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Concepts of History Books
Renaissance authors imply that the old determines the new; therefore, it is not the new that matters. In concepts of history, these authors argue that it is the past that makes the present. That is, the happenings in the present time fully depend on the happenings of the past. This paper argues in support of these arguments by Renaissance authors. The paper will discuss three books, which support these arguments. These books are The Prince by Machiavelli, History of a Voyage in Brazil by Lery, and The Heptameron by Navarre.
According to Machiavelli (1984), in his book The Prince, leaders need to acquire and maintain power and still remain their subjects favorite. In this book, Machiavelli argues that a prince should be loved and feared at the same time by his subjects. The authors view can only come from the past perception of relationships between the prince and the subjects. A leader should act in the interest of the majority. By this Machiavelli implies that the results justify the process. For instance, to execute a wrong doer in the society; although morally wrong is for the good of the society. This example also justifies Machiavellis claim that the past determines the present. This is because the wrong doer is executed as a result of what he or she did in the past. In addition, the action of executing the wrong doer will be justified after it has happened. Therefore, the people will respect and revere the leader as a result of his or her actions. Actions are all in the past. Therefore, ones past defines his or her future. In this book, Machiavelli gives many examples of past leaders, explains their success and failure. These examples serve to show how the past determines the present and future. Machiavelli quotes, "Whoever believes that with great men new services wipe out old injuries deceives himself". This quotation implies that even if the change was to occur, the past events and occurrences would still have an impact on the things yet to happen. That is, the old injuries will take time to heal. Therefore, before they are healed, even if they are not in the present, their effect will be felt. In addition, even after they are healed they will leave scars that will remind of the old injuries. This quotation also implies that old injuries can cause revenge; therefore, even if there were new men, the old would still be felt. The old cannot be forgotten, regardless of how long it took place. Incidents occurring in the present are the results of something that happened in the past. Therefore, even if a country or an organization has a new face, the old face will still be remembered. In other words, in a new governance face, there is an image of the old face. This argument brings out the theme of history concepts in the book (Machiavelli, 1984).
Navarre (2000), in his book, The Heptameron argues that, the old leads most of the present occurrences. In this book, the author talks about love, marriage and fidelity issues. These concepts clearly support the fact of history concepts. To begin with, he presents a story in which a king has an adulterous affair with a mans wife. When the man comes to learn about it, he seeks revenge. The man gets in an adulterous affair with the kings wife in search for vengeance. The man gets into an affair with the kings wife because of the history between his wife and the king. If the king had no affair with the mans wife, the man would not seek revenge. Therefore, the theme of history concepts in this story comes out clearly. The author also argues that, the past leads to almost everything that happens in day- to- day life. He quotes , Unless we have some amusing and virtuous way of occupying ourselves, we run the risk of [falling] sick. This quote implies that what people end up doing is as a result of what has happened to them or what has not happened. If there is nothing virtuous and amusing to occupy them, then, they will get in the wrong things (Navarre, 2000).
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According to Lery (1993) in the book History of a Voyage in Brazil, history determines the future. Past events explain what happens in later dates. This is an unfolding of the first French missionaries in Brazil. These people went to Brazil as a result of what had happened between their country and Portuguese. The men went to Brazil acting upon the command of their leader, in order to counter the dominion of the Portuguese in the land. Even though, the action of these men seemed purely religious and out of good will; it was a result of what had transpired between Portugal and France. The act of going to Brazil seemed like good will and the desire to spread civilization. On the other hand, the act of going to Brazil was a response to the past happenings. This clearly proves that, all human actions are determined by something that happened in the past. The author argues that even if the missionaries wanted to spread the gospel, the reason behind their going to Brazil was plainly to counter the influence of the Portuguese on the people in Brazil. The past has more grasp on human action than the plain motive. The theme of history concepts in this book appears in that the past events in the life of human beings engineer their motives. The author writes that, Going; therefore, unto the place where I heard that musical harmony, I made a hole through the roof of the cottage, that I might better perceive what was done within. This sentence means that he was responding to what he had heard. The music he had directed his motive of making a hole. Therefore, the motive behind human actions depends on the past (Lery, 1993).
In conclusion, the three authors discussed in this paper support the argument that it is not the new that matters but the old. Although, they argue from different perspectives, they seem to concur in their conclusion. Machiavelli argues in terms of leadership, and he justifies leaders actions depending of what had happened for that action to be taken. He says that the past determines how a leader is perceived by his or her subjects. Lery on the other hand, argues from a religious point of view. He gives practical examples about missionaries in Brazil. He concludes his argument that the past dictates the motives of ones present actions. Navarre, on his side, argues from a romantic point of view. He gives examples of families and love affairs. He argues that past events lead to present actions. Therefore, all the three authors agree that the past determines the present; thus, it is not the new that matters, but the old.