Excerpt from The Russian People
When the average man, in search of information on a subject which he knows little or nothing of, has recourse to the best-known authorities, his enthusiasm will often be damped by finding that the author have taken for granted a certain foundation of elementary knowledge on his part, which he lacks. He finds himself at sea; he is met at every turn by allusions to things which he is supposed to know, and which he is ignorant of. The authors he has consulted have not thought it worth while to repeat what they suppose any one interested in the subject is bound to know. Thus the student sometimes finds himself in the position of a foreigner to whom an Englishman talks of the game of cricket under the impression that he is talking to a fellow Englishman. Hopelessly puzzled, he will abandon his study of this particular subject and turn his attention to other things. This is especially true with regard to the study of Russian affairs. The authorities as a rule know so much more than the people who are likely to consult them that the student is confused and baffled. If he reads books dealing with Russian commerce, politics, administration, or literature, he will often find that a certain minimum knowledge of Russian history is taken for granted. Now, it is just this knowledge that he lacks. If, on the other hand, he takes up a volume of Russian history, he will often come across allusions to Russian life and literature which mean nothing to him.
I am far from blaming writers of such books for not supplying the lack.
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