The emperor Honorius, whose reign was not adequately explained until the current historical theory came into fashion.

Dear Dr. Boli: I was speaking with an academic of my acquaintance, a professor of history in fact, who told me that the histories written in the nineteenth century and before are all out of date and useless now, because they subscribed to the “Great-Man Theory” of history, which he said is now completely discredited. Is that true? I ask because I was preparing a new edition of a little history of the world in five books that I published some time ago, but if it is of no use to the public I shall not bother to reissue it. —Sincerely, W. Raleigh.

Dear Sir: Your informant is correct in saying that the “Great-Man Theory” of history, which posited that history was largely a record of the deeds of certain “great men” who guided the destinies of nations, has been almost unanimously rejected by academic historians of the current generation. It has been superseded by the “Arrogant-Imbecile Theory,” which assumes that history is largely a record of the gross miscalculations of a series of arrogant imbeciles. This is a theory that was first enunciated by Dr. Boli himself some time ago, but he is a little reluctant to claim it and take his own place in history, given the current academic climate, for which he himself is partly responsible.


  1. The obvious question thus becomes, was it a Great Man or an Arrogant Imbecile who fought against the academic currents of theory in order to impose the Arrogant Imbecile Theory on the world of historical scholarship?

  2. Gill says:

    I applaud Dr Boli for his hitherto unsuspected feminist leanings!

    The ‘Great Man Theory’ explicitly denies women their place in the annals of history; but even the most sexist individuals must surely admit that women are just as capable as men of being arrogant imbeciles.

  3. Mary Anne says:

    As a populist, I have to believe that neither great men nor outstanding arrogant imbeciles have the dominant role in history. Like those who oppose the Great Man theory, I think that leaders can only make huge changes when the majority of their followers believe the same way and that given that majority, any leader rising at that period in history would move the tribe/city-state/state/nation/empire in the same general direction. However, whether the followers are largely people with the potential for greatness or largely arrogant imbeciles is a different philosophical question.

    I would have to disagree slightly with “Gill” above. While women are just as likely to be imbeciles, I think we tend to be less arrogant about our imbecile theories than men are. We save our real arrogance for poorly-considered, snap judgements of other people.

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