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History: A Very Short Introduction 1st Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0192853523
ISBN-10: 019285352X
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"John Arnold builds around a few glittering fragments of the past-- a medieval murderer, a 17th-century pension to an abandoned wife, a speech by a black woman born into slavery-- a whole exhibition about what history is and is not. Writing with lucidity and passion, he lays out for inspection all the ways of recounting and exploiting the past through narrative which has been used from Herodotus to Hobsbawn. His range of knowledge and interests is phenomenal, but his skills as a communicator makes his own subtle analysis of history's history as gripping as a novel."--Neal Ascherson


"A stimulating and provocative introduction to one of collective humanity's most important quests-- understanding the past and its relation to the present. A vivid mix of telling examples and clear-cut analysis."--David Lowenthal, University College, London


"Intriguing and original in its discussion of why history matters and what are the problems inherent in studying it. The book is admirable in being discursive and thought-provoking."--Paul Freedman, Yale University


"Accessible to students and wide-ranging in content, Arnold uncovers major issues in the historical profession in a way that invites student participation."--Russ Reeves, Trinity Christian College


"Exactly what I needed. Suitable for the non-major undergrad and the graduate school bound major student."--Rea Andrew Reid, Waynesburg College


"This is an extremely engaging book, lively, enthusiastic and highly readable, which presents some of the fundamental problems of historical writing in a lucid and accessible manner. As an invitation to the study of history it should be difficult to resist."--Peter Burke, Emmanuel College, Cambridge


"A few millenia of events, millions of transcripts tucked away, uncountable lives passed, endless stories to tell. History: where to begin? John Arnold's History: A Very Short Introduction is an excellent short answer. Lucid and thoughtfully written, it will inspire confidence in students who wish to seek their own historical answers."--Dorothy Porter, Birbeck College, London


About the Author


John Arnold teaches history at the University of East Anglia, specializing in the medieval period and the philosophy of history.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019285352X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192853523
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.6 x 4.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
What is contained in the pages of this text far surpasses its size, and its worth cannot be adequately represented by its low cost. I found that, using this book as part of my preparations for school, as a required reading, that it surprised me. Although I had read other books in the series before, and both enjoyed and profited from the time spent engaged in such, I must admit that I felt a certain amount of disdain for the idea of reading a book with the title -A Very Short Introduction-. After all, had I not just recently graduated with a degree in history? Did I need to be told what history was? Apparently I did, because the "history of history" contained in its few pages enlightened me as to where what I do came from. It breaks down the most fascinating evolution of theory from Thucydides to today, from each fracture and faction formed along the way, to the theories that resulted in the eventual outcome. Today, history is broken into many smaller disciplines, and if you are thinking about pursuing history in college, or just like to study it from the armchair, this book will open your eyes and entertain your mind...for two to three hours...but leave you with information that will give you an idea of just how deep the rabbit hole truly goes into the depths of time. The examples the author uses to illustrate his points are interesting (although they tended to focus on his own research area of Medieval history), and, altogether the prose was neat and the style fluid and conversational - a combination I very much enjoy!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Arnold takes 'historiography' to be the process of writing history, and 'history' to be the result of that process, i.e. to be a set of true stories about the past. If you enjoy reading history, then you should read at least something about historiography, to help you evaluate and interpret what you read. This short introduction to the subject is probably as good a place as any to start and for many readers will be as much historiography as they think they need.

Major figures such as Thucydides and von Ranke are discussed and central issues in the philosophy of history, such as the extent to which people of other times were essentially different from us, are introduced. Arnold presents a wide range of opinions on these various topics, but has a bias toward the politically correct.

His style is readable, if sometimes clumsy. The British spellings and usages may annoy some American readers. But overall this little book succeeds admirably in its task and contains a wealth of information and opinion. It is recommended for anyone wanting to get beyond the 'true stories' to what history really is.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Arnold's lucid and slender book is worthy of praise for its concision and accessible writing style. The clear writing enables non-specialists to entertain some of the central questions in Historiography and Philosophy of History. His use of historical examples to illustrate important points is skillful and engaging. Some of these examples include a religiously motivated medieval murder at the time of the inquisition; the story of one man who lived through both the English Civil War and the religious conflicts in the early Massachusetts Colony then governed by John Winthrop; a case of cat-killing in 17C France with an accompanying discussion of the history of attitudes towards cats; and the case of Sojourner Truth's famous "Ain't I a Woman?" speech-- which survives in 2 very different records--neither of which is the same as what she said in the speech. Despite the relatively jargon-free writing, the author manages to articulate many of the central questions, problems and challenges facing contemporary historians who try to make sense of their craft. If he offers more questions than definitive answers, that is in keeping with his tendency to debunk those historians and philosophers who have claimed to have final answers to extremely complex questions. If the book has a thesis at all, it is probably that one should be extremely cautious about the use of historical constructs, generalizations and abstractions that are too often confused with the past itself. An obvious example is periodization. Students often learn about the Renaissance, Middle Ages and Enlightenment periods as though these are realities that existed in the past.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
John Arnold has written an excellent book about history and what history is really all about. History is an argument and Arnold points out some of the issues throughout history (was history created by a great person or did a great event make a person seem great?). It's an easy and very informative read for history majors and non-history majors. It will make you think about history in a new way and provides great information about how and why history is so very important to all of us.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Arnold tells us the difference between "history and "the past." Very interesting! There are different ways to interpret the same thing, and people see things that others do not. While this is obvious, Arnold tells us how this changes history, and how the story and effects are changed as well. I have read it about five times, and am looking over it again as I write my Thesis.
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