When he describes the past the historian has to recapture the richness of the moments, the humanity of the men, the setting of external circumstances, and the implications of events; and far from sweeping them away, he piles up the concrete, the particular, the personal; for he studies the changes of things which change and not the permanence of the mountains and the stars. To recover the personality of Martin Luther in a full rich concrete sense – including of course all that some people might consider to be the accidents and non-essentials – is not only the aim of the historian, but is an end in itself; and here the thing which is unhistorical is to imagine that we can get the essence apart from the accidents; it is to think of Luther in terms of a formula, “the founder of Protestantism”, “the apostle of religious liberty”.

Butterfield, pointing out the point of history is to understand persons.

“There is a kind of awareness that only comes through insight and sympathy and imagination, and is perhaps absent from us when we are too alert for a purely scientific end….It is necessary that we should go with instinct and sympathy alive and all our humanity awake.”


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