Written in 1938 when the Western world had succumbed to the notion that history is a creature of blind force. A reviewer at the time noted the importance of Croce's belief that "the central trend in the evolution of man is the unfolding of new potentialities, and that the task of the historian is to discover and emphasise this trend: the story of liberty". As Croce himself writes, "Even in the darkest and crassest times liberty trembles in the lines of poets and affirms itself in the pages of thinkers and burns, solitary and magnificent, in some men who cannot be assimilated by the world around them." The first edition in English of "History as the Story of Liberty" appeared in London in 1941. The new Liberty Fund edition includes modest improvements to the translation by Folke Leander and arranged by Claes Ryn.
History as the History of Liberty
HEGEL'S famous statement that history is the history of liberty was repeated without being altogether understood and then
spread throughout Europe by Cousin, Michelet and other French writers. But Hegel and his disciples used it with the significance which we have criticized above, of a history of the first birth of liberty, of its growth, of its maturity and of its stable permanence in the definite era in which it is incapable of further development. (The formula was: Orient, Classic World, Germanic World = one free, some free, all free.) The statement is adduced in this place with a different intention and content, not in order to assign to history the task of creating a liberty which did not exist in the past but will exist in the future, but to maintain that liberty is the eternal creator of history and itself the subject of every history. As such it is on the one hand the explanatory principle of the course of history, and on the other the moral ideal of humanity.
Benedetto Croce (1866-1952) - Italian philosopher, historian, and critic. He lived mostly in Naples, devoting himself to studying and writing. He founded and edited (1903-44) Critica, a review of literature, history, and philosophy, which in 1944 became Quaderni della critica. Croce was made a senator in 1910 and was minister of education (1920-21). A staunch opponent of Fascism, he lived in retirement until 1943, when he became a leader of the Liberal party. Croce's system of philosophy is related to the idealistic school in that spirit, monistic in manifestation, constitutes the only reality. In his works on aesthetics Croce held that an artist's mental images, communicated by physical artifacts, constitute works of art. Viewing history as an interpretation of the past, he argued that history is not only a form of thought but the culmination of philosophy. The general title of the work presenting his system is Philosophy of the Spirit (1902-17; tr. 1909-21), which is divided into four parts, Aesthetic as Science of Expression and General Linguistic, Logic as the Science of Pure Concept, Philosophy of the Practical, and History: Its Theory and Practice. Among his other works are A History of Italy, 1871-1915 and History as the Story of Liberty.