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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway (21 Jan. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1581349238
  • ISBN-13: 978-1581349238
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.2 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 593,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Bought, not read. Intellectual analysis.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Walker on 13 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
How do you do history? Carl Trueman sets out to answer the question briefly and cogently, examining the issues of neutrality (unobtainable) and objectivity (attainable and desirable) in the study of history, taking Holocaust Denial as a case study. He moves on to the idea of interpretative frameworks, and their strengths and weaknesses as tools (Marxism the example, with Christopher Hill its chosen exponent). Then he addresses anachronism, the pressures and temptations that arise from the collision between the historian's present and the past object of his study. Finally, he looks at common historical fallacies, a brief survey of typical errors made in the study of the past. After an historical postscript, the whole closes with a paper on the reception of John Calvin's thought in which the author is presumably seeking to exemplify his principles. Anyone who has sat through a historical paper of some sort in which the historian has surveyed history in order to confirm himself in the precise position which he has always held will appreciate this book. Those who read and study for the same purpose will be rebuked and instructed. The wit of the writing, the emphasis on the practical , and the recommendations for further study make this an excellent historiographical primer which will hopefully help those who pursue church history to go to work with competence and confidence.
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Amazon.com: 12 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
History for all! 30 Dec. 2010
By J. D. Griffiths - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Carl Trueman holds a PhD, is professor of historical theology and church history at Westminster Theological Seminary, and also happens to be a fellow expat Brit living in the United States. As such he carries a certain dry wit which is wielded against prime targets and, as allows, himself. He also happens to have written two books this year, both of which have served to expand my knowledge in fields I know pitifully little about from my own remembrance and study. Back in September, he unleashed Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative (P & R Publishing) which gave more than adequate voice to my own feelings of disassociation within the American political landscape. The second book is from Crossway Books, and deals not with the content of a field of study so much, but more with the processes by which that arena is worked within.

Histories and Fallacies: Problems Faced in the Writing of History comes across as a condensed course on the art of history. Drawing from his deep knowledge of the field, Trueman explores four major problems faced in the writing and studying of history and for each of these finds captivating case studies to prove his point. At once technical and compelling, I found myself actually interested in history for once (distant memories of dusty schoolrooms, monotone schoolmasters and drooping eyelids were long gone) and understanding the complexities of the retelling of past events from a contemporary perspective.

The opening case study deals with the peculiar and repugnant issue of Holocaust Denial. It is in this opening chapter that Trueman comes out strong against the modern fad of relativizing everything. As he points out here, "unbiased" and "objective" are not the same thing. No worthwhile history can be truly unbiased. It will always have certain things chosen in the telling and others left out, and the painting of characters will be swayed by the story to be told, but that does not mean that all history is equally true, or that there can be no objectivity in the study and writing of history. The scientific aspect of history allows for the verification of fact that then lends to the theories of history that make up the more artistic end of the endeavor.

Other case studies include the time Martin Luther went all anti-Semitic (yes, he did, but it turns out it wasn't all that uncommon a perspective in his own time frame - no less wrong, but not as shocking as it seems from today's vantage), the comprehension of Calvin amongst his peers and how his ideas were received and grown after him, and also a good long look at both the positive and negative aspects of Marxist theory in evaluating history.

Though I wouldn't recommend this book to all, I do wish they'd all read it anyway! Trueman has done us all a great service by pointing out our own faults and foibles when it comes to the telling of history (and it is something we all do in our own lives), and steers those of us who could be so easily fooled into more critical thinking about the subject as it applies to all areas of life. This is not a book exclusively for Christians, though Trueman certainly shares from his own love of church history. Instead, it is a book of warning and guidance for the would-be historian, the History Channel aficionado, and the young man in class who never realized how good history could be!

A review copy was provided to me at no charge by the publisher. No attempt was made to gain a favorable review, and all opinions and recommendations expressed are the author's own.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Become A Discerning Historian 2 Feb. 2011
By E. Hankins - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I have become increasingly aware of and interested in the need to exercise discernment in the arena of history studies. (This is largely due to following Simonetta Carr's blog which chronicles "The making of Christian biographies for young readers." It has been a lot of fun to "watch" her piece together the truth of history. I am grateful for her willingness to share her journey and for the example that she sets.) As a result, I was excited to learn that I would have the opportunity to review Histories and Fallacies: The Problems Faced in the Writing of History by Carl R. Trueman. I must confess at the outset of this review that I am incredibly "out of my league" with this particular title. I realized very quickly that my vocabulary is extremely narrow and that I am woefully lacking in my knowledge of basic history (and current events pertaining to said history). However, in spite of my limitations, I was able to glean a good deal from this book.

The Introduction serves as a road map of sorts ad is a very good one at that. In Chapter 1, Trueman discusses the difference between neutrality and objectivity. While no historian will be neutral in his/her retelling of the past, there will be verifiable facts, evidence, etc. by which one may ascertain what actually occurred. Trueman walks through some of the claims of those who deny the Holocaust in order to bring to light some of the basic strategies of good (and bad) historical method.

Trueman then moves to a discussion of interpretive frameworks in Chapter 2. Call it what you will: worldview, presuppositions, ideological commitments, beliefs; we all have them, and they drastically influence how we interpret the truth, including the truth about the past. Truman chooses to demonstrate the strengths and limitations of interpretive schemes by evaluating Marxism.

