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Faces of History: Historical Inquiry from Herodotus to Herder Hardcover – January 11, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1ST edition (January 11, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300073089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300073089
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,341,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jordan M. Poss VINE VOICE on September 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
The conceit of Donald Kelley's Faces of History is that all historians of all periods fall into one of two categories, demonstrated at the very beginning of "historical inquiry" by the first two historians: Herodotus, the "father of history," and Thucydides. Herodotus, according to Kelley, is interested in everything and produced an all-encompassing, sweeping universal history. Thucydides, on the other hand, was a narrowly-focused analytical historian, confining his inquiry to a single time and place and scrutinizing it. Kelley refers repeatedly to this Herodotus-Thucydides dichotomy is the "Janus" face of history--two faces looking from the same foundation in entirely opposite directions. Kelley's thesis in this book, thus explained, is intriguing. Unfortunately, he doesn't make it work.

After introducing this idea that all historians from Herodotus on fall into one of two camps, he almost abandons it in favor of a ponderous examination of the development of historiography. From time to time he returns to the conceit to loosely define someone or something--almost always in very vague terms--as "Herodotean" or "Thucydidean," then just as quickly returns to his examination. I had no idea, from historian to historian, who or what belonged to which group. Kelley is often unclear and always vague.

In fact, it's the book's vagueness that forces me to rate this book at three stars. Kelley writes in an elephantine manner that quite literally put me to sleep--I rarely ever finished a chapter without first having to get some caffeine or exercise.
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Format: Paperback
The history of history is often the most difficult subject for students of history. It requires a changing of the approaches to historical study in that studying the history of history requires students to develop a multiple interpretation view of any and all historical events. They usually have been learning how to develop their own interpretation and now they’re being asked to learn why multiple interpretations exist. The average undergraduate is not going to have read deeply on multiple subjects, and in most cases they will not have explored various interpretations reaching back centuries in some cases. Historiography literally causes them to analyze how historians have studied history and that just seems to trip many up.

There is no physically possible way to expect students of history to read so many different works on history in order to develop an understanding of how historians have studied history. That is where books on historiography come into play. Donald Kelley’s Faces of History is one such work. Kelley explored how historical interpretations change over time. In this case, Kelley works from Herodotus and moves through history to the 1990s covering most of the larger schools of historical thought. It is interesting how it seems like classical historians tend to write the works with the broader range of historiography.

I thought this book was interesting because it was the first real book I read on historiography. I had read articles, but the tended to focus on a single event such as American Revolution historiography. Kelley opened my eyes to the greater scope of the subject. My first trip through the book was a bit confusing, but my second time around was much more substantial as I had grown as a student of history and could delve deeper into the content.
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