The History of the World, 1902, Vol. 1 of 8: A Survey of Man's Record (Classic Reprint)

9781331664550: The History of the World, 1902, Vol. 1 of 8: A Survey of Man's Record (Classic Reprint)
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Excerpt from The History of the World, 1902, Vol. 1 of 8: A Survey of Man's Record

When, in 1894, the undersigned editor received from the Bibliographical Institute the commission to prepare an outline of the "History of the World," there was no longer room for doubt as to the spirit in which the problem must be solved if the undertaking were to be properly adapted to the encyclopædic form of publication. Familiarity with the anthropogeographical views enunciated by Friedrich Ratzel in the introduction to his "Völkerkunde" gave the editor reason to believe that an arrangement of the new "History of the World" differing from all previous works of the kind - one which would form a compilation of the history of the whole human race on the earth - was not simply permissible, but greatly needed. It followed as a matter of course that the assured results of palæontological research and also the development of so-called savage into half-civilised peoples must be examined. After mature consideration and conscientious examination of all other possible methods, that of grouping from an ethnographical standpoint was selected as the principle of arrangement least open to objection.

Ethnographical division having been decided upon, it was now necessary to find the right point at which to begin. On practical grounds we decided on America; and scientific considerations supported the choice. Ratzel says, in his introduction to the section on the races of Oceania ( "Volkerkunde," 2d ed. Vol. I. p. 136): "However much we compare individual characteristics of peoples in similar stages of civilisation we find the inhabitants of America resemble most those who dwell westward from them. When we look at a map on Mercator's projection, showing the earth and its peoples, we find that the Americans occupy a position on the eastern wing, opposite to and most distant from those whose habitation is on the eastern edge of the dividing abyss of the Atlantic Ocean. As the eastern part of the Pacific-American territory of the Rocky Mountains, America is also the east of the inhabited earth." A new meaning is thereby given to the old proverb, Ex oriente lux. In order, however, to avoid being misunderstood, we consider it advantageous to specially emphasise the fact that we differ from the view that, on the ground of palæontological discoveries, the new world must be regarded as the home of the human race, because the traces of man in America extend back to a period much more remote than that of Egyptian civilisation. And, however instructive the study of American conditions may be, for the reason that in many respects they precede European developments, yet such considerations have for us their limitations.

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