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Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation

by Frank Ankersmit

In this book, the noted intellectual historian Frank Ankersmit provides a systematic account of the problems of reference, truth, and meaning in historical writing. He works from the conviction that the historicist account of historical writing, associated primarily with Leopold von Ranke and Wilhelm von Humboldt, is essentially correct but that its original idealist and romanticist idiom needs to be translated into more modern terms. Rehabilitating historicism for the contemporary philosophy of history, he argues, "reveals the basic truths about the nature of the past itself, how we relate to it, and how we make sense of the past in historical writing."

At the heart of Ankersmit's project is a sharp distinction between interpretation and representation. The historical text, he holds, is first and foremost a representation of some part of the past, not an interpretation. The book's central chapters address the concept of historical representation from the perspectives of reference, truth, and meaning. Ankersmit then goes on to discuss the possible role of experience in the history writing, which leads directly to a consideration of subjectivity and ethics in the historian's practice. Ankersmit concludes with a chapter on political history, which he maintains is the "basis and condition of all other variants of historical writing." Ankersmit's rehabilitation of historicism is a powerfully original and provocative contribution to the debate about the nature of historical writing.

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Memories of War

Micronesians in the Pacific War

Suzanne Falgout, Lin Poyer, & Laurence M. Carucci

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.

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Napoleonic Wars

The Essential Bibliography

FREDERICK C. SCHNEID

It is only in the past two decades that English-speaking scholars have fully breached European language barriers, permitting a comprehensive reexamination of the Napoleonic Wars beyond the limitations of English-, French-, and German-dependent works. This new volume in the Essential Bibliography Series examines the changing nature of Napoleonic historiography and provides the student and scholar an invaluable guide to those changes.

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An Old Creed for the New South

Proslavery Ideology and Historiography, 1865-1918

John David Smith, With a New Preface by the Author

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.

 

 

 

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Oral History and Public Memories

Edited by Linda Shopes, and Paula Hamilton

Understanding how individual perspectives on history build collective memory

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Other Pasts, Different Presents, Alternative Futures

Jeremy Black

What if there had been no World War I or no Russian Revolution? What if Napoleon had won at Waterloo in 1815, or if Martin Luther had not nailed his complaints to the church door at Wittenberg in 1517, or if the South had won the American Civil War? The questioning of apparent certainties or "known knowns" can be fascinating and, indeed, "What if?" books are very popular. However, this speculative approach, known as counterfactualism, has had limited impact in academic histories, historiography, and the teaching of historical methods. In this book, Jeremy Black offers a short guide to the subject, one that is designed to argue its value as a tool for public and academe alike. Black focuses on the role of counterfactualism in demonstrating the part of contingency, and thus human agency, in history, and the salutary critique the approach offers to determinist accounts of past, present, and future.

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The Perils of Normalcy

George L. Mosse and the Remaking of Cultural History

Karel Plessini

A taboo-breaker and a great provocateur, George L. Mosse (1918–99) was one of the great historians of the twentieth century, forging a new historiography of culture that included brilliant insights about the roles of nationalism, fascism, racism, and sexuality. Jewish, gay, and a member of a culturally elite family in Germany, Mosse came of age as the Nazis came to power, before escaping as a teenager to England and America. Mosse was innovative and interdisciplinary as a scholar, and he shattered in his groundbreaking books prevalent assumptions about the nature of National Socialism and the Holocaust. He audaciously drew a link from bourgeois respectability and the ideology of the Enlightenment—the very core of modern Western civilization—to the extermination of the European Jews.

            In this intellectual biography of George Mosse, Karel Plessini draws on all of Mosse's published and unpublished work to illuminate the origins and development of his groundbreaking methods of historical analysis and the close link between his life and work. He redefined the understanding of modern mass society and politics, masterfully revealing the powerful influence of conformity and political liturgies on twentieth-century history. Mosse warned against the dangers inherent in acquiescence, showing how identity creation and ideological fervor can climax in intolerance and mass murder—a message of continuing relevance.

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The Poverty of Clio

Resurrecting Economic History

Francesco Boldizzoni

The Poverty of Clio challenges the hold that cliometrics--an approach to economic history that employs the analytical tools of economists--has exerted on the study of our economic past. In this provocative book, Francesco Boldizzoni calls for the reconstruction of economic history, one in which history and the social sciences are brought to bear on economics, and not the other way around.

Boldizzoni questions the appeal of economics over history--which he identifies as a distinctly American attitude--exposing its errors and hidden ideologies, and revealing how it fails to explain economic behavior itself. He shows how the misguided reliance on economic reasoning to interpret history has come at the expense of insights from the humanities and has led to a rejection of valuable past historical research. Developing a better alternative to new institutional economics and the rational choice approach, Boldizzoni builds on the extraordinary accomplishments of twentieth-century European historians and social thinkers to offer fresh ideas for the renewal of the field.

Economic history needs to rediscover the true relationship between economy and culture, and promote an authentic alliance with the social sciences, starting with sociology and anthropology. It must resume its dialogue with the humanities, but without shrinking away from theory when constructing its models. The Poverty of Clio demonstrates why history must exert its own creative power on economics.

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Presence

Philosophy, History, and Cultural Theory for the Twenty-First Century

edited by Ranjan Ghosh and Ethan Kleinberg

The philosophy of “presence” seeks to challenge current understandings of meaning and understanding. One can trace its origins back to Vico, Dilthey, and Heidegger, though its more immediate exponents include Jean-Luc Nancy, Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, and such contemporary philosophers of history as Frank Ankersmit and Eelco Runia. The theoretical paradigm of presence conveys how the past is literally with us in the present in significant and material ways: Things we cannot touch nonetheless touch us. This makes presence a post-linguistic or post-discursive theory that challenges current understandings of “meaning” and “interpretation.” Presence provides an overview of the concept and surveys both its weaknesses and its possible uses.

In this book, Ethan Kleinberg and Ranjan Ghosh bring together an interdisciplinary group of contributors to explore the possibilities and limitations of presence from a variety of perspectives—history, sociology, literature, cultural theory, media studies, photography, memory, and political theory. The book features critical engagements with the presence paradigm within intellectual history, literary criticism, and the philosophy of history. In three original case studies, presence illuminates the relationships among photography, the past, memory, and the Other. What these diverse but overlapping essays have in common is a shared commitment to investigate the attempt to reconnect meaning with something “real” and to push the paradigm of presence beyond its current uses. The volume is thus an important intervention in the most fundamental debates within the humanities today.

Contributors: Bill Ashcroft, University of New South Wales; Mark Bevir, University of California, Berkeley; Susan A. Crane, University of Arizona; Ranjan Ghosh, University of North Bengal; Suman Gupta, Open University Ethan Kleinberg, Wesleyan University; John Michael, University of Rochester; Vincent P. Pecora, University of Utah; Roger I. Simon.

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The Production of Modernization: Daniel Lerner, Mass Media, and The Passing of Traditional Society

Daniel Lerner's 1958 book The Passing of Traditional Society was central in shaping Cold War–era ideas about the use of mass media and culture to promote social and economic progress in postcolonial nations. Based on a study of the effectiveness of propaganda in the Middle East, Lerner’s book claimed that exposure to American media messages could motivate “traditional” people in the postcolonial nations to become “modern” by cultivating empathy for American ideas, goods, and ways of life.

The Production of Modernization examines Lerner’s writings to construct the intellectual trajectory of his thinking about mass media and modernization up to and beyond the publication of his famous book. Shah has written not just an intellectual biography of Lerner but also a history of the discipline he shaped.

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