The question of narrative
in The houses of history
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Narrative is central to the explanation of change over time, one of the most important dimensions of historical research and writing, and is also the principal means by which historians seek to achieve empirical 'coherence' or logical consistency. This chapter identifies the key questions posed by historians and philosophers of history concerning the narrativization of the past, with a particular focus upon a critical intervention made by Hayden White that continues to resonate in scholarly debates. There have been many criticisms of the narrative form as a means of representing the past. First of all narratives focus upon human action and conduct and may overplay human agency. Secondly, because events happen in sequence does not necessarily indicate cause and effect. The chapter presents an essay by Hayden White for readers to consider the extent to which he suggested that 'the discourse of the historian' and fictional writing share common features.

The houses of history

A critical reader in history and theory, second edition

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