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What Is History? 1st Edition
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What is History is based on a series of six lectures given at Cambridge University in 1960 and includes notes on the author's later thoughts through to his death in 1982.
Born in 1892, Edward Hallett Carr was an English historian educated at Cambridge who served in the Foreign Office, worked as assistant editor of The Times during World War II, and held academic positions at Cambridge and Oxford.
Carr sees history as a process of perceiving, selecting and interpreting; weighing the roles of individuals and society; asking why things happened and assessing where they are going; accumulating knowledge of the past to increase our mastery of ourselves and our environment now and in the future.
Chapter One deals with the "facts" of history - how they are perceived, selected, arranged and interpreted by successive historians, and finally interpreted by the reader "through eyes of the present."
Chapter Two explores the relative significance of the roles of the individual and the society in which they live. Carr argues that individuals are the products of the conditions in which they live and their interactions with others.
Carr notes 'Man's capacity to rise above his social and historical situation seems to be conditioned by the sensitivity with which he recognizes the extent of his involvement in society.
Chapter Three discusses the claims and counter-claims about whether history is a science.Read more ›
This superb old book is a thoughtful attempt to define the study of history and historiography. Carr's basic thesis is that people's opinions change throughout their life times, are maleable, and depend on what is going on in the world at any given moment.
The following quote from the book sums up the author's thesis nicely:
....."I am fully aware that, if anyone took the trouble to peruse some of the things I wrote before, during, and after the war, he would have no difficulty at all in convicting me of contradictions and inconsistencies at least as glaring as any I have detected in others. Indeed, I am not sure that I should envy any historian who could honestly claim to have lived through the earth-shaking events of the past fifty years without some radical modifications of his outlook. My purpose is merely to show how closely the work of the historian mirrors the society in which he works. It is not merely the events that are in flux. The historian himself is in flux. When you take up a historical work, it is not enough to look for the author's name on the title page: look also for the date of publication or writing--it is sometimes even more revealing. If the philosopher is right in telling us that we cannot step into the same river twice, it is perhaps equally true, and for the same reason, that two books cannot be written by the same historian." (Carr 51-52)
The book was written in 1961 but is bright and sparkling and applicable to our own generation's thinking and perceptions.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A great little book that does much. It was nice to see him take down Collingwood to a certain extent, but he's not afraid to take on the establishment at Cambridge, no matter who... Read morePublished 3 months ago by JTR
An excellent, well-written definition of what history is and what a historians job is.Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
The publication of What is History? in 1961 found many historians doubting both the old empirical methods and the newer methods, such as historicism. E.H. Read morePublished on March 6, 2013 by Ahram al-Yardum
I bought this book as an investigation on how progressives re-write history, upon recommendation; but I did not realize that the author was a Marxist who in this work does the very... Read morePublished on January 19, 2013 by M. Duncan
Edward Hallet Carr makes a great contribution to meta-history by producing this book. He uses examples from antiquity until his contemporary time to critique the way the craft of... Read morePublished on January 9, 2013 by Justin McDearmont
The writing in this book is crisp and clear. Carr has clearly spent time thinking about what he wants to say and says it well. This book is made up of six lectures. Read morePublished on July 3, 2011 by Jordan Bell
I've read a lot of history but this book reminds me that I haven't read enough books ABOUT history. This is a fascinating collection of essays well worth reading. Read morePublished on June 23, 2009 by Glen O'Brien