How do you do history? Carl Trueman sets out to answer the question briefly and cogently, examining the issues of neutrality (unobtainable) and objectivity (attainable and desirable) in the study of history, taking Holocaust Denial as a case study. He moves on to the idea of interpretative frameworks, and their strengths and weaknesses as tools (Marxism the example, with Christopher Hill its chosen exponent). Then he addresses anachronism, the pressures and temptations that arise from the collision between the historian's present and the past object of his study. Finally, he looks at common historical fallacies, a brief survey of typical errors made in the study of the past. After an historical postscript, the whole closes with a paper on the reception of John Calvin's thought in which the author is presumably seeking to exemplify his principles. Anyone who has sat through a historical paper of some sort in which the historian has surveyed history in order to confirm himself in the precise position which he has always held will appreciate this book. Those who read and study for the same purpose will be rebuked and instructed. The wit of the writing, the emphasis on the practical , and the recommendations for further study make this an excellent historiographical primer which will hopefully help those who pursue church history to go to work with competence and confidence.
This is an immensely helpful book for a number of reasons:
First, it provides the reader with very clear guidance regarding the main pitfalls when studying history, In doing so the author explains concepts with clarity and always provides specific examples to illustrate the point being made. Secondly, the book straddles a wide range of disciplines, thus the lessons learned can be applied to numerous avenues of historical research. Thirdly, the book highlights the importance of good methodology in the study of history, and leaves the reader motivated and equipped to be a better historian. It is an excellent resource for anyone beginning or continuing in historical studies. And fourthly, the book is a very enjoyable read - interesting, clear, informative, witty, rigorous and just all round very good indeed!