In Defense of History

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9780393319590: In Defense of History

A master practitioner gives us an entertaining tour of the historian's workshop and a spirited defense of the search for historical truth.

E. H. Carr's What Is History?, a classic introduction to the field, may now give way to a worthy successor. In his compact, intriguing survey, Richard J. Evans shows us how historians manage to extract meaning from the recalcitrant past. To materials that are frustratingly meager, or overwhelmingly profuse, they bring an array of tools that range from agreed-upon rules of documentation and powerful computer models to the skilled investigator's sudden insight, all employed with the aim of reconstructing a verifiable, usable past. Evans defends this commitment to historical knowledge from the attacks of postmodernist critics who see all judgments as subjective. Evans brings "a remarkable range, a nose for the archives, a taste for controversy, and a fluent pen" (The New Republic) to this splendid work. "Essential reading for coming generations."-Keith Thomas

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Review:

In the 19th and 20th centuries, historiographers established scientific methods and standards for the historical profession. History's claims to objective knowledge have recently been critiqued by post-foundationalists who argue that facts cannot exist outside of the "prison house" of language. Richard Evans's In Defense of History not only defends historians from these fashionable barbs, but shows how the discipline is adapting to this assault on its empiricist base.

Like most historians, Evans confronts accusations that history is either dead or mere ideology designed to prop up bourgeois institutions by answering that the past "really happened, and we really can, if we are very scrupulous and careful and self-critical ... reach some tenable conclusions about what it all meant." Evans defends time-honored methods for proving the validity of facts, upholding faith in the notion that causality can be reasonably deduced from the proper chronological arrangement of events. Verification and causation, he points out, do not simply mean that change is initiated by singular people or monolithic institutions, and he rebukes those who portray recent writing in social history in such medievalist terms. Unlike conservative diatribists against postmodernism, Evans believes that the "linguistic turn" can help break historians from the narrowness of theoretical orthodoxy. While critical of postmodern excesses, he supports conjoining various methods of intellectual inquiry so as to deepen the relevance of history in an overly skeptical age. "Why should we not too," he asks, "raid the various genres of historical writing which have been developed over the past couple of centuries to enrich our own historical practice today?" --John Anderson

About the Author:

Richard J. Evans is professor of modern history at Cambridge University. A preeminent historian of Germany, his books include Death in Hamburg and In Hitler's Shadow.

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Book Description WW Norton Co, United States, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. E. H. Carr s What Is History?, a classic introduction to the field, may now give way to a worthy successor. In his compact, intriguing survey, Richard J. Evans shows us how historians manage to extract meaning from the recalcitrant past. To materials that are frustratingly meager, or overwhelmingly profuse, they bring an array of tools that range from agreed-upon rules of documentation and powerful computer models to the skilled investigator s sudden insight, all employed with the aim of reconstructing a verifiable, usable past. Evans defends this commitment to historical knowledge from the attacks of postmodernist critics who see all judgments as subjective. Evans brings a remarkable range, a nose for the archives, a taste for controversy, and a fluent pen (The New Republic) to this splendid work. Essential reading for coming generations. -Keith Thomas. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780393319590

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Book Description WW Norton Co, United States, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. E. H. Carr s What Is History?, a classic introduction to the field, may now give way to a worthy successor. In his compact, intriguing survey, Richard J. Evans shows us how historians manage to extract meaning from the recalcitrant past. To materials that are frustratingly meager, or overwhelmingly profuse, they bring an array of tools that range from agreed-upon rules of documentation and powerful computer models to the skilled investigator s sudden insight, all employed with the aim of reconstructing a verifiable, usable past. Evans defends this commitment to historical knowledge from the attacks of postmodernist critics who see all judgments as subjective. Evans brings a remarkable range, a nose for the archives, a taste for controversy, and a fluent pen (The New Republic) to this splendid work. Essential reading for coming generations. -Keith Thomas. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780393319590

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