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Tracey-Anne Cooper

on 30 January 2013

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Transcript of Historiography


based on intro from Kenneth R. Stunkel, Why do we have HISTORY? What purpose does history serve?

How does history differ from myth, legend or oral tradition?

How would you define history?

How would you define historiography?
Some definitions History refers to human thought and activity in past time, their settings and consequences, and what can be known about them from surviving traces.

Historiography refers to distinct bodies of historical inquiry and writing. Questions We Need to Consider How was the work written?
Why was the work written?
How was the work justified?
How was the work disseminated?

How does this work fit in with the way that other versions of the past have been queried, recovered, interpreted, understood and explained?

Formation of Historical Knowledge Takes place in a plurality of cultural setting - which need to be taken into account

Credible sources are used by critical minds

Varieties of historical knowledge increasing

Diverse methods, purposes, styles and traditions

Objectivity and truth in history have been both pursued and ignored Six Themes in Our Historiography 1. Early examples of method and style (Herodotus, Sallust, Augustine.

2. Non-Western works for contrast with Western works [Shaddad, Fukuzawa, Pannikar, Ch'ien Mu.

3. Search for believable evidence to support generalizations about the past and the search for new evidence [Mabillon, Ranke, Mommsen, Thomas]

4. Expansion of genres of history - women, minorities, technology, ideas, broad interpretations [Pirenne, Lerner, Needham, Said].

5. Works that cover broad spans [Lovejoy, Mummford, Hofstadter]
6. Problematic/eccentric examples [Procopius, Herder, Foucault]
What needs to be done by us Question how evidence has been identified, evaluated, and used

Appreciate historiography from several angles and more than one tradition

Connect or contrast different works by their themes

Briefly consider primary work 1. Pioneer Works Span 2500 years

This historiography is itself part of the historical record

Appreciate deficiencies and debt owed.

Greek, Roman, Christian and Medieval attempts at historical narrative and explanation. 2. Non Western Perspectives Examples from China, India, Japan, Africa, Islam.

Remind us that civilizations other than the West sought to recover, understand and make use of the past.

Critical outlook not solely Western perspective.

Differences about what counts as evidence and how historians should proceed with inquiry. 3. Critical Historiography Distinguish history from invention, apologetics, whim, legend, myth

Empirical criticism and usable evidence for knowledge

Critical techniques: chronology, diplomatics, paleography, philology, epigraphy, numismatics, archaeology,local history, microhistory.

Interdisciplinary: Geography, Art History, Sociology, Anthropology, Literature, Sciences, etc.

Archives and Libraries - collection, classification, accessibility

Schools and universities - training

Professional journals and monographs - systematic dissemination Is History a Science or an Art? Not objective like natural science - cannot make predictions or eliminate competing hypotheses with experiments

not an exact science but a scientific attitude

the "facts" are human thoughts, deeds and artifacts

inference from surviving evidence

reconstruction of past events, beliefs and thoughts with a degree of probable accuracy

Union of readability, truthfulness, imagination and criticism 4. Genres of History Pre-20th century: Preservation of memory - inscriptions, king lists, memoirs, chronologies, journals, chronicles noting exceptional events, or more ambitious attempts at narrative.

Serving local, didactic, religious, dynastic and moral purposes.

Post-20th century: variety and complexity. science and technology, urban, intellectual, legal, social, cultural, economic.

New history - women, mental structures, colonized.

Additional types of evidence - oral, quantification, psychoanalysis, anthropolgy 5. Widening lens of history Disruptive upheavals stimulate historical output - two world wars, break up of European and Ottoman empires, world depression, lesser international conflicts, Cold War, Western liberalism, Soviet communism, fundamentalism, terrorism.

Need to explain

So much history it is not all possible in a lifetime

Some historians coordinate, synthesize and consolidate long stretches of past time - "big picture" 6. Problematic works Off beat but highly influential on historical debate and understanding

Eg. Procopius "Secret History"

Foucault "History of Sexuality" - all social phenomenon governed by power relations.

"Historicist" outlook Conviction that human thought, society, creations, and institutions are best understood by doing history to describe and explain their origin and development.

Knowledge of the present is contingent on knowing how and why change has taken place in successive eras.

Historical development produced the world as we know it

IRONY: abundance, variety and change - show historical awareness is not a given - it does not come easily, stay the same or stick.

People's attention dominated by immediate experience, average historical literacy less healthy than in 19thc.

A world awash is historical fiction faces postmodern claims that historical knowledge is flimsy. Postmodern Challenge Denial that historical writing refers to the actual past

Historiography is a form of fiction

Statements about the past are so culture bound, strapped by limitations of language, and sullied by personal bias.

Objective standards are wish fulfillment

No text has a reference outside itself, thus meanings are variable and ambiguous, at the mercy of the reader's response. Confronting the Postmodern Challenge 1. We have only subjective, socially conditioned interpretations.
Selection and evaluation of facts betray the historians interests and values. Physicists also select and evaluate. Subjective and objective not necessarily so distinct, can work in combination to produce a vivid past.

2. Cultural bias forecloses objectivity.
Membership of a culture is no guarantee it is understood, nor is comprehension of an alien culture blocked. Not a fishbowl.

3. Meaning of text self-enclosed with no certain connection to author's intentions.
Uncertainty - a necessary precondition for knowledge, without it no questions or inquiries. Conclusion Uncertainty stimulates curiosity

Can never be "done" because complex world with tangled past changes all the time.

Incomplete knowledge is still knowledge

Contemporary dilemma not lack of historical knowledge but accumulated immensity.

Historical truth always has and will face obstacles of language, bias, and cultural exclusiveness, should be consciously managed rather than overlooked.

Think often and deeply about the foundation of your discipline and restrain yourself from asserting more than be delivered.

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