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No period in the history of one's own country can be considered as altogether uninteresting. Such transactions as tend to illustrate the progress of its constitution, laws, or manners, merit the utmost attention. Even remote and minute events are objects of a curiosity, which, being natural to the human mind, the gratification of it is attended with pleasure.
But, with respect to the history of foreign States, we must set other bounds to our desire of information. The universal progress of science, during the two last centuries, the art of printing, and other ob
have filled Europe with such a multiplicity of histories, and with such vast collections of historical materials, that
the term of human life is too short for the study or even the perusal of them. It is necessary, then, not only for those who are called to conduct the affairs of nations, but for such as inquire and reason concerning them, to remain satisfied with a general knowledge of distant events, and to confine their study of history in detail chiefly to that period, in which the several states of Europe having become intimately connected, the operations of one power are so felt by all, as to influence their councils, and to regulate their measures. :?; ii,
1 SOME boundary then, ought to be fixed in order to separate these periods. An æra should be pointed out, prior to which, each country,
little connected with those around it, may trace its own history apart ; after which, the transactions of every considerable nation in Europe become interesting and instructive to all. With this intention I undertook to write the history of the Em- ' peror CHARLES V. It was during his administration that the powers of Europe were
formed into one great political system, in which each took a station, wherein it has since remained with less variation, than could have been expected after the shocks occasioned by so many internal revolutions, and so many foreign wars. events which happened then have not hitherto
their force. The political principles and maxims, then established, still continue to operate. The ideas concerning the balance of power, then introduced or rendered general, still influence the councils of nations.
age of CHARLES V. may therefore be considered as the period at which the political state of Europe began to assume a new form. I have endeavoured to render my account of it, an introduction to the history of Europe subsequent to his reign. While his numerous Biographers descnbe his personal qualities and actions; while the historians of different countries relate occurrences the consequences of which were local or transient, it hath been my purpose
to record only those great transactions in his reign, the effects of which were universal, or continue to be permanent.
As my readers could derive little instruction from such a history of the reign of CHARLES V. without some information concerning the state of Europe previous to the sixteenth century, my desire of supplying this has produced a preliminary volume, in which I have attempted to point out and to explain the great causes and events, to whose operation all the improvements in the political state of Europe, from the subversion of the Roman Empire to the beginning of the sixteenth century, must be ascribed. I have exhibited a view of the
progress of society in Europe, not only with respect to interior government, laws, and manners, but
respect to the command of the national force requisite in foreign operations; and I have described the political constitution of the principal States in Europe at the time when CHARLES V. began his reign.
work I have been led into several critical disquisitions, which belong more properly to the province of the lawyer or antiquary, than to that of the historian. These I have placed at the end of the first volume, under the title of Proofs and Illustrations. Many
my readers will, probably, give little attention to such researches. To some they may, perhaps, appear the most curious and interesting part of the work. I have carefully pointed out the sources from which I have derived information, and have cited the writers on whose authority I rely with a minute exactness, which might appear to border upon ostentation, if it were possible to be vain of having read books, many of which nothing bùt the duty of examining with accuracy whatever I laid before the Public, would have induced me to open. As my inquiries conducted me often into paths which were obscure or little frequented, such constant references to the authors who have been my guides, were not only necessary for authenticating the facts which are the foun