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Munslow's _Narrative and History_ is a competent survey of the postmodern approach to history. His main argument is: "the basic assumption behind this book is that history is a form of narrative written by historians." Among the characteristics Munslow associated with postmodernism and the related category, poststructuralism ("a central pivot of postmodern analysis") are relativism, skepticism about how we know anything, and "history that acknowledges its fictive nature," an argument that non-postmodernists will find hard to agree with. The book is littered with technical terms, and although these are defined in a glossary, the very definitions are also technical, causing the reader to look at other definitions in order to understand virtually any one of them; yet the cross-referencing is so circular that it is difficult for the reader to avoid bewilderment.
Nevertheless, Munslow's main arguments are relatively clear. These included never taking "any evidence at face value," thus requiring postmodernists to step "outside our beliefs, ideologies, arguments, emplotments, theories and authorial decisions." This, of course, is not entirely possible; some degree of subjectivity is inevitable. As to truth in history, Munslow wrote that "instead of regarding attested evidence as akin to truth," we must regard it as merely providing a basis "for the possibility of truth." To summarize a lengthy discussion of historical truth, Munslow's argument was that because of "competing narratives" and different "points of view," there can be no single historical truth but only " `historical truths'." These are points that many historians who don't regard themselves as postmodernists can agree with.Read more ›
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