Courtesy Reuters

The Present Point in History

WHERE does mankind stand in the year 1947 of the Christian era? This question no doubt concerns the whole living generation throughout the world; but, if it were made the subject of a world-wide Gallup Poll, there would be no unanimity in the answer. On this matter, if any, quot homines, tot sententiae; so we must ask ourselves in the same breath: To whom is our question being addressed? For example, the writer of the present paper is a middle-class Englishman of 58. Evidently his nationality, his social milieu and his age, between them, will in large measure determine the standpoint from which he views the world panorama. In fact, like each and all of us, he is more or less the slave of historical relativity. The only personal advantage that he can claim to possess is that he happens also to be a historian, and is therefore at least aware that he himself is a piece of sentient flotsam on the eddying surface of the stream of time. Realizing this, he knows that his fleeting and fragmentary vision of the passing scene is no more than a caricature of the surveyor's chart. God alone knows the true picture. Our individual human aperçus are shots in the dark.

The writer's mind runs back 50 years, to an afternoon in London in the year 1897. He is sitting with his father at a window in Fleet Street, watching a procession of Canadian and Australian mounted troops who have come to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. He can still remember his excitement at the unfamiliar, picturesque uniforms of these magnificent "colonial" troops, as they were still called in England then: slouch hats instead of brass helmets, grey tunics instead of red. To an English child, this sight gave a sense of new life astir in the world. A philosopher, perhaps, might have reflected that, where there is growth, there is likely also to be decay. A poet, watching the same scene, did, in fact, catch and

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