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In Defense of History
By

Rating
E. H. Carr's What Is History?, a classic introduction to the field, may now give way to a worthy successor. In his compact, intriguing survey, Richard J. Evans shows us how historians manage to extract meaning from the recalcitrant past. To materials that are frustratingly meager, or overwhelmingly profuse, they bring an array of tools that range from agreed-upon rules of documentation and powerful computer models to the skilled investigator's sudden insight, all employed with the aim of reconstructing a verifiable, usable past. Evans defends this commitment to historical knowledge from the attacks of postmodernist critics who see all judgments as subjective. Evans brings "a remarkable range, a nose for the archives, a taste for controversy, and a fluent pen" (The New Republic) to this splendid work. "Essential reading for coming generations."-Keith Thomas
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About the Author

Richard J. Evans is professor of modern history at Cambridge University. A preeminent historian of Germany, his books include Death in Hamburg and In Hitler's Shadow.

Reviews

Evans (history, Cambridge Univ.) defends traditional history against the onslaught of postmodernist theories, which hold that ultimate historical truth is not only unattainable but does not exist. In the process, he provides the reader with an insightful critique of the evolution of historical methodology, and by implication the historical profession, in the generation since Edward Hallett Carr's classic What Is History? (LJ 2/15/62) appeared. Evans's analysis of the link between postmodernist theory and Holocaust denial is particularly insightful. The idea that no historical "theory" is more valid than another, combined with the American notion that both sides of any issue must receive "fair" play, brings Holocaust denial dangerously close to legitimacy. Evans manages to address a number of issues without being polemical. The book is particularly useful for beginning graduate students. Recommended for all libraries.‘Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati

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