Historiography and Theory of History

 

 

Assis, A. A. (2016). What Is History For?: Johann Gustav Droysen and the Functions of Historiography. New York: Berghahn Books, 242 pp.

A scholar of Hellenistic and Prussian history, Droysen developed a historical theory that at the time was unprecedented in range and depth, and which remains to the present day a valuable key for understanding history as both an idea and a professional practice. Arthur Alfaix Assis interprets Droysen's theoretical project as an attempt to redefine the function of historiography within the context of a rising criticism of exemplar theories of history, and focuses on Droysen's claim that the goal underlying historical writing and reading should be the development of the subjective capacity to think historically. In addition, Assis examines the connections and disconnections between Droysen's theory of historical thinking, his practice of historical thought, and his political activism. Ultimately, Assis not only shows how Droysen helped reinvent the relationship between historical knowledge and human agency, but also traces some of the contradictions and limitations inherent to that project.

 

Aurell, J. (2016). Rethinking Historical Genres in the Twenty-First Century. New York & London: Routledge, 168 pp.

This book deals with the way historical genres are theorized and practiced in the twenty-first century. In the context of the freedoms inspired by postmodernism and enabled by the development of innovative textual and graphic platforms, new theories of history view genres as flexible living forms that inspire more creative and experimental representations of the past. New ways of articulating history compete with the traditional model of historical prose. Acknowledging the current diversity in theories and practices, and assuming the historicity of historical genres, this book engages the reality of historical genres today and explores new directions in historical practice by examining these new forms of representing the past. Thus, without denying the validity of traditional and conventional forms of history (and arguing that these forms remain valid), this book surveys the production of what might be considered new historical genres practiced today, in which the idea of "practical past" is put in practice.

 

Kattago, S. (2016). Memory and Representation in Contemporary Europe: The Persistence of the Past. New York & London: Routledge, 160 pp.

Why do certain places and not others symbolically capture the past and freeze time? Likewise, why does the process of memory, as a fluid and changing activity, seem to prevent its own solidification? Memory and Representation in Contemporary Europe reflects not only on the persistence of the past as a theme linked to modernity, media and time, but also discusses the politics of memory within a changing Europe. Drawing on the theoretical work of Hannah Arendt, Isaiah Berlin and Zygmunt Bauman, Siobhan Kattago uses examples from both Germany and Estonia in order to address the multiple layers of Europe's totalitarian past. Through reflecting on the legacy of totalitarianism and the revolutions of 1989, it becomes clear that the issue is less of whether one should remember, but rather how to internalize the various lessons of the past for the future of Europe. Memory and Representation in Contemporary Europe thus offers the reader occasions upon which to take stock of different but overlapping contours of past and present in contemporary Europe.

 

McNeill, J. R. & Engelke, P. (2016). The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 288 pp.

The Earth has entered a new age―the Anthropocene―in which humans are the most powerful influence on global ecology. Since the mid-twentieth century, the accelerating pace of energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and population growth has thrust the planet into a massive uncontrolled experiment. The Great Acceleration explains its causes and consequences, highlighting the role of energy systems, as well as trends in climate change, urbanization, and environmentalism. More than any other factor, human dependence on fossil fuels inaugurated the Anthropocene. Before 1700, people used little in the way of fossil fuels, but over the next two hundred years coal became the most important energy source. When oil entered the picture, coal and oil soon accounted for seventy-five percent of human energy use. This allowed far more economic activity and produced a higher standard of living than people had ever known―but it created far more ecological disruption. We are now living in the Anthropocene. The period from 1945 to the present represents the most anomalous period in the history of humanity's relationship with the biosphere.

 

Rousso, H. (2016). The Latest Catastrophe: History, the Present, the Contemporary. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 272 pp.

Henry Rousso addresses the rise of contemporary history and the relations of present-day societies to their past, especially their legacies of political violence. Focusing on France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, he shows that for contemporary historians, the recent past has become a problem to be solved. No longer unfolding as a series of traditions to be respected or a set of knowledge to be transmitted and built upon, history today is treated as a constant act of mourning or memory, an attempt to atone. Historians must also negotiate with strife within this field, as older scholars who may have lived through events clash with younger historians who also claim to understand the experiences. Ultimately, The Latest Catastrophe shows how historians, at times against their will, have themselves become actors in a history still being made.

 

Rosenstone, R. A. (2016). Adventures of a Postmodern Historian. Living and Writing the Past. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 224 pp.

