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The Pursuit of Truth

A Historian's Memoir

William McNeill

William H. McNeill’s seminal book The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community (1963) received the National Book Award in 1964 and was later named one of the 100 best nonfiction books of the twentieth century by the Modern Library. From his post at the University of Chicago, McNeill became one of the first contemporary North American historians to write world history, seeking a broader interpretation of human affairs than prevailed in his youth. This candid, intellectual memoir from one of the most famous and influential historians of our era, The Pursuit of Truth charts the development of McNeill’s thinking and writing over seven decades. At the core of his worldview is the belief that historical truth does not derive exclusively from criticizing, paraphrasing, and summarizing written documents, nor is history merely a record of how human intentions and plans succeeded or failed. Instead, McNeill believes that human lives are immersed in vast overarching processes of change. Ecological circumstances frame and limit human action, while in turn humans have been able to alter their environment more and more radically as technological skill and knowledge increased. McNeill believes that the human adventure on earth is unique, and that it rests on an unmatched system of communication. The web of human communication, whether spoken, written, or digital, has fostered both voluntary and involuntary cooperation and sustained behavioral changes, permitting a single species to spread over an entire planet and to alter terrestrial flows of energy and ideas to an extraordinary degree. Over the course of his career as a historian, teacher, and mentor, McNeill expounded the range of history and integrated it into an evolutionary worldview uniting physical, biological, and intellectual processes. Accordingly, The Pursuit of Truth explores the personal and professional life of a man who affected the way a core academic discipline has been taught and understood in America.

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Reinventing Modern China

Imagination and Authenticity in Chinese Historical Writing

Huaiyin Li

This work offers the first systematic analysis of writings on modern Chinese history by historians in China from the early twentieth century to the present. It traces the construction of major interpretive schemes, the evolution of dominant historical narratives, and the unfolding of debates on the most controversial issues in different periods. Placing history-writing in the context of political rivalry and ideological contestation, Huaiyin Li explicates how the historians’ dedication to faithfully reconstructing the past was compromised by their commitment to an imagined trajectory of history that fit their present-day agenda and served their needs of political legitimation.

Beginning with an examination of the contrasting narratives of revolution and modernization in the Republican period, the book scrutinizes changes in the revolutionary historiography after 1949, including its disciplinization in the 1950s and early 1960s and radicalization in the rest of the Mao era. It further investigates the rise of the modernization paradigm in the reform era, the crises of master narratives since the late 1990s, and the latest development of the field. Central to the author’s analysis is the issue of truth and falsehood in historical representation. Li contends that both the revolutionary and modernization historiographies before 1949 reflected historians’ lived experiences and contained a degree of authenticity in mirroring the historical processes of their own times. In sharp contrast, both the revolutionary historiography of the Maoist era and the modernization historiography of the reform era were primarily products of historians’ ideological commitment, which distorted and concealed the past no less than revealed it.

In search of a more effective approach to rewriting modern Chinese history, Reinventing Modern China proposes a within-time, open-ended perspective, which allows for different directions in interpreting the events in modern China and views modern Chinese history as an unfinished process remaining to be defined as the country entered the twenty-first century.

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Rethinking the Other in Antiquity

Erich S. Gruen

Prevalent among classicists today is the notion that Greeks, Romans, and Jews enhanced their own self-perception by contrasting themselves with the so-called Other--Egyptians, Phoenicians, Ethiopians, Gauls, and other foreigners--frequently through hostile stereotypes, distortions, and caricature. In this provocative book, Erich Gruen demonstrates how the ancients found connections rather than contrasts, how they expressed admiration for the achievements and principles of other societies, and how they discerned--and even invented--kinship relations and shared roots with diverse peoples.

