I took a doctorate in History long ago, and I still believe with Evans that knowledge (some, not all) about the past is accessible and that there are professional techniques for recovering, arranging,and presenting the past that are both valuable and effective. It appeared in the British United Service Magazine under the pseudonym, Lieutenant N. Backsight Forethought ("BF"), who is the narrator of the book. Such an uncritical stance in no way prevents the book from adopting that blunt, Hobbesian, man-of-the-world aggressive tone which in many circles of history-writing seems to pass for machismo (for example, the sarcastic remark that when Patrick Joyce referred to 'the intellectual history of our own times' what he 'really meant was his own ideas', p. 6). The most extreme postmodernists argue that the past can be described in so many different ways and from so many different points of view that it's impossible to determine what really happened. He believes that careful and honest shifting of the historical record will show some or one interpretations to be better grounded in that record than others. I know few social environments where the toes are more sensitive than in academic circles. Evans is an expert on mode. What makes it even more interesting is that Evans is not even particularly hostile to postmodernism. (pp. One that respects diversity of method and topic while encouraging tolerance given the inability of any one theory of history to claim a status as 'truth'. But Evans skates very lightly for good reason as he is often on thin theoretical ice. Just as using the methods from t. Evans offers an introduction to and defense of history as a discipline. Evans' argument of middle-grounded liberalism and acceptance also uses historical literary evidence to st. Evans sets out to 'defend history' through responding to the challenges of postmodernism and generally finding a middle ground between the extremities within historical theory. Richard Evans book, In Defense of History is not for everyone. Angie Thomas was as stunned as her fans when she was spurred to write a prequel to The Hate U Give, her blockbuster 2017 YA debut inspired by... To see what your friends thought of this book. Being and Event, for example, has been published in French, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, German, … At a time of deep scepticism about our ability to learn anything from the past, even to recapture any serious sense of past cultures and ways of life, Evans shows us why history is both possible and necessary. Though his name is on the cover Richard J. Evans did not really write In Defence of History - rather, the dominant paradigm of the English empiricist tradition wrote it for him, because he made no critical attempt to interfere with its passage through him onto the page. Critics of the book describing the author as an unreconstructed Rankean are missing what makes this a good general book on historical methods. Fri 14 Jan 2005 20.42 EST At a time when fact and historical truth are under unprecedented assault, Evans shows us why history is necessary. It was delightful to find that the great Ranke learned his method from literatary studies, then called Philology. In this new edition, Evans replies to his critics — conservative and postmodernist — in a measured, forceful afterword. In the end, his book is a much-needed dose of common sense. A brilliant, balanced and open-minded discussion of what historians are trying to do and how they are trying to do it. Ostensibly targeted at postmodernism, the book actually aims to stir a middle ground, praising some cultural history and relinquishing old-fashioned claims of objectivity while claiming there is a legitimate purpose to history-writing. by W. W. Norton Company. A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. Elton. I found this book by the emeritus Regius Professor of Modern History agreeable and sensible, but a trifle disappointing. In a genre over-populated by blinkered (not to say ignorant)and choleric conservative enemies of some ill-defined "postmodernism", Evans' book stands out as a balanced and thoughtful look at what History as a discipline is and should be. 'Saussure argued therefore that words, or what he called signifiers, were defined not by their relation to the things they denoted (the signified) but by their relation to each other' (p. 95). Crucially, in my view, Evans admits the impossibility not only of fully reconstructing the past but also of disregarding present purposes and personal principles (two concepts maintained by Elton as possible/postmodernists as impossible). That statement is pretty typical of the tone of the book, a robust, earthy common sense in which the word 'paranoia' would be less likely to appear than 'parakeet'. The argument, while sometimes a bit "stodgy" attempts to be even-handed in describing elements of postmodernism that have improved historical writing while also criticizing what Evans dubs "extreme relativism". WOW! He builds on the work of E.H. Carr and G.R. From November 1990 to early January 1991, I used Refutation of official history (which in my head was a variant of In defence of history) as title for the longest series in my Thursday column in those days. Let us know what’s wrong with this preview of, Published Under the onslaught of postmodernist theory, the profession of history is in crisis, its assumptions derided and its methods rejected as outmoded. And it allows In Defence of History to begin with statements which appear to accord a relatively high degree of autonomy to the textual activity of history-writing ("texts ... supplement or rework 'reality'" Dominick La Capra, cited