Robert Rosenstone was among the first 'postmodern' historians, and remains one of the most renowned. In this honest, revealing and often funny memoir, he shows us how he got there and why. Adventures of a Postmodern Historian chronicles Rosenstone's research journeys over half a century. Beginning in the 1960s, his offbeat trajectory took him on adventures through the police states of Franco Spain and the Soviet Union, to the Shinto shrines and Zen temples of Japan and ultimately to Hollywood. Alongside his own memoirs, Rosenstone reflects upon developments and changes within the realm of professional history, which in turn reflect the social, cultural, and intellectual shifts of the late 20th century. A pioneer of experimental and creative history, he suggests how the experience of the historian can inflect the written history, and provides a defence of innovation in historical writing that is both intellectually rigorous and entertaining. In doing so he offers a window into the state of history today – and points to exciting new ways of writing the past.

 

 

Historical Culture

 

 

Barash, J. A. (2016). Collective Memory & the Historical Past. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 280 pp.

There is one critical way we honor great tragedies: by never forgetting. Collective remembrance is as old as human society itself, serving as an important source of social cohesion, yet as Jeffrey Andrew Barash shows in this book, it has served novel roles in a modern era otherwise characterized by discontinuity and dislocation. Drawing on recent theoretical explorations of collective memory, he elaborates an important new philosophical basis for it, one that unveils important limitations to its scope in relation to the historical past.

Crucial to Barash’s analysis is a look at the radical transformations that the symbolic configurations of collective memory have undergone with the rise of new technologies of mass communication. Thwarting skepticism, however, he eventually looks to literature to uncover subtle nuances of temporality that might offer inconspicuous emblems of a past historical reality.

 

Bentley, J. H. & Bridenthal, R., Eds. (2016). Seascapes: Maritime Histories, Littoral Cultures, and Transoceanic Exchanges. Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 272 pp.

Historians have only recently begun to chart the experiences of maritime regions in rich detail and penetrate the historical processes at work there. Seascapes makes a major contribution to these efforts by bringing together original scholarship on historical issues arising from maritime regions around the world. The essays presented here take a variety of approaches. One group examines the material, cultural, and intellectual constructs that inform and explain historical experiences of maritime regions. Another set discusses efforts―some more successful than others―to impose political and military control over maritime regions. A third group focuses on issues of social history such as labor organization, information flows, and the development of political consciousness among subaltern populations. The final essays deal with pirates and efforts to control them in Mediterranean, Japanese, and Atlantic waters.

 

Aikema, B. & Burke, P. (2016). Europe in the Renaissance: Metamorphoses 1400-1600. Berlin: Hatje Cantz, 320 pp.

The Renaissance experienced some of the most important advances in human history: the invention of the printing press using movable letters, the West's discovery of a continent and the formulation of a new view of the earth. It was a time when people sought to solve the riddles of nature, experimented with alchemy, set out to develop a new medical science, conceived a new vision of humankind and created beauty in the form of pictures and architecture, sculpture and literature. All these discoveries and creations would have been unimaginable without cultural exchange. The Renaissance was an era of dialogue and new horizons in thinking over great distances and time. Based on numerous examples―works of art, instruments and everyday objects―this substantial publication invites readers to trace the various paths of transference. Renowned authors take us to antiquity and the Orient, to Italy and through half of Europe.

 

Cañizares-Esguerra, J. & Childs, M. D., Eds. (2016). The Black Urban Atlantic in the Age of the Slave Trade. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 384 pp.

In The Black Urban Atlantic in the Age of the Slave Trade, eleven original essays by leading scholars from the United States, Europe, and Latin America chronicle the black experience in Atlantic ports, providing a rich and diverse portrait of the ways in which Africans experienced urban life during the era of plantation slavery. Describing life in Portugal, Brazil, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Africa, this volume illuminates the historical identity, agency, and autonomy of the African experience as well as the crucial role Atlantic cities played in the formation of diasporic cultures. By shifting focus away from plantations, this volume poses new questions about the nature of slavery in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, illustrating early modern urban spaces as multiethnic sites of social connectivity, cultural incubation, and political negotiation.

  Cattaruzza, M. (2016). Italy and Its Eastern Border, 1866-2016. London & New York: Routledge, 360 pp.

