Every piece of historical writing has a theoretical basis on which evidence is selected, filtered, and understood. This book explores the theoretical perspectives and debates that are generally acknowledged to have been the most influential within the university-led practice of history over the past century and a half. It advises readers to bear in mind the following four interlinked themes: context, temporal framework, causation or drivers of change, and subjectivities. The book outlines the principles of empiricism, the founding epistemology of the professional discipline, and explores the ways in which historians have challenged and modified this theory of knowledge over the past century and a half. It then focuses upon three important dimensions of historical materialism in the work of Marxist historians: the dialectical model at the basis of Marx's grand narrative of human history; the adaptations of Marxist theory in Latin America; and the enduring question of class consciousness. The use of psychoanalysis in history, the works of Annales historians and historical sociology is discussed next. The book also examines the influence of two specific approaches that were to be fertile ground for historians: everyday life and symbolic anthropology, and ethnohistory. The roles of narrative, gender history, radical feminism, poststructuralism and postcolonial history are also discussed. Finally, the book outlines the understandings about the nature of memory and remembering, and looks at key developments in the analysis and interpretation of oral histories and oral traditions.
more substantial historical dimension into their work. 1 This chapter will briefly outline the main currents of thought in anthropology over this period, and examine the influence of two specific approaches that were to be fertile ground for historians: everyday life and symbolic anthropology, and ethnohistory. In the context of these approaches to history research and writing we will also examine the key concept of ‘ethnicity’.
The concept of human culture is at the heart of anthropology. In the late nineteenth century Edward Burnett Tylor, often regarded as ‘the
The concept of ‘development’ in Tanganyika’s late colonial public sphere
dominant ideology which drove local government
reforms was one of ‘Indirect Rule’ which involved a
focus on finding the ‘traditional’ authorities in a
local area, and when there was a relative lack of spending on social
and economic projects. 31 But even the numerous
‘ethno-histories’ produced in the period and often taken
as evidence of such re-traditionalisation were themselves
On the phenomenon of Barbadian cricket, see
Keith A. P. Sandiford, ‘Cricket and the Barbadian
Society’, Canadian Journal of History , 21, December
1986, pp. 353–70; and Brian Stoddart, ‘Cricket, Social
Formation and Cultural Continuity in Barbados: A Preliminary
Ethnohistory’, Journal of Sport History , 14, Winter
1987, pp. 317
America as “largely darkness” that never could be
“a subject of history.” For the difficulties of
conducting discussions by invoking such statements, usually quoted
out of context, see Shepard
Krech III, “ The state of ethnohistory ,”
Annual Review of Anthropology ,
20 ( 1991 ): 345
Rural Canadian Community
(Vancouver, BC: UBC Press, 1999 ).
R. Fogelson, ‘The Ethnohistory of Events and Non-Events’,
Ethnohistory , 36:2 (1989), 133-47.
R. E. M. Armstrong, The Kalkadoons: A Study of an Aboriginal Tribe
on the Queensland Frontier (Sydney: William Brooks, 1980), p. 124; D. S. Trigger,
Whitefella Cornin’: Aboriginal Responses to Colonialism in Northern Australia
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 20, 22
Germans and their ‘savages’ in southern Brazil at the turn of the nineteenth century
indigenous peoples, as older studies have implied. In
general, the historiography on Germans in Brazil has hardly considered the clash
at the frontiers. The older literature was mainly of a celebratory character, and
until well into the twentieth century scholarship kept praising the pioneering
role of German settlers in an ‘empty space’ which, paradoxically, at
the same time they perceived as a savage world full of danger. 5 Only the new ethno-history produced in southern Brazil
Scramble for Africa, 1876–1912 (London: Phoenix).
Steiner, Christopher B. (1985): ‘Another image of Africa: toward an ethnohistory of European cloth marketed in west Africa, 1873–1960’, Ethnohistory 32(2): 91–110.
van Ham, Peter (2001): ‘The rise of the brand state: the postmodern politics of image and reputation’, Foreign Affairs 80(5): 2–6.
Vogel, S. M. (1997): ‘African art/Western eyes’, African Arts 30(4): 64–77.
Indian Navy ,
1613–1863 (London, 1877 ).
Timothy Parsons, ‘“Wakamba Warriors
Are Soldiers of the Queen”: The Evolution of the Kamba as a
Martial Race, 1890–1970’, Ethnohistory , Vol. 46,
No. 4 ( 1999 ), p. 672.
attracted a host of historians; see for example, Nicholas B. Dirks,
The Hollow Crown: Ethnohistory of an Indian Kingdom, Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1987; and especially his Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern
India, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001, which focuses on caste. In this latter
work, Dirks argues that caste as it is known today is not a remnant of India’s ancient
past, but very much a modern phenomenon and a fall-out of the colonial past. While
tracing the ‘career of caste’ in colonial and post-colonial India, he is quite