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Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume XII, Part II (1899)

Libby, Orin G.
A study of the Greenback movement, 1876-84,   pp. [530]-543 PDF (3.9 MB)

Page [530]

                      ORIN G. LIBBY, PH. D.
              Instructor in History, University of Wisconsin.
  The economic interpretation of history is one of the most
fruitful contributions of modern historical criticism. It is pe-
culiarly valuable for its concreteness, furnishing a ready means
for comparison with results already reached in other lines, and
for speedily ascertaining the relative value of the new and the
old. The abstract proposition, with its finespun logic, its care-
fully drawn deductions, and its infallible conclusions, is thus
relegated to the limbo of mediaeval rubbish. Its place is now
filled by a really scientific laboratory method.
  It is not a new idea in history or political economy, that en-
vironment modifies man and finds expression in his institutions,
his laws, and his daily economic life. The detailed statis-
tical proof of this in an actual case is not so common, nor is it
easy to demonstrate the rigid working of cause and effect upon
a given community in so narrow a field. What can be shown
to be true for a series of centuries, is not so readily discerni-
ble for a single generation. Yet the tendencies of human life
should be susceptible of concrete expression for any period of
time, however imperceptible their movement, if only the proper
cross section be made and a sufficiently high magnifying power
be applied. Such a favorable time for the study of the economic
causes of political action may be found in some great upheaval
of public opinion, which re-arranges for a moment a consider-
able portion of certain most susceptible communities along the
magnetic lines of self interest.  The old and steadily conserva-
tive forces of tradition are for the time paralyzed in some favor-
able localities and the elemental human desires reassert them-
selves irresistibly. Not all of these disturbances are economic,

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