[Epub] ❧ What is History? Author Edward Hallett Carr – Natus-physiotherapy.co.uk

What is History? Published In , What Is Historyby Historian Edward Hallett Carr Discusses History, Facts, The Bias Of Historians, Science, Morality, Individuals And Society, And Moral Judgements In HistoryThe Book Originated In A Series Of Lectures Given By Carr In At The University Of Cambridge The Lectures Were Intended As A Broad Introduction Into The Subject Of The Theory Of History And Their Accessibility Resulted In What Is Historybecoming One Of The Key Texts In The Field Of HistoriographyNevertheless, Some Of Carr S Ideas Are Contentious, Particularly His Relativism And His Rejection Of Contingency As An Important Factor In Historical Analysis His Work Provoked A Number Of Responses, Most Notably Geoffrey Elton S The Practice Of HistoryCarr Was In The Process Of Revising What Is Historyfor A Second Edition At The Time Of His Death


10 thoughts on “What is History?

  1. says:

    This is a masterful study of the questions historians ask themselves and readers of history should ask themselves about the nature of the writing of history Is history a bunch of objective facts just put down by a disinterested bean counter called an historian Or is it a study of the past with the goal of shedding light on the present Is it a tale of the victors , as the losers in history are usually obliterated Is it cause and effect Is there a Spirit of History, a World Spirit a la Heg This is a masterful study of the questions historians ask themselves and readers of history should ask themselves about the nature of the writing of history Is history a bunch of objective facts just put down by a disinterested bean counter called an historian Or is it a study of the past with the goal of shedding light on the present Is it a tale of the victors , as the losers in history are usually obliterated Is it cause and effect Is there a Spirit of History, a World Spirit a la Hegel Carr was an eminent Russian historian and it is fascinating to get a look into the making of history, how the vision has changed from century to century how the scarcity of facts makes the writing of history both easier and harder, the specific problems of contemporary history The issue I find especially important is the lens through which an historian assembles his or her facts for analysis that people need to understand that it s not I read this ergo it s true We need to identify the lens, and perhaps balance it with the lens of the opposite point of view, and maybe triangulate with histories by writersor less colorful and opinionated though opinion, or point of view, IS the engine which sends the historian on his or her journey in the first place It s much like biblical scholarship to understand the hands which have created a specific text, and each historian has his or her own world view and raison d tre in creating it Which bone are they picking Which school of historiography the study of the writing of history do they consciously or unconsciously take as their own Carr, like many historians, is an absolutely fantastic writer some of the turns of phrase, the little asides, sometimes gentlemanly digs at colleagues, are laugh out loud funny, as well as very thoughtful.I would have likedphilosophy myself but this small book had been originally a short series of lectures, which is one of its virtues


  2. says:

    I bought a 50 copy of this book years ago on a bargain bin spree at either Housing Works or the Strand Until recently, every time I paged through it I couldn t help but deride its maddeningly simple minded premise in a series of lectures at Cambridge in the 1950s, Carr set out to actually answer the question what is history.Is history a science Are there causes for historical events What is fact And, yes, this is as boring as one might expect You advance through a few pages of this kind I bought a 50 copy of this book years ago on a bargain bin spree at either Housing Works or the Strand Until recently, every time I paged through it I couldn t help but deride its maddeningly simple minded premise in a series of lectures at Cambridge in the 1950s, Carr set out to actually answer the question what is history.Is history a science Are there causes for historical events What is fact And, yes, this is as boring as one might expect You advance through a few pages of this kind of freshman exegesis and you start asking Are you serious over and over.Yet, and of course, Carr wins you over, oh word booty He builds on these simple questions and lays out a truly compelling progressive theory of history He lets you in on conversations he s been having with himself about his profession, the thing that clearly animates his entire life, and it s an honest and rare little inspiration.Plus, he gently mocks conservatives now and then Here s a wonderful bit about the hidden cost of conservatism that made me mentally pump my fist In ordinary life we areoften involved than we sometimes care to admit in the necessity of preferring the lesser evil, or of doing evil that good may come In history the question is sometimes discussed under the rubric the cost of progress or the price of revolution This is misleading As Bacon says in the essay On Innovations, the forward retention of custom is as turbulent a thing as an innovation The cost of conservation falls just as heavily on the under privileged as the cost of innovation on those who are deprived of their privileges The thesis that the good of some justifies the sufferings of others is implicit in all government, and is just as much a conservative as a radical doctrine


