Quoted from the author's "Prefatory" remarks in Volume 1.
"Here I propose to select from the phantasmagoria such genuine advances in the direction of the future civilization as we may find. And, since it is particularly important to learn just what forces or impulses or ideas drove or drew men onward, I choose a hundred representative and
outstanding figures in the sound creative work. Do not ask me to settle first whether great men made the world or the world made great men. That squabble always recalls to my mind a problem over which medieval scholars spent heated days: whether it is the man or the rope that drags the cow to market. In any case, that and the other much discussed question, whether men make their environment or the conditions make the men, will be best answered by the facts. I propose to explore the minds and characters, and also to picture the very varied environments, of the hundred men who have contributed most to the making of a plan of a real and enduring civilization."
"A glance at the list of names will show that I have not selected men of a particular type of personal character. We have to learn from the stories. themselves whether one type of character --- sensual or spiritual, religious or skeptical, intellectual or emotional --- is more.
apt than another to give notable human service. We have to ask, for instance, whether it is the asceticism of Buddha that explains his very real share in the inspiration of the civilization of Asia, and whether the sensuality of Caesar or of Charlemagne restricted his usefulness. We must consider whether the .great work of Hammurabi or Asoka was inspired by his religion, and whether the atheism. of Confucius or of Hadrian made his service to the race less than it ought to have been."
"Some will complain, of course, that I have clearly consulted my own prejudices in including, for instance, Epicurus instead of Marcus Aurelius, Theodoric instead of St. Augustine, Lester Ward instead of Emerson, Renan instead of Tolstoi. My own readers know that my selection is based upon the mass of critical historical work that I have already published. I am not guided by the length of articles in biographical encyclopaedias or the conventional repetition of
names in current literature. I am not concerned with qualities of individual conduct which many loudly praise yet have not the least desire to see included in the modern ideal of life."
These 17 volumestotal to 1138 pages.