Fifty Key Works of History and Historiography

Fifty Key Works of History and Historiography

Fifty Key Works of History and Historiography

Fifty Key Works of History and Historiography

Synopsis

Fifty Key Works of History and Historiographyintroduces some of the most important works ever written by those who have sought to understand, capture, query and interpret the past. The works covered include texts from ancient times to the present day and from different cultural traditions ensuring a wide variety of schools, methods and ideas are introduced. Each of the fifty texts represents at least one of six broad categories:

  • early examples of historiography (e.g. Herodotus and Augustine)
  • non-western works (e.g. Shaddad and Fukuzawa)
  • 'Critical' historiography (e.g. Mabillon and Ranke)
  • history of minorities, neglected groups or subjects (e.g. Said and Needham)
  • broad sweeps of history (e.g. Mumford and Hofstadter)
  • problematic or unconventional historiography (e.g. Foucault and White).

Each of the key works is introduced in a short essay written in a lively and engaging style which provides the ideal preparation for reading the text itself. Complete with a substantial introduction to the field, this book is the perfect starting point for anyone new to the study of history or historiography.

Excerpt

Most societies have preferred, with more or less success, to avoid being swallowed by Lethe, the river of forgetfulness. For the human animal, it seems anything is preferable to complete amnesia, which accounts for early devices on behalf of remembrance like myth, legend, and oral tradition. Better a myth than nothing at all. Greek myths are not merely convenient vehicles to explain natural events; they also provide markers into the past, accessible stories about how things came to be what they are. While useful for understanding literature, art, and religion, however, such devices do not qualify as history.

For our purposes, history refers to human thought and activity in past time, their settings and consequences, and what can be known about them from surviving traces. Historiography refers to distinct bodies of historical inquiry and writing, for example, Greek. Medieval, Chinese, Islamic, and how such works have been researched, written, used, and passed on in different times and places. Any discussion of historical works and their authors cannot avoid how and why the work was done, justified, and disseminated. These fifty essays afford a glimpse of how the past has been queried, recovered, interpreted, understood, and explained from ancient times to the present. The emphasis is on works, what they say, and on what principles they were written, with supporting remarks as needed about careers and views of their authors.

This slender volume on such a big subject rests on three assumptions. The first is that historical knowledge has been achieved in a plurality of cultural settings. These include the West since the ancient world as well as several non-Western societies. The second is that whatever knowledge there is has authority because credible sources . . .

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