Bertrand Russell on World History

Palette cleanser.

At some point I subscribed to a Bertrand Russell group on Facebook, which does nothing but post, two or three times a week, quotes of passages from his work. The group has a website.

For today, I’ll just leave this here.

“History should be taught as the history of the rise of civilization, and not as the history of this nation or that. It should be taught from the point of view of mankind as a whole, and not with undue emphasis upon one’s own country.

Children should learn that every country has committed crimes and that most crimes were blunders. They should learn how mass hysteria can drive a whole nation into folly and into persecution of the few who are not swept away by the prevailing madness.

They should be shown movies of foreign countries in which the children, though aliens, would be enjoying much the same pleasures, and suffering much the same sorrows, as those enjoyed and suffered by children at home.”

— Bertrand Russell, What Is Democracy? A Background Book, published by the Batchworth Press (1953), Reprinted and revised in Fact and Fiction (1961), pp. 78-110

One of the comments to this post strikes home: “I remember hating history lessons at school. Pointless endless lists of kings, battles and treaties.” That was my impression of history too, until recent years, with the whole idea of “big history,” the very idea Russell advocated. Thus books by Harari, Pinker, many others.

The source of the photo looks worth a read: Bertrand Russell: philosopher, mathematician and optimist, from The Guardian.

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