The first thing that stands out from this study is how passionate and volcanic was E. P. Thompson’s intellectual life as a historian, Marxist thinker, and informed campaigner. He was devoted to reason. Indeed, one of the left-wing journals with which he was involved was entitled The New Reasoner.
Hayden White is a controversial figure in the world of history. Study any textbook on the theory and philosophy of history, and you will be assured that his 1973 book Metahistory marked a revolutionary turning point in historical theory.
The writing of history – any history – is shaped by the intellectual environment in which it is written, and by the preoccupations of its writers. As Christopher Tyerman acknowledges in his prefatory remarks, ‘writing history is not a neutral revelation but a malleable, personal, contingent, cultural activity’ (p. xi).
Scholarly research on the Holocaust, carried out in many disciplines but especially in the field of history, is dynamic and constantly progressing; several giant leaps in its expansion can be discerned, mainly since the end of the 1970s.
One could perhaps argue that, so far as the popular academic imagination is concerned, America has never had much of a reputation so far as historical theory goes.
In Remembering the Road to World War Two Patrick Finney (a student of 20th-century international history, history and theory, and collective memory) writes an impressive and informative account, not of the origins of the Second World War, but of the way historians and others have remembered those origins.
As Geoffrey Elton put it, ‘The future is dark; the present is burdensome; only the past, dead and finished, bears contemplation’.(1) We take the concept of ‘the past’ for granted, yet Schiffman argues that the notion of the past as a concept ‘began only fairly recently, during the Renaissance, and did not culminate until the eighteenth century, after which it acquired
A book-length examination of the work of Frank Ankersmit has been long overdue. Ankersmit occupies a curious position in regards to the various skirmishes taking place over the philosophy of history in the past 30 years or so.
The liberal enlightenment idea of progress has promised many benefits over the past 300 years. Liberal progress, we have been told, would provide cures for diseases, remedies for ignorance, alternatives to superstition, and antidotes to poverty. Nothing however has raised higher expectations than liberalism’s claim that it could put an end to war.
The recent upsurge in the popularity of documentaries, historical novels, films and television adaptations of past events and persons has emphasised the fact that there is a public thirst for history that remains largely untapped by the academic profession.