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Ancient History: Evidence and Models (Penguin History) [Paperback]

Sir Moses I. Finley


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Paperback, 27 Aug 1992 --  

Book Description

27 Aug 1992 Penguin History
In this study, the author challenges the prevailing traditions of researching and writing about ancient civilizations. He questions, for example, the special status accorded to classic texts, exposes the false assumptions historians have made, based on limited information, and presents the flaws inherent in conventional explanations of the Greek city-state. Emphasizing the need to ask the right questions in order to expand our understanding of life in the ancient world, this work shows how historians might better deal with the evidence that is available and offers alternative methods that can be used to reconstruct history.


Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (27 Aug 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140134425
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140134421
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 12.7 x 0.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,323,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'The most influential ancient historian of our time Indisputably the most valuable writing on ancient history since 1945.', New York Review of Books --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essays on methodological issues concerning research and writing of ancient history 31 Aug 2013
By E. Jaksetic - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The book consists of six essays, four of which are based on prior lectures and were revised for this publication. The author, a professor of ancient history, discusses various methodological issues that significantly affect the research and writing of history about the ancient world. The six essays discuss the following issues: (1) what constitutes progress in the historiography of ancient Greece and ancient Rome; (2) what kinds of source materials are available to historians of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, and what are the strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of those source materials; (3) how useful and reliable are ancient documents to the historian, especially in light of their often incomplete and fragmentary nature; (4) what does it mean for a historian to try to tell history "how it really was" (Leopold von Ranke's "wie es eigentlich gewesen"); (5) whether historians have failed to discuss war in the ancient world in terms of its own historical context, without interjecting modern anachronisms into their discussions; and (6) the pros and cons of Max Weber's description of the ancient Greek city-state.

In the Epilogue, the author summarizes and reiterates four contentions that constitute the crucial themes for the discussions in his six essays: (i) the study of history is not a science; (ii) because historical evidence does not speak for itself, the historian "must ask the right questions ... and provide the right conceptual context" for the historical evidence; (iii) it is necessary to reject the tradition that ancient sources written in Greek or Latin should be given "a privileged status" and should be considered "immune from the canons of judgment and criticism that are applied to all other documentation"; and (iv) the historian should ask two questions about any ancient written source: "why was it written? why was it 'published'?"

Despite a few lapses into turgid, academic prose, the author discusses the issues in an interesting and thoughtful manner, makes provocative and insightful observations, and offers plausible contentions and arguments to support his ideas. This scholarly book of historiographical essays is addressed to professional historians and serious students of history. Casual readers of history would find this book daunting and difficult to follow and understand. Readers looking for a general survey of historiographical issues or an introduction to historiography should look at other books, such as Ernst Breisach, Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern, Third Edition; John Lewis Gaddis, The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past; and Robert C. Williams, The Historian's Toolbox: A Student's Guide to the Theory and Craft of History.
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