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The Lessons of History : England’s first and greatest historian explains why history is so important.
The Lessons of History

From ‘A History of the English Church and People’, by St Bede of Jarrow (early 8th century). Translated from Bede’s Latin.

St Bede begins his famous ‘History’, written in AD 731, with an open letter to the King of Northumbria, Ceolwulf, explaining that history, rightly told, teaches us to refuse the evil, and choose the good. King Ceolwulf later resigned his throne to become a monk, and a saint.

I WARMLY welcome the genuine eagerness with which you not only apply yourself to listen most attentively to the words of Scripture, but also make the effort to acquaint yourself in detail with the sayings and doings of earlier generations, and particularly the famous men of our own nation.*

For if history relates good things about good men, the attentive listener is stirred to imitate what is good; whereas if it records the evil done by wicked men, the listener or reader who is of a religious and devout disposition, keeping his distance from whatever is harmful and corrupting, will himself be all aflame to pursue, more skilfully than before, those things which he knows are good and worthy in God’s eyes.

* That is, the Kingdom of Northumbria, at its height a kingdom reaching from the what would now be Hull in the south to Edinburgh in the north. See the map of Northumbria in AD 802 below.

From ‘A History of the English Church and People’, by St Bede of Jarrow (early 8th century). Translated from Bede’s Latin.

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Saint Bede of Jarrow (19) Lives of the Saints (95) History (405) County Durham (12) Anglo-Saxon History (44) Northumbrian Enlightenment (30) Bible and Saints (110)

Picture: © Chris Downer, Geograph. Licence: CC-BY-SA 2.0. View original
Modern history... High Petergate in the city of York, with its mediaeval gatehouse. York was the capital of Ceolwulf’s Northumbria, but these walls are ‘late’, dating mostly from the 12th to the 14th century.

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