Further to our earlier posting about the role of history in Kuhn’s philosophy, and Ken Burns’ comments on The Daily Show, the latest issue of the History Workshop Journal includes a wonderfully enlightening piece about the recent history of history.
This essay focuses on a series of commentaries on the state of historical studies by E.P. Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm and others that the Times Literary Supplement ran in 1966, and two recent books on the state of the discipline, Geoff Eley’s highly personal A Crooked Line and a multi-author volume edited by David Cannadine, What is History Now? Using these very different works as entry points, it assesses ways that the historical profession has changed during the past forty years. Topics addressed range from the shifting audience for academic work on the past, to the links and tensions between social and cultural history, to the varying kinds of historians who have felt marginalized at different points in the recent past. Mirroring Eley’s emphasis on how the backgrounds (generation, area of specialization, gender, etc.) of individual historians are bound to shape their assessments of disciplinary trends, the author presents his own critique as one made not from Olympian heights, but from the particular perspective of someone who mostly focuses on China’s past and was trained at Berkeley in the 1980s.
Get the details here.