The study of history, like the study of a landscape, should begin
with the most conspicuous features. Not until these have been
fixed in memory will the lesser features fall into their appropriate
places and assume their right proportions.
The famous men of ancient and modern times are the mountain peaks
of history. It is logical then that the study of history should
begin with the biographies of these men.
Not only is it logical; it is also pedagogical. Experience has
proven that in order to attract and hold the child's attention
each conspicuous feature of history presented to him should have
an individual for its center. The child identifies himself with
the personage presented. It is not Romulus or Hercules or Cæsar
or Alexander that the child has in mind when he reads, but himself,
acting under similar conditions.
Prominent educators, appreciating these truths, have long recognized
the value of biography as a preparation for the study of history
and have given it an important place in their scheme of studies.
The former practice in many elementary schools of beginning the
detailed study of American history without any previous knowledge
of general history limited the pupil's range of vision, restricted
his sympathies, and left him without material for comparisons.
Moreover, it denied to him a knowledge of his inheritance from
the Greek philosopher, the Roman lawgiver, the Teutonic lover of
freedom. Hence the recommendation so strongly urged in the report
of the Committee of Ten--and emphasized, also, in the report of the
Committee of Fifteen--that the study of Greek, Roman and modern
European history in the form of biography should precede the
study of detailed American history in our elementary schools. The
Committee of Ten recommends an eight years' course in history,
beginning with the fifth year in school and continuing to the end
of the high school course. The first two years of this course are
given wholly to the study of biography and mythology. The Committee
of fifteen recommends that history be taught in all the grades of
the elementary school and emphasizes the value of biography and of
The series of historical stories to which this volume belongs was
prepared in conformity with the foregoing recommendations and with
the best practice of leading schools. It has been the aim of the
authors to make an interesting story of each man's life and to tell
these stories in a style so simple that pupils in the lower grades
will read them with pleasure, and so dignified that they may be
used with profit as text-books for reading.
Teachers who find it impracticable to give to the study of mythology
and biography a place of its own in an already overcrowded curriculum
usually prefer to correlate history with reading and for this
purpose the volumes of this series will be found most desirable.
The value of the illustrations can scarcely be over-estimated.
They will be found to surpass in number and excellence anything
heretofore offered in a school-book. For the most part they are
reproductions of world-famous pictures, and for that reason the
artists' names are generally affixed.