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The Study of History in Our Time
How do we know what happened in the past? We cannot go back, and no amount of historical data can enable us to understand with absolute certainty what life was like “then.” It is easy to demolish the very idea of historical knowing, but it is impossible to demolish the importance of historical knowing. In an age of cable television pundits and anonymous bloggers dueling over history, the value of owning history increases at the same time as our confidence in history as a way of knowing crumbles. Historical knowledge thus presents a paradox — the more it is required, the less reliable it has become. To reconcile this paradox — that history is impossible but necessary — Peter Charles Hoffer proposes a practical, workable philosophy of history for our times, one that is robust and realistic, and that speaks to anyone who reads, writes and teaches history.
Covering a sweeping range of philosophies (from ancient history to game theory), methodological approaches to writing history, and the advantages and disadvantages of different strategies of argument, Hoffer constructs a philosophy of history that is reasonable, free of fallacy, and supported by appropriate evidence that is itself tenable.
Historians know about the past because they examine the evidence. But what exactly is “evidence,” how do historians know what it means—and how can we trust them to get it right? Historian David Henige tackles such questions of historical reliability head-on in his skeptical, unsparing, and acerbically witty Historical Evidence and Argument. “Systematic doubt” is his watchword, and he practices what he preaches through a variety of insightful assessments of historical controversies—for example, over the dating of artifacts and the textual analysis of translated documents. Skepticism, Henige contends, forces us to recognize the limits of our knowledge, but is also a positive force that stimulates new scholarship to counter it.
Vol. 32 (2005) through current issue
History In Africa: A Journal of Method focuses on historiographical and methodological concerns and publishes textual analysis and criticism, historiographical essays, bibliographical essays, archival reports and articles on the role of theory and non-historical data in historical investigation. Published Annually.
Essays in Honor of Emory M. Thomas
In The Confederacy as a Revolutionary Experience (1970) and The Confederate Nation (1979), Emory Thomas redefined the field of Civil War history and reconceptualized the Confederacy as a unique entity fighting a war for survival. Inside the Confederate Nation honors his enormous contributions to the field with fresh interpretations of all aspects of Confederate life—nationalism and identity, family and gender, battlefront and home front, race, and postwar legacies and memories. Many of the volume's twenty essays focus on individuals, households, communities, and particular regions of the South, highlighting the sheer variety of circumstances southerners faced over the course of the war. Other chapters explore the public and private dilemmas faced by diplomats, policy makers, journalists, and soldiers within the new nation. All of the essays attempt to explain the place of southerners within the Confederacy, how they came to see themselves and others differently because of secession, and the disparities between their expectations and reality.
The New Deal and the Great Depression
In this second volume of the Interpreting American History series, experts on the 1930s address the changing historical interpretations of a critical period in American history. Following a decade of prosperity, the Great Depression brought unemployment, economic ruin, poverty, and a sense of hopelessness to millions of Americans. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs aimed to bring relief, recovery, and reform to the masses.
More than seventy-five years after Roosevelt took the oath as president, Americans are still debating what did and did not happen in the 1930s to help the nation recover from its worst economic depression. Proponents and detractors have cast the successes and failures of the New Deal in many lights. Historians have argued that the New Deal went too far, that it did not go far enough, that it created more problems than it solved, and even that its shaky foundations are the reason for the economic and social instability of the Great Recession of the early twenty-first century.
The contributors to this volume explore how historians have judged the nature, effects, and outcomes of the New Deal. Arranged in three sections, the essays discuss Roosevelt’s New Deal revolution, explore the groups on the fringes of the New Deal, and consider the legacies of 1930s reform. Chapters focus on specific areas of study, including politics, agriculture, the environment, labor, African Americans, the economy, social programs, the arts, mobilization for World War II, and memory. These fields represent today’s emerging interpretations of one of the most significant decades of the twentieth century.
Interpreting American History: The New Deal and the Great Depression introduces readers to this important period by examining the major historical debates that surround the 1930s, giving students a succinct and indispensable historiographic overview.
Schools, Cultures, and Politics
Micronesians in the Pacific War
Micronesians often liken the Pacific War to a typhoon, one that swept away their former lives and brought dramatic changes to their understandings of the world and their places in it. Whether they spent the war in bomb shelters, in sweet potato fields under the guns of Japanese soldiers, or in their homes on atolls sheltered from the war, Micronesians who survived those years know that their peoples passed through a major historical transformation. Yet Pacific War histories scarcely mention the Islanders across whose lands and seas the fighting waged. Memories of War sets out to the fill that historical gap by presenting the missing voices of Micronesians and by viewing those years from their perspectives. The focus is on Micronesian remembrances—the ritual commemorations, features of the landscape, stories, dances, and songs that keep their memories of the conflict alive. The inclusion of numerous and extensive interviews and songs is an important feature of this book, allowing Micronesians to speak for themselves about their experiences. In addition, they also reveal distinctively Micronesian cultural memories of war. Memories of War preserves powerful and poignant memories for Micronesians; it also demonstrates to students of history and culture the extent to which cultural practices and values shape the remembrance of personal experience.
Proslavery Ideology and Historiography, 1865-1918
An Old Creed for the New South: Proslavery Ideology and Historiography, 1865–1918 details the slavery debate from the Civil War through World War I. Award-winning historian John David Smith argues that African American slavery remained a salient metaphor for how Americans interpreted contemporary race relations decades after the Civil War.
Smith draws extensively on postwar articles, books, diaries, manuscripts, newspapers, and speeches to counter the belief that debates over slavery ended with emancipation. After the Civil War, Americans in both the North and the South continued to debate slavery’s merits as a labor, legal, and educational system and as a mode of racial control. The study details how white Southerners continued to tout slavery as beneficial for both races long after Confederate defeat. During Reconstruction and after Redemption, Southerners continued to refine proslavery ideas while subjecting blacks to new legal, extralegal, and social controls.
An Old Creed for the New South links pre– and post–Civil War racial thought, showing historical continuity, and treats the Black Codes and the Jim Crow laws in new ways, connecting these important racial and legal themes to intellectual and social history. Although many blacks and some whites denounced slavery as the source of the contemporary “Negro problem,” most whites, including late nineteenth-century historians, championed a “new” proslavery argument. The study also traces how historian Ulrich B. Phillips and Progressive Era scholars looked at slavery as a golden age of American race relations and shows how a broad range of African Americans, including Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois, responded to the proslavery argument. Such ideas, Smith posits, provided a powerful racial creed for the New South.
This examination of black slavery in the American public mind—which includes the arguments of former slaves, slaveholders, Freedmen's Bureau agents, novelists, and essayists—demonstrates that proslavery ideology dominated racial thought among white southerners, and most white northerners, in the five decades following the Civil War.