Here are some hints:
"End" in this statement means "goal" or "purpose." (cf. "ends" and "means" or "goals" and "methods.")
"This" refers back to whatever "end" there might exist.
"Precious" can mean whatever the reader wants it to mean. But the writer is porbably referring to large acts by persons or groups (wars, campaigns, building bridges, etc.)
Hope that helps.
DUhhhhh.... moment. OK, the word is "previous" not "precious." That's a hang-over from teaching Japanese students who constantly overuse the word, both women and men. I've gotten to the point that whenever I see "pre..." words I just assume they are going to be "precious." Sorry.
"Previous" obviously means the stuff that came before the end.
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