The Landscape of History How Historians Map the Past

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 4/8/2004
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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What is history and why should we study it? Is there such a thing as historical truth? Is history a science? One of the most accomplished historians at work today, John Lewis Gaddis, answers these and other questions in this short, witty, and humane book. The Landscape of History provides asearching look at the historian's craft, as well as a strong argument for why a historical consciousness should matter to us today. Gaddis points out that while the historical method is more sophisticated than most historians realize, it doesn't require unintelligible prose to explain. Like cartographers mapping landscapes, historians represent what they can never replicate. In doing so, they combine the techniques ofartists, geologists, paleontologists, and evolutionary biologists. Their approaches parallel, in intriguing ways, the new sciences of chaos, complexity, and criticality. They don't much resemble what happens in the social sciences, where the pursuit of independent variables functioning with staticsystems seems increasingly divorced from the world as we know it. So who's really being scientific and who isn't? This question too is one Gaddis explores, in ways that are certain to spark interdisciplinary controversy. Written in the tradition of Marc Bloch and E.H. Carr, The Landscape of History is at once an engaging introduction to the historical method for beginners, a powerful reaffirmation of it for practitioners, a startling challenge to social scientists, and an effective skewering of post-modernistclaims that we can't know anything at all about the past. It will be essential reading for anyone who reads, writes, teaches, or cares about history.

Author Biography

John Lewis Gaddis is the Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History at Yale University. A leading authority on Cold War history, his books include We Now Know, The Long Peace, and Strategies of Containment. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

Table of Contents

Preface ix
ONE The Landscape of History i
TWO Time and Space 17(18)
THREE Structure and Process 35(18)
FOUR The Interdependency of Variables 53(18)
FIVE Chaos and Complexity 71(20)
SIX Causation, Contingency, and Counterfactuals 91(20)
SEVEN Molecules with Minds of Their Own 111(18)
EIGHT Seeing Like a Historian 129(24)
Notes 153(30)
Index 183

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