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Subject: Book recommendation: On the subject of history rss

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Marc-Andre Blanchet
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Most of the posts here asking for a book recommendation want to know about a specific event.

Is there a good introductory book about the science of history? (Can I say that, history science?) I'm trying to figure out if I would enjoy a higher education in the field of history.

To graduate students/teachers/other people in this field, what do you think of this subject? (How do you make a living if you are not a teacher?)
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William Boykin
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Mabool wrote:
Most of the posts here asking for a book recommendation want to know about a specific event.

Is there a good introductory book about the science of history? (Can I say that, history science?) I'm trying to figure out if I would enjoy a higher education in the field of history.

To graduate students/teachers/other people in this field, what do you think of this subject? (How do you make a living if you are not a teacher?)


The 'Philosophy of History' is more properly referred to as Historiography.

The problem is that there are so many different 'schools' of history, there is no 'one' book that provides a historical survey of the field. You have to slog through it, one essay/article/book at a time.

The better way to get into it, if you don't want to just dive into the deep end of the pool, is to look at one particular sub-field of history that you're interested in, and then look for books that discuss how that field of history has changed over time. For instance, in my particular sub-field of the Third Reich, Ian Kershaw has an excellent book entitled The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation which discusses the general outlines of the various debates that are the basis of modern research into the Third Reich today.

I totally recommend studying historiography for anyone who wants to really get into the 'guts' of what history is. However, if you're looking for a field of study that will get your rich, well....

I'm reminded of the story of Thales who when asked, "Why aren't you rich?" took a year off and bought the options for all of the oil presses in order to demonstrate that wisdom does have practical applications. As with anything in the Liberal Arts, the utility of the field is literally what you make of it....

Darilian
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Robert Wiersma
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I recommend Barbara Tuchman's 'Practicing History' it helped me decide to major in history in college--even though I knew I was not going to be a practicing historian (I am a mental health counselor).

Whenever someone is considering what field to pursue, I also refer them to 'Letters to a Young Poet' by Ranier Maria Rilke--which is the real correspondence between the famous German poet, Rilke, who had almost rock star status in his day, and a young fan who was considering becoming a poet, but was at the time making his family happy by attending a Prussian military academy. Here is a particularly applicable Rilke quote for someone considering a direction in life: "No one can advise or help you,no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write." Letter One (17 February 1903)

Basically Rilke is saying that his young fan should think long and hard about what is going on inside of himself, if you find that history is an important part of who you are you must pursue it and there is nothing anyone else can do about it. I does end up a little melodramatically by basically asking whether his fan would die if he were forbidden to write poetry, but the point is clear: If studying something other than history would cause you to be a different person (in effect killing off the person you are now so that you can be reborn as someone else) would you be alright with that?

Another factor to consider is that history is everywhere: If you choose to go into one of the sciences you can study the history of science or one of the subdisciplines--heck you could even study something as small in scope the history of medical ethics. If you go into art you can study the rather large field of art history. There are more subdomains to history than there are to Boardgamegeek! So no matter what field you finally end up in there will unquestionably be a historical dimension to it.

I really have enjoyed reflecting on your question and thank you for posing it.
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Alfred Wallace
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Introductions to historiography are tough. I started with Fritz Stern's Varieties of History, but I really learned it through reading about a dozen specific books, the best of which was RG Collingwood's The Idea of History, which would be a tough one in someone's second language...and one best read if you've already decided to be an historian.

As a grad student in history, if I don't get a job in academia my major options are working for the military (as I'm a military historian, studying counterinsurgency and other Currently Relevant topics), some think tank, or even being a high school teacher (which I don't think I'd be very good at; I do better with more mature students). Other historians have special degrees for working in museums or libraries. Some become advisers for TV and movie producers, if they like being ignored. To be frank, the job market is terrible for being a professional historian; if you're concerned about job prospects you should look elsewhere. Things are a little better in the museum/library side of things than the academia side.

EDIT: What am I thinking? If you don't want to be an historian after reading Marc Bloch's The Historian's Craft (Apologie de l'histoire), you should read it again.
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Carlos Cardozo
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As a student in History at SJU, I can say positively that there are a ton of options after college for you,even if you decide not to pursue advanced degrees.


