Puzzles of the Past: An Introduction to Thinking about History

Overview


Michael Isenberg casts aside the traditional textbook approach and presents the study of history as a series of puzzles to ponder, with neither right nor wrong answers. Thinking about history, from this point of view, becomes an exciting intellectual adventure that has little to do with rote memorization. This stimulating, open-ended approach focuses not on quick answers but on searching questions, the building of a relationship between an individual and the past.

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Overview


Michael Isenberg casts aside the traditional textbook approach and presents the study of history as a series of puzzles to ponder, with neither right nor wrong answers. Thinking about history, from this point of view, becomes an exciting intellectual adventure that has little to do with rote memorization. This stimulating, open-ended approach focuses not on quick answers but on searching questions, the building of a relationship between an individual and the past.

Isenberg offers a compelling invitation to “greet the subject and call it fun” by delving into different cultures and by coming to grips with the many interpreters of the past. He leads the reader on a study of history that evokes a sense of culture transmitted directly, achieving an immediacy that allows the “historian” to march with Napoleon, hear Cicero orate, or see what the headsman’s ax did to Charles I of England. Each person becomes a compound of both individual and collective history; the boundaries of past and present are forever blurred.

This intriguing work—presented with a vibrancy rare for such subjects—is especially geared to beginning or intermediate students of history and is also ideal for graduate-level courses in historiography or historical methodology. It will be an indispensable guide for anyone interested in historical study.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780890962169
  • Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
  • Publication date: 1/19/1985
  • Pages: 234
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction xi
I. Order
1. Some Mundane Considerations 3
A Nondefinition 3
The Senses of History 5
On the Writing of History 6
On the Reading of History 12
2. The "I" in History 23
History and Science 23
Many Histories, Many Truths 29
Experience and Historical Subjectivism 35
3. The Outlines of Historical Order 41
Time and Historical Order 41
Some Possibilities of Historical Order 46
The Limits of Historical Order 52
4. The Institutionalization of Historical Order 57
Historical Research: The Path to Professionalism 57
The Rules of the Game: Professionalization and Order 63
Teaching History: The Transmission of Order 70
II. Process
5. Historical Change 77
The Idea of Change 78
Engines of Change: Questions of Cause 83
6. The Lure of Determinism 89
The Environment and Determinism 90
The Guiding Hand: Determinism and the Irrational 95
The Varieties of Scientific Determinism 99
The Problems of Determinism 104
7. History in Motion 108
The Natural View: Organicism 108
History as Repetition 112
History as Progress 117
8. History and the Individual 125
The Indefinite Individual 125
The Individual: The Center 131
Historical Greatness and the Individual 136
9. Historical Forces 142
The Individual and Society 142
History and Politics 146
History and Economics 150
Thought and Action 154
Debating Universal History 158
III. Meaning
10. History and Morality 165
The Demand for Moral Judgment 165
The Historian as Moralist 169
Moralism and Objectivity 172
11. Past, Present, Future 178
The Limits of the Past 179
The Past in the Present 182
The Problems of Prediction 186
12. A Question of Purpose 194
The Denial of Inherent Meaning 194
History with Purpose 198
The Limits of Meaning 204
Epilogue: A Concern for All Seasons 208
Afterword 213
Index 217
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