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What is History?: The George Macaulay Trevelyan Lectures Delivered in the University of Cambridge (Penguin History) Paperback – 29 Nov 1990

4.4 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (29 Nov. 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140135847
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140135848
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'E.H. Carr...now proves himself to be not only our most distinguished modern historian, but also one of the most valuable contributors to historical theory.' - Spectator
'As a lively, challenging view of the purpose of historical inquiry and the role of the historian...What is History? has yet to be bettered.' - David Horspool, Times Literary Supplement

'There is simply no point in talking about the principles and methodology of historical research without referring to E.H. Carr's seminal work.' - Elliot Jager, The Jerusalem Post

'By situating Carr's book historically so well, Evans...[has] provided the strongest argument yet for leaving What is History? on the shelf as a theory-of-history primer for undergraduates and for its alternative use as valuable primary evidence for the history of intellectual politics in mid-20th century Britain.' - Simon Ditchfield, Times Higher Education Supplement

'Carr's What is History? is still essential reading for all historians. The new edition introduced by Professor Evans, a leading historian and an accomplished historiographer, provides an excellent insight into Carr's life and work.' - Jonathan Haslam, author of The Vices of Integrity: E. H. Carr (1892-1982)

'E. H. Carr…proves himself to be not only our most distinguished modern historian, but also one of the most valuable contributors to historical theory.' - The Spectator --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

'As a lively, challenging view of the purpose of historical inquiry nad the role of the historian ... What is History? has yet to be bettered'- TLS --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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4.4 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover
I have always been interested in the theoretical side of history and this remains one of the best books to start with. It has been a few years since I was at University, but this used to be a set text for first year undergraduates, in order to give them some understanding of the 'history of history'. Carr's text is highly readable and his analogies very useful - ie. thinking of historians as merely individuals in a very long, winding procession of people through a mountainous valley - looking back at events going on further back in the queue, their views differing according to whereabouts in the procession he or she was at the time. Still a great starting point for an often complex subject.
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Format: Paperback
This collection of essays by the late E. H. Carr is particularly interesting to any student of historiography, or indeed the general reader. It clearly outlines his thoughts on the subject of the theory and philosophy of history, and he illustrates his ideas well, bedding down abstract concepts with concrete examples. The only criticism, aside from objections to his theories, is that Carr occasionally leaves the more earth-bound reader behind. So gymnastic is his intellectual ability that he makes leaps from abstract trapeze to abstract trapeze, leaving the reader lost and blank, forcing them to read and re-read. Aside from that this is an excellent collection, complemented well by the discussion about Carr's notes towards a second edition. Should be read in conjunction with I. Berlin's essays on history (to be found in The Proper Study of Mankind), which Carr attacks throughout.
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Format: Paperback
E. H. Carr's 'What Is History?' is perhaps the leading introductory textbook on historiography (i.e. the study of historical method). It's essential reading for anyone who has an interest in history, and especially those who are studying any aspect of the subject. Carr's book has always been highly-controversial among professional historians as it contains a number of contentious ideas about historical method. In recent years the controversy has ignited again in the context of education, as policy-makers and educators debate what is the best way to teach history at different scholastic levels.

Essentially, Carr's approach is to look at the way the historian's own bias affects the history he writes. Instead of viewing the historian as an impartial agency situated outside of history, Carr argues that the historian is part of the historical process. What the historian thinks is as important as what happened in history, and each interacts with the other, so that the historian's own social and political perspective will influence both the facts he selects as historically significant and how those facts are interpreted. As perspective is critical, history becomes not merely a dry chronicle of 'what happened', but a vision of the future projected into the past. The main criticism of this approach seems to be that it prioritises the historian over history. This criticism finds populist expression in the idea that children should study history by learning facts rather than skills. The first (traditionalist) approach emphasises content. The second (modern) approach emphasises the historian.

Having read the book for myself, I find this criticism to be very unfair, reflecting a misunderstanding of Carr's ideas.
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Format: Paperback
There are many definitions of what History is, and what it means for different sections of society at different times. E.H. Carr's primary argument is that the interpretation of history from certain historians is dependent upon their position in society, and indeed are formulated by society's view of the period. One historian writing in the 1950's may have a totally different interpretation of events that, say, a present day historical writer.
This book is a fascinating account of historical arguments through time, and is really useful if, like me, you are studying for a History degree at University!!!
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Format: Paperback
Anyone interested in the (currently much disputed) philosophical issues surrounding the study of history should read this one. Carr doesn't sit on the fence - instead makes his position clear and with a refreshingly simple and easy (though nontheless articulate) use of language which is sadly missing from other work in this area of discussion.
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By A Customer on 30 Jan. 2001
Format: Paperback
Very intuitive and inspiring. Carr manages to raise questions of many a historian, and concludes by providing his own 'philosophical' slant on the answers. Worth reading if one wishes to broaden their understanding.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
At university, I had a compulsory module on Historical theory and I didn't do very well in that course (In fact, I failed it miserably). I put this down to the fact I just didn't understand it.
Now, after preparing for my PGCE year, I am reading this book and it is giving me a whole different idea into historical theory - I now fully understand certain aspects of historical theory and although it may have words you have to look up (quite archaic use of some words), it is so easy to read and to understand.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to further enhance their knowledge of historical theory.
I also found the first chapter very interesting.
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