Studying how historians produce their histories was once undertaken as an exercise in intellectual biography, analysing noted historians one by one. The subject was known as historiography, and tended not to enthuse History students. These days, however, many experts offer a broader approach, studying the range of ideas, ideologies and schools of thought that collectively inform works of history. This thematic approach, which is becoming known as Historiology, is something to be taken on board by all would-be historians.
6.2.1 Reviewing Four Studies in Historiology (2008), Pdf4
This text contains PJC’s review of four recent studies of ‘Historiology’, though none uses that recondite term. John Toth is both utilitarian and optimistic. He stresses that the study of History enhances useful skills of information collection, organisation, analysis, and presentation, whilst simultaneously inculcating a critical analysis of the past. By contrast, Jeremy Black fears that History-writing is vulnerable to hijacking by nationalist or religious ideologies and emotions. David Cannadine, who documents the recent growth of professional History, is also alarmed but upon different grounds. He argues that in Britain the state-imposed exercises in Research Assessment serve only to encourage ‘safe bets’ and stifle innovation. After that, Peter Charles Hoffer’s chatty guide steers readers between the dangers of ‘fake’ History and the need for the ‘real thing’. Collectively, these authors, whether optimistic or pessimistic about the state of the subject, do all agree upon the social and personal value of a clear-eyed understanding of the past.
Penelope J. Corfield
Penelope J. Corfield is a historian, lecturer and education consultant. She currently serves as the President of the International Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ISECS).
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