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ISBN-13: 000-0195171578
ISBN-10: 0195171578
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Two classics of historiography, The Historian's Craft by Marc Bloch (1953) and What Is History? by E. H. Carr (1961), have prompted notable cold war historian Gaddis to offer his own abstract of what historians do. Does the methodology of historians captivate readers of popular history? Those sensitive to a historian's attitudes might be intrigued by this disquisition into the "ductwork" installed in every piece of historical writing. In discussing ductwork, the concepts by which a historian selects facts, comprehends time and space, and ultimately presents the past, Gaddis hews to two central tenets: that there is, somewhere, an objective truth in history, and that history is a science. Those ideas have been severely challenged, especially by social scientists enamored of quantitative methods. Gaddis dismisses quantification alone as unworkable and inappropriate and says historians must combine the techniques of many disciplines. A technical but provocative inquiry for sophisticated history readers. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review


"Will... never allow either the reader of history or the writer of it to think about the past in quite the same way as before."--The New York Times


"A masterful statement on the historical method.... Gaddis' characterization of the social sciences will surely spark debate even as it illuminates important intellectual connections between the disciplines. Delightfully readable, the book is a grand celebration of the pursuit of knowledge."--Foreign Affairs


"A bold and challenging book, unafraid of inviting controversy. It provides a strong statement for our time of both the limits and the value of the historical enterprise."--The New York Times Book Review


"A real tour de force: a delight to read, and a light-hearted celebration of the odd, 'fractal' patterns that intellectual and other forms of human and natural history exhibit."--William H. McNeill


"Turns the old argument over science and history upside down."--The Washington Post Book World


"Never before have I come across a book that so illuminated the craft of the historian."--Michael Pakenham, The Baltimore Sun


"This is another of those books that rewards the effort it requires. Besides providing invaluable insights into how the historian goes about his business, it teaches--like all really good books--of life beyond its boundaries."--Colin Walters, Washington Times


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 8, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195171578
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195171570
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 0.3 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By John Jefferson on March 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
Gaddis examines the nature of history and the function of historians through a wide range of metaphors. By putting forth the question: How long is the British coast line? Gaddis immediately sets out that if we measure in miles we won't get to the alcoves and cubbyholes and we'll probably end up with a nice round number. If we measure in microns and millimeters, it'll take a while but we'll measure every single bend and dog leg and we'll have a much larger number. Many of Gaddis' metaphors spur philosophical discussions but he does not approach them with a philosophical background, instead he sets out to solve a functional question: What is history? Is it a natural science? If it is, then why can we not replicate any historical findings as biology and physiology can? Is it a social science? Then why do other social sciences like economics and anthropology try to find an independent variable upon which everything hangs when historians try to put out the bigger picture? Gaddis' conclusion then is that history is its own beast. It does not mirror either the hard sciences nor the social sciences although it may pick up some of their properties.
All in all, this book is very readable for a historiography and may appeal to non-historians seeking a perspective on history. The chapters read more like the text of a speech than a textbook so the minimal 140 or so pages will make this a very easy read.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mithridates VI of Pontus VINE VOICE on January 28, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Lewis Gaddis' The Landscape of History is a scholarly yet very approachable work that successfully attempts to pick up the mantel of the famous scholars of historiography, specifically Marc Bloch and E. H. Carr. Gaddis' purpose is to encourage students and historians not only to reexamine the theories of Bloch and Carr in a more modern light, but also scrutinize the methodology that historians use, and more often than not, recoil from making explicit. Gaddis, in a veiled manner does refute some of the assumptions of postmodernism, primarily the extremist view that historians are unable to make conclusions about the past. Gaddis is content with inundating his work with metaphors, some of which span chapters to relate and clarify complex ideas and arguments to the reader since he claims that "we need all the help we can get" (pg 128). Gaddis, masterfully using this powerful tool, arrives at a concept of historical consciousness which he argues helps to establish human identity. In the course of this argument Gaddis explains how historians "achieve [this] state" (pg 129) through their manipulations of time and space, the mechanisms of structure and progress, and causation, contingency, and counterfactuals. He claims that the methodology that emerges, although long since said to be closer to the realm of the social science, actually uses methods and techniques more similar to paleontology, geology, and evolutionary biology since both require thought experiments.

One of Gaddis' achievements is his ability to convey complicated ideas in a crisp, persuasive, and well-supported fashion.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By John Jefferson on March 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Gaddis examines the nature of history and the function of historians through a wide range of metaphors. By putting forth the question: How long is the British coast line? Gaddis immediately sets out that if we measure in miles we won't get to the alcoves and cubbyholes and we'll probably end up with a nice round number. If we measure in microns and millimeters, it'll take a while but we'll measure every single bend and dog leg and we'll have a much larger number. Many of Gaddis' metaphors spur philosophical discussions but he does not approach them with a philosophical background, instead he sets out to solve a functional question: What is history? Is it a natural science? If it is, then why can we not replicate any historical findings as biology and physiology can? Is it a social science? Then why do other social sciences like economics and anthropology try to find an independent variable upon which everything hangs when historians try to put out the bigger picture? Gaddis' conclusion then is that history is its own beast. It does not mirror either the hard sciences nor the social sciences although it may pick up some of their properties.
Gaddis uses metaphors that seem to have little connection with hsitory, such as fractal geometry and natural sciences. The connections are then developed and this may be a way of making scientists understand the nature of history or giving students with a familiarity in natural sciences a correlation to the study of history. Also, Gaddis' humor makes a philosophical discussion of history a little less tense and certainly more cheerful.
All in all, this book is very readable for a historiography and may appeal to non-historians seeking a perspective on history. The chapters read more like the text of a speech than a textbook so the minimal 140 or so pages will make this a very easy read.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on May 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
A brief, but entirely enjoyable book on the craft of history. John Lewis Gaddis's book is really a collection of speeches he gave during a visiting professorship at Oxford. The speeches center on the art and science of historical research. He challenges the view held by many social scientists that downplay historians as storytellers whose craft lack the rigor of the scientific method. Gaddis claims that the historical method is more complex that most realize and that historians have more in common with evolutionary biologists and astronomers than economists and political scientists. Despite the academic nature of the subject, the chapters are very readable, since they were written as speeches. The only downside was his attempts at pop-culture humor in an attempt to seem hip to the Oxford audience. A man of his standing in the field of Soviet history has nothing to prove to a bunch of British 19-year olds.

Nevertheless, the book offers a unique glimpse into the mind of a master historian. Good history reads easily, with beautiful narrative, deep research, and thought-provoking analysis. This Gaddis book describes how complex the process can be. It made me appreciate first rate history even more.
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