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The Future of History [Hardcover]

John Lukacs
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

5 April 2011
For more than sixty years, John Lukacs has been writing, teaching, and reading about the past. In this inspired volume, he turns his attention to the future. Throughout "The Future of History", Lukacs reflects on his discipline, eloquently arguing that the writing and teaching of history are literary rather than scientific, comprising knowledge that is neither wholly objective nor subjective. History at its best, he contends, is personal and participatory. Despite a recently unprecedented appetite for history among the general public, as evidenced by history television programme ratings, sales of popular history books, and increased participation in local historical societies, Lukacs believes that the historical profession is in a state of disarray. He traces a decline in history teaching throughout higher education, matched by a corresponding reduction in the number of history students. He reviews a series of short-lived fads within the profession that have weakened the fundamentals of the field. In looking for a way forward, Lukacs explores the critical relationships between history and literature, including ways in which novelists have contributed to historical understanding. Through this startling and enlightening work, readers will understand Lukacs' assertion that 'everything has its history, including history' and that history itself has a future, since everything we know comes from the past.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (5 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300169566
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300169560
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 14 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 678,071 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"I consider John Lukacs one of the outstanding historians of the generation and, indeed of our time." (Jacques Barzun) "We are in the presence of one of the most powerful, as well as one of the most learned, minds of the century." (Conor Cruise O'Brien) "There is no one who has looked at [his] subject as broadly, sensitively, and deeply... This is what gives all of [Lukacs's] works their long-term value." (George F. Kennan) "No historian of the Second World War has John Lukacs's range, acuteness, intuition." (Daniel Patrick Moynihan) "Mr. Lukacs is one of the more incisive historians of the twentieth century." (Washington Times)"

About the Author

John Lukacs is the author of some thirty books of history, including the acclaimed Five Days in London and, most recently, The Legacy of the Second World War.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Study of History 18 Mar 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
John Lukacs, after sixty years of writing and teaching history, has written a book that is a summing up of thoughts about the meaning of those activities. He attempts to describe what history does, how it did that in the past, how that has changed since the rise of a scientific method of enquiry at the time of the Renaissance, and how the study and practice of history might look in the future.

Lukacs stresses the literary nature of history. It is a description of the past, a branch of storytelling (page 1). Writers in the classical period of Greece and Rome described people and events; this tradition was continued by the chroniclers of the Middle Ages, many of them members of monastic orders. With the Renaissance, there arose a consciousness of the past and its significance within western Europe, including England. This affected the concept and practice of history. There was a desire to 're humanise' history (pages 3 to 4), to introduce a more human element into an account of events involving rulers and their courts, to include accounts of the lives of people outside that circle. There developed purposive notions of writing about the past: ideas of development and progress; the concept of epochs of time; a notion of the self as acting upon historical processes as well as being acted upon by them. During the eighteenth century there was a growth of interest in history as literature, alongside a growth of reading for pleasure. Society as a whole became increasingly the subject and object of historical enquiry. History became increasingly subject to the claims of the social sciences, not only their methods, but also their purposes. History as literature became subsumed by scientific method and its notions of research and verifiability according to sources.
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Amazon.com: 2.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Insights without pleasure 28 Jan 2012
By Anson Cassel Mills - Published on Amazon.com
John Lukacs is an elderly (b. 1924), Hungarian-born, American historian who has written numerous books about Europe during the Second World War, as well as two prior volumes treating the philosophy of history. In this short, somewhat pessimistic, volume (perhaps "long essay" would be a better description), Lukacs criticizes, among other things, the pandering of the historical profession to contemporary intellectual fads. The author's comprehensive learning is everywhere evident as he ranges through nineteenth-century historical and literary works for his illustrations; and the persistent reader will find insights throughout.

Unfortunately Lukacs takes pleasure in presenting his notions in an idiosyncratic style--the privilege of learned old men, perhaps, but not the best way to engage students of history. Below are some sentences that may allow the prospective reader to judge for himself:

"We cannot know much about the future, save projecting what we can see at present: but so much of that will not come about. Some of it will. Foresight is something else than prophecy: foresight depends on a serious, sometimes inspired knowledge and understanding of some things in the past. Through this some of us may know that this or that will not happen; but also that this or that, lo and behold, might." (139-40)

"Anyhow: it is arguable and more rather than less evident that by the beginning of the twenty-first century much of an age that began about five centuries ago has passed. And also that the twentieth was an especially transient century (of course every century is transient in some ways), but the twentieth was, historically thinking and speaking, a short century too, seventy-five years long, from 1914 to 1989, marked by two gigantic world wars (and then the so-called Cold War was but a consequence of the Second). No reason here to argue further what is, or should be, obvious." (161-62)
8 of 43 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A testament to the sad state of American academic publishing 4 Oct 2011
By nzz - Published on Amazon.com
It is a testament to the sad state of American academic publishing that nobody at Yale University Press, supposedly one of the leading academic presses in the United States, had the editorial power, or courage, to prevent this sad bundle of senile ramblings of a once-great historian from being published. Even for someone sympathetic with Professor Lukacs dislike of social history and minority histories, reading through page after page of disjointed thoughts and stale aperçus must be a painful experience. Readers interested in an intellectually challenging handling of the supposed topic of this book should consult the works of Reinhart Koselleck instead, particularly "Futures Past. On the Semantics of Historical Time", "The Practice of Conceptual History. Timing History, Spacing Concepts" and, if you read German, "Vom Sinn und Unsinn der Geschichte".
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