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Now the plot-and-character part of the book is done. We aren’t going to hear any more about any of these people we’ve come to know and love (or at least tolerate).
What we get now are Tolstoy’s final conclusions about the way history was recorded in his time and the way he thinks it should be recorded.
The primary issue he is going to work out here is that history writing is mainly a way of documenting power and the way it passes from one person to another, from one political party to another, or from one country to another. He’s been dealing with this all along, but now we get a straight-up, formal, academic analysis of his thoughts.
So, you know, get yourself a cup of coffee and tape back your eyelids the way they do in A Clockwork Orange...it’s a bit of a slog from here to the end.
Right. Well, history is supposed to record something that’s impossible to record – the life of a nation. How do historians solve the problem? They focus on the few men at the very top of the power food chain.
But where does the power come from? Way, way, back in ancient times, they believed power came from a divine source and that, because of this, the point of history was to do whatever the gods wanted.
Now (i.e., in Tolstoy’s times) no one believes that, so instead historians just find other heroes/leaders and make up any number of arguments for why and how they are guiding the rest of the people.
The problem with this is that it doesn’t explain the insanity of a bazillion people leaving their homes, businesses, and farms, and going off to slaughter a bazillion other people between 1789 and 1812.
History explains what happened by talking about what Napoleon did and what Alexander did in response.
But this answer totally misses the question, in Tolstoy's humble opinion. The question is, what moved the actual people who did the going out and killing? If it’s not some micro-managing divine power, then what is it?