Conservatism As Safeguard For Historical Research

That conservatism can inspire historical research seems a priori absurd because to seek is to try to bring something new. This is not so. Research is a method, a disposition of mind, which can only be carried out in humility, with respect to its predecessors and to other researchers, taking into account the obligation of reproducibility of results. These requirements have value in history, which is both a human science, and therefore partially conjectural, and the science of a past to which we cannot return. How to avoid uchronia, the will to prove what we would like, or the unverifiable glimpse of such and such a person within history? How to duplicate ourselves, while putting aside our own being in our own time period, which may also affect the very object of our research? How to safeguard the requirement of reproducibility of results even in the social sciences? What if the answer was conservatism?

Writing history is not judging the past but exposing it in its truth, its entirety (that which we will come to know); it is therefore to seek the true, the probable and the possible in time-period that one studies. The historical method fixed in the last three centuries makes it possible to avoid slippages. A new methodology should not be rejected – otherwise, research would be a repetition of what has already been found. But it must fit into existing methods and knowledge.

Thus, the work of J.-P. Vernant has renewed our vision of classical antiquity. But his comparative path was of value only because he also practiced the usual methods and knew the ancient texts perfectly. Going from our time to antiquity, by that reverse reasoning dear to Marc Bloch, only makes sense if the end-point remains consistent with the knowledge we have about the past, through the usual channels.

If this precaution is taken, there is not opposition but enrichment by convergence of reverse reasoning and research (so dear to Jacqueline de Romilly) for what we owe to those who went before. But if we let yourself be carried away by the desire for something new at all costs, we will get a distorted view of the past. Bringing together, by way of a purely anthropological reasoning, the ancient world and some “primitive,” “wild,” or “non-western” ethnic group, as we sometimes do nowadays, will give new conclusions but sometimes an aberrant result or a dead-end because of non-reproducibility of the results: The conclusion of one researcher should be roughly similar to that of another researcher who uses the same sources.

Alongside the method, the exclusivist temptation claims to arbitrarily determine the historical object. The healthy reaction against positivist history sometimes rejects the history of events, the history of battle, political history, in favor of uniquely economic, societal or cultural history, to end up with history of concepts.

Historians have also looked for trendy subjects: foreigners, outsiders, women, etc. But should old areas be rejected? That is to forget their contribution. It is also forgetting to seek to renew old areas by way of new approaches – sociological, psychological, cultural. The study of leadership, or the comparative path brought battle history back to life. We cannot do history by intersecting the givens; traditional fields have their place and participate in the progress of historiography. Coming back to them is not backward-looking.

Searching history for a justification for our current outlook on life is also a dangerous pitfall. We have seen this in the past in Marxist history. We see it now for our conceptions of relations between the sexes or of life. Between current research on the history of sexuality and that of the past on the place of women in history, there is only one difference in expression, only a widening of the problematic.

But when the theorization of gender gives rise to work aimed at grasping history through gender, there is a double risk: finding a justification in the past for our contemporary points of view and modifying history to make it fit in with our views. our designs. Likewise, observe that, in ancient societies, abortion seemed normal as long as there was not coagulation of the sperm in the woman’s body and the fetus did not move – and to note that this corresponds to legal late-term abortion in many contemporary states is correct, but this cannot be used to search history for a justification: scientific knowledge and cultural or religious environments are too different to allow it. This form of moralizing history risks destroying its own purpose.

As we can see, faced with the three temptations of systematic methodical innovation, exclusivism and justifying moralization, conservatism is considered an essential safeguard. It alone will make it possible to revive and understand “this world that we have lost,” in the words of Peter Laslett, and therefore to anchor ourselves in this chain of epochs without which we cannot envisage the future.

Jean-Nicolas Corvisier, professor emeritus in ancient history, and Honorary President of the French Commission of Military History.

The original French version of this article is here translated by N. Dass.

The image shows, “Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Garden,” by John Constable, painted in 1823.

Conservatism And Humanity

In the era of politically correct unified networks, the term conservative is banned, obscurantist stuff, retrograde. Usually conservative makes the pair with medieval, two adjectives disreputable to the vassals of global finance who evidently do not know or pretend not to know “the Middle Ages,” praise Dan Brown’s fantasies and blame those who adore the fantasy of the “middle earth;” lovers of the world upside down, of the lie that becomes truth, imposed by the media power of the new world order.

In reality, between the nineteenth and twentieth century the best thinkers were conservative: Tolkien, Chesterton, Lewis, Belloc, Junger, Spengler, Papini, Prezzolini, Guareschi to name a few.

A conservative is the one who asks the basic questions. Who are we? What am I doing on this spinning ball? What is life? And looks for the answers deep inside! The depths of the heart that shouts, the depths of the brain that paw, to understand, not to surrender to the monotony of the welfare society that often generates malaise, to the alienation produced by the spasmodic search for answers to the ego and the desires of compulsive consumers abandoned to the loneliness of the global mall!

The conservative seeks God, seeks the end; and to do so, he looks to the origin, to those immutable values that characterize the life of man in all ages, so he is reasonable and realistic. A conservative could never reasonably claim that killing a sick person or a nascent life can alleviate suffering; he could never think that children are not born from a mother and father, from a man and a woman; he could never believe that wealth can be produced through speculation and not through enterprise. A conservative believes in simple things; those that have always happened, every day, a man and a woman love each other and generate life; a man invests his possessions in a productive activity to build a community of workers called enterprise. This is why the conservative loves the Fatherland, puts the community at the center of society, the person before the state and the market.

