OUR ISLAND STORY.* "As its title imports, this History will deal primarily with politics " : with England first, and then with Great Britain " as a State or body politic " ; but as the life of a nation is complex, "notices of religious matters and of intellectual, social, and economic progress will also find place in these volumes." " Each volume, while forming part of a. complete History, will also in itself he a separate and complete book, will be sold separately, and will have its own index, and two or more maps." Such, then, has been the design of this onerous and costly undertaking, and it is a public duty to say, without any reservation, that it has been ably and faithfully achieved.
It would be neither seemly nor serviceable to contrast the twelve volumes of our history one against the other, with any sort of rivalry or comparison of the authors and their work. For one reason, the periods are all different, both in quality and interest. No period, however, is more interesting in events and actors than the years 1603-1660, which are dealt with in 'Vol. VII.; and this volume appears to us the weakest link in the chain : it wants clearness, detail, fire ; but the age that produced Cromwell, Milton, Pym, Bunyan, George Fax, Rupert, Selden, and Locke was not itself wanting in elemental force. A storm without thunder and lightning is tame ; and so is this presentation of our heroic seventeenth century, which was convulsed by its effort to transform the absolutism of the Tudors and the inherited confusions of the Middle Ages into a future of ordered liberty and reason.
Dr. Hodgkin's volume is unusually attractive. He is not only a skilful and pleasant writer, but, as he deals with almost prehistoric times, he is not overwhelmed by the weight and complexity of his material, and his period can be known exhaustively. He begins with geological aeons, and so passes through shadowy Celtic times to Caesar and his Romans ; and then he gives a truly admirable sketch of England before the Conquest. We are glad that the narrow Teutonism of Freeman and his school is being discarded, and that at last we are claiming all the elements, of both men and civilisation, out of which our complex nation has been moulded. It would be well if we discarded henceforth the inadequate and tautological term Anglo-Saxon, and described our polity in the future as an Anglo-Celtic or a Celto-Scandinavian Empire. The volumes by Professors Oman and Tout are of absorbing interest, both in matter and treatment; especially where they deal with the fourteenth century: that great and entrancing period which saw the splendours of Edward
our Decorated and early Perpendicular architecture, and in literature Chaucer and Wyclif. Professor Oman's account of the latter is most suggestive and brilliant. Our fourteenth century gave us a premature Renaissance, and almost brought us the Reformation. It not only saw the official adoption of the English language, and its usage by two of its greatest masters in verse and prose, but it witnessed a growing sense of onr English nationality. It was an age of anti-Papalism, anti. monasticism, and anti-clericalism, as well as of many social aspirations. Mr. Fisher has to deal with the deferred hopes of that interesting time, many of which were not realised until the sixteenth century, and some of them are still only ideals. We may say that he handles his controversial period with clearness and impartiality. Very excellent, we think, is his account of Henry VII. ; and we are glad that this prudent, strong, and most useful Sovereign is being judged at length on the broad issues of his work instead of by absurd mis- representations of his personal character. We are also much pleased to see, in Vol. V., Appendix I., pp. 495-96, an apprecia- tion of Froude. Fronde's history of Henry VIII. is described as "the most brilliant of all modern accounts." "Full of admirable research and political insight, the four volumes devoted to the reign of Henry VIII. are still the best general
* The Political History of England, B.C. 55-21.D. 1931. By Various Authors. London Longman and Co. 12 vols. [7s. 6d.. net each.] picture of the times." " The chapter devoted to the Pilgrimage of Grace is an example of all that is best, that devoted to Anne Boleyn's execution is a model [sic] of all that is worst, in this great book, which combines a wide and firm grasp of the general lines of policy at home and abroad with some small errors of detail and a good deal of serious misconstruction wherever the honour and reputation of the King are at stake." This, we think, approaches near to what must be the final verdict of our historians, and of our nation, on Froude, who was undoubtedly a great historian, a very great man of letters, and a splendid patriot, though we hardly think a " Protestant " in the ordinary meaning of the word. At any rate, Mr. Fisher's estimate is generous ; and it atones for his previous misjudgment, which was itself a lamentable exhibition of inaccuracy (Fortnightly Review, December, 1894), and has unfortunately passed from the ephemeral pages of a magazine into the classical Introduction aux Etudes Historiques by MM. Langlois and Seignobos, which is a standard work of reference for the whole world on the theory and practice of historical writing. Otherwise, Mr. Fisher's singularly ironical and infelicitous illustration of Froude's inaccuracy might have been forgotten, with many other news- paper attacks on a great man. We read also, with much approval, that " the best short history of the reign is A. F. Pollard's Henry VIII." " The book is clear, learned, forcible, written from the Protestant standpoint, but at the same time most damaging to the King." The words in italics are astonishing ; because Mr. Pollard's volume conveyed to the present writer exactly the opposite notion of his meaning. We thought his vindication of Henry VIII. was more thorough and convincing than Froude's.
