Historiography and Theory of History

 

 

Woolf, D. (2019). A Concise History of History: Global Historiography from Antiquity to the Present. Cambridge University Press, 334 pp.

This short history of history is an ideal introduction for those studying or teaching the subject as part of courses on the historian's craft, historical theory and method, and historiography. Spanning the earliest known forms of historical writing in the ancient Near East right through to the present and covering developments in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, it also touches on the latest topics and debates in the field, such as 'Big History', 'Deep History' and the impact of the electronic age. It features timelines listing major dynasties or regimes throughout the world alongside historiographical developments; guides to key thinkers and seminal historical works; further reading; a glossary of terms; and sample questions to promote further debate at the end of each chapter. This is a truly global account of the process of progressive intercultural contact that led to the hegemony of Western historiographical methods.
 

Tamm, M., and Olivier, L., eds. (2019). Rethinking Historical Time: New Approaches to Presentism . Bloomsbury Academic, 256 pp.

Is time out of joint? For the past two centuries, the dominant Western regime of historicity has been future-oriented, but there has now been a shift towards a present-oriented regime or 'presentism' which abandons the linear, causal and homogeneous conception of time characteristic of the previous era. This book engages with this change of paradigm, providing a timely overview of cutting-edge interdisciplinary approaches to historical time in the contemporary world.

Marek Tamm and Laurent Olivier have brought together scholars working in history, anthropology, archaeology, geography, philosophy, literature and visual studies to rethink the epistemological consequences of presentism and discuss critically the traditional assumptions that underpin research on the matters of the past.

 

Tamm, M., and Burke, P., eds. (2018). Debating New Approaches to History. Bloomsbury Academic, 392 pp.

With its innovative format, Debating New Approaches to History addresses issues currently at the top of the discipline's theoretical and methodological agenda. In its chapters, leading historians of both older and younger generations from across the Western world and beyond discuss and debate the main problems and challenges that historians are facing today. Each chapter is followed by a critical commentary from another key scholar in the field and the author's response. The volume looks at topics such as the importance and consequences of the 'digital turn' in history (what will history writing be like in a digital age?), the challenge of posthumanist theory for history writing (how do we write the history of non-humans?) and the possibilities of moving beyond traditional sources in history and establishing a dialogue with genetics and neurosciences (what are the perspectives and limits of the so-called 'neurohistory'?).

 

Helgesson, S., and Svenungsson, J., eds. (2018). The Ethos of History: Time and Responsibility. Berghahn Books, 230 pp.

At a time when rapidly evolving technologies, political turmoil, and the tensions inherent in multiculturalism and globalization are reshaping historical consciousness, what is the proper role for historians and their work? By way of an answer, the contributors to this volume offer up an illuminating collective meditation on the idea of ethos and its relevance for historical practice.

These intellectually adventurous essays demonstrate how ethos―a term evoking a society’s “fundamental character” as well as an ethical appeal to knowledge and commitment―can serve as a conceptual lodestar for history today, not only as a narrative, but as a form of consciousness and an ethical-political orientation.

 

Cañizares-Esguerra, J., ed. (2018). Entangled Empires: The Anglo-Iberian Atlantic, 1500-1830. University of Pennsylvania Press, 344 pp.

According to conventional wisdom, in the sixteenth century, Spain and Portugal served as a model to the English for how to go about establishing colonies in the New World and Africa. By the eighteenth century, however, it was Spain and Portugal that aspired to imitate the British. The contributors of this book challenge these long-standing assumptions, exploring how Spain, Britain, and Portugal shaped one another throughout the entire period, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. They argue that these empires were interconnected from the very outset in their production and sharing of knowledge as well as in their economic activities. Willingly or unwillingly, African slaves, Amerindians, converso traders, smugglers, missionaries, diplomats, settlers, soldiers, and pirates crossed geographical, linguistic, and political boundaries and cocreated not only local but also imperial histories. Contributors reveal that entanglement was not merely a process that influenced events in the colonies after their founding; it was constitutive of European empire from the beginning.

 

Hughes-Warrington, M. (2018). History as Wonder: Beginning with Historiography. Routledge, 234 pp.

From Ancient Greek histories and wonder works, to Islamic curiosities and Chinese strange histories, through to European historical cabinets of curiosity and on to histories that grapple with the horrors of the Holocaust, Marnie Hughes-Warrington unpacks the ways in which historians throughout the ages have tried to make sense of the world, and to change it. This book considers histories and historians across time and space, including the Ancient Greek historian Polybius, the medieval texts by historians such as Bede in England and Ibn Khaldun in Islamic Historiography, and the more recent works by Martin Heidegger, Luce Irigaray and Ranajit Guha among others. It explores the different ways in which historians have called upon wonder to cross boundaries between the past and the present, the universal and the particular, the old and the new, and the ordinary and the extraordinary. Promising to both delight and unsettle, it shows how wonder works as the beginning of historiography.

 

Soluri, J., Leal, C., and Pádua, J. A., eds. (2018). A Living Past: Environmental Histories of Modern Latin America. Berghahn Books, 310 pp.

Though still a relatively young field, the study of Latin American environmental history is blossoming, as the contributions to this definitive volume demonstrate. Bringing together thirteen leading experts on the region, A Living Past synthesizes a wide range of scholarship to offer new perspectives on environmental change in Latin America and the Spanish Caribbean since the nineteenth century. Each chapter provides insightful, up-to-date syntheses of current scholarship on critical countries and ecosystems (including Brazil, Mexico, the Caribbean, the tropical Andes, and tropical forests) and such cross-cutting themes as agriculture, conservation, mining, ranching, science, and urbanization. Together, these studies provide valuable historical contexts for making sense of contemporary environmental challenges facing the region.

