Synopses & Reviews
We have lost our grip on historical truth. Popular films depict subterranean conspiracies that shape historical events and public knowledge of those events. Best-selling narrative histories dissolve the border between fact and fiction, allowing the author's imagination to roam freely. Influential critics dissolve the author herself into one among many sources of meaning, reducing historical knowledge to a series of texts engaged with each other, not with the past. Powerful constituencies call for histories that affirm more than inform. This new book by three of our most accomplished historians engages the various criticisms that have fragmented the authority of historical knowledge. Although acknowledging degrees of legitimacy in the criticisms, the authors launch a pragmatic response that supports the historian, as they put it, in her long climb, notebook computer in tow, up the 300 stairs to the archives in Lyon. Even if historical truth is an ever-receding goal, the effort to approach it, they show, is legitimate, worthy, and governed by agreed-upon rules. And while affirming the claims of women and ethnic minorities to a rightful place in any narrative of American history, the authors insist on the accountability of history. They outline a coherent narrative of the American past that incorporates its multicultural dimension without special pleading.
"It is hard to think of three historians better equipped to deal with threats to the discipline of history . . . [which] is being fundamentally challenged in new ways." Gordon S. Wood
"A wise and moderate book. The authors, all distinguished historians . . . ,speak with confidence about the value of both the historian's traditional craft and modern criticism of it. Their sane and readable discussion should give hope to [those] who . . . believe in the possibility--even the pleasure--of writing history." The New Republic
"A confident, breezy account of the historical profession's encounters with post-modernism and multiculturalism." Caroline Walker Bynum
"A fascinating historiographical essay. . . . An unusually lucid and inclusive explication of what it ultimately at stake in the culture wars over the nature, goals, and efficacy of history as a discipline."--
About the Author
Joyce Appleby is a professor of history emerita at UCLA and the author of The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism and coauthor of Telling the Truth about History, among many other works. A former president of the American History Association, she was awarded the 2009 Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Prize for distinguished writing in American history from the Society of American Historians. She lives in Taos, New Mexico.Lynn Hunt is Distinguished Research Professor at UCLA, former president of the American Historical Association, and author of numerous works, including Inventing Human Rights and Telling the Truth about History. She lives in Los Angeles.Margaret Jacob is an author and UCLA professor. Her writings and lectures focus on the work of Newton's immediate followers, and on the British radicals and romantics of the 1790s.