That Noble Dream: The 'Objectivity Question' and the American Historical Profession

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Cambridge University Press, Sep 30, 1988 - History - 648 pages
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The aspiration to relate the past "as it really happened" has been the central goal of American professional historians since the late nineteenth century. In this remarkable history of the profession, Peter Novick shows how the idea and ideal of objectivity was elaborated, challenged, modified, and defended over the past century. Drawing on the unpublished correspondence as well as the published writing of hundreds of American historians, this book is a richly textured account of what American historians have thought they were doing, or ought to be doing, when they wrote history--how their principles influenced their practice and practical exigencies influenced their principles. Published with the support of the Exxon Education Foundation.

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User Review  - JFBallenger - LibraryThing

Thick enough to stun an ox, it is hard to imagine someone picking this up outside of an academic context. (I read it in a graduate historiography seminar.) But it is a masterful exploration of one of the central problems of historical writing. Read full review

Review: That Noble Dream: The 'Objectivity Question' and the American Historical Profession

User Review  - Maggi Smith-Dalton - Goodreads

If you don't have this on your historiography shelf, you're simply not getting the whole picture. Essential, totally essential reading. Read full review

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Page 571 - So with all scientific research. Different minds may set out with the most antagonistic views, but the progress of investigation carries them by a force outside of themselves to one and the same conclusion.
Page 571 - On the other hand, all the followers of science are fully persuaded that the processes of investigation, if only pushed far enough, will give one certain solution to each question to which they can be applied.
Page 571 - This activity of thought by which we are carried, not where we wish, but to a foreordained goal, is like the operation of destiny . . . This great law is embodied in the conception of truth and reality. The opinion which is fated to be ultimately agreed to by all who investigate, is what we mean by the truth, and the object represented in this opinion is the real.

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About the author (1988)

Peter Novick is professor emeritus of history at the University of Chicago. He is the author of "The Resistance Versus Vichy" & "That Noble Dream: The 'Objectivity Question' & the American Historical Profession.

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