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The New Nature of History: Knowledge, Evidence, Language 1st Ed. Edition

2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0925065612
ISBN-10: 0925065617
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Editorial Reviews


'...passionate rebuttal of postmodernist criticisms of the mainstream positivist movement in hisorical science...' --International Review of Social History

About the Author

Arthur Marwick (d. 2006) was professor of history at the Open University and an internationally known writer of both history and historiography. His many books include British Society since 1945 (1996) and The Sixties (1998).


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 334 pages
  • Publisher: Lyceum Books; 1st Ed. edition (August 14, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0925065617
  • ISBN-13: 978-0925065612
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,463,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Angelo Johnson on October 27, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When Arthur Marwick sat down to draft The New Nature of History he likely thought back to a time three decades earlier, when he penned The Nature of History (Alfred A. Knopf, 1971) to confront the "historical relativists," with their "varieties of history, embodying the notion that all great historians are essentially equal, though they may find it impossible to agree upon any one interpretation of the nature of history." (p. 22) In that earlier work, Marwick cautioned that "to stress the variousness of history is to turn one's face in the wrong direction." (p. 23) The aim of The New Nature of History is to shift historians' faces in the right direction, to secure the place of history against the assault of the discipline's post-modern critics. He argues that history, unlike literature, is dependent upon previous bodies of knowledge, primary sources, and precise writing, maintained by professional standards. As such, the book's subtitle "Knowledge, Evidence, Language" serves poignantly a three-word thesis statement.

Knowledge is essential to Marwick's view of history. He offers a definition of history as "bodies of knowledge about the past and all that is involved in producing this knowledge, communicating it, and teaching about it." (p. 269) Accordingly, "what historians do is produce knowledge about the past." (p. xiii) Marwick sets forth a distinction between the past, "what actually happened in the (human) past (whether or not historians have written about it)", and history, "the accounts of the past provided by historians." (p. 25) Marwick views the search for universal meaning or universal explanations as futile; yet, contrary to post-modernist assertions, historians do not construct history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Zachary W. Schulz on March 6, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Arthur Marwick in The New Nature of History: Knowledge, Evidence, Language argues “history must be a scholarly discipline, based on thorough analysis of the evidence and in the writing up of which language is deployed with upmost precision.” (p. 273) He posits that professional historians utilize sources to remain objective and unbiased when “producing knowledge about the past.” (p. xiii) Additionally, he holds that explicit language is necessary to the presentation of history to the professional community and intended audience. Finally, Marwick maintains “history is a necessity” which allows societies to understand contemporary problems and dispel harmful prejudices. (p. 31)

According to Marwick, professional history is based on extensive analysis of evidence provided in primary and secondary sources. In this regard history is much like science, acquiring knowledge about the past, instead of the natural world, through collaborative efforts. Subsequently he writes, “Historians do not rely on single sources, but are always seeking corroboration, qualification, [and] correction” when engaging in the creation of history. (p. 27) Further, throughout the process, “historians take ‘history’ as a set of procedures for finding out about the past.” (p. 10) Thus, Marwick maintains through empirical study and collaboration, a historian seeks to create knowledge of the past and dispel any preconceived biases in himself or his intended audience. While interpretations of events differ between individual historians, Marwick argues professional historians support their individualized conclusions through citation of sources to show “how they developed their train of reasoning.” (p.
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