Chapter 3 addresses the problem of anachronism. This was a new term for me and really made me feel like I was back in college with a bunch of intellectuals...and a bit out of my league. However, anachronism isn't nearly as complex as it sounds; it merely refers to the fact that the historian is in the present while addressing questions to the past. This time gap creates a whole host of problems similar to a tourist visiting a foreign country. Trueman highlights many of these problems and says, "Simply to be aware of the potential problem is a crucial move toward avoiding it" (pg. 115). This chapter, like the ones that go before it, is full of helpful reminders including the need to be modest in the conclusions one draws (pg. 140).

Finally, Chapter 4 is a treatment of various issues to which historians can be prone and of which they ought to be aware (oversimplification, generalization, poor framing of questions, etc.). Once again, Trueman makes statements that are pertinent to all of life. Fox example, he spends time relaying the importance of asking the right questions.

"...the framing of a question can shape the answer" (pg 162).

"...often, questions are clearly driven by particular ideological commitments that arguably lead to distorted answers" (pg. 163).

In layman's terms, we tend to ask loaded questions.

Mr. Trueman rightfully acknowledges that he has "barely scratched the surface of what it means to write history" (pg. 169). While I would have liked to have seen greater depth in certain aspects, especially with regard to how a Biblical worldview affects ones' study of history (as opposed to merely focusing on Marxism), I believe Mr. Trueman gives his reader a great start. In my case, he has successfully fulfilled his objective "to ignite that interest [in understanding the past] in others, to guide them away from dead ends and methodological mistakes to fruitful and creative avenues of approach, and to help in some small way the next generation of those who wish to make history come alive for future generations" (pg 181).

In conclusion, Histories and Fallacies is a book I would loved to have understood before or during my college years. However, I am grateful for the opportunity to read and process the material now and look forward to using the knowledge that I have gleaned to be a more discerning reader across multiple disciplines. I trust many others will greatly benefit from it as well.

*Many thanks to Crossway for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Very useful introduction to the historian's craft 13 Aug. 2011
By Walker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
How do you do history? Carl Trueman sets out to answer the question briefly and cogently, examining the issues of neutrality (unobtainable) and objectivity (attainable and desirable) in the study of history, taking Holocaust Denial as a case study. He moves on to the idea of interpretative frameworks, and their strengths and weaknesses as tools (Marxism the example, with Christopher Hill its chosen exponent). Then he addresses anachronism, the pressures and temptations that arise from the collision between the historian's present and the past object of his study. Finally, he looks at common historical fallacies, a brief survey of typical errors made in the study of the past. After an historical postscript, the whole closes with a paper on the reception of John Calvin's thought in which the author is presumably seeking to exemplify his principles. Anyone who has sat through a historical paper of some sort in which the historian has surveyed history in order to confirm himself in the precise position which he has always held will appreciate this book. Those who read and study for the same purpose will be rebuked and instructed. The wit of the writing, the emphasis on the practical , and the recommendations for further study make this an excellent historiographical primer which will hopefully help those who pursue church history to go to work with competence and confidence.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Interesting Read for History Fans 25 Jan. 2011
By Michael Leake - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Carl Trueman is a professor of historical theology and church history at Westminster Theological Seminary. He blogs at Reformation21 and is always an interesting read. Because of my prior knowledge of Trueman and my passion for history I was excited to read his book on Histories and Fallacies.

This book is actually pretty difficult to review. It's difficult because you can actually learn a good deal of diverse things such as Holocaust denial, Marxism, and the "racism" of Martin Luther. Trueman takes various areas of historical research and discusses them while teaching the reader how to do history.

In the first chapter he discusses Holocaust denial and various ways that historians deny history. In the second chapter Trueman explores the grand scheme of Marxism and shows how Grand Schemes can lead to fallacious thinking and bad history. In the third chapter the reader is exposed to the pitfalls of anachronism. Various historical questions are explored such as "was Calvin and Calvinist?" and "was Martin Luther a Jew-hating racist". Trueman shows how such questions are off-the-mark historically. The final chapter is a conglomeration of some of the most typical fallacies in historical research.

Obviously this book is not for everyone. That is partially why I am only giving it a quick review. Even though the writing is often hilarious and witty, if you don't give much of a care about "doing history" then you will be bored out of your gourd. But for those of us that are history nerds, and especially those of us that are charged with writing history/biographies, then this book is phenomenal.

So, if you like history buy this book. If you don't like history keep the name Carl Trueman in mind and perhaps pick up some of us other offerings.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A great little primer on history and logic 16 Oct. 2012
By David - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This little volume is an examination of problems faced in the writing of history (actually, that's the subtitle). Trueman refutes the idea, currently popular, that history is illusory, analyzes the failure of those who, like the Marxists, interpret history according to an overarching ideological scheme, and discusses the dangerous pull of anachronism, especially anachronism of ideas, such as calling Luther an anti-Semite racist. He finishes by discussing several historical fallacies: reification (the mistake of treating an idea such as `Aristotelian thought' like a concrete, transferable object rather than a fluid set of concepts that means very different things to different people at different points of history), oversimplification (the mistake of making historical artifacts, events, etc. more straightforward than they really are, such as saying that the American Civil War was started over slavery), the post hoc fallacy (including an interesting discussion of necessary and sufficient conditions), the word-concept fallacy (similar to reification, in which a word such as `liberty' is stripped of its historical context and used as a modern thinker would use it), the genetic fallacy (the mistake of drawing too strong a connection between historical circumstances and their modern or later manifestations), and a handful of other such ideas.

The book is straightforward, interesting, sometimes funny, and neatly bridges two disciplines in which I'm interested. Trueman's position as a church historian also makes his work more immediately applicable to some of the historical issues I find myself struggling through.
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