The New History and the Old: Critical Essays and Reappraisals, First Edition

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9780674615816: The New History and the Old: Critical Essays and Reappraisals, First Edition

The New History and the Old is a marvelously written, perfectly serious, yet vastly entertaining critique of current fashions in the writing of history--social history, psychoanalytic history, quantitative history, Marxist and neo-Marxist history, mentalité history.

As the "new" history is coming to dominate the profession, Gertrude Himmelfarb argues, it tends to supplant rather than supplement the "old," which centered on political, constitutional, diplomatic, and intellectual events. The effect is not only to transform the discipline of history, but also to alter profoundly our sense of the past. A mode of history that belittles politics and ideas denigrates the political institutions and intellectual traditions that have shaped our past, and severs the continuity between past and present, leaving little that is usable in their place.

This provocative analysis of the "revolution in history," as it has been called, has implications that go well beyond the discipline of history itself. It raises fundamental and far-reaching questions about the nature of our postmodern society and will undoubtedly arouse a good deal of discussion and debate along broad cultural lines.

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About the Author:

Gertrude Himmelfarb is the author of many books, including intellectual biographies of Acton, Darwin, and Mill; essays on the Victorians, including Victorian Minds; the social history studies The Idea of Poverty and The De-Moralization of Society; and reflections on contemporary culture, On Looking into the Abyss and One Nation, Two Cultures.

Review:

Gertrude Himmelfarb has an intellect of steel as sharp as a razor. For those who enjoy intellectual debate and a concern for the value of the past, The New History and the Old is as splendid as an Olympic fencing match...[A] remarkable book. (J. H. Plumb Wall Street Journal)

One can only share Ms. Himmelfarb's hope that we shall soon be allowed to 'find a renewed excitement in the drama of events, the power of ideas, and the dignity of individuals'...[The New History and the Old] will serve as a powerful corrective to many unquestioned assumptions. (Neil McKendrick New York Times Book Review)

A scintillating collection...The urgency and the passion cloud neither her intelligence nor her elegant style...With friends like Gertrude Himmelfarb at the ready, the preservation of history's dignity would seem to be in good hands. (The Economist)

[Gertrude Himmelfarb's] belief in the importance of politics can be instructive to all stripes of opinion...Written in a clear, direct style, free of jargon, these essays are emphatic, polemical, cogently argumentative, and very close to the kind of discourse that Himmelfarb finds sorely lacking in the discipline of history as practiced today. (Merle Rubin Christian Science Monitor)

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