Knowledge of history and democracy

Text of Declaration of Independence Saw an interesting article today: Back to School, Back to U.S. History Basics from George Nethercutt is probably one of the best arguments I have read for emphasizing historical literacy in schools that I have seen in a long time. I have posted before about the general lack of civics knowledge in America and it is worth saying again and again that civics and history knowledge is essential to the functioning of American democracy. The argument that if the citizens of a country lack knowledge about the historical roots of their government and nation then they will not long keep either is very true. Is … More after the Jump…

BOOK REVIEW: Civilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson

I have read several of Niall Ferguson’s books and while I may not always agree with him hi writing style and analysis are always interesting and thought provoking.   Civilization: The West and the Rest is no different.   I have the UK edition of the book, I doubt it is significantly different from the US edition except for the cover, but cannot guarantee it. In this book Dr. Ferguson attempts to analyze and explain why the West, which he defines as European and countries with a European heritage, has prospered so much over the past 500 years and how the West managed to control so much of the globe. … More after the Jump…

Old versus “New” Historiography

Below is a piece I wrote for a class I took in World History for my BA in which I had to analyze the differences between Rankean history and the influence of the Annales school and what has come after.   If I remember right, I got an A on this assignment even though the professor thought I was a little too disparaging of the postmodernists.   I am disparaging of postmodernism in general, that is probably one reason I have chosen not to pursue a career in Academia as I had once aspired to do.

The main difference in the debate, if it is a debate, between old and new historiography seems to be politics and its place in academic or scholarly work as well as the usefulness of other disciplines to historical scholarship.   The Rankean or scientific historians of the old historiography would like to see historians as group distance themselves from politics contemporary or otherwise and focus on trying to make their histories be as fact based as possible while only presenting opinions in their interpretation of events.   The new historiography, represented by the historians of the Annales School or sometimes claimed by the postmodernists and deconstructionists of the Foucault or Derrida schools seems to want to insert politics into history at every opportunity.   Indeed, the postmodernists take is almost that politics is inescapable and if that is so then why not wallow in it and abandon any hope of objectivity or neutrality?  The Annales School however is more rigorous in its application of logical thought to history and instead seeks to develop a synthesis of history and other disciplines and does not focus as much on politics as the postmodernists do.

More after the Jump…Old versus “New” Historiography