The American Historian: A Social-intellectual History of the Writing of the American Past

The American Historian: A Social-intellectual History of the Writing of the American Past

The American Historian: A Social-intellectual History of the Writing of the American Past

The American Historian: A Social-intellectual History of the Writing of the American Past

Excerpt

I n recent years many historians both here and abroad have displayed keen interest in the underlying social and intellectual assumptions as well as the questions of craftsmanship in their discipline. The rise of intellectual history has stimulated historiography as a field, for it too is a study of ideas. As a result, numerous excellent books, articles, and dissertations have appeared dealing with currents of historiography, interpretive biographies of historians, and even with the long-neglected philosophies of history. By providing perspective upon the writing of history, the historiographer adds a much-needed dimension of depth and sophistication to man's efforts to discover his past. No apology is therefore required for a new survey of American historical writings treated largely, but not exclusively, from a social-intellectual point of view.

Since 1952, the author has made an intensive effort to read (or reread) the representative writers in American historiography with a primary view to determining their social conditioning. While the author is no relativist, but a believer in a reasonable idea of "objectivity," he finds that the social determinants are but too intrusive in the writings of so many of our leading historians and inspire caution on the part of serious readers. But the mid-twentieth century shows a more sophisticated historian, much more self-critical and therefore more fully aware of the subjective factors in the writing of history. He knows that it is very difficult indeed to escape the context of his world of social action.

During these years of research, the writer has tested his hypotheses in papers before our national historical societies and in graduate seminars in historiography that he has conducted at Western Reserve University, the University of Michigan, the University of Hawaii, and the Amerika Institut of the University of Munich.

The larger facets of American historiography are explored and illustrated by concrete examples of the great (and lesser) historians, al-

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.