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– Preface –

I wanted to use the format of an extended essay to discuss in a relatively short form a great sub- ject that had arisen out of wide historical reading over the last thirty years: why has history taken the course it has? We live in an age of first-class historical writing, with book after book revealing new depths of scholarship and research. The use of documentary evidence in particular, and the opening up of archives that had hitherto been closed either because of repressive regimes that controlled them, or because of statutory time limitations, have put new detail and exactitude into the writing of history.

However, the motives behind the events that are now so accurately recounted are often either taken for granted or otherwise not rendered clearly. I concluded that there was one abiding reason, at least since Thucydides began to record history 2,500 years ago, why events had from time to time changed an apparently set course: and that was the pursuit of power. However, it was not as simple even as that. Power is, I argue in A Short History of Power, pursued by states for one of four reasons: the need to achieve territorial security; the determination to impose a religion on a society; the pursuit ix

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