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Understanding of History

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This may, in fact, seem to lend credence to Carr’ s assumptions, given that such an assertion in effect contextualizes (historically) those factors which were at the root of his thought. By tracing the origins of Carr’ s thought, one is, in fact, agreeing with the assertion that the past is but the reflection of the present, and moreover that any given present has its own conception of the past. And yet this interesting quandary lies at the root of the weakening of objectivist methodology, the sine qua non of the postmodern era. The French thinker Jean-Francois Lyotard characterized one aspect of postmodernist doctrine as largely being a rejection of any form of universalist approach to history.

‘ By simplifying in the extreme, one holds that ‘ postmodern’ is the disbelief in meta-narratives. This is without a doubt an effect of the progress of the sciences’ (Lyotard 1979, p. 7). The nineteenth century’ s love affair with objectivity gave way to a lust for the subject and his/her/its relation to the object. The work of Carr echoed this transformation. He wrote that ‘ [T]he empirical theory of knowledge presupposes a complete separation between subject and object.

Facts, like sense-impressions, impinge on the observer from outside and are independent of his consciousness’ (Carr 1961, p. 6). Carr sought to link this type of historiography to the work of Lord Acton and others. He wrote that nineteenth-century historiography. ..consist[ed] of the compilation of a maximum number of irrefutable and objective facts. ..[This has produced] in Germany, in Great Britain, and in the United States a vast and growing mass of dry-as-dust factual histories, of minutely specialized monographs, of would-be historians knowing more and more about less and less, sunk without a trace in an ocean of facts.

(p. 14)As part of the advent postmodernist thought, more recent historians like R. G. Collingwood sought to emphasize the importance of the temporal influence on the historian.

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preview essay on Understanding of History
  • Pages: 6 (1500 words)
  • Document Type: Essay
  • Subject: History
  • Level: Undergraduate
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