It is with no motive of depreciation that we have lingered over some trivial blemishes, or perhaps we should say some dubious and controversial matters, in Mr. Fisher's volume; because his work, by the goodness of the writing, the clearness of the exposition, the soundness and strength of the judgments, and the fine impartiality of the treatment, is one of the most successful and most satisfying volumes in the whole series. It also covers the most decisive epoch in our history. Henry VII. assured us a wise and strong central government after several generations of weakness and disorder. Henry VIII. made the English people masters for the first time in their own house by ejecting a foreign power which threatened the supremacy of the Crown over many persons and much property within the realm. By these measures, as well as by organising the Navy and its administration, he started us on that career of national consolidation and Imperial development which was so splendidly continued by the wisdom and courage of Eliza- beth. We owe an incalculable debt to the three great Tudor Sovereigns, and their reigns were the turning-point in our fortunes, from which all our subsequent progress has been derived. The two weak reigns between Henry VIII. and Elizabeth show what the domestic and foreign dangers were, from which we only escaped by the uncompromising rigour of our Sovereigns.
It is impossible within any reasonable space to give an adequate notion of all the volumes in this great history, or of the innumerable matters with which they deal so ably and fully. We must be content with having drawn attention to the period in which our modern development began, and to the personages to whom we owe its inspiration, direction, and opportunity. All that we can do now, perhaps, is to remind our readers of Gray's " Ode for Music," in which he figures a solemn and stately historical procession of Cambridge bene- factors. We may realise to ourselves in that way the much greater procession of English history, composed of all our national benefactors : all the men of action, thought, and speech who have made us what we are. Or, again, if we would visualise our marvellous and romantic story, we must go back to the little pirate settlement in Hampshire, the begin- nings of the old kingdom of Wessex, as it is described in Dr. Hodgkin's volume, and follow its growth till in the seventeenth century the " Britannick Empire," in Milton's phrase, was built up "to a glorious and enviable heighth with all her Daughter hands about her." "Stay us in this felicitie," he adds, as he saw the coming of a civil war : but we have not "stayed " ; after weathering that storm and some others, we have developed into that Victorian Empire, made up of continents instead of islands, with which our Political
History concludes. The two maps, in the first volume and in the last, enable us to realise the wonder and extent of our romance. The volumes themselves will show us some of the causes, and give us a knowledge of most of the details.
Perhaps four causes are chiefly responsible for the growth and stability of our political fabric: liberty of the person, security of property, the control of the purse as against the Executive, and a regular administration of justice. From these primitive germs all our other liberties have been developed. But if liberty be hardly won and maintained, it is lost easily. It may degenerate into license and anarchy, and its worst enemy is the misuse of itself. The tyranny and injustice of a mob or of a class are worse than any others; and King Demos is much the most destructive, terrible, and pitiless of all rulers : he has neither heart nor conscience; and any logical Socialism would mean the enthronement of this monster, who would sterilise life, progress, individuality, and human society itself.
It is still true, as Herodotus tells us (Hist. I. 71), that the disciplined and hardy nations have both the will and the power to dispossess the undisciplined and lax. The story of Macedonia in the old world and of Prussia in the modern world should serve to warn us of our dangers. An undrilled nation is never safe, either from internal cankers or external foes, and the members of a State are only half citizens unless they are both willing and able to defend their country. The land of a country is meant not only to produce food and wealth, but still more to nourish and train men who are able to cultivate one and to defend the other. England has been perhaps more often and thoroughly conquered than any other European country, but always and only when she has failed to have a sufficient Navy. Romans, Scandinavians, Normans came in because we had no ships. The Spaniards and Napoleon were kept out because we had. It is only so that other invaders will be kept out, and unless we keep a domi- nating Navy our social reforms and our liberty itself will be an idle dream. As idle, as imaginary, too, will be our Empire unless we can make it a reality by some common and practical agreement for commerce and defence. At present the Empire is not even a diplomatic term ; it is only a sentimental phrase.
A very large measure of thanks is due to the publishers of this truly national and patriotic work, and to all who have been concerned with its production. The twelve volumes amount to over six thousand pages. They cover two thousand years of history. The type is admirably clear. The paper is mellow in tone and soft in texture, pleasing to handle, and kindly to the eyes. The whole arrange- ment is practical and simple. The notes are to the point, and are not overdone. Similar praise may be given to the biblio- graphical matter, which is judicious and select. The genealogical tables are serviceable; but the culmination of all these excellences is in the maps, which are of unusual merit. As there are twelve volumes, there are twelve indexes. These, we must confess, are neither so full, nor so detailed, nor so well arranged as they might be. We should have liked to see in each volume a separate index of persons, places, subjects, and authorities, and the want of a general index to the whole work raises a question which we hope will be pondered seriously when another edition is required. We may remark farther, in connexion with two of the indexes, that Milton is treated badly. In Vol. VII. a reference is given by the index to p. 292, on which he is not mentioned; and in Vol. VIII. there is a similar mistake on p. 452. In Vol. V., p. xii., the name of Pico della Mirandola is blundered by the printer.