Your Favourite Historians?

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,816
Blachernai
#31
At university I was taught that many old school historians are biased in their accounts due to being Marxist/Post modernist/etc and that I would be wasting my time reading any of the Pelican series of intro history books (60s/70s published). Do you guys find that to be the case? There's some old school historians in some of these lists, Acton was a Victorian and although I've heard he's fab I haven't read his works yet.
Everyone has a theory of history, but some make it clear what they're doing. I'd rather have a book by someone who straight-ups says they're approaching a topic from a particular intellectual framework than from someone whose methodology is unclear.
 
Sep 2015
1,789
England
#32
At university I was taught that many old school historians are biased in their accounts due to being Marxist/Post modernist/etc and that I would be wasting my time reading any of the Pelican series of intro history books (60s/70s published). Do you guys find that to be the case? There's some old school historians in some of these lists, Acton was a Victorian and although I've heard he's fab I haven't read his works yet.
I am overjoyed, and indeed have some honour dare i say it, in concurring that will be so the case, it is hardly real !

You mentioned Geoff Elton and possibly Richard Evans in a previous thread the other month, and i have had a look at 'In Defense of History' since then. It would seem there was some agreement it needed defending, as unlikely as it may sound!? My little trail began back in 2002 when I had the misfortune of buying, quite innocently, the book Why History? Ethics & Postmodernity by Jenkins; because, it was from an impeccable academic source, it was cheap, and what the heck; what could possibly be the problem ? i don't know. But I sure as heck do now!

If you haven't seen or read it: the first two pages turned out to be stupifying loonacy - hear me out! The following is the very first two sentences no less !! 'This book is written primarily as an extended polemic; it is overtly positioned. It may be impossible to write today in any other way.' (Jenkins 1999, 1). And then. The 2nd paragraph 'through a series of case studies of Derrida and others, postmodern ways of thinking probably signal the end of history...[and on page 2] of traditional ethics also.' ...

And how could such a thing be the case? how could every history book ever written up to and beyond this perfect moment be void, thrown into the void probably, in a 'postmodern moment when we can forget history and ethics altogether', why..the postmodern moment of course, of "the undecideability of a decision...because there are no unambiguous, apodictic, algebraic foundations on which to base the right decision'. And the whole subjective/objective tragedy duly follows...

And real history, proper history, of real value, conferring some meaning on life ... rather than all that faux-intellectual din and piffle. Thankfully the human race is at least rational, a lot of the time. Not necessarily homo philosophicus sure, but not exactly irrational so much of the time (apparently). Susceptible, and in fact quite possibly, 'appallingly ready to leap to conclusions or be swayed by logically irrelevant features of situations.’ But nonetheless "critical reasoning" requires thinking about ones thoughts, and we are at least capable of that.
 
Last edited:
Feb 2011
13,599
Perambulating in St James' Park
#33
From what I can recall there's a few different narratives for history - Great Man history/National History/Marxist History and Post Modernist (though I've never actually figured out what the hell the Post Modernists are actually trying to do other than create some sort of academic nihilism where there are no absolute facts - is that an accurate interpretation?).

It seems the new thing on the bloc is to pull in sources from other areas. Trendy history now seems to incorporate climate change data, economic trends, anthropocentric measurements, social class and political decisions. The idea is to try and cast as wide a net as possible to explain how things came about, it seems to be a fairer way of studying history but I suppose one still has to interpret the sources in a particular way to make a claim and that means there will always be a slight bias, to do otherwise would just leave a page of dry facts. It also seems there's plenty of books still being written with a political agenda or bias (PC agenda is very common), tho they seem to be under the 'popular' history section.

The problem with history is you need a write a story, it's in the name 'HIS STORY', that inherently requires a narrative and a conclusion.
 
Sep 2015
1,789
England
#34
From what I can recall there's a few different narratives for history - Great Man history/National History/Marxist History and Post Modernist (though I've never actually figured out what the hell the Post Modernists are actually trying to do other than create some sort of academic nihilism where there are no absolute facts - is that an accurate interpretation?).
Yes, apparently so: bolted on to the main critiqueing of postmodernist history was "total relativism", which was a "virus" and "frivolous nihilism".

And indeed for your consideration could I tempt you with this one: ‘Relativism about truth, or alethic relativism, at its simplest, is the claim that what is true for one individual or social group may not be true for another, and there is no context-independent vantage point to adjudicate the matter. What is true or false is always relative to a conceptual, cultural, or linguistic framework.’
 
Sep 2015
1,789
England
#35
It seems the new thing on the bloc is to pull in sources from other areas. Trendy history now seems to incorporate climate change data, economic trends, anthropocentric measurements, social class and political decisions. The idea is to try and cast as wide a net as possible to explain how things came about, it seems to be a fairer way of studying history but I suppose one still has to interpret the sources in a particular way to make a claim and that means there will always be a slight bias, to do otherwise would just leave a page of dry facts. It also seems there's plenty of books still being written with a political agenda or bias (PC agenda is very common), tho they seem to be under the 'popular' history section.

The problem with history is you need a write a story, it's in the name 'HIS STORY', that inherently requires a narrative and a conclusion.
Evidently alas you seem to have been hooked somewhat by the objective arguments of postmodernism! Please tell me if i am wrong?

The slightness of bias can always be a purely technical matter, and i would always caution against (its) absolute relevance. If bias is a 'disposition in favour or disfavour...", then the question must arise sooner or later why we might be questioning whether we have the capacity to be impartial, rather than questioning (interrogating - what a trendy idea) those who are making wild claims that things are otherwise after all !!? Which is in fact pretty medieval. And therefore evidently anachronistic, and dare i say it archaic! Is the human race made up of individuals each with their own unique tendency of the four humours!

Surely not?
 
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Sep 2015
1,789
England
#36
At university I was taught that many old school historians are biased in their accounts due to being Marxist/Post modernist/etc and that I would be wasting my time reading any of the Pelican series of intro history books (60s/70s published). Do you guys find that to be the case? There's some old school historians in some of these lists, Acton was a Victorian and although I've heard he's fab I haven't read his works yet.
How about Eric Hobsbawm? Have you read The Age of Empires ? I'm looking through it a bit right now
 
Sep 2015
1,789
England
#37
Perhaps I'm "obscuring the subject"... just for the sake of the truth, rather than anything that might be thought useful engineering. If that's about right, or is this wrong as well... :zany::lol:;)

Sooner or later, if you're not interested in criticism, then you're not interested in improving things. The world probably
 

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