History of Civilization in England, Vol. 1 of 3
Henry Buckley. History of Civilization in England, Vol. 1 of 3
CHAPTER I. STATEMENT OF THE RESOURCES FOR INVESTIGATING HISTORY, AND PROOFS OF THE REGULARITY OF HUMAN ACTIONS. THESE ACTIONS ARE GOVERNED BY MENTAL AND PHYSICAL LAWS: THEREFORE BOTH SETS OF LAWS MUST BE STUDIED, AND THERE CAN BE NO HISTORY WITHOUT THE NATURAL SCIENCES
CHAPTER II. INFLUENCE EXERCISED BY PHYSICAL LAWS OVER THE ORGANIZATION OF SOCIETY AND OVER THE CHARACTER OF INDIVIDUALS
CHAPTER III. EXAMINATION OF THE METHOD EMPLOYED BY METAPHYSICIANS FOR DISCOVERING MENTAL LAWS
CHAPTER IV. MENTAL LAWS ARE EITHER MORAL OR INTELLECTUAL. COMPARISON OF MORAL AND INTELLECTUAL LAWS, AND INQUIRY INTO THE EFFECT PRODUCED BY EACH ON THE PROGRESS OF SOCIETY
CHAPTER V. INQUIRY INTO THE INFLUENCE EXERCISED BY RELIGION, LITERATURE, AND GOVERNMENT
CHAPTER VI. ORIGIN OF HISTORY, AND STATE OF HISTORICAL LITERATURE DURING THE MIDDLE AGES
CHAPTER VII. OUTLINE OF THE HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH INTELLECT FROM THE MIDDLE OF THE SIXTEENTH TO THE END OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
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If we inquire what those physical agents are by which the human race is most powerfully influenced, we shall find that they may be classed under four heads: namely, Climate, Food, Soil, and the General Aspect of Nature; by which last, I mean those appearances which, though presented chiefly to the sight, have, through the medium of that or other senses, directed the association of ideas, and hence in different countries have given rise to different habits of national thought. To one of these four classes, may be referred all the external phenomena by which Man has been permanently affected. The last of these classes, or what I call the General Aspect of Nature, produces its principal results by exciting the imagination, and by suggesting those innumerable superstitions which are the great obstacles to advancing knowledge. And as, in the infancy of a people, the power of such superstitions is supreme, it has happened that the various Aspects of Nature have caused corresponding varieties in the popular character, and have imparted to the national religion peculiarities which, under certain circumstances, it is impossible to efface. The other three agents, namely, Climate, Food, and Soil, have, so far as we are aware, had no direct influence of this sort; but they have, as I am about to prove, originated the most important consequences in regard to the general organization of society, and from them there have followed many of those large and conspicuous differences between nations, which are often ascribed to some fundamental difference in the various races into which mankind is divided. But while such original distinctions of race are altogether hypothetical,38 the discrepancies which are caused by difference of climate, food, and soil, are capable of a satisfactory explanation, and, when understood, will be found to clear up many of the difficulties which still obscure the study of history. I purpose, therefore, in the first place, to examine the laws of these three vast agents in so far as they are connected with Man in his social condition; and having traced the working of those laws with as much precision as the present state of physical knowledge will allow, I shall then examine the remaining agent, namely, the General Aspect of Nature, and shall endeavour to point out the most important divergencies to which its variations have, in different countries, naturally given rise.
Beginning, then, with climate, food, and soil, it is evident that these three physical powers are in no small degree dependent on each other: that is to say, there is a very close connexion between the climate of a country and the food which will ordinarily be grown in that country; while at the same time the food is itself influenced by the soil which produces it, as also by the elevation or depression of the land, by the state of the atmosphere, and, in a word, by all those conditions to the assemblage of which the name of Physical Geography is, in its largest sense, commonly given.39
The first circumstance by which we must be struck, is that in America, as in Asia and Africa, all the original civilizations were seated in hot countries; the whole of Peru proper being within the southern tropic, the whole of Central America and Mexico within the northern tropic. How the heat of the climate operated on the social and political arrangements of India and Egypt, I have attempted to examine; and it has, I trust, been proved that the result was brought about by diminishing the wants and requirements of the people, and thus producing a very unequal distribution of wealth and power. But, besides this, there is another way in which the average temperature of a country affects its civilization, and the discussion of which I have reserved for the present moment, because it may be more clearly illustrated in America than elsewhere. Indeed, in the New World, the scale on which Nature works, being much larger than in the Old, and her forces being more overpowering, it is evident that her operations on mankind may be studied with greater advantage than in countries where she is weaker, and where, therefore, the consequences of her movements are less conspicuous.
If the reader will bear in mind the immense influence which an abundant national food has been shown to exercise, he will easily understand how, owing to the pressure of physical phenomena, the civilization of America was, of necessity, confined to those parts where alone it was found by the discoverers of the New World. For, setting aside the chemical and geognostic varieties of soil, it may be said that the two causes which regulate the fertility of every country are heat and moisture.171 Where these are abundant, the land will be exuberant; where they are deficient, it will be sterile. This rule is, of course, in its application subject to exceptions, arising from physical conditions which are independent of it; but if other things are equal, the rule is invariable. And the vast additions which, since the construction of isothermal lines, have been made to our knowledge of geographical botany, enable us to lay this down as a law of nature, proved not only by arguments drawn from vegetable physiology, but also by a careful study of the proportions in which plants are actually distributed in different countries.172