The Gender of History: Men, Women, and Historical Practice

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9780674002043: The Gender of History: Men, Women, and Historical Practice

In this pathbreaking study of the gendering of the practices of history, Bonnie Smith resurrects the amateur history written by women in the nineteenth century--a type of history condemned as trivial by "scientific" male historians. She demonstrates the degree to which the profession defined itself in opposition to amateurism, femininity, and alternative ways of writing history. The male historians of the archive and the seminar claimed to be searching for "genderless universal truth," which in reality prioritized men's history over women's, white history over nonwhite, and the political history of Western governments over any other. Meanwhile, women amateurs wrote vivid histories of queens and accomplished women, of manners and mores, and of everyday life.

Following the profession up to 1940, The Gender of History traces the emergence of a renewed interest in social and cultural history which had been demeaned in the nineteenth century, when professional historians viewed themselves as supermen who could see through the surface of events to invisible meanings and motives. But Smith doesn't let late twentieth-century historians off the hook. She demonstrates how, even today, the practice of history is propelled by fantasies of power in which researchers imagine themselves as heroic rescuers of the inarticulate lower classes. The professionals' legacy is still with us, as Smith's extraordinary work proves.

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From the Back Cover:

In this pathbreaking study, Bonnie Smith shows how the practices of history, and indeed its very definition, have been shaped by gender. The male historians of the archive and the seminar prioritized men's history over women's, white history over non-white, and the political history of the Western governments over any other. From this environment Smith resurrects a neglected world of amateur history written by women, a world deemed trivial by their male counterparts, but one that holds essential lessons for our understanding of history today.

About the Author:

Bonnie G. Smith is Professor of History at Rutgers University.

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