Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

Frank William Boreham 1871-1959
A photo F W Boreham took of himself in 1911

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Boreham on Measuring Progress

Heirs of the Ages
F W Boreham encouraged his readers to recognize that they were “heirs of all the ages” by alerting them to the valuable perspectives that come through acquiring a historical consciousness, particularly a sense of human progress.[1] He illustrated this by setting the difficulties of the economic depression in their historical context saying that “most of the ordeals and distresses that we have experienced in recent years are growing pains”.[2] Similarly, when writing of the troubled times of the Second World War he drew upon the examples of history to observe that “in every realm, progress and pain are inseparable”.[3] To some of his readers Boreham’s interpretation of the reality of human evil may have appeared simplistic and glib. While recognizing the horrors of war, Boreham made little effort to voice the questions readers may have been pondering about the problem of evil, the suffering of the innocent and whether humankind was making progress in the moral realm.

Spur to Progress
In 1925, when Australian readers were bombarded with the political slogan, ‘Keep your eye on 1950’, Boreham alluded to the important role of history by advising people to “glance back to the world in 1900”.[4] His contention was that in thinking back twenty-five years to the time when there were “no aeroplanes and no picture-shows” people might be inspired to consider that new inventions or amazing feats, such as the conquest of Mount Everest, might be achievable.

Take the Long View
Boreham believed that acquiring an historical perspective in regard to inventions would encourage people to consider that “the rate of progress is accelerating with the years”.[5] However, in 1921, when reconstruction after the First World War appeared to be too slow for many and when Boreham perceived that “pessimism is uniformly and invariably popular”, he encouraged his readers to take “the long view” through the lens of history to see that civilization “is a story of steady progress” and “the progress even of a nation is only visible to those who will exercise infinite patience and take long, long views”.[6]

Apply the Tape Measure
While Boreham did not write explicit editorials on the subject of progress, he viewed its significant measures to include growth in character and virtues, the possession of national pride, the honoring of a nation’s leaders and servants and the increase of learning. Progress in these spheres would bear fruit in the economic, educational and religious richness of a nation. Levin elaborated further on this concept or ‘law’ when saying, “Progress meant an increase in political and intellectual liberty, a movement toward … ‘humanity,’ a movement away from artificiality or formality toward simplicity, away from torpor and disease toward vigor and health”.[7]

Geoff Pound

Image: 'apply the tape measure...'

[1] Boreham, Mercury, 3 January 1948.
[2] Boreham, Mercury, 9 March 1935.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 24 August 1946.
[4] Boreham, Mercury, 7 February 1925.
[5] Boreham, Mercury, 19 November 1921.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 26 November 1921.
[7] Levin, History as romantic art: Bancroft, Motley, and Parkman, 43.