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In Defence of History Paperback – 18 Jan 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Frequently bought together

  • In Defence of History
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  • What is History?: The George Macaulay Trevelyan Lectures Delivered in the University of Cambridge (Penguin History)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; New edition edition (18 Jan. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862073953
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862073951
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.6 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 16,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Richard Evans book on the importance of his craft. History is an important aspect of the educational system. Accurate historical education, especially of modern history is vital. Unfortunately as shown post-modernism seems to have its own rules on the subject.
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Format: Paperback
Evans' book is not only a superb general introduction to the idea of history, written in a non-stuffy or academic style, but a useful reminder of why it is such a daft idea to treat history as if it were literary theory, and attempt to view it through postmodern eyes. I read this just after I read Keith Jenkins' somewhat depressing introduction to postmodernist history - 'Rethinking History', and it was therefore an extremely uplifiting experience (especially as I was about to start a history degree at university!) Incidentally, Jenkins' response to this book in 'Why History?: Ethics and Postmodernity' is worth checking out, though I found it a little weak and seeming to miss vital points about historiography, as postemodernists so often seem to.
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By Mr. G. Morgan TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 9 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
Evans's book is a crisp, given its remit, well written and comprehensive study of what History is, what it has been considered to be and what its place is in the academy and in society as a whole. He examines the classics of the genre, notably E.H. Carr's still vibrant and clever 'What is History?' and G.R. Elton's 'The Practice of History' and finds them to be lacking, since in the former's History he cuts his coat to his ideological cloth, the other to be too breezily confident in a sort of 'common sense' (an often suspect notion) view of 'what happened'. He confidently identifies what he believes to be their deficiencies and takes in Leopold Ranke and Namier for good measure.
What I like about the book is that it educated me about some writers I did not know and gave me something for my intellect to chew on. Only a fool would not wish to examine for themselves whether Evans is quite correct or fair, but read the others and see if they measure up. I had fun extending my reading and thinking, encouraged by the eloquence of the book and particularly interested in the Post-Modernist turn Evans is keen to reject. I suspect that, as in Literature, that approach is less fashionable these days, but given some of the obscurantist, ill-written, self-sabotaging tosh I still encounter occasionally in this vein, I was pleased to see it taken on and niftily speared. This is important since, if everything is text, as Derrida influentially stated, so too is this, Post-Modernist method. Q.E.D.
I would like him to have looked at the History Workshop and the work of Patrick Wright, a favourite of mine, but it is a compliment to this book's and Evans's intellectual liveliness that I wanted to know and to think more about historiography. One can ask no more of a book of historiography, a subject easier than its name! A must-read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
the cover was a bit marked, but inside was perfect, and the outside didn't matter at all to me. overall, it was worth it!
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Format: Paperback
History teaches us nothing, Sting once sang. Did he read any post-modern theorists? As a former English teacher, perhaps he did. But it doesn't matter. Post-modern ideas have seeped into general consciousness to the extent that one frequently hears utterances from people who have never read a postmodern theorist but stridently aver that there is no such thing as objective truth, that one point of view is just as good as another, that all history is the propaganda of the winners. Those who make such claims without questioning them might want to read Richard Evans' book.

In it they will find a strong case for the defence of the old school that history can yield genuine insights into the past. But he doesn't think that history can and should be assimilated into the natural or social sciences. He is sceptical that history can be vindicated by the lessons it teaches or the predictions it makes for the future. There are no laws of history that can be uncovered because they do not exist. But does that just make history a form of poetry or creative writing? No, for the method of history is still concerned with truth-telling about the past. It deals with what actually happened. This cannot be free from controversy or a degree of subjectivity, as different historians will draw varying interpretations from the facts of the past but that's a long way from saying that history is just a fairy tale.

There are three principal reasons why this is so.

First of all, you cannot just spin any old yarn. Evans offers the example of David Abraham's `The Collapse of the Weimar Republic', in which the author attributed responsibility for the collapse of the Republic and the rise of Nazism to big business.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am an intelligent and educated person but not an historian. I have just finished reading,for the second time, the author's trilogy about the Third Reich which is outstanding and beautifully written. With this in mind and not being in academia I was curious to know what had been going on in "how history" and possibly even "why history". This book does that in clear and elegant language. It touches on concepts such as postmodernism, which apparently is big or was big in academia, and makes them
comprehensible. He deals with historiography. I feel, as with the trilogy I have read, less ignorant for having read them. When I have finished this book I shall work my way through others by the author.
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