with approval, p. 80), slide into intermediary claims ('the past does impose its reality through the sources in a basic way', p. 115; 'the past does speak through the sources', p. 126), and then end up with the resoundingly empiricist conclusion that, despite it all, 'it really happened', we can 'find out how' and know 'what it all meant' (p. 253, the last page of the book). It’s not often that I read a book that’s written by a character in a movie, but I did so when I read Sir Richard Evans’s In Defense of History (1998). Summary of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 Chairman Smith’s proposal for the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) focuses on maintaining the strength of our defense enterprise as our nation grapples with a once-in-a-generation health crisis and a heightened social crisis against the backdrop of The dead were and are not. Vietnam, a nation in Southeast Asia on the eastern edge of the Indochinese peninsula, had been under French colonial rule since the 19th century. I’m going on a roll sharing all of my final essays with you guys because they have been incredibly difficult to write and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished throughout the semester! The first obligation of a critic is to give a fair, accurate and detailed account of the arguments he or she intends to attack. Start by marking “In Defense of History” as Want to Read: Error rating book. The book begins with a history of history: raising first pre-modern styles of history, such as the chronicle and the morality tale of Gibbon’s "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire". [Just to finish: the more correct term for 'subconscious' (p. 206) is 'unconscious'.]. In fact they argue that the sources historians use are distorted by the views of those who created them, and the books historians write are so distorted by their views as to make them no different than fiction. Lyotard? I had no idea of the historiography idea or the different ways history can be taught but this book has opened my eyes. In a genre over-populated by blinkered (not to say ignorant)and choleric conservative enemies of some ill-defined "postmodernism", Evans' book stands out as a balanced and thoughtful look at what History as a discipline is and should be. The book covers various topics, i remember one of my favorites was when the book asks whether history should be treated as a science? Dismissed in a single sentence and a bizarre one at that, to the effect that 'master-narratives are the hegemonic stories told by those in power' (p. 150). historians do work with paradigms but only flexible ones?). In Defence of History aims to take stock of forty years of historical theory and practice after Carr's ground-setting What is History?. In Defence of History. In fact, I wish that Evans would update the book to reflect his experiences as an expert witness in that trial. In this volume, English historian Richard Evans offers a defence of the importance of his craft. He would be, I guess, be deeply disconcerted to learn that this classic empiricist assumption would be disputed by almost ever major philosopher who has written this century. [Another dodgy qualifier, I would say: what extent is envisaged by 'to a large extent', and why does this latitude exist at all?]. Surely even the most nonchalant reading of Derrida would disclose something of what was in fact at stake around logocentrism? He was portrayed the movie "Denial" about the libel trial of Irving v. Lipstadt in which he served as an expert witness for Lipstadt as she proved the truth of the Holocaust against the falsehood of Irving’s denialism. It is fashionable to say 'my truth is as valid as yours'. Etc. What’s the role of individuals? I zipped through it pretty fast. This was a lot of fun to read, as Evans is quite wry and funny and has a pleasant flow to his writing. At heart, this book is a response to Postmodernism's criticism of history as a discipline and intellectual endeavour. Evans is quite supportive of the useful correctives and insights postmodernism provides, while pushing firmly back on the more absurdist, reductionist claims. As a by-product of this defence Evans gives a clear survey of what history is and what it claims to do. This philosophical current in its most extreme form has undermined the fundamentals of historical study, but Evans acknowledges it also has brought some valuable new insights. This book is more-or-less two things: an account of how history is done in practice, more or less; and a critique of postmodernist theories of history. As it is, the book relates concerns among historians about postmodern philosophy in a way that I think will be good fodder for students. In my days as a member of the English Department, I found my colleagues in History both enviable and arrogant in the way they closed ranks against what they regarded as less rigorous disciplines like mine. Evans' argument of middle-grounded liberalism and acceptance also uses historical literary evidence to strongly appeal to common sense, since he argues for greater openness between the different factions of historical study, a self-critical and 'objective' (a word which caused huge contention following the book's publication) approach to writing history, a commitment to rigorous source analysis (following the Rankean criteria) and an awareness of the inevitability of subjectivity. He was born in London, of Welsh parentage, and is now Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of Gonville & Caius College. Richard Evans’ In Defense of History is, according the author’s introductory claims, a work of reflection on the state of