The Pursuit of History: Aims, methods and new directions in the study of history

The Pursuit of History: Aims, methods and new directions in the study of history

Language: English

Pages: 316

ISBN: 1138808083

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This classic introduction to the study of history invites the reader to stand back and consider some of its most fundamental questions - what is the point of studying history? How do we know about the past? Does an objective historical truth exist and can we ever access it?

In answering these central questions, John Tosh argues that, despite the impression of fragmentation created by postmodernism in recent years, history is a coherent discipline which still bears the imprint of its nineteenth-century origins. Consistently clear-sighted, he provides a lively and compelling guide to a complex and sometimes controversial subject, while making his readers vividly aware of just how far our historical knowledge is conditioned by the character of the sources and the methods of the historians who work on them.

The sixth edition has been revised and updated with key new material including:

- a brand new chapter on public history

- sections on digitised sources and historical controversy

- discussion of topics including transnational history and the nature of the archive

- an expanded range of examples and case studies

- a comprehensive companion website providing valuable supporting material, study questions and a bank of primary sources.

Lucid and engaging, this edition retains all the user-friendly features that have helped to make this book a favourite with both students and lecturers, including marginal glosses, illustrations and suggestions for further reading. Along with its companion website, this is an essential guide to the theory and practice of history.

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conflict, Margaret Thatcher declared: This generation can match their fathers and grandfathers in ability, in courage, and in resolution. We have not changed. When the demands of war and the dangers to our own people call us to arms – then we British are as we have always been – competent, courageous and resolute.25 13/11/09 08:11:06 Historical awareness 17 Nationalism of this kind rests on the assertion of tradition, rather than an interpretation of history. It suppresses difference and

by the government of F.W. de Klerk, and especially the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990, enabled the country to undergo a remarkable peaceful transition to democracy. In 1994 Nelson Mandela became the first black President of South Africa. Nineteenth-century Germany presents a contrasting example. Germany consisted of a large number of separate states. German M02_TOSH4129_05_SE_C02.indd 54 13/11/09 08:11:20 The uses of history 55 nationalists wanted to amalgamate them into a single,

documented lives a great deal remains a matter of conjecture: the writings of public figures especially are often coloured by self-deception as well as deliberate calculation. But the biographer who has studied the development of his or her subject from childhood to maturity is much more likely to make the right inferences. It is for this reason that during the present century biographers have increasingly stressed the private or inner lives of their subjects as well as their public careers. From

clear in the course of the nineteenth century, especially in the spheres of technology and production. But today’s world is also to be explained by creative reactions in the Third World: in religion, and also (more surprisingly perhaps) in national identity and social organization. Modernity, in short, was a truly global phenomenon, requiring a global reach of scholarship such as Bayly possesses in full measure. VIII Local history Like world history, local history has until relatively recently

probably telling the truth. But in none of these cases can the historian observe the facts in the way that a physicist can. Historians generally have little time for this kind of critique. Formal proof may be beyond their reach; what matters is the validity of the inferences. In practice historians spend a good deal of time disputing and refining the inferences that can be legitimately drawn from the sources, and the facts of history can be said to rest on inferences whose validity is widely

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