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Shipman's history books: B. H. Liddell Hart's "Why don't we learn from history?"

I first heard of B. H. Liddell Hart through a casual reference on a political blog in late 2005, where the writer recommended Liddell Hart as a big-picture historian along with Barbara Tuchman, who was already one of my favorite historians.

Intrigued, I looked for Liddell Hart's writings. Fortunately, New Mexico Tech's Skeen Library had a copy of one of his later and more sweeping works, entitled Why don't we learn from history?

I liked this book so much, I decided to type it in and put it up on the Web. That wasn't a huge project, since the original runs only a little over ninety pages in a small format, and I type pretty quickly (see `Shipman's ergonomics page' for material on keyboarding efficiencies).

Although the author was a man of the first two-thirds of the 20th century, I feel this work is still relevant at the highest levels of historical analysis. The author lives among the nuts and bolts of pragmatism, but still points to high ideals in the cases where they can find application. I find echoes of Gandhi in his pleadings that those who battle leave a graceful way out for the opponent, and if victorious, to resist the temptation to kick the opponent while they are down.

The title strikes me as craftily ambivalent. It could be read, “Why is that we can't seem to learn from history?” More optimistically, it could be read as “Perhaps we should learn from history.” The text supports both interpretations, in my opinion.

Click on the link above to read the book.


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John W. Shipman, john@nmt.edu
Last updated: 2005/11/26 00:08:43
URL: http://www.nmt.edu/~shipman/reading/liddell-hart.html