Gruen shows how the ancients incorporated the traditions of foreign nations, and imagined blood ties and associations with distant cultures through myth, legend, and fictive histories. He looks at a host of creative tales, including those describing the founding of Thebes by the Phoenician Cadmus, Rome's embrace of Trojan and Arcadian origins, and Abraham as ancestor to the Spartans. Gruen gives in-depth readings of major texts by Aeschylus, Herodotus, Xenophon, Plutarch, Julius Caesar, Tacitus, and others, in addition to portions of the Hebrew Bible, revealing how they offer richly nuanced portraits of the alien that go well beyond stereotypes and caricature.

Providing extraordinary insight into the ancient world, this controversial book explores how ancient attitudes toward the Other often expressed mutuality and connection, and not simply contrast and alienation.

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Roots of Brazil

Sérgio Buarque de Holanda

Sérgio Buarque de Holanda's Roots of Brazil is one of the iconic books on Brazilian history, society, and culture. Originally published in 1936, it appears here for the first time in an English language translation with a foreword, "Why Read Roots of Brazil Today?" by Pedro Meira Monteiro, one of the world's leading experts on Buarque de Holanda. Roots of Brazil focuses on the multiple cultural influences that forged twentieth-century Brazil, especially those of the Portuguese, the Spanish, other European colonists, Native Americans, and Africans. Buarque de Holanda argues that all of these originary influences were transformed into a unique Brazilian culture and society—a "transition zone." The book presents an understanding of why and how European culture flourished in a large, tropical environment that was totally foreign to its traditions, and the manner and consequences of this development. Buarque de Holanda uses Max Weber’s typological criteria to establish pairs of "ideal types" as a means of stressing particular characteristics of Brazilians, while also trying to understand and explain the local historical process. Along with other early twentieth-century works such as The Masters and the Slaves by Gilberto Freyre and The Colonial Background of Modern Brazil by Caio Prado Júnior, Roots of Brazil set the parameters of Brazilian historiography for a generation and continues to offer keys to understanding the complex history of Brazil. Roots of Brazil has been published in Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, German, and French. This long-awaited English translation will interest students and scholars of Portuguese, Brazilian, and Latin American history, culture, literature, and postcolonial studies.

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A Sarong for Clio

Essays on the Intellectual and Cultural History of Thailand--Inspired by Craig Reynolds

edited by Maurizio Peleggi

A Sarong for Clio testifies to an ongoing intellectual dialogue between its ten contributors and Craig J. Reynolds, who inspired these essays. Conceived as a tribute to an innovative scholar, dedicated teacher, and generous colleague, it is this volume's ambition to make a concerted intervention on Thai historiography—and Thai studies more generally—by pursuing in new directions ideas that figure prominently in Reynolds's scholarship. The writings gathered here revolve around two prominent themes in Reynolds's scholarship: the nexus of historiography and power, and Thai political and business cultures—often so intertwined as to be difficult to separate. The chapters examine different types of historical texts, Thai political discourse and political culture, and the media production of consumer culture. Contributors: Chris Baker; Patrick Jory, University of Queensland, Brisbane; Tamara Loos, Cornell University; Yoshinori Nishizaki, National University of Singapore; James Ockey, University of Canterbury; Maurizio Peleggi, National University of Singapore; Pasuk Phongpaichit, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok; Kasian Tejapir, Thammasat University, Bangkok; Villa Vilaithong, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok; Thongchai Winichakul, University of Wisconsin–Madison

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The Sea

Thalassography and Historiography

Peter N. Miller

The Sea brings together a group of noted contributors to evaluate the different ways in which seas have served as subjects in historiography and asks how this has changed---and will change---the way history is written. The essays in this volume provide exemplary demonstrations of how a sea-based history-writing that focuses on connectivity, networks, and individuals describes the horizons and the potential of thalassography---the study of the world made by individuals embedded in networks of motion. As Peter N. Miller contends in his introduction, writing about the sea, today, is a way of partaking in the wider historiographical shift toward microhistory; exchange relations; networks; and, above all, materiality, both literally and figuratively. The Sea focuses not on questions of discipline and professionalization as much as on the practice of scholarship: the writing, and therefore the planning and organizing, of histories of the sea.

