In this section, you should explicitly address the issue of how scholars, including yourself, can handle the conceptual questions. This follows the previous point closely. What sources should scholars use and how should they use them? Do you put a preference in studying the French Revolution on the declarations made by revolutionaries, on their public debates, or on what happened ‘on the ground’, including the violent opposition they aroused? If you discuss the latter, you underline the fact that the Revolution led to civil war, and that the causes of what you present as the Revolution were not a mass rejection of the existing system. You also point out that in 1789 few people envisaged what they were expected to support in 1792 (a republic and the trial of the king) let alone 1793 (the Reign of Terror). The Revolution is thus presented and studied as a dynamic, changing process, which requires different explanations at particular stages.
This compromise between pagan and Christian heritages carried over into the nineteenth century, when the liberal vision of history took shape. This is what still lurks in the background of contemporary American historiography The core idea was simple enough: what mattered in history was the sporadic but ineluctable advance of Freedom. This allowed nationalistic historians to erect a magnificently Eurocentric vision of the human past, since Freedom (defined largely in terms of political institutions) was uniquely at home among the states of Europe, both in ancient and in modern times. The rest of the world, accordingly, joined the mainstream of history when discovered, settled or conquered by Europeans. A somewhat spurious global history was easy to construct along these lines. Still, for the first time America, Australia, Africa and Asia found an admittedly subordinate but still significant place in world history, and the entire alobe became a theater for the advance of human Freedom.