Academic history, in the sense of being based in academic institutions such as universities, is a fairly recent phenomenon. Before the nineteenth century, history was not taught as a separate subject for undergraduates. This chapter looks at the historical profession, its predilections and traditions. It examines the Whig interpretation of history to illustrate the relationship between historiography and a prevalent culture because of its central role in the period when the historical profession began to establish itself in England and because of its continuing popular and political influence. The critique that demolished the Whig influence in academic circles is discussed to illustrate the supposedly professional objectivity that displaced it and which was subsequently challenged by more relativist approaches. The chapter concludes with an appreciation of the most recent debates between so-called traditionalist and various postmodern positions.
The 2016 referendum favoring by a close margin British departure from the European Union (EU) was a shock to British politics and to the EU. But it also created uncertainties affecting transatlantic relations, international affairs and the future of the West more generally. This chapter deals with the shocking Brexit referendum by focusing on its expectations, surprises and consequences. While pollsters predicted a "Remain" triumph, it was a surprise that the "Leave" finally won, albeit by only 3.78 percent. The chapter looks at Britain's half-hearted European convictions, highlighted by the country's refusal to join the Schengen zone and the Eurozone monetary union. It examines the UK party politics over the debate to remain or leave the EU and the rise of Nigel Farage's United Kingdom Independence Party. The Brexit vote had a major impact on the UK's future financial, economic and political health and its international commitments and influence.
This conclusion chapter summarises the main lines of developments in British historiography, the relationships between those developments and academic practice. In the nineteenth century, when history was established as an academic profession, the notion of objectivity was often described as a matter of 'science'. Such was the prestige of the natural sciences that 'science' was regarded as an objective ideal to which all branches of learning aspired. The chapter suggests that historians must see the variety and the ever-changing nature of historiography as a strength, not a weakness, and that they should not resign from their task of interpreting the history of human actions. Of course history is about the past, but historiography is always responsive to present interest and needs. It is a human artefact, so inevitably it is a part of the intellectual life of the society that produces it.
This chapter focuses on cultural history, as an exploration of beliefs and values, rather than what might be better described as the history of culture. It explores the works of Marxist historians associated with the Communist Party Historians' Group and considers the earlier approaches to cultural history, as influences on the Group, and the development of newer theoretical positions that developed both out of and in opposition to Marxism. In Anderson's view, culture clearly flowed from the structure of society, not from the collective actions of social groups. Furthermore, he discounted the notion of a tradition of English radicalism. The collapse of communism called into question the Marxian idea of history having meaning, purpose and direction. The chapter identifies a growing emphasis on a 'cultural' approach to history that has developed through a number of theoretical positions: from a 'culturalist' critique of capitalism to poststructuralism via Marxism.
This chapter provides a guide to reading historiographical texts, looking at the relationship between 'facts' and 'theories', and at 'meta-narrative' and causation. The examples are chosen to illustrate the problems inherent in the idea of there being an easy distinction between fact and theory. They include the empiricist-Marxist debate on the French Revolution, class and English social history, and imperialism in the context of globalisation. Historians can be excused for feeling very ambivalent about the relationship between narrative and historical explanation. Narrative often appears to be the lazy way of avoiding a selection of material or the application of reason to a historical problem. Narration can be taken to imply a causal connection between events that are narrated consecutively. A successful narrative always has to have an analytical structure as well; and, in historiography, an analytical approach has an implied narrative, if it is to have any meaning.
The ability to construct a clear coherent case, supported by argument, evidence and references is an obviously valuable skill, as is recognised in the subject benchmarking statement for History, drawn up by the Quality Assurance Agency. This chapter focuses on the issues of planning and structuring in the process of writing an essay and explains what plagiarism is. It offers a guide to the writing of academic history at undergraduate level, to the skills involved, and contrasts this with the non-academic uses of history. A crucial starting point when approaching an essay question is to identify the historical debate to which it directly or indirectly refers. The chapter examines the wider benefits of developing an aptitude for writing essays. The knowledge gained by history students and the skills and aptitudes that they develop as they learn to write historically have a significance that extends well beyond the seminar room.
Gender history presents gender identities, of both men and women, as cultural and social constructs, as, in other words, bundles of meanings usually embodied in language. The reference to semiotics is indicative of the influence of postmodernism on gender historians. This chapter notes that gender historians share the broadly oppositional stance of Women's History. Denise Riley argues that her interest in the gender construction of women flows from her belief that language is the location of women's oppression. The chapter cites some gender historians who viewed gender identities as expressions of social change within a wider society, that, to put it another way, such changes were the product of processes within a wider, external world. It also argues that women will logically continue to grapple with the past and out of that situation will come conflicting interpretations.
Illiberalism has not yet brought the West to the brink of collapse. This chapter provides suggestions about how a radical centrist populist Western strategy could be applied to deal with the threats and challenges, reinvigorating the Western system. Radical centrist populists should promote creative and constructive approaches as important tools for reducing the future threat of Islamist terrorism. While it is critically important for the United States to remain actively involved in NATO's defenses against Russian threats, Europeans can also take steps to maintain transatlantic values and cooperation while they are being questioned in Washington. The chapter also touches upon other suggestions relating to illiberalism in Europe, Turkey's drift away from the West, and the Brexit referendum. A key goal of those Americans who believe in Western values should be to protect freedom of the press unlike President Trump's assault of press sources that do not support his goals.
History in the historiographical sense is made by us, not by people in the past, nor by the record of their actions. This book facilitates the critical reading of works of history. It looks at the historical profession, its predilections and traditions. The Whig interpretation of history has been chosen to illustrate the relationship between historiography and a prevalent culture because of its central role in the period when the historical profession began to establish itself in England and because of its continuing popular and political influence. The book acts as a guide to reading historiographical texts, looking at the relationship between 'facts' and 'theories', and at 'meta-narrative' and causation. The book examines the issues of planning and structuring in the process of writing an essay. It offers a guide to the writing of academic history at undergraduate level and to the skills involved, and contrasts this with the non-academic uses of history. The book talks about some gender historians who viewed gender identities as expressions of social change within a wider society. It explores the unique fascination that the Nazis has exercised on both academic and popular historiography, along with the allied study of the Holocaust. The book also explores the works of Marxist historians associated with the Communist Party Historians' Group and considers the earlier approaches to cultural history, as influences on the Group, and the development of newer theoretical positions that developed both out of and in opposition to Marxism. The developments in British historiography are discussed.
In 2005, the Historical Association published a government-sponsored report, which attacked what it referred to as the 'Hitlerisation' of history. The report's positive reference to what The Spectator called 'Our shameful Nazi fetish', helped to conjure a picture of the mindless anti-German 'patriotism' that characterises elements of British society. This chapter takes a look at the unique fascination that the Nazis has exercised on both academic and popular historiography, along with the allied study of the Holocaust. Christopher R. Browning rejects the 'intentionalist' view that the Holocaust was the fulfilment of a long-term plan formulated by Adolf Hitler in the 1920s, but he has argued that Hitler played a much more direct role in the process leading to the Holocaust. The chapter demonstrates that historiographical issues are intimately connected with political and social developments in the Nazi regime.