NOTE: Most of this is advice I've received, and doesn't necessarily reflect the experience I've had. I've had the opportunity to study what I want and write papers about interesting stuff, despite what I'm about to say.

Many local government positions tend to look for History majors over PolySci, because they want people with an appreciation for the system, but not necessarily ambitious career-politician types. Avoid Museums, which tend to be dead ends with little hope of advancement.

Graduate School is certainly an option, as is Law School.

Think-Tanks and Military institutions love History Majors, especially if you've published a few papers during your grad-school tenure; My University actually allowed Undergrads to publish in academic journals, and yours might as well.

If you have any hope of going anywhere in regards to the 'hard historian'/History Professor field, you're on course for a Masters and PhD. Be prepared to write, more than what you're doing now. Be prepared to do research, on topics you can't stand, in order to get traction and notice. The Cardinal rule is to lie about what you want to study until you have that Master's in your hands, as one of my professors (my advisor) is so fond of saying. You'll be snickered at by Thesis boards if you say want to write about anything interesting. Don't even think about writing on nations, kings, geopolitics, or diplomacy, and especially not military events/campaigns until you've got a few things under your belt; the tightwads in charge at most institutions scoff at them. They want papers on women's roles in societies, economics of grain trade, and such. The good stuff comes later; trust me.
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Iden Hill
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I think a good place to start is with the classics. Herodotus of Halicarnassus is often termed the father of history. Richest histories, I would say, usually come from eyewitness accounts of actual events.But there are many fine tall tales that are later dubbed as 'histories'.
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William Boykin
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idenhi wrote:
I think a good place to start is with the classics. Herodotus of Halicarnassus is often termed the father of history. Richest histories, I would say, usually come from eyewitness accounts of actual events.But there are many fine tall tales that are later dubbed as 'histories'.


I'm sorry, but if someone wants to understand how modern history is practiced, Herodotus is the last person I would read as to how to do it.

As much as I'm a fan of the Classics, I don't think that he's of that much relevance other than as a starting point to understand how history was researched up to the late 19th Century.

Hegel and Ranke are the real starting points of modern Historiography.

Darilian
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Russell/Karen Morse
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Here are some historiography options:

Historiography in the Twentieth Century: From Scientific Objectivity to the Postmodern Challenge by Georg G. Iggers

http://www.amazon.com/Historiography-Twentieth-Century-Scien...

The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past by John Lewis Gaddis

http://www.amazon.com/Landscape-History-How-Historians-Past/...
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Matt Jolly
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Hi!

I found

[url]http://www.amazon.co.uk/What-History-Introduction-Richard-Ev... [/url]

interesting when I started looking at history, and

"Writing History" by Sherman Kent a more practical guide, but both are (like me!) very old.....

Cheers,

Matt
 
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Чебурашка, ты настоящий друг!
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Marc Bloch's The Historian's Craft is brilliant, but as it was written in the 40s (and is unfinished) it does not deal with the current debates. It does give a very good insight, however, into some of the considerations a historian must make in going about his or her work.

The two classics, at least for English-language historians, used to be E.H. Carr's What is History? and Geoffrey Elton's The Practice of History. Again, they are both a little out of date as they were written before many of the theoretical and methodological innovations that shape today's history writing.

Richard J. Evans's book In Defence of History is very good as it deals critically with one of the major questions of modern historiography--postmodernism. It gives lots of concrete examples of how actual historiographical debates develop and what they mean for the writing of history. I think his message that historians have a range of theories and methodologies open to them and we should not be overly doctrinal in restricting ourselves to one or the other is very positive. I would suggest that.

The book which Evans rails against the most is Keith Jenkins's Rethinking History, which at first seems edgy and groundbreaking until you actually do any historical research of your own and then you realise the man hasn't a clue what he's talking about. Read it at some point, but not your first introduction to historiography.

An alternative (or, better, supplement) to Evans might be John Tosh's The Pursuit of History: Aims, Methods and New Directions in the Study of Modern History. I've never actually read it, but looking at its contents page it does seem to give a good comprehensive overview of the different schools and debates.

To be honest, most of my historiographical reading has been on the specific topic of nationalism, so I don't consider myself much of an expert in the more general questions.

As for how to make a living with a degree (or two, or three) in history? I have no idea: I don't.
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