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In Defence of History
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393319598, Paperback)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
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 14 Feb 2013 13:33:21 -0500)
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