The English historian, E. Nevertheless, each of these interpretations made unique contributions to the ways in which we understand the Revolution today. For the general reader wanting to explore the historiography of the American Revolution further, I suggest: Alfred F. Young and Gregory H. John Hutchinson London: J. Douglass Adair and John A. Schutz San Marino, Ca. New York: D. Appleton and Company, , IV, 3. For an in-depth look at the historiography of the Revolution up until this point, see Jack P.
Thank you for an excellent article. It was the last class in my senior year and felt it should be taught first. When historians write, they were, for the most part, not there. If they were, they were reporting current events. Perhaps, however, they slant a bit or choose source material that supports a particular point of view. The events themselves, of course, happened, though not necessarily the manner in which an historian chooses to write about them.
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This is why original sources research must inform any good study. Hicks fascinating. Parkman wrote history in a literary form employing dramatic descriptions within his works. Hicks, on the other hand, so distorted the life of slavery something about being content sitting in the shade of a tree eating watermelon or dancing to native beats that I saw how inimical the writing of history can be in establishing myths as noted in recent posts here and unfortunate stereotypes. I enjoyed the article, as I do your blog sir. I find it interesting the way we interpret history through the years.
From a semi-hero worship from some George Washington Park Custis comes to my mind, but it is easy to see why it happened in his case to the attempt to impact our government and administrations during the Viet Nam Era by pointing out mistakes of imperialism. Again, very nice, thought provoking article. I landed upon this very helpful article after purchasing by Kevin Phillips and encountering in his introduction references to Neo-Whig, Consensus and Progressive historiography. So thank you.
In and at the behest of the Prussian government, Ranke founded and edited the first historical journal in the world, called Historisch-Politische Zeitschrift. Another important German thinker was Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel , whose theory of historical progress ran counter to Ranke's approach. In Hegel's own words, his philosophical theory of "World history World history is the record of the spirit's efforts to attain knowledge of what it is in itself.
The Orientals do not know that the spirit or man as such are free in themselves. And because they do not know that, they are not themselves free. They only know that One is free The consciousness of freedom first awoke among the Greeks , and they were accordingly free; but, like the Romans, they only knew that Some , and not all men as such, are free The Germanic nations , with the rise of Christianity , were the first to realize that All men are by nature free, and that freedom of spirit is his very essence.
Karl Marx introduced the concept of historical materialism into the study of world historical development. In his conception, the economic conditions and dominant modes of production determined the structure of society at that point. In his view five successive stages in the development of material conditions would occur in Western Europe. The first stage was primitive communism where property was shared and there was no concept of "leadership". This progressed to a slave society where the idea of class emerged and the State developed. Feudalism was characterized by an aristocracy working in partnership with a theocracy and the emergence of the Nation-state.
Capitalism appeared after the bourgeois revolution when the capitalists or their merchant predecessors overthrew the feudal system and established a market economy , with private property and Parliamentary democracy. Marx then predicted the eventual proletarian revolution that would result in the attainment of socialism , followed by Communism , where property would be communally owned. Previous historians had focused on cyclical events of the rise and decline of rulers and nations. Process of nationalization of history , as part of national revivals in the 19th century, resulted with separation of "one's own" history from common universal history by such way of perceiving, understanding and treating the past that constructed history as history of a nation.
His writings are famous for their ringing prose and for their confident, sometimes dogmatic, emphasis on a progressive model of British history, according to which the country threw off superstition, autocracy and confusion to create a balanced constitution and a forward-looking culture combined with freedom of belief and expression. This model of human progress has been called the Whig interpretation of history. His legacy continues to be controversial; Gertrude Himmelfarb wrote that "most professional historians have long since given up reading Macaulay, as they have given up writing the kind of history he wrote and thinking about history as he did.
Western wrote that: "Despite its age and blemishes, Macaulay's History of England has still to be superseded by a full-scale modern history of the period". The term Whig history , coined by Herbert Butterfield in his short book The Whig Interpretation of History in , means the approach to historiography which presents the past as an inevitable progression towards ever greater liberty and enlightenment, culminating in modern forms of liberal democracy and constitutional monarchy.
In general, Whig historians emphasized the rise of constitutional government , personal freedoms and scientific progress. The term has been also applied widely in historical disciplines outside of British history the history of science , for example to criticize any teleological or goal-directed , hero-based, and transhistorical narrative. Paul Rapin de Thoyras 's history of England, published in , became "the classic Whig history" for the first half of the 18th century,. Whig historians emphasized the achievements of the Glorious Revolution of It proved an immediate success and replaced Hume's history to become the new orthodoxy.
