Quoted from the author's "Preface:"
"The last twenty years have witnessed a progress of science which it is difficult for us to estimate. The nineteenth century was justly called "the century of science" in comparison with its predecessors, but, if our century sustains the pace of advance with which it has opened, it will win an intellectual triumph to which the whole chronicle of man affords no parallel. It is something to reflect that this great mental and moral achievement belongs to an age which is too often accused of selfishness and narrowness of interests: and that it is in large part the brilliant work of American men of science — notably astronomers, geologists,
physiologists and psychologists — which has thus carried the mind of the race far above every previous mental altitude."
"Amongst the dramatic advances of knowledge which make up this broad triumph of the mind none is, perhaps, more attractive than the recovery of the early chapters of our own human story. No other, certainly, more vividly impresses upon us the new intellectual power of the race. We have but to imagine some learned orator in one of the marble-fronted halls of the old Roman Forum, or some philosopher in one of the tranquil suburban gardens of Athens, telling his fellows all that six great civilisations had learned about the earlier history of man! They knew not one thousandth part of what we know about cities which were even then crumbling into ruins within a few hundred miles of them."
"Modern science has passed its magical wand over the ruins. Languages that died more than two thousand years ago have come to life once more. Cities that were buried so deep that the memory of them had passed from the lips of the race live again, with surprising fulness and colour, in the pages of our archaeologists. We walk in the spacious chambers of Assyrian palaces or Egyptian temples. We tread the quays of Babylon; gaze from the civic centre of Athens at the exquisite buildings which shine on the hill above us; peer into the
homes of artisans who laid down their tools in Crete three thousand years ago; join the pampered worker of ancient Rome in his "Trade Union" wage or his princely entertainments."
"But greater than all this richness of detail is the connected narrative of the story of civilization which we can now put together. Deep in the Nile 's mud, and scattered over Europe, are ample traces of the pastoral folk who passed into what we call civilization. Deeper still are relics that man dropped upon the soil during half a million years' journey from lowest savagery to the threshold of civilization; and even during the earlier million years, when man was too early in intellect to leave his imprint upon any object, we faintly discern him, a wandering, naked, hairy savage, moving slowly and unconsciously toward his destiny."
"Today, for the first time in the whole history of the race, the long evolution is broadly intelligible. The mists still lie upon many a lower level of the crawling human pilgrimage, but enough is plain to give us a reasonable view of the entire course. I have in an
earlier work, "The A. B. C. of Evolution," given, for people of little leisure, a sketch of the upward climb of life to the primitive human level. Here is presented on the same simple and summary lines, a continuation of the life-chronicle through its first human phase, as far as the tragic fall of Roman civilization, the greatest catastrophe in the human calendar."