The Historians' Paradox: The Study of History in Our Time

The Historians' Paradox: The Study of History in Our Time

by Peter Charles Hoffer

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How do we know what happened in the past? We cannot go back, and no amount of historical data can enable us to understand with absolute certainty what life was like “then.” It is easy to demolish the very idea of historical knowing, but it is impossible to demolish the importance of historical knowing. In an age of cable television pundits and anonymous bloggers dueling over history, the value of owning history increases at the same time as our confidence in history as a way of knowing crumbles. Historical knowledge thus presents a paradox — the more it is required, the less reliable it has become. To reconcile this paradox — that history is impossible but necessary — Peter Charles Hoffer proposes a practical, workable philosophy of history for our times, one that is robust and realistic, and that speaks to anyone who reads, writes and teaches history.
Covering a sweeping range of philosophies (from ancient history to game theory), methodological approaches to writing history, and the advantages and disadvantages of different strategies of argument, Hoffer constructs a philosophy of history that is reasonable, free of fallacy, and supported by appropriate evidence that is itself tenable.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814737439
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 11/01/2008
Series: International Humanities , #1
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 226
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Peter Charles Hoffer is Distinguished Research Professor of History at the University of Georgia. He has authored and co-authored more than twenty books, including Past Imperfect: Facts, Fictions, and Fraud in American History from Bancroft and Parkman to Ambrose, Bellesiles, Ellis and Goodwin and The Supreme Court: An Essential History.

Table of Contents

Preface  Introduction  Why History Is Impossible, Yet Necessary All the Same 1 It Would Be Logical to Assume 2 What’s Wrong with This Argument?  3 Historians and the Loaded Question   4 Cause for Alarm  5 One of Us Is Lying 6 The Politics of History and History in Politics 7 Historians in the Marketplace  8 Uncertainties  9 Historians Confront the Problem of Evil  ConclusionA Bridge to the Past Glossary  A Very Brief Bibliographical Essay  Index  About the Author 

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Historians' Paradox: The Study of History in Our Time 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
the_awesome_opossum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a primer for a philosophy of history. Clearly history has bias and omissions and every author has his or her own viewpoint to impart to the "facts." But really, fact is on some level inaccessible as well, because the primary sources obviously have their own bias and only certain "types" of people (usually the dominant social groups) get to write lasting histories. This book addresses those difficulties plus outlines all of the different fallacies that historians can fall into. It was an okay book; I wish that the author had spent less time defining really simple concepts (puns, really?) and focused more on solving the actual "paradox" of the title.