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

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NYU Press, Nov 1, 2008 - History - 226 pages
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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.

 

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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

Contents

It Would Be Logical to Assume
9
Whats Wrong with This Argument?
33
Historians and the Loaded Question
52
Cause for Alarm
65
One of Us Is Lying
87
The Politics of History and History in Politics
106
Historians in the Marketplace
128
Uncertainties
146
Historians Confront the Problem of Evil
163
Conclusion
179
A Very Brief Bibliographical Essay
189
Index
207
About the Author
215
Copyright

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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.

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