Australian scholar Keith Windschuttle is one of the fieriest participants in the debate about the practice of history. In The Killing of History
he decries the growth of so-called cultural studies in place of the old-fashioned facts-and-chronologies approach. Windschuttle's passion sometimes carries him a bit too far, but he lands many solid punches, such as when he takes on the heavily published French scholar Michel de Certeau, who has called writing a tool of the power elite. "For someone who thinks writing is a form of oppression," Windschuttle twits, "he has done a lot of writing." Elsewhere Windschuttle attacks efforts to explain away such matters as human sacrifice among the Aztecs, saying that to accept such behavior is akin to "accepting the cultures of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia as equal but different."
From Library Journal
Australian author and lecturer in history, social science, and media, Windschuttle presents an articulate, acerbic, sustained but balanced attack on postmodernist theory and its influence on the practice of history. After a survey of the major tenets of postmodern theory with its radical relativism, the author examines a series of case studies where the practice has been applied, such as Cortes's conquest of Mexico, movie versions of Mutiny on the Bounty, and the Hawaiian system of signs in the interpretation of Captain Cook's existence. He also includes a long chapter on Foucault. Showing the inconsistencies, errors, contradictions, and illogic that resulted from the postmodernist approach, he ultimately argues that the relativism and rejection of empirical research by such theorists produces a tribalism that disarms the marginalized groups it proposes to liberate. While oriented toward Australian intellectual circles, this book is readily accessible and deserves a wide audience.?Thomas L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, Ga.
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