Synopses & Reviews
History helps us understand change, provides clues to our own identity, and hones our moral sense. But history is not a stand-alone discipline. Indeed, its own history is incomplete without recognition of its debt to its companions in the humane and social sciences. In Clio among the Muses, noted historiographer Peter Charles Hoffer relates the story of this remarkable collaboration. Hoffer traces historys complicated partnership with its coordinate disciplines of religion, philosophy, the social sciences, literature, biography, policy studies, and law. As in ancient days, when Clio was preeminent among the other eight muses, so today, the author argues that history can and should claim pride of place in the study of past human action and thought. Intimate and irreverent at times, Clio among the Muses synthesizes a remarkable array of information. Clear and concise in its review of the companionship between history and its coordinate disciplines, fair-minded in its assessment of the contributions of history to other disciplines and these disciplines' contributions to history, Clio among the Muses will capture the attention of everyone who cares about the study of history. For as the author demonstrates, the study of history is something unique, ennobling, and necessary. One can live without religion, philosophy and the rest. One cannot exist without history. Rigorously documented throughout, the book offers a unique perspective on the craft of history. Peter Charles Hoffer has taught history at Harvard, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Brooklyn College, and the University of Georgia since 1968, and specializes in historical methods, early American history, and legal history. He has authored or co-authored over three dozen books, and edited another twenty. Previous titles include The Historians Paradox: The Study of History in Our Time (NYU Press, 2008).
"History 'stands on the shoulders of its companions in the humanities and social sciences,' writes historian Hoffer (The Historian's Paradox ) in this brief but thought-provoking series of essays on the vigor and necessity of historical study. The human experience has always been enlivened and ennobled through combinations of endeavors like precedent-based law, tradition-centered religion, economics, and political science. Hoffer philosophically addresses these intricate and inextricable connections between history and its cohorts in an academic yet readable examination consisting of seven concise, unsentimental essays that use his 'synechdochal method' of 'using selected parts to represent the whole.' Hoffer discusses instances in which historians get their analyses wrong because of faulty methods, or reliance on limited foci, or biased assumptions, especially regarding biographical subjects. While the military history section is of great relevance to contemporary events, the literary section reverts to theory, describing the evolution of 'novelistic history' through literature that allows experts to imagine unrecorded reactions to key events. Hoffer successfully argues that no matter the discipline, history remains vital, supported and enriched by these connections much as the mythological Clio was linked to each of her fellow Greek muses." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Peter Hoffer has written a learned, lively, and witty review of the history of historical writing from the ancient world right up to the present day. It is a deeply insightful analysis of the never-ending challenge that historians face in getting their story right, and, in the process, reminds us of the vital importance that history plays in shaping our present and future lives."-Richard R. Beeman,John Welsh Centennial Professor of History Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania
"Clio among the Muses is a dazzling work of mature scholarship. Only a senior scholar of great self-assurance and soaring ambition would even attempt to map the vast landscape that Hoffer surveys here: literally, every field of inquiry on which historians have ever drawn consequentially to advance their endeavor over a span of two millennia and more. Yet he never just covers the ground, never settles for mere pedantic survey, never lapses into dry academic exercise. Despite his extraordinary erudition, he offers his own quirky take on every relationship between history and its diverse 'companions,' as he calls them. No other historian thinks as Hoffer does, and few command a prose as pungent, either. He makes his every chapter matter in humane and poignant ways. I cannot imagine a reader of this book who will not learn from it and be provoked to a new level of thoughtfulness by it."-Michael Zuckerman,University of Pennsylvania
"In Clio among the Muses, Hoffer offers a humane and learned, yet brief and accessible, meditation on the often troubled relationship between the study of History and other ways of seeking knowledge about the human condition. Students and general readers will find no more engaging guide to the value and distinctiveness of what historians do."-Daniel K. Richter,University of Pennsylvania
"Peter Hoffer has done it again—written an appealing book about History that is aimed at the intelligent general reader. Hoffer writes concisely and elegantly about the relation of History to its sister disciplines with the aim of explaining what it is we historians do best. His examples are drawn from across time and geography, and they are concrete enough to be easily grasped. This is a wise, accessible book for the reader who wants to know why he likes History so much."-Stanley N. Katz,Princeton University
"Hoffer successfully argues that no matter the discipline, history remains vital, supported and enriched by these connections much as the mythological Clio was linked to each of her fellow Greek muses."-Publishers Weekly,
A learned, lively, and witty review of the history of historical writing A deeply insightful analysis of the never-ending challenge that historians face in getting their story right. Richard R. Beeman, John Welsh Centennial Professor of History Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania
I cannot imagine a reader of this book who will not learn from it and be provoked to a new level of thoughtfulness by it. Michael Zuckerman, University of Pennsylvania
Students and general readers will find no more engaging guide to the value and distinctiveness of what historians do. Daniel K. Richter, University of Pennsylvania
A wise, accessible book for the reader who wants to know why he likes History so much. Stanley N. Katz, Princeton University"
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.