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The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past Illustrated Edition
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"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
About the Author
John Lewis Gaddis is the Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History at Yale University. A leading authority on Cold War history, his books include We Now Know, The Long Peace, and Strategies of Containment. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.
- Lexile measure : 1360L
- Item Weight : 6 ounces
- Paperback : 208 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-0195171570
- ISBN-10 : 0195171578
- Dimensions : 7.8 x 0.3 x 5.3 inches
- Publisher : Oxford University Press; Illustrated edition (April 8, 2004)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #74,107 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The historian is a traveler in time and space with the freedom to (1) select the specific times and places, (2) simultaneously examine events that were originally separated in time and/or space, and (3) adjust the scale of his research from the micro to the macro in time, space, and events.
History as Cartography?
The historian creates a map, a representation of history, much as a cartographer creates a map that represents a portion of the earth's surface. Neither representation can capture all the detail of the original. Each must focus on a subset of the original chosen to illustrate specific features.
History as Science?
History can be thought of as a form of remote sensing. It employs thought experiments similar to those in such non-experimental sciences as geology, astronomy and evolutionary biology. These sciences, like history, are not replicable. Perhaps they are a form of history.
History as Social Science?
The social sciences (economics, sociology, some might include psychology) are intently focused these days on developing predictive models and identifying independent variables. Physics-envy, Gaddis calls it. The trouble is that there really are no independent variables. The Fed can change interest rates, but they do that in response to inflation. Inflation depends on the growth of the money supply which, in turn, responds to changes in interest rates. So, where is the independent variable? Rather than taking the reductionist approach of the social sciences, historians take an ecological approach, viewing events as part of an interacting system. Their goal is to understand what happened in the past, why and how it was significant, but not to predict the future.
Narrative versus Models
Historians present their results in the form of narratives rather than models, and, as a result, their work is accessible to a much wider audience.
Biography is a particularly difficult form of history. To be successful, the biographer must see the world and history through the eyes and mind of his subject and chronicle not only what the subject did but why. But then, having mind-melded with the subject, the biographer must break the bond in order to provide an objective assessment of the subject.
The historian develops a representation of history, with the passage of time, may become the perceived historical reality. This creates a special responsibility. Moral judgments are an integral part of writing history. There is a currently popular "post-modern" urge among some academics to write purely factually, non-judgmentally, but how can one not judge Hitler, Lenin and Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, or bin Laden? The difficulty is to judge in a manner that convinces both professional historians and non-professionals.
As a leading historian of the Cold War, Gaddis confronted one problem most historians experience only in their nightmares: The subjects of his research (many of whom were or are still alive) could and did confront him and challenge his narratives. Perhaps he envies the medievalists who are only confronted by Banquo's ghost.
Gaddis ends on an optimistic note: The sources of oppression are lodged in time and are not independent of time. We can escape then. But that is not to say that new sources will not arise.
Historians' purpose is to help define the optimal balance within ourselves and within society between oppression and liberation. Here oppression and liberation are not limited to the conflict between the individual and society or government. They include conflicts within ourselves. Gaddis makes the interesting point that we need balance between oppression and liberation, not the elimination of oppression and maximization of liberation. Some (mild) forms of oppression are essential to stimulate growth, to interact constructively with society, to cope with life. The goal is to achieve an optimal balance in order to grow, to mature, to understand ourselves in relation to society.
The Landscape of History was both interesting and fun to read. Gaddis has retained much of the flavor of his original lecture series: The conversational tone and injections of subtle humor. I've read and reviewed several of his other books. I think this one gave me some insights into his methodology and work that I didn't get from his major works. I particularly enjoyed his comments on biography and will keep them in mind as I read his biography of George Kennan and contrast it with Kennan's autobiography.
To give a better sense of the contents, let me try to summarize some of the main ideas:
The first and most obvious challenge faced by the historian is that the past (the "landscape of history"), though real, isn't directly accessible to us, so we try to reconstruct a representation (a map) of it based on the traces it leaves for us. This requires inductive and deductive selection and interpretation of evidence, balancing details and generalizations, with the process iterated until an acceptable narrative has been produced, as judged relative to a chosen perspective and purposes. In this sense, there's no such thing as a "correct" historical narrative, but there are certainly less or more useful narratives, and pluralistically developing multiple narratives coming from different angles can enhance our overall understanding.
