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On "what is history?" : from Carr and Elton to Rorty and by Keith Jenkins

By Keith Jenkins

On `What is History?' presents a scholar creation to modern historiographical debates.
Carr and Elton are nonetheless the start line for the majority of introductory classes at the nature of historical past. construction on his hugely profitable Rethinking History, Keith Jenkins explores in larger aspect the effect of those key figures. He argues that historians have to circulation past their `modernist' considering and include the postmodern-type methods of thinkers equivalent to Richard Rorty and Hayden White.
Through its radical critique of Carr and Elton and its championing of Rorty and White, On `What is History'? represents an important improvement for introductory stories at the nature of background.

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Additional info for On "what is history?" : from Carr and Elton to Rorty and White

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It’s about the refusal to see history as linear, as leading straight up to today in some recognisable pattern—all set for us to make sense of. It’s about chance. It’s about power. It’s about information…. 31 But it’s enough to see why Carr and Elton are not postmodernists and why Rorty and White effectively are. Carr belongs to that part of the left, then, which is suspicious of postmodernism, seeing it as emerging primarily from the exigencies of late-capital, a response to the fragmentation of the social into the commodity forms that underwrite it and which allows for umpteen differences to be recuperated back into it via both consumerism and a contrived, fakey, political pluralism.

Consequently, to effect this transformation, to give disparate facts some ‘unity of significance’, then the events, dates, agents, etc. represented in the statements/chronicle must be encoded. The obvious point to be made here is that this encoding is not of the type which means that the narrative explains more fully or more correctly the statements/chronicle, but rather that narration produces a meaning quite different from them, as it emplots the events which serve as its primary referent into patterns of meaning no literal representation of them as facts could ever produce.

The circle that Carr tried to square was that, whilst he knew all historiography was interpretive ‘all the way down’, he still wanted his own interpretation to be somehow exempt; that in some way the history which he interpreted as ‘progressing’ really was progressing in exactly the way his interpretation suggested, and would have been doing so whether he had spotted it or not. That is to say, historical progress really was objectively ‘there’ and HISTORY TODAY 39 not just created by Carr: whether by luck or by judgement his interpretation had, in fact, come up trumps.

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