  3. says:

    Exploring the study of history31 December 2011 This book is not actually a book on history per se but rather an exploration of the discipline of history This is the main reason that I consider it philosophy as it is not looking at a specific historical event, or looking at the history of civilisation but rather taking a step back and exploring what it is that historians do This is something that many of us generally take foregranted when we look and an historical event Many of us will discuss Exploring the study of history31 December 2011 This book is not actually a book on history per se but rather an exploration of the discipline of history This is the main reason that I consider it philosophy as it is not looking at a specific historical event, or looking at the history of civilisation but rather taking a step back and exploring what it is that historians do This is something that many of us generally take foregranted when we look and an historical event Many of us will discuss the reasons behind the event and the results of what happened from the event, but we generally do not look at what goes into our thought patterns when we discuss these things This, though, I believe is important because by understanding the background to the discipline helps us interpret the events and come to better conclusions as to the events that we are looking at There are a few things that I wish to outline with regards to Carr s philosophy this book is actually a series of lectures that Carr delivered, and then published in book form First of all we need to consider the context of the event Carr indicates that history does not occur in a vacuum Once again, we generally know and accept this, but do not really think too deeply about what it means Carr does discuss causation, and this is an important aspect of history, but before we come to causation, we must understand the concept of a fact in history We generally understand that history is made up of facts It was a fact that Rome dominated the Mediterranean region during the late classical period, just as it is a fact that Hitler invaded Poland These are things that we generally do not dispute, but the question that is raised is how we come about those facts In the case of Hitler there are a lot of sources that we can turn to to confirm this fact and also assist us in making sure that the event of him invading Poland is a clear as possible In a recent event this is easy, however when we are looking back at events that occurred in Ancient Rome, then our sources are muchlimited For instance, there are only two sources that deal with Hannibul s invasion of the Italian Peninsula, and both of these sources were written by Romans at least a hundred years after the events As such the telling of this tale is clouded by the opinions of the writers and the societies in which these writers were writing Then we have sources such as Plutarch, who wrote even later, and wrote from a number of sources However, Plutarch s telling of the story is going to be coloured by the sources that he chose, and the selections that he took from his sources Plutarch has a purpose in writing his history, and his use of sources are going to be coloured by his own thoughts and opinions As can be seen, the sources that we rely on to obtain facts will be coloured by the writer and the society in which that writer was writing However there is be a further twist to this in that our interpretation of these sources are going to be further coloured not only by the society in which we live, but also since many of the sources, at least for the ancient world, are not written in our language, we must also go through the process of either interpreting the documents ourselves, or relying upon somebody else s translation This is probably why Carr indicated that any historian that is worth their salt should be able to read and understand at least one other language mine are Ancient Greek and German As mentioned our context is going to colour the way we interpret history, particularly when it comes to the concept of cause and effect In the Early Modern Era, historical movements and changes were seen as the actions of single men Therefore an event would occur because a single person chose a course of action and pursued it Take for instance Hannibul s invasion of Italy Earlier Carthage and Rome had gone to war over possession of the island of Sicily, and Carthage had lost the war As a result, Carthage was forced to hand over colonies and pay tribute to Rome This had left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Carthaginians, and it was going to happen, sooner or later, that one person was going to want revenge, and that person turned out to be Hannibul However, as society changed, we came to understand the causes of events differently, particularly as the French Revolution rocked the continent There was no specific person that could be seen as starting the French Revolution, but rather it was a general social movement that precipitated the event, and these ideas had filtered into the French Nation due to their participation in the American War of Independence This explanation can also be used with regards to Hannibal First of all, causes in themselves have causes, and these causes also have causes As indicated above, it was the Cartheginian defeat in the first Punic War