I shall relate how the new settlement was This consensus was steadily undermined during the post- World War I re-evaluation of European history, and Butterfield's critique exemplified this trend. Intellectuals no longer believed the world was automatically getting better and better. Subsequent generations of academic historians have similarly rejected Whig history because of its presentist and teleological assumption that history is driving toward some sort of goal.
Hart says "a Whig interpretation requires human heroes and villains in the story. Popular history continued to be written by self-educated amateurs, but scholarly history increasingly became the province of PhD's trained in research seminars at a university. The training emphasized working with primary sources in archives. Seminars taught graduate students how to review the historiography of the topics, so that they could understand the conceptual frameworks currently in use, and the criticisms regarding their strengths and weaknesses.
The emergence of area studies of other regions also developed historiographical practices. The French Annales school radically changed the focus of historical research in France during the 20th century by stressing long-term social history, rather than political or diplomatic themes. The school emphasized the use of quantification and the paying of special attention to geography. The goal of the Annales was to undo the work of the Sorbonnistes , to turn French historians away from the narrowly political and diplomatic toward the new vistas in social and economic history. An eminent member of this school, Georges Duby , described his approach to history as one that.
The Annalistes, especially Lucien Febvre , advocated a histoire totale , or histoire tout court , a complete study of a historical problem. The second era of the school was led by Fernand Braudel and was very influential throughout the s and s, especially for his work on the Mediterranean region in the era of Philip II of Spain. The Annales historians, after living through two world wars and major political upheavals in France, were deeply uncomfortable with the notion that multiple ruptures and discontinuities created history.
They paid special attention to geography, climate, and demography as long-term factors. They considered the continuities of the deepest structures were central to history, beside which upheavals in institutions or the superstructure of social life were of little significance, for history lies beyond the reach of conscious actors, especially the will of revolutionaries. Noting the political upheavals in Europe and especially in France in , Eric Hobsbawm argued that "in France the virtual hegemony of Braudelian history and the Annales came to an end after , and the international influence of the journal dropped steeply.
Scholars moved in multiple directions, covering in disconnected fashion the social, economic, and cultural history of different eras and different parts of the globe. By the time of crisis the school was building a vast publishing and research network reaching across France, Europe, and the rest of the world. Influence indeed spread out from Paris, but few new ideas came in. Much emphasis was given to quantitative data, seen as the key to unlocking all of social history.
Marxist historiography developed as a school of historiography influenced by the chief tenets of Marxism , including the centrality of social class and economic constraints in determining historical outcomes historical materialism.
Friedrich Engels wrote The Peasant War in Germany , which analysed social warfare in early Protestant Germany in terms of emerging capitalist classes. Although it lacked a rigorous engagement with archival sources, it indicated an early interest in history from below and class analysis, and it attempts a dialectical analysis. Another treatise of Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England in , was salient in creating the socialist impetus in British politics from then on, e. Tawney was an early historian working in this tradition. The Agrarian Problem in the Sixteenth Century  and Religion and the Rise of Capitalism , reflected his ethical concerns and preoccupations in economic history.
He was profoundly interested in the issue of the enclosure of land in the English countryside in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and in Max Weber 's thesis on the connection between the appearance of Protestantism and the rise of capitalism. His belief in the rise of the gentry in the century before the outbreak of the Civil War in England provoked the 'Storm over the Gentry' in which his methods were subjected to severe criticisms by Hugh Trevor-Roper and John Cooper. Historiography in the Soviet Union was greatly influenced by Marxist historiography, as historical materialism was extended into the Soviet version of dialectical materialism.
A circle of historians inside the Communist Party of Great Britain CPGB formed in and became a highly influential cluster of British Marxist historians , who contributed to history from below and class structure in early capitalist society. While some members of the group most notably Christopher Hill and E. They placed a great emphasis on the subjective determination of history. Christopher Hill's studies on 17th-century English history were widely acknowledged and recognised as representative of this school.
Thompson pioneered the study of history from below in his work, The Making of the English Working Class , published in It focused on the forgotten history of the first working-class political left in the world in the lateth and earlyth centuries. In his preface to this book, Thompson set out his approach to writing history from below:.
I am seeking to rescue the poor stockinger, the Luddite cropper, the "obsolete" hand-loom weaver, the "Utopian" artisan, and even the deluded follower of Joanna Southcott , from the enormous condescension of posterity. Their crafts and traditions may have been dying.