The ridge of the cultural and political challenge is no longer between the old ideologies; the line of the new conflict is between the inhuman anthropology that descends from the relativist ideology and the positive anthropology that descends from an integral humanism. A conservative, and therefore authentically popular and identity-oriented, project is needed to put man back at the centre of his essential relationship with God, to defend his dignity from conception to the natural end, to affirm a new economic and social paradigm that has as its reason the common good.

Reading the Gospels, I have always been struck by the fact that, in reference to the events concerning the life of Jesus and his relationship with his mother, Mary, the evangelists always write that she “kept all these things meditating on them in her heart.” What are they telling us with this? That a woman, in the face of the events of life, even those she does not understand, does not refuse, but keeps in her heart; does not throw away, but meditates. After all, the Truth is imprinted in the hearts of all men, and all seek it, even those who deny it, even those who today are at the service of their only god, money. Is there hope? And it is in the heart of each one of us, after all, to cultivate this hope. To set out on this journey means to be conservative. You give the answer! Don Bosco said to a pious woman, worried that Christians had become a minority – Is God with us? If God is with us we, are the majority!

Federico Ladicicco, graduate of the Department of Economics and Business at La Sapienza University of Rome, is an entrepreneur, and National President of ANPIT – the National Association for Industry and the Tertiary Sector. In the academic year 2016-2017, he was a lecturer in Economics at the Ecampus University of Rome. From 2008 to 2012, he was Vice-President of the Culture Commission of the Province of Rome, and President of the “Minas Tirith” study centre, an association that promotes and develops the integral formation of the person. He is also the co-author of the book, Santi eroi imprenditori. Storie di mestieri e comunità (Holy Entrepreneur Heroes. Stories of Crafts and Communities).

The image shows, “The Gallery of Cornelis van der Geest,” by Willem van Haecht, painted in 1628.

Un-Education In America

I should begin by saying that I am only twenty-two years old, and therefore anything I have to say about politics can scarcely be credited with authority. Yet I have encountered men and women considerably older, who even occupy seats in Congress, that are perhaps less knowledgable than I about politics: and it is precisely those people who hold positions of authority, half-wittedly directing public opinion. Never would I propose a Green New Deal, and yet one who does is not only a congressional representative, but a leading voice in American politics, vindicating a backslide to the Socialist experiment of our blood-soaked twentieth century.

It seems that the “revolution in consciousness” effected by the Woodstock Festival in ’69 had a short duration. (Nay, for twelve hours?) Those same persons, to whom it was revealed that we can found a world of sustained love and peace, now find themselves as politicians, educators, HR representatives, in short, in any occupation that enables them to exert their dogma of social cohesion. And if it is not the original flower children themselves holding these positions, it is their children, or otherwise trained disciples. The preachers of love have never been so vengeful as they are today.

Love’s fangs may have sunk deeper into western universities than anywhere else. A college student myself, I can share some of what is said and done in lieu of reputable education. First and foremost, the white, heterosexual, gender-solid male is always shown to be less than human, as a “toxic,” “privileged,” and “oppressive” fellow. Were not the enemies dehumanized in past times of war to decrease the pain of killing them, and has not the word “oppression” been used before to create a catastrophic dichotomy? Yet are they repeated.

As for anybody of different sex or skin color, who in lay terms we call the “minority,” the educator will inform him that he is being subjugated by a tyrannical will, all while expressing a pity that even the student might find excessive. “You are oppressed,” the educator says. “Western institutions, western society is rigged such that you are kept at bottom rank. Greedy, white capitalist men have secured for themselves the greatest authority and riches, and through their power they maintain a corrupt social system. Have my sympathy, oppressed one.” or, in some cases, we are told to: “Revolt against the patriarchy!”

At present, nobody takes the academy seriously, for the simple reason that much of academe is ideological, and those who are not are afraid to say anything that will upset the ideologues—who are capable of terminating careers—and lastly because our overall expectation of the educator has diminished, which could easily be considered the inevitable byproduct of a hyper-liberalized society.

Now and again, a learned educator will sneak his way into the university, remaining there for a time until he arrives at his breaking point, wearied by the intellectual impoverishment and laziness visible at every corner and every floor of his building. Such a man ought to stay alert during his stay, lest the Diversity Department get a whiff of his individual, nonconformist practices. More and more colleges possess a Department of Diversity, the lot of them in agreement as to what they expect from students and staff: sameness.

Fortunately, educated men do still exist. One of my professors, of a rare and noble breed, introduced me to the videos and books of Sir Roger Scruton last year. Upon my discovery of such a cultured man, I declared with resolve that Conservatism cannot be for “dummies,” but that it is rather an intelligent man’s approach to the relation between civilization and history.

The smoothness of his English, his charm and wit, his daring to approach big questions with humility and honesty, all made a great impression on me. His personality and achievements will always serve to remind us of the grace and strength of the human being, who is in some cases imbued with undying curiosity and contemplation, all of which is directed toward the enrichment, and not the impoverishment of human existence—which is to say, the search for truth is armed with high and definite values.

Sir Roger Scruton was born of Western Civilization, and looked on it with loving acceptance, acknowledging both the angels and the demons of its past. All of us should be wary of those who, rather than love and accept their family, society, culture and life, have only spite for all that surrounds them, especially when they spite in the name of love and compassion.

Jacob Duggan is a student at Towson University, Baltimore. He is the co-editor (with Zbigniew Janowski) of John Stuart Mill’s collected works, John Stuart Mill: On Democracy, Freedom and Government & Other Selected Writings, and the author of a coming article “The Advent of Liberal-Catholicism in a Victorian Age” in the Australian journal European Legacy.

The image shows, “The Treasures of Satan,” by Jean Delville, painted in 1895.