that resulted in Hannibul arising, however, the social movement theory suggests that if it was not Hannibul, it would have been somebody else Further, it was a social event that brought about the first Punic War two empires that were growing were bound to come into conflict with each other, and the defeat in the war did not just effect one person, but a whole range of people In a strange way, history repeated itself in the first half of the 20th century However, come the late 19th Century, the concept of causes changed again and now many of us look at economic causes as being the reason behind many historical events With the French revolution is was the fact that the French Government was bankrupt and attempted to increase an already crippling tax rate upon the commoners that was the spark that resulted in the French Revolution In the same way the first Punic War could be considered a trade war as Rome and Carthage came to blows over trade routes and colonies, in particular Sicily which was the staging ground for much of the first war However, this is not purely economic as also strategic for whoever gained control of Sicily would have the upper hand, which suggests that it arose out of a clash of Empires I don t necessarily agree entirely with Carr s exposition of history, but that is because we tend to approach history from different angles I tend to had a teleological view of history, meaning that history moves from a beginning to an end and history is relentlessly moving towards that end, even though we may only have a vague understanding of what that end will be and when it will occur This has come out of my Christian upbringing Also there is the debate over divine intervention Carr does not accept this, however I do, though will admit that it is subtle at best This comes out in the doctrine of accident in history Some suggest that there is no such thing as an accident, but I say rubbish It was an accident that enabled the Americans to defeat the Japanese at the battle of Midway where it was Hitler s insanity that resulted in him invading Russia The further back in history we go, thedistinct the causes, the turning points, and indeed the accidents, become Take for instance the defeat of Senaccerib at the gates of Jerusalem The Bible one of our sources says that at night the Angel of Death came down and slaughtered the Assyrian army Modern historians suggest that it was a disease Either way, my position is that this single, accidental or divine event pretty much changed the course of history I mentioned above that if Hannibul didn t rise up, somebody else would have While that may be true, it was Hannibul, with all of his strengths and his weaknesses, that rose up It was Hannibul that came up with the plan to march over the Alps, and the tactics he used to defeat the Romans at Cannae Even though the Romans were defeated, it was Hannibul that hesitated for too long when deciding his next move that resulted in Scipio Africanus being able to launch a counter attack against Carthage Further, it was Hitler who decided to attack Russia instead of Turkey, and it was also Hitler who decided to change course and move away from Moscow and instead attack Stalingrad It was these characters, with their specific decisions and flaws that resulted in the history as we know it, and it is my position that it was God who raised these people up or arranging other accidents to set the course of history as it happens Obviously this then raises the question of free will verses determination Do we have free will, or are we just prisoners of a relentless history that moves forward While I may have argued on determinism above, we have to remember that it was the choices that people made, and their desire to see through to the end their plans, that turned history the way it went While God may have raised up Hannibul to attack Rome, it was Hannibul s choice to do something about the defeat his people had suffered, just as it was Hannibul s choice not to march on Rome after defeating the Romans at Cannae In the same vein, it was Hitler s choice to invade Soviet Russia instead on Turkey the reason I use that is that if he had invaded Turkey, he could have then moved into the Fertile Crescent and captured the oil fields of the Middle East rather than wasting his resources in a fruitless campaign against Russia In the same sense though this is controversial in and of itself it was Franklin Delanore Roosevelt s decision not to act against the Japanese Fleet that turned the war in the Allies favour, just as it was the Japanese s leadership s decision to attempt to take out the American Pacific Fleet to attempt to prevent them from entering the war This is a short book, and while I would suggest that we don t need to agree with everything Carr writes in his book, I believe this is a good book for the serious student of history Carr assists us in understanding the discipline and also the controversies that arise in the way we interpret it do we look at single people, accidents, social movements, or economic forces Carr suggests, and I agree, that we must look at all of these factors, as all of these factors, particularly when we are looking at modern events such as World War II, which ironically Carr does not even mention in trying to understand the context, the reasons behind, and the effects, of these events