Their hostility to the new industrialism may have been backward-looking. Their communitarian ideals may have been fantasies.
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Their insurrectionary conspiracies may have been foolhardy. But they lived through these times of acute social disturbance, and we did not. Their aspirations were valid in terms of their own experience; and, if they were casualties of history, they remain, condemned in their own lives, as casualties. Thompson's work was also significant because of the way he defined "class.
He opened the gates for a generation of labor historians, such as David Montgomery and Herbert Gutman , who made similar studies of the American working classes. Other important Marxist historians included Eric Hobsbawm , C. James , Raphael Samuel , A. Morton and Brian Pearce. Although Marxist historiography made important contributions to the history of the working class , oppressed nationalities, and the methodology of history from below , its chief problematic aspect was its argument on the nature of history as determined or dialectical ; this can also be stated as the relative importance of subjective and objective factors in creating outcomes.
It increasingly fell out of favour in the s and '70s.
Geoffrey Elton was important in undermining the case for a Marxist historiography , which he argued was presenting seriously flawed interpretations of the past. In particular, Elton was opposed to the idea that the English Civil War was caused by socioeconomic changes in the 16th and 17th centuries, arguing instead that it was due largely to the incompetence of the Stuart kings. In dealing with the era of the Second World War , Addison notes that in Britain by the s, labour history was, "in sharp decline", because:. Instead the 'cultural turn' encouraged historians to explore wartime constructions of gender, race, citizenship and national identity.
Biography has been a major form of historiography since the days when Plutarch wrote the parallel lives of great Roman and Greek leaders. It is a field especially attractive to nonacademic historians, and often to the spouses or children of famous people, who have access to the trove of letters and documents.
Academic historians tend to downplay biography because it pays too little attention to broad social, cultural, political and economic forces, and perhaps too much attention to popular psychology. The " Great Man " tradition in Britain originated in the multi-volume Dictionary of National Biography which originated in and issued updates into the s ; it continues to this day in the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography '. It has now been displaced by the American National Biography as well as numerous smaller historical encyclopedias that give thorough coverage to Great Persons.
Bookstores do a thriving business in biographies, which sell far more copies than the esoteric monographs based on post-structuralism, cultural, racial or gender history. Michael Holroyd says the last forty years "may be seen as a golden age of biography", but nevertheless calls it the "shallow end of history". Nicolas Barker argues that "more and more biographies command an ever larger readership", as he speculates that biography has come "to express the spirit of our age.
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Biography Studies is emerging as an independent discipline, especially in the Netherlands. This Dutch School of biography is moving biography studies away from the less scholarly life writing tradition and towards history by encouraging its practitioners to utilize an approach adapted from microhistory. Marxist historian E.
Carr developed a controversial theory of history in his book What Is History? Collingwood 's idealism, and rejected the empirical view of the historian's work being an accretion of "facts" that they have at their disposal as nonsense. He maintained that there is such a vast quantity of information that the historian always chooses the "facts" they decide to make use of. In Carr's famous example, he claimed that millions had crossed the Rubicon, but only Julius Caesar's crossing in 49 BC is declared noteworthy by historians. In this way, Carr argued that history was "an unending dialogue between the past and present".
Carr is held by some critics to have had a deterministic outlook in history. In Carr's view, no individual is truly free of the social environment in which they live, but contended that within those limitations, there was room, albeit very narrow room for people to make decisions that affect history. Carr emphatically contended that history was a social science , not an art ,  because historians like scientists seek generalizations that helped to broaden the understanding of one's subject.
One of Carr's most forthright critics was Hugh Trevor-Roper , who argued that Carr's dismissal of the "might-have-beens of history" reflected a fundamental lack of interest in examining historical causation. Elton criticized Carr for his "whimsical" distinction between the "historical facts" and the "facts of the past", arguing that it reflected " As a traditionalist, he placed great emphasis on the role of individuals in history instead of abstract, impersonal forces.
Elton saw political history as the highest kind of history. Elton had no use for those who seek history to make myths, to create laws to explain the past, or to produce theories such as Marxism. Classical and European history was part of the 19th-century grammar curriculum. American history became a topic later in the 19th century. In the historiography of the United States, there were a series of major approaches in the 20th century. In —, there were an average of 16, new academic history books published in the U.
