The first selection was written by Carl L. Becker (1873-1945), for many years professor of history at Cornell University (1917-1941), and one of the most highly respected members of his profession. One of his particular interests was the Enlightenment, about which he wrote a famous book: The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth Century Philosophers (1932). But while he clung to his fascination with the Enlightenment, Becker was in revolt against the "scientific history" which it had largely fostered. The ideal of scientific history, he thought, was noble enough, but unattainable and useless. Influenced by pragmatism, Becker asked the question: Can there by anything like objectively written history? Is the raw material from which it is to be derived a string of "pure" facts that the historian himself so deeply involved in his own cultural milieu that he reads into the past his own presuppositions (whether he wants to or not) and to a considerable extent finds what he wants there, both facts and interpretations? [excerpt]
An excerpt from Becker's book, Progress and Power, has been removed due to copyright restrictions. A different edition is available here.
This is the publisher's version of the work. This publication appears in Gettysburg College's institutional repository by permission of the copyright owner for personal use, not for redistribution.
Bloom, Robert L. et al. "1. Carl Becker on Progress. Pt. XXIV: Historical Meaning." Ideas and Institutions of Western Man (Gettysburg College, 1958), 5-17.