A further challenge for the historian is that the human and natural worlds consist of systems which aren't merely simplex or complex, but rather an interactive combination of both, with processes which are both linear and nonlinear, continuous and discontinuous, path-independent and path-dependant, predictable and unpredictable (with sensitive dependence on initial conditions). Moreover, unlike inert objects, people have consciousness, which can make their actions especially unpredictable. The result is that variables are generally interdependent, without the possibility of usefully separating out independent variables, and forecasting beyond some basic patterns and tendencies is usually impossible. This again highlights the need for narrative.
Considering these features, the historian's work is much like the historical sciences of astronomy, geology, and evolutionary biology (see especially Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History (California World History Library) by David Christian), as well as the practice of clinical medicine, but it's notably unlike the social sciences, because of their aim for ahistorical universal generalizations.
With respect to why we should bother with history, the past always weighs heavily on the present and future, thereby shaping our culture and even our physical landscape, so studying history should have at least some benefit in helping us make better decisions. And more generally, the study of history helps to keep us well-rounded and balanced, with a better sense of our place in the scheme of things.
If you have an interest in history or the craft of history, I very highly recommend this wonderful book. In fact, I rank it among the best books I've read on any subject and I look forward to reading it again. As further reading, I also recommend The Uncertainties of Knowledge (Politics, History, and Social Change) by Immanuel Wallerstein.
Top reviews from other countries
I found this book listed on the website www.listmuse.com under 'The 100 Best History Books' and it didn't disappoint.
'The Landscape of History' is a collection of lectures prepared by Gaddis which discusses the methods used by historians as they conduct their research, particularly in comparison to the methods used by the social and physical sciences. Gaddis shows how historians apply methods similar to those employed by the historical sciences such as geology, astronomy and palaeontology. Gaddis suggests that social sciences such as sociology, economics and political sciences have gradually adopted a scientific approach which is outdated and which physical scientists have discarded and finds evidence that historians apply methods similar to physical scientists.
It seems self evident in hindsight but Gaddis also points out that historians can only ever incompletely represent the past. To represent the past accurately would be to recreate the past which, firstly is impossible, but also is not informative. Just as a cartographers map of the world is selective in what it represents. They also do not create a map of the world which is equal in size to the world, as this would be recreating the world and not a map. So historians can only ever partially represent the past. And this means that histories of the past are always subject to reinterpretation in light of new findings and different perspectives. Personally when I choose a book I look for the most update book on a subject or read a review by an expert in the field to assure myself that the content is factually correct and the interpretations are accurate. Really this misses the point. Facts are liable to change. Interpretations need to be reappraised and updated. What Gaddis does encourage is that readers become historically literate. As it is only with a robust understanding of the past that we can make better decisions in the future.
What Gaddis fails to say is that Historians have to write good histories. I have read some history books which read like great page turners and I have read others that read like swimming in thick syrup.
Reading this book also gave me a perspective on my own profession which I will not elaborate further in this review.
My partner reads mostly fiction. The reason she says is to understand the human condition. I personally think reading history achieves this goal too while also understanding where we came from and perhaps where we might be going. This book reaffirmed the reasons why I read history.
If you are a recently history graduate you might already be familiar with this book. If you are not, I suggest you read this book.
それぞれ各章のタイトルを見ていただくと、「time and space」、「structure and process」、「the interdependency of variables」、「causation , contingency and counterfactuals」等、興味深いテーマが目白押しです。以上のような角度から歴史現象と事実をどうとらえ再構築（representation)していくかが見事に説明されています。
著者が強烈に意識するのは、科学としての歴史学です。これはアメリカでの社会科学がもつ歴史的な志向なのです。 ソヴィエト研究ですらこの論点を強烈に意識しているのです。｛ Know Your Enemy: The Rise and Fall of America's Soviet Experts ) 実験による論証ができないという限界を持つ歴史学ですが、そのような限界を持つこの学問がどうして「科学」足りうるかが、新しく変貌しつつある現代の「科学」観をベースとして、ある意味では「居直り」ともいうべき議論が展開されます。実験ができないという限界を抱えるフィールドは自然科学にもたくさんあるのです。
ところでこの表紙は、david casper friedlichの有名な絵です。この絵をめぐる解釈からこの作品はスタートします。