 

 

Historical Culture

 

 

Ferguson, N. (2018). The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook. Penguin Press, 592 pp.

The 21st century has been hailed as the Age of Networks. However, in The Square and the Tower, Niall Ferguson argues that networks have always been with us, from the structure of the brain to the food chain, from the family tree to freemasonry. Throughout history, hierarchies housed in high towers have claimed to rule, but often real power has resided in the networks in the town square below. For it is networks that tend to innovate. And it is through networks that revolutionary ideas can contagiously spread. Just because conspiracy theorists like to fantasize about such networks doesn't mean they are not real. From the cults of ancient Rome to the dynasties of the Renaissance, from the founding fathers to Facebook, The Square and the Tower tells the story of the rise, fall and rise of networks, and shows how network theory--concepts such as clustering, degrees of separation, weak ties, contagions and phase transitions--can transform our understanding of both the past and the present.

 

Osterhammel, J. (2018). Unfabling the East: The Enlightenment's Encounter with Asia. Princeton University Press, 696 pp.

Here is the acclaimed book that challenges the notion that Europe's formative engagement with the non-European world was invariably marred by an imperial gaze and presumptions of Western superiority. Osterhammel shows how major figures such as Leibniz, Voltaire, Gibbon, and Hegel took a keen interest in Asian culture and history, and introduces lesser-known scientific travelers, colonial administrators, Jesuit missionaries, and adventurers who returned home from Asia bearing manuscripts in many exotic languages, huge collections of ethnographic data, and stories that sometimes defied belief. Osterhammel brings the sights and sounds of this tumultuous age vividly to life, from the salons of Paris and the lecture halls of Edinburgh to the deserts of Arabia, the steppes of Siberia, and the sumptuous courts of Asian princes. He demonstrates how Europe discovered its own identity anew by measuring itself against its more senior continent, and how it was only toward the end of this period that cruder forms of Eurocentrism--and condescension toward Asia―prevailed.

 

Elliott, J. H. (2018). Scots and Catalans: Union and Disunion. Yale University Press, 360 pp.

A distinguished historian of Spain and Europe provides an enlightening account of the development of nationalist and separatist movements in contemporary Catalonia and Scotland. This first sustained comparative study uncovers the similarities and the contrasts between the Scottish and Catalan experiences across a five-hundred-year period, beginning with the royal marriages that brought about union with their more powerful neighbors, England and Castile respectively, and following the story through the centuries from the end of the Middle Ages until today’s dramatic events. J. H. Elliott examines the political, economic, social, cultural, and emotional factors that divide Scots and Catalans from the larger nations to which their fortunes were joined. He offers new insights into the highly topical subject of the character and development of European nationalism, the nature of separatism, and the sense of grievance underlying the secessionist aspirations that led to the Scottish referendum of 2014, the illegal Catalan referendum of October 2017, and the resulting proclamation of an independent Catalan republic.

 

Beevor, A. (2018). The Battle of Arnhem: The Deadliest Airborne Operation of World War II. Viking, 480 pp.

On September 17, 1944, General Kurt Student, the founder of Nazi Germany's parachute forces, heard the groaning roar of airplane engines. He went out onto his balcony above the flat landscape of southern Holland to watch the air armada of Dakotas and gliders, carrying the legendary American 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions and the British 1st Airborne Division. Operation Market Garden, the plan to end the war by capturing the bridges leading to the Lower Rhine and beyond, was a bold concept, but could it have ever worked? The cost of failure was horrendous, above all for the Dutch who risked everything to help. German reprisals were pitiless and cruel, and lasted until the end of the war. Antony Beevor, using often overlooked sources from Dutch, American, British, Polish, and German archives, has reconstructed the terrible reality of the fighting, which General Student called "The Last German Victory." Yet The Battle of Arnhem, written with Beevor's inimitable style and gripping narrative, is about much more than a single dramatic battle--it looks into the very heart of war.

  Thanouli, E. (2018). History and Film: A Tale of Two Disciplines. Bloomsbury Academic, 296 pp.

This book addresses the representation of history in cinema, a much-argued debate on the need to understand cinematic history in its own terms and develop a certain vocabulary for discussing historical films, their relation to public history, and their impact on public historical consciousness. Eleftheria Thanouli does this by changing the agenda altogether - combining a macro-level perspective with a micro-level one in order to argue that cinematic history is the dominant form of historiography in the 20th century, as it succeeded in remediating and repurposing the key formal, rhetorical, and ideological practices of 19th-century professional historiography. With case studies ranging from The Thin Red Line and Life is Beautiful, to The Fog of War and The Last Bolshevik, Thanouli bridges the gap between history and film studies and lays the foundations for a new visual historiography.

 

Maerker, A., Sleight, S., and Sutcliffe, A., eds. (2018). History, Memory and Public Life: The Past in the Present. Routledge, 336 pp.

Divided into two parts, the book addresses both the theoretical and applied aspects of historical memory studies. ‘Approaches to history and memory‘ introduces key methodological and theoretical issues within the field, such as postcolonialism, sites of memory, myths of national origins, and questions raised by memorialisation and museum presentation. ‘Difficult pasts‘ looks at history and memory in practice through a range of case studies on contested, complex or traumatic memories, including the Northern Ireland Troubles, post-apartheid South Africa and the Holocaust. Examining the intersection between history and memory from a wide range of perspectives, and supported by guidance on further reading and online resources, this book is ideal for students of history as well as those working within the broad interdisciplinary field of memory studies.