Customer Review

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong responses to criticism of history, July 17, 2001
This review is from: Telling the Truth About History (Norton Paperback) (Paperback)
Since this book was written in the wake of the intellectual `wars' at U.S. universities involving multiculturalism, political correctness and the subsequent backlash to these, it primarily focuses on the history profession in the United States rather than worldwide. Thus, some of the book's shortcomings in not dealing adequately with non-American or non-Western European views or concerns can be forgiven. Despite these flaws, "Telling the Truth About History" very successfully addresses the many criticisms hurled at the scholarly pursuit of history in recent decades, and the three authors' conclusions can be useful and edifying even for those historians living and working far beyond America's borders. In line with the pragmatism and practical realism the authors extol in their last several chapters, they essentially call for a middle ground between the extremes of postmodern relativism and the apparent absolutes of the Enlightenment `heroic science' model. This means not abandoning the pursuit of verity while incorporating many of criticisms and even methods of the postmodernist theorists. Truth may still be elusive as ever (to say nothing of absolute truth) but, as they say at one point, even provisional truths are better than ignorance or outright falsehoods - with a nice example from the Soviet Union during the Gorbachev years to illustrate this point. This is a very well-written and persuasive argument for history as a rigorous and expansive (and mind-expanding) academic discipline. Along the way, the authors also provide a very informative overview of historiography from the Enlightenment era to the present, albeit in a largely American context.
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