Abstract

This article established its theoretical framework by criticizing the way in which social historians have practiced their scholarship in the last three decades and how and why they have not responded to the challenges of postmodernism and poststructuralism. The focus is on the Journal of Social History and the academic debate since its inception—how scholars have responded to the challenges and problems facing the discipline at different times. Connections are drawn between these developments found in JSH and the authors' own ideas and experiences of academic work, with the aim of assessing the state of the discipline in the early years of the 21st century. As a result of the very success of social history, it is argued that social historians have felt no reason to take scholarly risks for the last ten or fifteen years—there is simply no incentive for them to do so. Hence, the image becomes ossified and scholars are tempted to start treating social history as nothing more than a series of "sites of memory", as monuments that can neither be moved nor challenged, like a statue that is polished up solely so as to be able to gleam back resplendently into the eyes of those that behold it. The article severely critiques the conventional theoretical framework of social-historical research—the institutionalization of history—and an attempt is made to redefine the aims and parameters of history in order for it to achieve its full potential.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1897
Print ISSN
0022-4529
Pages
pp. 891-913
Launched on MUSE
2006-04-05
Open Access
No
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