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The KILLING OF HISTORY Hardcover – October 9, 1997


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Subsequent edition (October 9, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684844451
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684844459
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,041,907 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Very interesting reading.
Jackal
The specific examples he gives about the history of Mexico and Australia make this an interesting read in that vein as well.
D. B Poe, Jr.
The author, quite properly, affirms the value of the "Western" scientific method.
Jill Malter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

161 of 173 people found the following review helpful By D. B Poe, Jr. on April 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I am a college professor of the social sciences and have watched as "critical theory" has crept into the academy with alarm. I loved The Killing of History and stayed up at night reading it, and I strongly recommend it. Windschuttle focuses on the issues of the debate between old-school historians and post-modernists, although he does point out that the latter group tends to use a supercilious, derisively dismissive tone as their response when opposed (see the review below which refers to the author as a "hack," uses phrases like "so-called 'intellectuals'," and a snub about "if you subscribe to the Reader's Digest then this book is for you" as a perfect example of what he is talking about]. The specific examples he gives about the history of Mexico and Australia make this an interesting read in that vein as well.
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97 of 105 people found the following review helpful By Rodney J. Szasz on July 31, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you ever wonder who killed truth and the whole nature of empirical history, even empirical science, Windshuttle has the answer and it is unequivocally the fault of the Post-Modernists.
If you ever wondered who exactly the PoMo crowd is, then Windshuttle will do his best to teach you, though he admits, even with the post-modern crowd, the hardest thing is arriving at a definition that everyone agrees upon: overly abstruse, opaque in their turgid writing style PoMo literary critics and social theorists have been creeping into the Queen of the Social Sciences --- History --- since Nietszche and Foucault.
Here in crisp, clean and logical style, Windshuttle makes a powerful polemic, wiping the slate clean and reclaiming traditional narrative, empirical history from literary critics and social theorists.
Some of the books highlights for me were:
1) The PoMo use of the the arguments of Popper, Kuhn and Lakatos, to reach a conclusion that purports, because science is relative then so is knowledge. Since these people are my heros I was very surprised to learn that their ideas could be used in a fashion they never intended. Windshuttle puts their ideas in their proper perspective.
2) That vast proliferation of any university course that has the word "studies" appended after it has always caused me concern; I have run into a lot of people, some from good universities, that have no idea about even simple ideas of science, morality and elementary history. But who lack elementary thinking skills (such as how to reason from a first premise, how to detect a fallacy or even understand the simple elements of science).
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62 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Jeffry M. Bedore (jmbedore@compuserve.com) on May 21, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Keith Windschuttle's book The Killing of History is a brilliant response to the often monumentally silly social crusading that modern academia works so hard to pawn off as "scholarship" and "history". Windschuttle reveals Relativism and Deconstructionism for the arrogant, self serving pernicious evils that they are. He adroitly skewers the more well known purveyors of Deconstructionist History and persuasively relegates the work of the darlings of the Post-modern, (Focault, Derrida, Popper and so on), to its proper place in the lower regions of the ash-heap of bad ideas. Windschuttle's book is foremost a brilliant defense of the truth of the past. It is also a scathing indictment of the increasingly fashionable practice of passing off convenient fictions as legitimate forms of "history". Partents, teachers of History, and their students are facing a concerted effort by Relativists to destroy history as a coherent intellectual discipline by collapsing the distinction between fact and fiction. Given the historical truth of the first half of this century one cannot deny that the stakes in this particular game are incredibly high. To deny the truth of History is to ultimately doom our progeny to re-learn the most terrible lessons of the past and to make meaningless the sacrifices of literally millions who lost everthing for the sake of our future. Windschuttle writes that "The study of history is essentially a search for the truth. ... A work that does not aim at truth may be many things but not a work of history." Amen and bravo!
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53 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Bruce H on August 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
Don't let the title of the book fool you. While the title may seem to be something of an exaggeration, I think Windschuttle makes his case. He argues that relativism (the idea that there is no absolute, universal truth or knowledge) is making history, a discipline that seeks to discover the truth about the past, impossible.
He starts the book by showing where relativism came from. Primarily, relativism was thought up by a number of French intellectuals in the 1960's. These philosophers and theorists (e.g. Derrida, Foucault, etc) also drew some of their ideas from 19th century philosophers such as Nietzsche (who is frequently quoted as saying, "There are no facts but only interpretations.") and Heidegger. The theories that these thinkers came up with have several different names (e.g. structuralism, post-structuralism, post-modernism etc...) but they all have a common commitment to relativism. The fact that relativism is an incoherent, self-contradictory philosophy should be obvious to all after some reflection on the topic. I would recommend, "Relativism: Feet planted firmly in mid-air," by Francis Beckwith and Gregory Koukl (which I have reviewed) for a book length treatment of why relativism is false. Windschuttle focuses on the cultural relativism (i.e. the idea that all cultures are equal and that there are no ideas or truths which transcend culture) whereas Beckwith and Koukl focus on moral relativism (i.e. the idea that there is no universal morality).
Windschuttle makes his case by examining a number of theorists and their writings about specific historical events. For example, Windschuttle discusses the death of James Cook in Hawaii, early Australian history, the Spanish conquest of Mexico, Columbus' discovery of America and the like.
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