  4. says:

    Objective RealityLet me begin by stating my personal objectivist viewpoint There is only one single objective reality Either some event in the past happened, or it did not Someone s opinion does not change that fact For example, on January 10, 49 BC Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River with some of his soldiers Or he did not There is only one correct answer.The Hard Truth about Historical FactsSo is the job of the historian is simply to collect up all the objective facts, and an accurat Objective RealityLet me begin by stating my personal objectivist viewpoint There is only one single objective reality Either some event in the past happened, or it did not Someone s opinion does not change that fact For example, on January 10, 49 BC Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River with some of his soldiers Or he did not There is only one correct answer.The Hard Truth about Historical FactsSo is the job of the historian is simply to collect up all the objective facts, and an accurate account of what actually happened will automatically follow Carr points out a few problems with this Positivist view.First, we cannot directly observe anything that happened in the past We rely on the accounts of other people, who may in turn be relying on accounts of yet others The Rubicon story may have come from some propagandist putting a spin on Caesar s overthrow of the Roman Republic The historian must assess the accuracy of each so called fact That requires judgment And there are too many historical facts For example, millions of people have crossed the Rubicon Exactly what makes Julius Caesar s crossing worth mentioning.Carr tells us,The main work of the historian is not to record, but to evaluate for, if he does not evaluate, how can he know what is worth recordingOne can only evaluate on the basis of one s own experience, which occurs during the historian s lifetime Thus the historian is the product of history before he begins to write it History consists essentially in seeing the past through the eyes of the present There simply cannot be a complete separation between subject and object, between the historian and his perception of the past.All this sounds dangerously like subjectivism, but it is only an objective acknowledgment of the difficulties in reconstructing what actually occurred in history In his words,The historian and the facts of history are necessary to one another The historian without his facts is rootless and futile the facts without their historian are dead and meaningless My first answer therefore to the question What is history is that it is a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts, an unending dialogue between the present and the past First Study Your HistorianWhen we take up a work of history, our first concern should be not with the facts that it contains but with the historian who wrote it Before you study the historian, study his historical and social environment This is the take home message of the book Carr gives many examples of how historians interpret the same period of history differently, and how those interpretations are influenced by the experience of their own time He gives examples of the same historian writing different historical accounts depending on the social changes occurring over his lifetime He goes so far as to say that one can interpret the social context of the historian by the way he writes his history of the Roman Empire Caesar s triumph may seem glorious to one benefiting from stable autocratic rule, and less glorious to one experiencing the oppression of a ruthless tyrant The historical account is written accordingly.The Lessons of HistoryWhy do we study history in the first place It isthan just raw material for literature We are looking for a guide to understand the present, and seek insight into the future Carr dismisses those who claim there can be no lessons from history Yes, there are contingent events and strong personalities But there are also underlying forces that are still operating today He personally participated in the 1919 Paris Conference and says everyone in the delegation believed that we could learn from the lessons of the Vienna Congress, the last great European peace congress a hundred years earlier.But he cautions that the lessons of history should not be taken too literally He tells usThe Bolsheviks knew that the French revolution had ended in a Napoleon, and feared that their own revolution might end in the same way They therefore mistrusted Trotsky, who among their leaders looked most like a Napoleon, and trusted Stalin, who looked least like a NapoleonThe new lesson of history here is that there are worse things than a Napoleon.History as a ScienceCarr claims history is a science, and I have to agree that at least it should be He points out that history and the physical sciences are not as different as they appear to be Physics is not simply a collection of facts, as the theories to explain those facts are what bring it to life The mathematics may be exact, but the interpretation to make it verbally comprehensible is a subjective exercise similar to that of the historian And science itself is becominghistorical Newton s cosmology was about discovering the eternal laws that govern the universe But geology and evolutionary theory are about discovering the events of the past to explain where we come from Astronomy has moved from observing the fixed heavens to discovering how the universe came to be what it is.It is worth remembering that evolutionary theory was interpreted as survival of the fittest , which corresponded to the emerging capitalist economy of the time Modern interpretations payattention to cooperation and symbiosis None of this takes away from the value of science We just have to be evencareful of subjective interpretations when evaluating history.Evaluating This HistorianFor someone who describes the problems of history so well, it is interesting that his specialty is the Soviet Union, which wasa study of current events As for his insight, this is a guy who was sympathetic to both Hitler and Stalin in the 1930 s The last chapter shows his views have not changed much, as he defends the collectivisation of the peasants as a part of the cost of industrialisation.But perhaps his sympathy for Soviet Russia gives him a better understanding of what happened there and why, and makes for a better history We just have to remember to take the context of the historian into account when we try to decode what he writes For that, we can thank him for his excellent advice


  5. says:

    This book contains 6 lectures E.H Carr 1892 1982 gave, back in 1961 at the University of Cambridge So, you surely can say it is a bit outdated But nevertheless, I was very pleased about the value of Carr s opinions These handle the methodology of the historic profession, as well as the philosophical foundations of it Carr was a practicing diplomat, but he also published extensively on Russian and Soviet history So he combined a profound interest in the theory of historical studies with h This book contains 6 lectures E.H Carr 1892 1982 gave, back in 1961 at the University of Cambridge So, you surely can say it is a bit outdated But nevertheless, I was very pleased about the value of Carr s opinions These handle the methodology of the historic profession, as well as the philosophical foundations of it Carr was a practicing diplomat, but he also published extensively on Russian and Soviet history So he combined a profound interest in the theory of historical studies with his own experience in the field of international reality and of his own research Carr is always subtle and very precise about the essence and the limits of historic writing I have some issues with his view on accidents in history and his formulation of what objectivity can be it seems to me he is a bit too relativistic But for his eloquent way of formulating his other opinions, I can only have admiration Just one cautionary remark don t read the very large introduction to this edition, it adds almost nothing


