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The Undivided Past: History Beyond Our Differences Hardcover – 19 Mar 2013

3.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (19 Mar. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184614132X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846141324
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.2 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 479,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Highly intelligent, stimulating, occasionally provocative and enormous fun to read (Philip Ziegler Spectator BOOKS OF THE YEAR)

An impassioned plea ... for an understanding of the past that finds its focus in our age-old conversations and collaborations, rather than in conflict ... The Undivided Past should earn applause (Boyd Tonkin Independent)

Sir David Cannadine is a distinguished historian; his new book ... is of enormous value. It should be heard in every think tank, madrassa, history workshop and sixth form and should guide the utterances of statesmen (Hugh Brogan History Today)

This collection winningly combines history, politics, and contemporary culture in a refreshingly optimistic manner (Tristram Hunt BBC History Magazine)

A plea for us to stop seeing the past in terms of conflict rather than communality (Melissa Katsoulis Telegraph)

Elegantly written and stimulating (David Priestland Guardian)

[Cannadine's] main purpose is to exhort us to overcome our differences ... to concentrate on exploring what brings us together (Mark Mazower Financial Times)

Ambitious and wide-ranging ... an interesting and informative read (Good Book Review)

Cannadine writes as engagingly and fluently as ever (Richard Overy New Statesman)

Known for a streak of iconoclastic originality ... Cannadine is always worth reading (Jeffrey Collins Times Literary Supplement)

Controversial but stimulating (Financial Times)

Has to be admired in terms of the breadth of its scope, its style and its study of the engagement and interaction between the big ideas and histories of the West and the stories of transcendence and interaction (International Affairs)

About the Author

Sir David Cannadine is Chair of the National Portrait Gallery, Dodge Professor of History at Princeton University and General Editor of the Penguin History of Europe and Penguin History of Britain. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Chair of the Blue Plaques Committee. His major books include The Rise and Fall of the British Aristocracy, Ornamentalism and Mellon: A Life. He is currently writing the Penguin history of Victorian Britain. He has previously taught at Cambridge, Columbia and London universities.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
David Cannadine is a professional historian, and it is as a professional historian that he undertakes in his latest book to critique certain procedures that pass themselves off as historical thinking and historical wisdom but which are promulgated by non-historians with various agendas. These procedures might be generally characterized as "binary thinking," and they undertake to provide the keys to an essential understanding of the way history "works." He looks at examples of binary thinking under the categories of religion, nation, class, gender, race, and civilization. The order is not accidental - it represents the historical sequence in which these categories were first employed to explain what their promulgators believed to be the moving forces of historical change, and in all cases these categories were employed in order to separate the sheep from the goats (and worse) of history. Thus, under religion, for example, "Christianity" is set against "paganism." Under class, the "proletariat" is set against the "bourgeoisie," and so on. It is what Cannadine calls a "Manichean" schematic, with the forces of light the first mentioned in pairings like the above, and the forces of darkness the latter. The interest of these broad categories for Cannadine is that they were understood by their promulgators to be essential to understanding the way human beings identified themselves in collectivities. Thus, in his chapter on "Civilization," for example, he is talking about writers and thinkers who see a "civilization" as the basic unit of human collectivity that requires analysis if we are to understand how the world really works.Read more ›
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Format: Kindle Edition
Professor David Cannadine is Professor of History at Princeton. An earler book:'Ornamentalism' was acclaimed. His forthcoming 'Penguin History of Victorian Britain' is eagerly awaited.

His latest book:'The Undivided Past' is a masterly, multifaceted account of how we see both ourselves and others. It is replete with gems.

In my own field of International Relations, war and strategy it is commonplace to emphasise conflict, violence and outright war among nations. This book is, therefore, a very welcome corrective.

David Cannadine seeks to explore the various forms of human solidarity as they have developed across the ages. To do so he concentrates on six 'identities', namely religion, class (he has written a book on this), nation, race, gender and civilisation. The 40 pages he devotes to 'nation' ( a term introduced in the 1790's) ought to be force-fed to every 6th form History pupil and above in order to nullify the myths that surround this topic. Indeed. the whole book is essential reading for the same.

Cannadine says it has become a habit to focus on conflict between antagonistic identities, on 'them' and 'us'. he quotes George Bush's ludicrous 'war on terror' speech and his his speech of 16 April, 2006 as examples. The result is a Manichean view that our world is divided into 'good' and 'evil'. It is, as he says an apocalyptic perspective. This binary view is one shared by many including the late Osama bin Laden.

To challenge this view the author addresses the six identities historically over thousands of years. In so doing, he reveals excessive inaccuracies in published accounts. He discusses each of the six divisive collective identities and shows how politicians, theologians, priests, pundits and historians have polarized the truth.
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Format: Paperback
Historians do well out of strife. A chronicle of the battles, schisms and other antagonisms that are our lot as human beings makes writing engaging narratives far easier. And there can be a great explanatory power in seeing historic events as the result of struggle between opposed groupings, such as economic classes or colonisers and the colonised.
But does this sort of approach to history have a hidden price? The Undivided Past believes so. It takes a long hard look at the splits that so many of us fall back on to explain the world and justify our actions. It challenges the value of seeing history (and society) as explained by struggles between classes, genders, nations, religions, races and civilisations and modestly invites us to ponder something else: the vast amount we have in common with our fellow humans.
The Undivided Past could be described as popular academic in style (if that is not a contradiction in terms). It seeks the high standard of balance expected in academics tomes while also being reasonably readable to a lay audience. In essence it is an onslaught on the explanatory power of Marxism and other “isms” that see the world as a struggle, brutal and long, between binary forces. This Manichean view of the world is certainly appealing: we resort to it everyday whether talking about “greedy” bankers, Islamic fundamentalists or university campus sexists. Yet it is a simplistic analysis; the giveaway is that one side is unambiguously right and the other side incontrovertibly wrong. Hence it can be a great means of reinforcing our prejudices (whatever they happen to be) and avoiding the moral dilemmas that make us feel squeamish.
Take feminism, arguably the most live issue currently in Western universities among Cannadine’s six paradigms.
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