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History: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 24 Feb 2000


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History: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) + In Defence of History + What is History?: The George Macaulay Trevelyan Lectures Delivered in the University of Cambridge (Penguin History)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; First Edition edition (24 Feb. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019285352X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192853523
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 1.5 x 11.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 19,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"John Arnold builds around a few glittering fragments of the past-- a medieval murderer, a 17th-century pension to an abandoned wife, a speech by a black woman born into slavery-- a whole exhibition about what history is and is not. Writing with lucidity and passion, he lays out for inspection all the ways of recounting and exploiting the past through narrative which has been used from Herodotus to Hobsbawn. His range of knowledge and interests is phenomenal, but his skills as a communicator makes his own subtle analysis of history's history as gripping as a novel."--Neal Ascherson"A stimulating and provocative introduction to one of collective humanity's most important quests-- understanding the past and its relation to the present. A vivid mix of telling examples and clear-cut analysis."--David Lowenthal, University College, London"Intriguing and original in its discussion of why history matters and what are the problems inherent in studying it. The book is admirable in being discursive and thought-provoking."--Paul Freedman, Yale University"Accessible to students and wide-ranging in content, Arnold uncovers major issues in the historical profession in a way that invites student participation."--Russ Reeves, Trinity Christian College"Exactly what I needed. Suitable for the non-major undergrad and the graduate school bound major student."--Rea Andrew Reid, Waynesburg College"This is an extremely engaging book, lively, enthusiastic and highly readable, which presents some of the fundamental problems of historical writing in a lucid and accessible manner. As an invitation to the study of history it should be difficult to resist."--Peter Burke, Emmanuel College, Cambridge"A few millenia of events, millions of transcripts tucked away, uncountable lives passed, endless stories to tell. History: where to begin? John Arnold's History: A Very Short Introduction is an excellent short answer. Lucid and thoughtfully written, it will inspire confidence in students who wish to seek their own historical answers."--Dorothy Porter, Birbeck College, London

About the Author

John Arnold is Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London, specializing in the medieval period and the philosophy of history. His publications include 'Nasty Histories: Medievalism and Horror' in History and Heritage: Consuming the Past in Contemporary Culture (ed. John Arnold, K. Davies, and S. Ditchfield).

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Here is a true story. In 1301 Guilhem de Rodes hurried down from his Pyrenean village of Tarascon to the town of Pamiers, in the south of France. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Peter Reeve VINE VOICE on 11 Jun. 2005
Format: Paperback
Arnold takes 'historiography' to be the process of writing history, and 'history' to be the result of that process, i.e. to be a set of true stories about the past. If you enjoy reading history, then you should read at least something about historiography, to help you evaluate and interpret what you read. This short introduction to the subject is probably as good a place as any to start and for many readers will be as much historiography as they think they need.
Major figures such as Thucydides and von Ranke are discussed and central issues in the philosophy of history, such as the extent to which people of other times were essentially different from us, are introduced. Arnold presents a wide range of opinions on these various topics, but has a bias toward the politically correct.
His style is readable, if sometimes clumsy, but overall this little book succeeds admirably in its task and contains a wealth of information and opinion. It is recommended for anyone wanting to get beyond the 'true stories' to what history really is.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By H.P.J.M. on 18 May 2009
Format: Paperback
History is surely one of the most difficult and profound subjects to write a subject on, and John Arnold writes it brilliantly, the book neither being too academic, nor too simplistic.

His enthusiasm comes off every page as a professional historian, and the carefully selected fascinating examples of history really show his passion to give the reader an interesting read.

In the analysis of these examples Arnold shows how history is written (historiography) and that when there is no definite truth, we can infer from what evidence we have to make effectively a collection of truths and stories.

Anyone who thinks history is dreary, or anyone who is slightly interested in it, should give the book a try.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER on 4 April 2011
Format: Paperback
I have always been fascinated with history. The combination of storytelling and solid factual information about peoples and events that are very distant from us, both in time and space, has a lot of intrinsic appeal to me. I have read many books dealing with various historical topics, and have to a lesser degree enjoyed several works of historic fiction. However, I have not reflected much on the art and science of historiography. This short introduction aims to do exactly that - make the reader, and nonspecialist in particular, consider what is it that historians exactly do and what are the limits of historiography.

The book begins with a description of and incident that happened in the early years of the fourteenth century. Using this example, the author demonstrates several important concerns that historians may have when discussing it: the reliability of sources, the context of the incident, possible placement of the incident within some larger narrative and if so which one, etc. Depending on how those concerns had been handled many different schools of historiography had emerged. It is one of this book's strongest features that it doesn't aim to convince the reader in validity or superiority of any one particular approach to writing about history. Instead, it aims to inform and educate the reader so that he or she can read works of history with a more discerning eye.

This is a very well written, thought provoking and informative introduction to history. It manages to challenge the reader to think about history in all sorts of new ways, and yet it remains straightforward and accessible. It is one of the best very short introductions that I have come across.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Luke on 4 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book isn't so much about history, rather historiography (the study of History.) Unlike many academic texts, this short pocket book is easy to follow and read, and the author uses some interesting stories from the past to keep your attention. There are plenty of images too, to jazz up the book. If you're considering studying history at university level - this may be the book to read before deciding. It details the whole history of historiography, and begins to explain the inner workings of studying the past. A good value introduction to the study of history - it might persuade you to learn more!
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 1 Feb. 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a lively, provocative book. Arnold introduces, in a very personable and readable manner, some central questions about what history is, and can claim to be, and how it can be "done". He explores these questions through some entertaining and refreshing examples of historical source material.
Arnold strikes a balance that carries the reader through the complexities of the issues at hand without descending into patronising simplification, or bewildering jargon. He obviously has a passion for his subject, and this comes across very strongly in the book.
If you think history is all "kings and battles" and BBC2 programmes about archaeology, read this book- it might change your mind.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Merchant on 5 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback
This is simply and beautifully written, but at the same time, deeply thoughtful. John Arnold uses lively cases studies to illustrate big ideas about the activities and knowledge that makes up 'history'. I hadn't had much interest in history since dropping it in school, but reading this I realized why some people are such history enthusiasts.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 Jun. 2002
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent, well written and thought provoking book about what it might mean to do History (and most other things). Students and readers of all ages will find it a valuable aid to reaching an understanding of the many different kinds of history there are and of how to go about choosing, reading and enjoying them.
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