This is the first scholarly work in Modern European History which elucidates consistently how border issues affect the history of nations and states in the 19th and 20th centuries. The book rethinks the Italian history of the last 150 years from the perspective of its eastern periphery and of the profound impact that events on the border had on the core of the country.

 

Jenkins, J. L., Matysik, T. & Eley, G., Eds. (2016). German Modernities From Wilhelm to Weimar: A Contest of Futures. Bloomsbury Academic, 376 pp.

This book brings together leading historians of the Imperial and Weimar periods from across North America to readdress the question of German modernities. Acutely attentive to Germany's eventual turn towards National Socialism and the related historiographical arguments about 'modernity', this volume explores the variety of social, intellectual, political, and imperial projects pursued by those living in Germany in the Wilhelmine and Weimar years who were yet uncertain about what they were creating and which future would come. It includes varied case studies, based on cutting-edge research, which rethink the relationship of the early 20th century to the rise of Nazism and the Third Reich. A range of political, social and cultural issues, including citizenship, welfare, empire, aesthetics and sexuality, as well as the very nature of German modernity, are analyzed and placed in a global context.

 

Fogu, C., Kansteiner, W. & Presner, T., Eds. (2016). Probing the Ethics of Holocaust Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 528 pp.

Probing the Ethics of Holocaust Culture is a searching reappraisal of the debates and controversies that have shaped Holocaust studies over a quarter century. This landmark volume brings international scholars of the founding generation of Holocaust studies into conversation with a new generation of historians, artists, and writers who have challenged the limits of representation through their scholarly and cultural practices. Focusing on the public memorial cultures, testimonial narratives, and artifacts of cultural memory and history generated by Holocaust remembrance, the volume examines how Holocaust culture has become institutionalized, globalized, and variously contested. Organized around three interlocking themes―the stakes of narrative, the remediation of the archive, and the politics of exceptionality―the essays in this volume explore the complex ethics surrounding the discourses, artifacts, and institutions of Holocaust remembrance.

  Palos, J.-L. & Sánchez, M. S., Eds. (2016). Early Modern Dynastic Marriages and Cultural Transfer. New York & London: Routledge, 296 pp.

Toward the end of the fifteenth century, the Habsburg family began to rely on dynastic marriage to unite an array of territories, eventually creating an empire as had not been seen in Europe since the Romans. Other European rulers followed the Habsburgs' lead in forging ties through dynastic marriages. Because of these marriages, many more aristocrats (especially women) left their homelands to reside elsewhere. Until now, historians have viewed these unions from a primarily political viewpoint and have paid scant attention to the personal dimensions of these relocations. Separated from their family and thrust into a strange new land in which language, attire, religion, food, and cultural practices were often different, these young aristocrats were forced to conform to new customs or adapt their own customs to a new cultural setting. Early Modern Dynastic Marriages and Cultural Transfer examines these marriages as important agents of cultural transfer, emphasizing how marriages could lead to the creation of a cosmopolitan culture, common to the elites of Europe.

  Tortarolo, E. (2016). The Invention of Free Press: Writers and Censorship in Eighteenth Century Europe. Springer, 200 pp.

Tracking the relationship between the theory of press control and the realities of practicing daily press censorship prior to publication, this volume on the suppression of dissent in early modern Europe tackles a topic with many elusive and under-researched characteristics. Pre-publication censorship was common in absolutist regimes in Catholic and Protestant countries alike, but how effective it was in practice remains open to debate. The Netherlands and England, where critical content segued into outright lampoonery, were unusual for hard-wired press freedoms that arose, respectively, from a highly competitive publishing industry and highly decentralized political institutions. These nations remained extraordinary exceptions to a rule that, for example in France, did not end until the revolution of 1789. Here, the author's European perspective provides a survey of the varying censorship regulations in European nations, as well as the shifting meanings of "freedom of the press".

  Van Boxtel, C., Grever, M. & Klein, S., Eds. (2016). Sensitive Pasts. Questioning Heritage in Education. New York: Berghahn Books, 368 pp.

Heritage, as an area of research and learning, often deals with difficult historical questions, due to the strong emotions and political commitments that are often at stake. In this, it poses particular challenges for teachers, museum educators and the publics they serve. Guided by a shared focus on these "sensitive pasts," the contributors to this volume draw on new theoretical and empirical research to provide valuable insights into heritage pedagogy. Together they demonstrate the potential of heritage as a historical-educational domain that transcends myopic patriotism, parochialism and simplistic relativism, helping to enhance critical and sophisticated historical thinking.