; for without justice, there is no God.
History, we can confidently assert, is useful in the sense that art and music, poetry and flowers, religion and philosophy are useful. Without it - as with these - life would be poorer and meaner; without it we should be denied some of those intellectual and moral experiences which give meaning and richness to life. Surely it is no accident that the study of history has been the solace of many of the noblest minds of every generation.
To history, until yesterday, Halifax was the arch-appeaser. This, it is now recognised, was a mistake. His rôle, however, was complicated. In these pages he is not the man who stopped the rot, but the embodiment of Conservative wisdom who decided that Hitler must be obstructed because Labour could not otherwise be resisted.
Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us. The Revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars, beginning with the First World War, did what it did. But the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you are going to understand the American character in the twentieth century, to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.