the profession written by an active professional. While In Defence of History addresses all aspects of historical method, its key focus is on an extensive evaluation of this postmodern thinking. It is depressing to think that this uninformed yet totally self-confident work of naive provincialism should come from close to the heartlands of English culture. Moore argues that these beliefs are common sense.. Summary. In Defence of History admits that texts are texts and reality is reality. Well, no he didn't; the signified is the concept or meaning and the thing (what philosophers term 'the referent') is another question altogether. His plea for a moderate application of classic historical methods brings him in conflict with postmodernism. I respect Evans as a historian, and chose to teach this book after having side-lined it a few years ago because of his important work in the Lipstadt/Irving trial. It consists of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and several "tri-service" units. 0 Reviews. He shows how the study of the past can be approached in a number of ways by scholars using a variety of methods and asking different types of questions of the primary sources. Did Evans read Of Grammatology as his note claims? In my days as a member of the English Department, I found my colleagues in History both enviable and arrogant in the way they closed ranks against what they regarded as less rigorous disciplines like mine. As it is, the book relates concerns among historians about postmodern philosophy in a way that. Too often he seems to assume written documents are the principal sources for historical knowledge. One thing I appreciated when I first read the book, is that he critiques the representation of the historical profession among philosophers of history who only ever seem to write about historians of the 19th and early 20th centuries, as if there had been no changes in historical methods of research or writing since that time. However, in the first year of its publication in France, readers purchased twenty thousand copies of his Being and Event (2001). So when Patrick Joyce tells us that social history is dead, and Elizabeth Deeds Ermarth declares that time is a fictional construct, and Roland Barthes announces that all the world's a text, and Hans Kellner wants historians to stop behaving as if we were researching into things that actually happened, and Diane Purkiss says that we should just tell stories without bothering whether or not they are true, and Frank Ankersmit swears that we can never know anything at all about the past so we might as well confine ourselves to studying other historians, and Keith Jenkins proclaims that all history is just naked ideology designed to get historians powers and money in big university institutions run by the bourgeoisie, I will look humbly at the past and say despite them all: it really happened, and we really can, if we are very scrupulous and careful and self-critical, find out how it happened and reach some tenable though always less than final conclusions about what it all meant." Refresh and try again. Pub. In defence of history. Richard J. Evans mounts a brilliant and compellingly effective defence of the historian’s capacity to reach genuine insights about past events. In defence of history. While he seeks to fight push back against the most radical postmodernist critiques of history writing, he also shows that the discipline of history has gained from the incorporation of techniques from other disciplines. How important is causation? In fact, I wish that Evans would update the book to reflect his experiences as an expert witness in that trial. Welcome back. It saves Evans from any troubling inquiry into the epistemological consequences attending a possible correspondence or adequation or correlation between reality and representation (including the immensely tricky question of where anyone might actually have to be placed so as to assess just where reality ended and representation began). This article is more than 15 years old. And sometimes I felt it would be just better to read that book instead. The Defence of Poesy Summary and Study Guide Thanks for exploring this SuperSummary Study Guide of “The Defence of Poesy” by Philip Sidney. I agree with the large majority of Evans' assessments, as he evaluates various cited works fairly, since he systematically considers the good and bad side of each view, and sets out a consistent argument from the off. Rewriting the gap between reality and representation as simply the difference between direct experience (the present) and indirect or less direct experience (the past) has a neat economy. After Lehman the footnote directs the reader generally to Of Grammatology though not specifically to page 158, which states 'il n'y a pas de hors-texte'. I kept wanting him to be more precise on just what constitutes a 'fact' and how 'evidence' is evaluated. Historical interpretation has evolved 'through contact with the real historical world', a contact said to be 'indirect, because the real historical world has disappeared'; but hey, no worries, for the documents 'which the real world of the past has left behind ... were themselves created in a much more direct interaction with reality' (p. 112). What’s the role of individuals? Evans may not know much about postmodernism but he knows what he doesn't like. The massive controversy this book has aroused amongst British historians proves it once again. Granta, 2001 - Historiography - 371 pages. Richard J. Evans’ In Defence of History is an attack on the influence of postmodernism on the practice of history. 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