historian. It was as historian, philosopher,nand artist that Carl Beckerngave us his great Heavenly City of thenEighteenth Century Philosophers (onnwhich Peter Gay did not so much asnlay a glove in.his tirade); add to thatnalso wit—precisely the kind of wit thatnwe find in Gibbon.nBless Professor Vaughn for includingnHerbert Butterfield’s “The Dangersnof History.” “The dangers of historynare liable to become much greaternif we imagine that the study of thisnsubject qualifies us to be politicians ornprovides us with patterns which we cannimmediately transpose into the contextnof contemporary politics.” Butterfieldngoes on to say that history is made thenmore dangerous by the fateful affinitynthat seems to lie between it and thenMachiavellis, Napoleons, and Leninsnof the world. He adds, “One of thendangers of history lies in the ease withnwhich these apparently self-evidentnjudgments can be extracted from it,nprovided one closes one’s eyes to certainnfacts. The person who is incapablenof seeing more than one thing at oncen. , . will reach results all the morenquickly and will feel the most assurednin the judgments that he makes.”nBacon’s Idols of the Theatre and thenMarketplace are found as often andnlushly in the minds of historians—whonmight be presumed to have a few morendefenses against them—as of plumbersnand taxi drivers. Consider thenwhole ridiculous story of the so-callednRenaissance in Europe, that of thenfabled Quattrocento in Italy, believedneen to this day by many to be thensupreme eruption in world history ofngenius in philosophy and science andntechnology as well as painting. Thenmyth of such an age began with thenplayers themselves, the humanists, socalled,nin the Italian 15th century.nThey, in their hatred of feudalism andncontempt for church and monastery,ndeclared that they, by virtue of theirnalleged revival of the ancient classics ofnGreece and Rome, had liberated Europe’snmind from the clutch of ecclesiasticalntyranny and launched it into anfuture of unparalleled magnificence.n• So sown, the myth prospered, believednin raptly by most of the philosophes innthe ISth century and transmitted tonMichelet, whose hatred of the Churchnknew no limits. It was Burckhardt,nthough, who most successfully hypno­ntized the modern mind with his Civilizationnof the Renaissance in Italy, anbook that in paper remains a bestseller,nan achievement made ironic bynBurckhardt’s personal hatred and contemptnfor the humanists and all theirncoffeehouse descendants through thencenturies following, including thenphilosophes and the rootless intellectualsnof Burckhardt’s own day in Europe.nAs I say, even at the present moment,ndespite the relentless exposures,nfrom Pierre Duhem on, of the falsitynof the claim of a renascence in thenISth century that ushered in modernnscience and philosophy and laid thenbase of modernity, even a few historians,nand vast numbers of laymen remainnconvinced that something at leastnhappened in that century; enoughnsurely to justify giving a course on thensubject in college and a chapter on itnin school textbooks. As a pessimist, Inam certain that we shall never be letnfree of that laugher “Renaissancenmind” whenever someone of reputednbreadth of knowledge seduces thennewspaper mind. May I say here, beforenconcluding on the subject, that Intoo am, and will forever be, charmed,nnnenchanted, and narcotized by Florencenand Venice.nF. L. Carsten reveals another face ofnClio: that of assiduous regard for thendocuments. No one can take awaynfrom historians—beginning in the lastncentury — a passion for documentsnand their contents that serves admirablynto fortify us against some of thenmore outrageous myths which—likenthat of the Italian Renaissance—go onnand on until finally demolished bynsome serious scholar. I doubt that his-ntorians would relish the comparison,nbut at their best they serve a journalist’snrole in their examination ofnrumors, reports, and alleged miracles.nBoth journalists and historians worknfrom the documents of the case; thatnis, when they are alert to responsibility.nIt is the foremost task of each to tellnthe world, when necessary, that thenemperor in fact has no clothes on.nFrom journalists as well as historiansncome periodically the deadly missilesnwhich bring down for good some ofnthe entelechies and spongy abstractionsnwhich are Christianity’s revengenfor the rationalists’ assault upon thendivine.nOCTOBER 1988/27n