Tag Archives: historical theory

The Trouble with Words (7th Week, HT)

I have been panning in the river of Historiography this week. The experience has been intriguing, confusing, and entertaining, but I’ve yet to come up with nuggets of gold.

The immediate goal is to complete my historiography essay. I had more-or-less completed my first draft over Christmas Break, but the very thorough comments I received on my draft have sent me back the drawing board to deconstruct and attempt to build it up again. My primary difficulty is finding something useful of my own to contribute – at this point in my studies, I have a long way to progress along the spectrum of mimicry to originality. And the murkier the waters of historiographical theory, the easier it is to cling to the floats of previous critiques rather than push out on my own.

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The Wonderful World of Historiography (3rd Week, HT)

This week I attended a brilliant one-off lecture by Professor Michael Bentley on ‘Historiography: What It Does, Why It Matters’, one of the few I’ve heard so far on the theory of history. I won’t do justice to it (particularly as historiography is still one of those things I have yet to entirely untangle in my own brain), but here’s the 60-second version.

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A Historian’s Responsibilities

I am instinctively wary of formulaic approaches that risk imposing patterns on—and hence, in my judgement, doing violence to—the sources . . . [This does not] mean that I accept uncritically whatever our sources tell us. While no disciple of Postmodernism, I have tried to stand outside the source material and to remember that historians can never hope to retrieve ‘what actually happened’—though that does not, in my view, absolve them of the responsibility of trying to get as close as possible to it.

Peter Jackson, Introduction to The Mongols and the West, 1221-1410