From to the s, "Progressive" historiography was dominant, especially in political studies. It stressed the central importance of class conflict in American history. Important leaders included Vernon L. Parrington , Carl L. Becker , Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. Vann Woodward. Beard was the most prominent representative with his "Beardian" approach that reached both scholars and the general public. In covering the Civil War, Charles and Mary Beard did not find it useful to examine nationalism, unionism, states' rights, slavery, abolition or the motivations of soldiers in battle.
Instead, they proclaimed it was a:. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. His own views were clear enough: "Moved typically by personal and class, rarely by public, considerations, the business community has invariably brought national affairs to a state of crisis and exasperated the rest of society into dissatisfaction bordering on revolt. Consensus history emphasizes the basic unity of American values and downplays conflict as superficial. It was especially attractive in the s and s. The fierceness of the political struggles has often been misleading: for the range of vision embraced by the primary contestants in the major parties has always been bounded by the horizons of property and enterprise.
However much at odds on specific issues, the major political traditions have shared a belief in the rights of property, the philosophy of economic individualism, the value of competition; they have accepted the economic virtues capitalist culture as necessary qualities of man. Consensus history was rejected by New Left viewpoints that attracted a younger generation of radical historians in the s. These viewpoints stress conflict and emphasize the central roles of class, race and gender. The history of dissent, and the experiences of racial minorities and disadvantaged classes was central to the narratives produced by New Left historians.
Social history , sometimes called the "new social history", is a broad branch that studies the experiences of ordinary people in the past. However, after the "cultural turn" directed the next generation to new topics.
The growth was enabled by the social sciences, computers, statistics, new data sources such as individual census information, and summer training programs at the Newberry Library and the University of Michigan. The New Political History saw the application of social history methods to politics, as the focus shifted from politicians and legislation to voters and elections. The Social Science History Association was formed in as an interdisciplinary group with a journal Social Science History and an annual convention.
The goal was to incorporate in historical studies perspectives from all the social sciences, especially political science, sociology and economics. The pioneers shared a commitment to quantification. However, by the s the first blush of quantification had worn off, as traditional historians counterattacked. Harvey J. Graff says:. To defenders of history as they knew it, the discipline was in crisis, and the pursuit of the new was a major cause. Meanwhile, quantitative history became well-established in other disciplines, especially economics where they called it "cliometrics" , as well as in political science.
In history, however, quantification remained central to demographic studies, but slipped behind in political and social history as traditional narrative approaches made a comeback. Professional historians pioneered the creation of this field, starting in the late nineteenth century. Relatively few works span the two eras and few works except textbooks unite Spanish America and Brazil. There is a tendency to focus on histories of particular countries or regions the Andes, the Southern Cone, the Caribbean with relatively little comparative work. Historians of Latin America have contributed to various types of historical writing, but one major, innovative development in Spanish American history is the emergence of ethnohistory , the history of indigenous peoples, especially in Mexico based on alphabetic sources in Spanish or in indigenous languages.
For the early modern period, the emergence of Atlantic history , based on comparisons and linkages of Europe, the Americas, and Africa from — that developed as a field in its own right has integrated early modern Latin American history into a larger framework. Latin America's importance to world history is notable but often overlooked.
The second, and related, trend consistently considered a threshold of modern history that saw Latin America in the forefront is the development of nation-states. Historical research appears in a number of specialized journals. These include Hispanic American Historical Review est. Genovese had himself often been linked to the New Left historical cohort; he was a former editor of Studies on the Left after the journal moved to New York in Hofstadter invested his behind-the-scenes reputational capital, while Genovese provided the public firepower.
Palmer, the establishment choice and eminent historian of the era of the French Revolution. The anti-war resolution was defeated and Lynd received just 28 percent of the vote. The AHA, in a procedural hedge against future left-wing rebellion, weakened the power of the business meeting going forward. Far more flamboyantly, Genovese opposed the New Left faction with a characteristically subtle argument that he expressed in a characteristically unsubtle way.
Unlike Hofstadter, Genovese did not want, precisely, for universities to be apolitical. For similar reasons, Genovese, who had famously welcomed a Viet Cong victory just four years earlier, fought against an institutional resolution opposing the war. In this academic chapter in the history of intra-left disputes, Lynd and his rebellious colleagues played the role of the abolitionists demanding freedom now, and Genovese, in turn, displayed the rage against Lynd and his attempted takeover of the AHA that Lenin and Trotsky had for the rebellious Kronstadt sailors in the wake of the Russian Revolution.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the funeral of New Left historiography: Soon enough, leftist and feminist historians took over the field, particularly in American history. In , even William Appleman Williams, the great Wisconsin mentor to New Leftist historians whom conservative historians frequently disparaged, assumed the same office. The writing of history has its own history. Today, historians of the left are more interested in the study of the rise of modern American conservatism, especially its mobilization at the state and local level.
