That I would want to displace the work of practicing empirical historians with this Idea of world history, which is to some extent based upon an a priori principle, would be a misinterpretation of my intention. It is only a suggestion of what a philosophical mind (which would have to be well versed in history) could essay from another point of view. Otherwise the notorious complexity of a history of our time must naturally lead to serious doubt as to how our descendants will begin to grasp the burden of the history we shall leave to them after a few centuries. They will naturally value the history of earlier times, from which the documents may long since have disappeared, only from the point of view of what interests them, i.e., in answer to the question of what the various nations and governments have contributed to the goal of world citizenship, and what they have done to damage it. To consider this, so as to direct the ambitions of sovereigns and their agents to the only means by which their fame can be spread to later ages: this can be a minor motive for attempting such a philosophical history.
Source: Immanuel Kant, “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View” (1784), in Immanuel Kant, On History, edited, with an introduction by Lewis White Beck. Translated by Lewis White Beck, Robert E. Anchor, and Emil L. Fackenheim. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1963, pp. 11-26.
Source of original German text: Immanuel Kant, Schriften zur Anthropologie, Geschichtsphilosophie, Politik und Pädagogik [Writings on Anthropology, History, Politics, and Pedagogy]. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1964, pp. 33-50.