- Sep 2015
This last paragraph is not overly surprising. But the psychology you refer to, applied to leading historians, professors at Oxford or Cambridge, Harvard and Yale etc, from a merely interested persons perspective, seems unlikely. Since among other things, we as a species are aware of our own self-awareness; and 'a wolf does not know what it is, to be a wolf' (Hegel).Historians try to objective to the sources and the narratives they elicit, but I have found that confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, and the willingness to complete ignore critical thinking principles lead to very subjective history writing.
Follow the writings of different factions of historians interested in the intersection of Mormonism and the American west, and you will find significant difference while all sides insist they are objective.
(the above abstract is from Richard J Evans In Defense of History 1997/2000).The British historian, Patrick Joyce said in 1991, 'the commanding heights of academy history seem secure against the skirmishing bands outside, though some notable walls have fallen, chiefly in the United States'. [And Richard J Evans concluded in the late 1990s], '...there can be little doubt that the debate over history, truth and objectivity unleashed by postmodernism has become too widespread for all but the most obscurantist to ignore.' Sir Geoffrey Elton, '...denounced postmodernist ideas on history as "menacing, destructive, absurd and meaningless. Total relativism is... a virus of frivolous nihilism' that was infecting a disturbing number of young historians above all in the United States...Certainly we are fighting for the lives of innocent young people beset by devilish tempters who claim to offer higher forms of thought and deeper truths and insights...[And moreover] the radical historian Raphael Samuel, progenitor of History Workshop, warned in one of his last publications that "the deconstructive turn in contemporary thought" invited everyone to "see history not as a record of the past, more or less faithful to the facts", but "as an invention, or fiction, of historians themselves".
And therefore to call a postmodernist "theoretical hauteurs" (as Geoff Eley did) is basically just plain mild. They're fairly obviously wrong in many ways, but vehemently/fanatically ambitious. All of which there is no doubt, adds up to a tragedy for the human race; brought about by the usual human deficiencies, leading to doctrinaire, dogmatism and bigotry etc!
Evans recommends nonetheless, 'Some of them might prove more friendly, or more useful, than they seem at first sight.'