Libertarians just wish to leave private economic power to its own devices but without statist favoritism. Libertarians, by contrast, want to boost capitalism and merely destroy the political-statist link to it. Throughout his career, Kolko, unlike erstwhile comrades like Genovese, Sklar, and Radosh, remained a committed leftist and believed that libertarians misused his work for their own ideological purposes.
There is a variation of the libertarian critique of state-capital collusion—which echoes the critiques made by Kolko and Weinstein—that is expressed among leftists critical of the Obama Administration. Critics of the Affordable Care Act ACA , for example, made much of the fact that the Obama Administration had cut deals with the insurance and pharmaceutical industries that would provide those sectors with billions of dollars from newly insured patients.
And it was true. Somehow lost in this outbreak of the obvious was the fact that while an integrated single payer or nonprofit health insurance as most advanced countries have was far preferable, this second-best choice benefited not only the companies, but also millions of poor and working-class Americans. They would now have health insurance that might spare them great medical and economic anxieties that they would otherwise never have—just as most of the critics, left and right, already had for themselves, and, if under 65, also obtained from private insurers.
So, in an oddly symbiotic way, politics derived from The Triumph of Conservatism continue to influence debates a century after the period it examined and a half-century after its publication. Yet the way a historian of the left might frame a scholarly inquiry today is often different from the way Kolko and his colleagues looked at the world during the s. The reforms of the Progressive Era and the New Deal, which seemed so inadequate to Kolko and others when compared to a robust socialist challenge to capitalism, appear more impressive when compared instead to either the revanchist hysteria of the modern conservative movement or, for example, the actually existing authoritarian alternatives from both right and left during the New Deal.
Plutocrats who have compared contemporary America to Nazi Germany are not interested in cleverly co-opting barely breathing labor unions and the liberal left with modest reforms. They want to crush these forces. The incremental improvement of the ACA is, to them, a giant signpost on the highway to a collectivist state. Recall that Kolko had argued the opposite: that the federal government was undercutting progressive state governments.
The most interesting recent scholarship about the Progressive Era—from, among others, Daniel Rodgers, Michael McGerr, and Elizabeth Sanders—depicts not the hermetically sealed elitist deal-making that Kolko describes, but an energized, diffuse reform movement, spanning large segments of the working class, farmers, journalists, academics, other professionals, and both major parties.
New Left historians, buoyed by the movements of their own time, judged American capitalism compared to a radical or socialist alternative that, in their telling, might have been realized. Yet when Upton Sinclair the very same guy who precipitated the reform of meatpacking nearly 30 years earlier ran in as the Democratic nominee for governor of California on a genuinely radical program of state seizure of unused factories and farmlands on behalf of the unemployed, he was badly defeated—yes, in part because every business interest in the state, from agriculture to Hollywood, joined forces to beat him while FDR sat on his hands.
But such fanatical conservative opposition was to be expected. The point is that the American left of the s—the left that was significantly farther left than FDR or even the CIO—was not nearly popular and powerful enough to overcome this. A different emphasis—born in a different time, one of mostly quiescence on the left, trench warfare for limited reforms by liberals, and ethno-nationalist rage on the right—yields a more measured historical analysis.
But it is more accurate to observe that FDR indeed battled the Southern segregationist bloc, and lost. Rauchway and Katznelson situate the New Deal in relationship to the actual totalitarian and authoritarian responses to the Depression and political unrest in Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union. And remember the effort to outlaw child labor during the Progressive Era? The Fair Labor Standards Act of , the last great legislative achievement of the New Deal, finally accomplished that.
Moreover, the New Left historians, so focused on nineteenth-century working-class history, failed to explain how the militant industrial worker upsurges of the s could have resulted from the defeat of the nineteenth-century movements. It took latter-day labor historians like Lizabeth Cohen in Making a New Deal to describe the congealing of a multi-ethnic and racial albeit riven by racism industrial working class brought together in part by the promise of America contained in the nascent popular culture of radio and movies. Thus, in the same way that the New Left historians contested the interpretations of the consensus and Progressive historians before them, so have subsequent generations of American historians elaborated, synthesized, and revised the work of Kolko, Weinstein, Gutman, and others.
This recent work is more sophisticated both from the top down and the bottom up.