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Seeing Things Their Way

Intellectual History and the Return of Religion

edited by Alister Chapman, John Coffey, Brad S. Gregory

While religious history and intellectual history are both active, dynamic fields of contemporary historical inquiry, historians of ideas and historians of religion have too often paid little attention to one another’s work. The intellectual historian Quentin Skinner urged scholars to attend to the contexts as well as the texts of authors, in order to “see things their way.” Where religion is concerned, however, historians have often failed to heed this good advice; this book helps to remedy that failure. The editors and contributors urge intellectual historians to explore the religious dimensions of ideas and at the same time commend the methods of intellectual history to historians of religion.

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Smokeless Coalfields of West Virginia

A Brief History

W. P. Tams, Jr., Introduction by Ronald D. Eller

The Smokeless Coal Fields of West Virginia: A Brief History first appeared in 1963, a little book by a man with no training as either a writer or a historian. Since then, this volume has become an essential sourcebook, consulted and quoted in nearly every study of coal field history. The surprising impact and durability of the book are due to both the information in it and the personality behind it. Through the first half of the twentieth century, William Purviance Tams lived coal. Rising from a young coal engineer to a senior coal baron, Tams stood at the center of Southern West Virginia industrialization. When he sold his company in 1955, Tams was the last of the old owner-operators, men with no personal or financial interest outside of coal. Tams wrote a book which could only have come from an ultimate insider. The everyday work of mining coal is here-laying track, blasting and loading the coal. So is the everyday business of coal, from sinking shafts and ventilating the work area, to administering a town and keeping the workers happy. Tams gives the financial details of the volatile business, and offers capsule biographies of the other major developers of the Southern West Virginia coal fields. It was a passion for Tams. He never married, and tended his business and his town with paternal care. After retirement, this industrial baron spent his final decades in a modest bungalow in his little coal-camp community, watching the town he had built fade back into the mountains. It is W. P. Tams's passion and attitude, as much as his place at the center of history, which make The Smokeless Coal Fields of West Virginia worth reading nearly 40 years after its first publication. Tams's 1963 account of his career, The Smokeless Coal Fields of West Virginia, offers a unique perspective on the business and the life of coal mining. The book is especially valuable for its account of the daily life and work of the miners, engineers, and families in the mines and in the mining towns. Our reprint of this fascinating and important book combines Tams's original work with a new introduction by Ronald D. Eller, author of Miners, Millhands, & Mountaineers.

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Talking Hawai`i's Story

Oral Histories of an Island People

Michi Kodama-Nishimoto & Cynthia A. Oshiro (eds.)

Talking Hawaii’s Story is the first major book in over a generation to present a rich sampling of the landmark work of Hawaii’s Center for Oral History. Twenty-nine extensive oral histories introduce readers to the sights and sounds of territorial Waikiki, to the feeling of community in Palama, in Kona, or on the island of Lanai, and even to the experience of a German national interned by the military government after Pearl Harbor. The result is a collection that preserves Hawaii’s social and cultural history through the narratives of the people who lived it—co-workers, neighbors, family members, and friends. An Introduction by Warren Nishimoto and Michi Kodama-Nishimoto provides historical context and information about the selection and collection methods. Photos of the interview subjects accompany each oral history. For further reading, an appendix also provides information about the Center for Oral History’s major projects.

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Teaching History in the Digital Age

T. Mills Kelly

Although many humanities scholars have been talking and writing about the transition to the digital age for more than a decade, only in the last few years have we seen a convergence of the factors that make this transition possible: the spread of sufficient infrastructure on campuses, the creation of truly massive databases of humanities content, and a generation of students that has never known a world without easy Internet access. Teaching History in the Digital Age serves as a guide for practitioners on how to fruitfully employ the transformative changes of digital media in the research, writing, and teaching of history. T. Mills Kelly synthesizes more than two decades of research in digital history, offering practical advice on how to make best use of the results of this synthesis in the classroom and new ways of thinking about pedagogy in the digital humanities.

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