  6. says:

    Excerpt from my essay Carr quickly discredits the notion of history as a universal entity, lambasting Acton s proposal of an ultimate history by indicating that such a concept imposes a complete separation between subject and object The 19th century positivist claim that history is a pure science is a false conviction based not on reality but rather, as Carr calls it, a cult of facts Factuality comprises merely one aspect of the historian s task To have meaning, facts must be properly ana Excerpt from my essay Carr quickly discredits the notion of history as a universal entity, lambasting Acton s proposal of an ultimate history by indicating that such a concept imposes a complete separation between subject and object The 19th century positivist claim that history is a pure science is a false conviction based not on reality but rather, as Carr calls it, a cult of facts Factuality comprises merely one aspect of the historian s task To have meaning, facts must be properly analyzed and assembled by an individual, thereby adding an element of subjectivity to any historical finding Data may be lost or incomplete one historian s rationale may differ from another s the causes of any particular event may not have been inevitable In order to be scientific, history would necessarily need to possess postulates which apply universally and can be re applied with the same results Since no historical trend can be re applied to produce exact results, we cannot ignore that there are other complicit factors in its make up


  7. says:

    I first read What is History as part of a philosophy of history class I believe that the course was given by Aristotle and the book was written on papyrus I recall being less critical of it at that time in any case I would still suggest it as a good introduction to issues in historiography I would, however, suggest caution in taking Carr at face value He has numerous axes to grind and theories to support My major criticism is that he seems to have been a bit disingenuous in putting his arg I first read What is History as part of a philosophy of history class I believe that the course was given by Aristotle and the book was written on papyrus I recall being less critical of it at that time in any case I would still suggest it as a good introduction to issues in historiography I would, however, suggest caution in taking Carr at face value He has numerous axes to grind and theories to support My major criticism is that he seems to have been a bit disingenuous in putting his arguments forward in regard to the historian s ability to be objective He criticises Collingwood for being over sceptical, that historical certainty is not possible, early in the book while admitting that the historian s task is not easy He states that there is always an interaction between the historian and his material, indeed that the historian must select what is important to history from a mass of facts The facts speak only when the historian calls on them it is he who decides to which facts to give the floor, and in what order or context At the same time, he wants to argue that a good historian will choose the correct facts and tell the true story I have not been able to ascertain exactly how one is to distinguish a relativist who is only putting forward a historical fiction from a good historian who has the right facts and the right take on them I think we can agree that academic dishonesty is not acceptable but I am not sure how he deals with simply getting it wrong He seems to be quite satisfied that he is among the elect He thus sees himself as a staunch historical objectivist in spite of having given his readers many reasons for considering history to be a relativistic undertaking


  8. says:

    I am now 47 years, and I read this one when I was 20 It was in my first university or college, if you are American and its reading marked me deeply It came with the emotion of the first really serious studying book And it made me think a lot about the degree I was about to initiate In a word, one of the books of my life.


  9. says:

    I kinda of liked it It is a bit repetitive at times, and I found myself agreeing and disagreeing with Carr though that should not matter.


  10. says:

    I am not sure how I am going to be able to review this, albeit short 52 pages out of 177 contain EH Carrs lecture the rest being several prefaces, notes and an index and quite heavy take on the stated subject I had to read this many years ago when I was studying and did not get on that well with it then and being a glutton for punishment that I am, I thought I would re read it and may just appreciate it Wrong It is not that academic, EH Carr writes well, but it is heavy and again I was I am not sure how I am going to be able to review this, albeit short 52 pages out of 177 contain EH Carrs lecture the rest being several prefaces, notes and an index and quite heavy take on the stated subject I had to read this many years ago when I was studying and did not get on that well with it then and being a glutton for punishment that I am, I thought I would re read it and may just appreciate it Wrong It is not that academic, EH Carr writes well, but it is heavy and again I was wading towards the last twenty or so pages Life at my age is too short to bother with getting bogged down Skimmed read the last chapter I would recommend for any History student for sure essential, but I have too many unread books to read Personally this is a two star book Sorry , but objectively, due to his take on modern day history over the first half of the 20thC people actually were becomingconscious of often, quite cataclysmic events that they actually felt they were on a stage of major importance , I will give it a quite respectable three star


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