Clio confused: troubling aspects of historical study from the perspective of U.S. history
Nations and other political entities are inadequate bases for studying the human past, because the other aspects of human life are not organized along the same lines as these political entities. All communities, including local ones, are amoeba-like, changing size and shape as we observe and probe them. Historians can improve the way they generalize about the past by tailoring their conclusions to the actual evidence they use. By using an array of historical questions of interest to scholars in all of the humanistically oriented disciplines, historians can offer more profound interpretations of their subjects, rather than confining themselves to an explanation of how and why human life evolves or persists through time and space. By doing so, historians can also significantly extend their influence among the general population.
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academic historians academic scholars amateur American Exceptionalism American History areas aspects of human basic basis become behavior belief Benedict Anderson Boorstin character citizens civil colonial context continue created cultural cultural-intellectual David Hollinger Deerfield and Boston definition developed dimensions distinctive distorted economic activity efforts elites ethnic Europe European evidence Fernand Braudel focused forms gender geographic global Harvard University historical study historical writing human past identity Imagined Communities important individuals inhabitants institutions intellectual interpretation involved kind lives modern nation-state national political nationalist nature nineteenth century nonpolitical aspects North America organized particular perceived perspective Peter Temin political boundaries political entities politically defined community population racial recently regional religious Rural Sociology scholarship sense settlements Seymour Martin Lipset shape shared significant Similarly slavery sociologists statistical synthesizers territory town or city towns and cities twentieth century understanding United University Press urban urban sociologists usually varied various wealth Western York