Killing of History: How Literary Critics and Social Theorists Are Murdering Our Pastby Keith Windschuttle
A huge success in hardcover, The Killing of History argues that history today is in the clutches of literary and social theorists who have little respect for or training in the discipline. He believes that they deny the existence of truth and substitute radically chic theorizing for real knowledge about the past. The result is revolutionary and unprecedented:
A huge success in hardcover, The Killing of History argues that history today is in the clutches of literary and social theorists who have little respect for or training in the discipline. He believes that they deny the existence of truth and substitute radically chic theorizing for real knowledge about the past. The result is revolutionary and unprecedented: contemporary historians are increasingly obscuring the facts on which truth about the past is built. In The Killing of History, Windschuttle offers a devastating expose of these developments. This fascinating narrative leads us into a series of case histories that demonstrate how radical theory has attempted to replace the learning of traditional history with its own political agenda.
After lecturing in history and sociology at several Australian colleges and universities, Windschuttle has found that old- fashioned empiricism, objectivity, and humanism don't mix with new- fangled structuralism and postmodernism, or with European philosophy, e.g., works by Nietzsche, Heidegger, Lévi-Strauss, Foucault, and Derrida. With an eye to Alan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind (and Roger Kimball's Tenured Radicals), he has put together his own screed against the "new" history, which denies the possibility of historical truth, from New Historicism and Postcolonialism to semiotics and hermeneutics, with some examples of misinterpretations of Australian history, Columbus, Cortés, and captains Bligh and Cook. An avowed empiricist, Windschuttle passionately and methodically defends history as a true science rather than a branch of literary criticism or revolutionary sociology. But his writing is not as accessible or pointed as he might hope. His common-sense arguments against cultural relativism and radical skepticism frequently grade into the commonplace, the stuff of college seminar debates over Karl Popper's principle of falsifiability vs. Thomas Kuhn's paradigm shift. The Killing of History is best when debating the facts of history rather than theoretical differences. Citing works by fellow ordinary historians like Ganath Obeyesekere on Hawaii and Inga Clendinnen on the Aztecs, Windschuttle glosses over how Tzvetan Todorov misreads Montezuma's mindset, how Paul Carter mangles Australian history, and how Marshall Sahlins turns Captain Cook's death in Hawaii into a structuralist fantasy of ceremonial sacrifices.
An academic jeremiad against theory over practice, out to separate history as written by Gibbon or E.P. Thomson from historiography repackaged by littérateurs.
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If ony more books like this were avalibale, we would have known that the italic alphabet posted above the chalkboard in the past wasn't intended to be used as a guide to know the correct way to write a letter. History, when trying to find it, 'seems' (as the critics like to say) to wander out of the libraries when Im trying to find anything having to do with truth. It's not that we are not smart enough to discover truth within the myths and legends of cultures it's just unquestionable an we haven't been taught to do that. We prefer not to say anything because we are scared of being wrong like the theorists. The majority of students know that its never safe to assume and therefore are forced to tell only what they were told. We must keep in mind that history has a tendency to repeat itself. Personaly my only complant is that Im exauasted and that won't live long enough to find out more of what the general public should know already, I dare say good luck.