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The Landscape of History : How Historians Map the Past

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 6 Customer Reviews
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2004

    A Painless Discussion of Historical Philosophy

    Gaddis examines the nature of history and the function of historians through a wide range of metaphors. By putting forth the question: Hw long is the British coast line? Gaddis immediately sets out that if we measure in miles we won't get to the alcoves and cubbyholes and we'll probably end up with a nice round number. If we measure in microns and millimeters, it'll take a while but we'll measure every single bend and dog leg and we'll have a much larger number. Many of Gaddis' metaphors spur philosophical discussions but he does not approach them with a philosophical background, instead he sets out to solve a functional question: What is history? Is it a natural science? If it is, then why can we not replicate any historical findings as biology and physiology can? Is it a social science? Then why do other social sciences like economics and anthropology try to find an independent variable upon which everything hangs when historians try to put out the bigger picture? Gaddis' conclusion then is that history is its own beast. It does not mirror either the hard sciences nor the social sciences although it may pick up some of their properties. Gaddis uses metaphors that seem to have little connection with hsitory, such as fractal geometry and natural sciences. The connections are then developed and this may be a way of making scientists understand the nature of history or giving students with a familiarity in natural sciences a correlation to the study of history. Also, Gaddis' humor makes a philosophical discussion of history a little less tense and certainly more cheerful. All in all, this book is very readable for a historiography and may appeal to non-historians seeking a perspective on history. The chapters read more like the text of a speech than a textbook so the minimal 140 or so pages will make this a very easy read.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2003

    A Good Book With Some Bad Science

    I agree with Gaddis' premise about HOW historians work: by gathering data, assimilating ideas, working back and forth between inductive and deductive reasoning, adding detail after a theory is constructed, and reconstructing theories based upon newly discovered details. I wish that he had not tried to graft the metaphors of complexity theory, chaos, and sensitive dependence on initial conditions onto an otherwise thoughtful and emotive book. Virtually everything he says about sensitive dependence is wrong. He shows absolutely no understanding of complex systems, chaos, or sensitive dependence. And yet, explanations of those topics make up an important part of the book. If you choose to read it (and it is worth reading), please ignore everything he says about the science of complexity, about chaos, and about sensitive dependence on initial condition.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted June 7, 2010

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    Posted January 26, 2010

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