The Historians’ Paradox: The Study of History in Our Time

Front Cover
NYU Press, Nov 1, 2008 - History - 226 pages
1 Review

How do we know what happened in the past? We cannot go back, and no amount of historical data can enable us to understand with absolute certainty what life was like “then.” It is easy to demolish the very idea of historical knowing, but it is impossible to demolish the importance of historical knowing. In an age of cable television pundits and anonymous bloggers dueling over history, the value of owning history increases at the same time as our confidence in history as a way of knowing crumbles. Historical knowledge thus presents a paradox — the more it is required, the less reliable it has become. To reconcile this paradox — that history is impossible but necessary — Peter Charles Hoffer proposes a practical, workable philosophy of history for our times, one that is robust and realistic, and that speaks to anyone who reads, writes and teaches history.

Covering a sweeping range of philosophies (from ancient history to game theory), methodological approaches to writing history, and the advantages and disadvantages of different strategies of argument, Hoffer constructs a philosophy of history that is reasonable, free of fallacy, and supported by appropriate evidence that is itself tenable.


What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - the_awesome_opossum - LibraryThing

This is a primer for a philosophy of history. Clearly history has bias and omissions and every author has his or her own viewpoint to impart to the "facts." But really, fact is on some level ... Read full review


It Would Be Logical to Assume
Whats Wrong with This Argument?
Historians and the Loaded Question
Cause for Alarm
One of Us Is Lying
The Politics of History and History in Politics
Historians in the Marketplace
Historians Confront the Problem of Evil
A Very Brief Bibliographical Essay
About the Author

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2008)

Peter Charles Hoffer is Distinguished Research Professor of History at the University of Georgia. He has authored and co-authored more than twenty books, including Past Imperfect: Facts, Fictions, and Fraud in American History from Bancroft and Parkman to Ambrose, Bellesiles, Ellis and Goodwin and The Supreme Court: An Essential History.

Bibliographic information