Telling the Truth about History

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W. W. Norton & Company, 1995 - History - 322 pages
7 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.

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Review: Telling the Truth About History

User Review  - Dan Gorman - Goodreads

Not the most exciting book ever, but the prose is very clear, and the authors give a good overview of the various stages of evolution in historical research. They're writing just as postmodernism ... Read full review

Review: Telling the Truth About History

User Review  - Tracy - Goodreads

For those of you who want to read about the struggles of being an historian...and kind of the changes historians have gone through over the centuries...this is the book for you. Many of the people in ... Read full review

Selected pages


Intellectual Absolutisms
The Heroic Model of Science
Scientific History and the Idea of Modernity
History Makes a Nation
Absolutisms Dethroned
Competing Histories of America
Discovering the Clay Feet of Science
Postmodernism and the Crisis of Modernity
A New Republic of Learning
Truth and Objectivity
The Future of History

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About the author (1995)

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, andauthor of numerous works, including Writing History in the Global Era, Inventing Human Rightsand Telling the Truth about History. She lives in Los Angeles.

Margaret C. Jacob holds an honorary doctoral from the University of Utrecht and has had a session devoted to her work at the American Historical Association's annual convention in 2012. She has worked in archives in four countries and has published thirteen books. The range of her expertise begins with the meaning and impact of the Newtonian synthesis and extends to the Enlightenment more generally, to the Revolution of 1688, the Dutch Revolution of 1747 48, and most recently, the Industrial Revolution seen comparatively. She has taught in American, British and Dutch universities, received the Gottschalk Prize for her first book on the Newtonians and the English Revolution, and is a member of the American Philosophical Society.

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