Synopses & Reviews
andldquo;Why are Kazakhstan and Montana the same place?andrdquo; asks one chapter of Kate Brownandrsquo;s surprising and unusual journey into the histories of places on the margins, overlooked or erased. It turns out that a ruined mining town in Kazakhstan and Butte, Montanaandmdash;Americaandrsquo;s largest environmental Superfund siteandmdash;have much more in common than one would think thanks to similarities in climate, hucksterism, and the perseverance of their few hardy inhabitants. Taking readers to these and other unlikely locales, Dispatches from Dystopia
delves into the very human and sometimes very fraught ways we come to understand a particular place, its people, and its history.
In Dispatches from Dystopia, Brown wanders the Chernobyl Zone of Alienation, first on the Internet and then in person, to figure out which versionandmdash;the real or the virtualandmdash;is the actual forgery. She also takes us to the basement of a hotel in Seattle to examine the personal possessions left in storage by Japanese-Americans on their way to internment camps in 1942. In Uman, Ukraine, we hide with Brown in a tree in order to witness the annual male-only Rosh Hashanah celebration of Hasidic Jews. In the Russian southern Urals, she speaks with the citizens of the small city of Kyshtym, where invisible radioactive pollutants have mysteriously blighted lives. Finally, Brown returns home to Elgin, Illinois, in the midwestern industrial rust belt to investigate the rise of andldquo;rustalgiaandrdquo; andand#160;the waysand#160;her formative experiences have inspired her obsession with modernist wastelands.
Dispatches from Dystopia powerfully and movingly narrates the histories of locales that have been silenced, broken, or contaminated. In telling these previously unknown stories, Brown examines the making and unmaking of place, and the lives of the people who remain in the fragile landscapes that are left behind.
What is history, and why should we study it? Is there such a thing as historical truth? Is history a science? John Lewis Gaddis answers these and other questions in this short text, providing a searching look at the historian's craft.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -182) and index.
What is history and why should we study it? Is there such a thing as historical truth? Is history a science? One of the most accomplished historians at work today, John Lewis Gaddis, answers these and other questions in this short, witty, and humane book. The Landscape of History
provides a searching look at the historian's craft, as well as a strong argument for why a historical consciousness should matter to us today.
Gaddis points out that while the historical method is more sophisticated than most historians realize, it doesn't require unintelligible prose to explain. Like cartographers mapping landscapes, historians represent what they can never replicate. In doing so, they combine the techniques of artists, geologists, paleontologists, and evolutionary biologists. Their approaches parallel, in intriguing ways, the new sciences of chaos, complexity, and criticality. They don't much resemble what happens in the social sciences, where the pursuit of independent variables functioning with static systems seems increasingly divorced from the world as we know it. So who's really being scientific and who isn't? This question too is one Gaddis explores, in ways that are certain to spark interdisciplinary controversy.
Written in the tradition of Marc Bloch and E.H. Carr, The Landscape of History is at once an engaging introduction to the historical method for beginners, a powerful reaffirmation of it for practitioners, a startling challenge to social scientists, and an effective skewering of post-modernist claims that we can't know anything at all about the past. It will be essential reading for anyone who reads, writes, teaches, or cares about history.
About the Author
"Will... never allow either the reader of history or the writer of it to think about the past in quite the same way as before."--The New York Times
"A masterful statement on the historical method.... Gaddis' characterization of the social sciences will surely spark debate even as it illuminates important intellectual connections between the disciplines. Delightfully readable, the book is a grand celebration of the pursuit of knowledge."--Foreign Affairs
"A bold and challenging book, unafraid of inviting controversy. It provides a strong statement for our time of both the limits and the value of the historical enterprise."--The New York Times Book Review
"A real tour de force: a delight to read, and a light-hearted celebration of the odd, 'fractal' patterns that intellectual and other forms of human and natural history exhibit."--William H. McNeill
"Turns the old argument over science and history upside down."--The Washington Post Book World
"Never before have I come across a book that so illuminated the craft of the historian."--Michael Pakenham, The Baltimore Sun
"This is another of those books that rewards the effort it requires. Besides providing invaluable insights into how the historian goes about his business, it teaches--like all really good books--of life beyond its boundaries."--Colin Walters, Washington Times
Table of Contents
1. "The Landscape of History"
2. "Time and Space"
3. "Structure and Process"
4. "The Interdependency of Variables"
5. "Chaos and Complexity"
6. "Causation, Contingency, and Counterfactuals"
7. "Molecules with Minds of Their Own"
8. "Seeing Like a Historian"