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History (A Brief Insight) by John H. Arnold
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History (A Brief Insight) (original 2000; edition 2009)

by John H. Arnold

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578725,882 (3.87)10
Member:paixe
Title:History (A Brief Insight)
Authors:John H. Arnold
Info:Sterling (2009), Hardcover, 192 pages
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History: A Very Short Introduction by John H. Arnold (2000)

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
After a discussion of how history developed from Nabonidus's archaeological excavations and Herodotus's writings down to Ranke at the end of the 19th century, we look at historians in action: how they approach sources and choose what sources to approach. Lastly the book considers why people want to do history. ( )
  Robertgreaves | Sep 12, 2014 |
This was the intro text in my history course, and it lives up to its title. ( )
  cargocontainer | Apr 12, 2012 |
John Arnold is a professor of Medieval history in England and has written an excellent 123 page introduction to the field of history. He illustrates his narrative with obscure but interesting examples from Medieval and early Modern to show how historians approach their craft, the kinds of questions they ask, how primary sources are used, and issues such as periodization. He also has an excellent but brief "history of history" from the Greeks to the modern era touching on some of the most important authors and books (for a more in-depth look, see Burrow's excellent A History of Histories (2008)).

Although a lot of this is already familiar to me, probably the most interesting revelation was how historians (and their works) can be classified into "camps" or tribes. History is always more than "just the facts", there is an underlying purpose and approach. However historians are notoriously sly about revealing their position for fear of being seen as prejudiced or non-objective, it usually has to be dug out by the reader or exposed by an intelligent reviewer what approach they are taking. Arnold classifies most histories into three main camps: political, social and cultural. Each sees the prime mover of history through a different lens and borrows techniques and concepts from other fields (political science, anthropology, sociology, economics, etc..). Further, within each camp, historians can often have a key philosophical difference, as seen through the question: were people in the past similar to us, or different from us? This is for example what sets the Annales school apart, they see people of the past as being different from us, exotic and therefore open to a wide range of possible interpretation. Arnold offers his own solution to the problem: people of the past were both, just as people around the world today are both similar and different from us. Arnold likewise has an "on the fence" answer to the old question of what the prime mover of history is- he sees it as simply a series of contingencies, one accident after the next with no single person or institution in control of what happens. In the end I really enjoyed this VSI because Arnold writes with a novelists care, engaging the reader with stories and narrative.

--Review by Stephen Balbach, via CoolReading (c) 2008 cc-by-nd ( )
1 vote Stbalbach | Apr 8, 2008 |
A fine introduction to the history of historical research and current ways of thinking about doing history. Each chapter opens with an example that is used to illustrate the discussion throughout the chapter. ( )
  mschaefer | Dec 23, 2007 |
There are many stories we can tell about the past, and we are not, perhaps, as free as we might imagine in our choice of which stories to tell, or where those stories end. John Arnold's Very Short Introduction is a stimulating essay about how we study and understand history. The book begins by inviting us to think about various questions provoked by our investigation of history, and explores the ways these questions have been answered in the past. Concepts such as causation, interpretation, and periodization, are introduced by means of concrete examples of how historians work, giving the reader a sense of the excitement of discovering not only the past, but also ourselves.
2 vote antimuzak | May 29, 2007 |
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There are perhaps three kinds of books one can write on the subject of 'history' in general.  (Preface)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 019285352X, Paperback)

There are many stories we can tell about the past, and we are not, perhaps, as free as we might imagine in our choice of which stories to tell, or where those stories end. John Arnold's addition to Oxford's popular Very Short Introductions series is a stimulating essay about how people study and understand history. The book begins by inviting us to think about various questions provoked by our investigation of history, and then explores the ways in which these questions have been answered in the past. Such key concepts as causation, interpretation, and periodization are introduced by way of concrete examples of how historians work, thus giving the reader a sense of the excitement implicit in discovering the past--and ourselves.

The aim throughout History: A Very Short Introduction is to discuss theories of history in a general, pithy, and accessible manner, rather than delve into specific periods. This is a book that will appeal to all students and general readers with an interest in history or historiography.

About the Series:

Oxford's Very Short Introductions series offers concise and original introductions to a wide range of subjects--from Islam to Sociology, Politics to Classics, Literary Theory to History, and Archaeology to the Bible. Not simply a textbook of definitions, each volume in this series provides trenchant and provocative--yet always balanced and complete--discussions of the central issues in a given discipline or field. Every Very Short Introduction gives a readable evolution of the subject in question, demonstrating how the subject has developed and how it has influenced society. Eventually, the series will encompass every major academic discipline, offering all students an accessible and abundant reference library. Whatever the area of study that one deems important or appealing, whatever the topic that fascinates the general reader, the Very Short Introductions series has a handy and affordable guide that will likely prove indispensable.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:02 -0400)

"Do historians reconstruct the truth or simply tell stories? This book suggests that they do both, and that the balance between 'truth' and 'story' is tremendously important to history. Taking us from the fabulous tales of ancient Greek historians to the varied approaches of modern professionals, History: A Very Short Introduction illuminates our relationship to the past by making us aware of how 'history' has changed as a subject. Concepts such as periodization and causation are discussed, but not in a dry or abstract fashion. Instead, the book works through particular historical examples - including a medieval murderer, a seventeenth-century colonist, and an ex-slave woman - to illustrate and explain the ways in which we study and understand history, giving the reader a sense of the excitement of discovering not only the past, but also ourselves."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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