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Frontiers of History

Frontiers of History: Historical Inquiry in the Twentieth Century

Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Frontiers of History
    Book Description:

    This book, the third volume of Donald Kelley's monumental survey of Western historiography, covers the twentieth century, especially Europe. As in the first two volumes, the author discusses historical methods and ideas of all sorts to provide a detailed map of historical learning. Here he carries the survey forward to our own times, confronting directly the challenges of postmodernism and historical narrative. Kelley offers highly original discussions of historians of the last half century (including friends and mentors), the "linguistic turn," the "end of history," the philosophy of history, and various new methods of histories.The book focuses first on the state of the art of history in France, Germany, Britain, and the United States on the eve of World War I. Kelley then traces every important historiographical issue and development historians have encountered in the twentieth century. With the completion of this trilogy, Kelley presents the only comprehensive modern survey of historical writing. He provides an unparalleled portrait of the rich variety of historical method along with an insider's view of the challenges of capturing history on the written page.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13509-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Horizons, 1914
    (pp. 1-4)

    The first volume of this narrative began with the conceit of these two faces, those of Herodotus and Thucydides—cultural history and political history, anachronistically speaking—and added a third, a Livian (or Eusebian) national (or confessional) and by imperial extension universal history from a European and ethnocentric center; and these forebears still haunt historiographical practice. What Momigliano suggests is that Herodotus, in a world still being explored and charted, would have continued going about satisfying his curiosity and seeking local meanings, while Thucydides would have thrown up his hands at the unanalyzable chaos which his posterity has brought. As...

  5. 1 Before the Great War
    (pp. 5-45)

    The year 1910 was marked by the appearance of Halley’s comet, the deaths of Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, and William James, James Joyce’s departure from Dublin for “civilization,” the organizing of the Psychoanalytical Association, growing nihilism and a remarkable incidence of suicide, the birth of the concept of the “death instinct” later adopted by Freud, George Simmel’s reflections on “the metaphysics of death,” a continuing flood of expressionist, futurist, and surrealist art, cultural “dissonance” across the arts, music, and some of the sciences, and the fictional setting for the German invasion of Europe described by William Le Queux’sThe Invasion...

  6. 2 Reevaluations
    (pp. 46-88)

    Life in the summer of 1914 was without meaning, Robert Musil wrote, and it was for this reason that for many people the war had the effect of an almost religious experience, especially in Germany, when, on 3 August 1914, “the day” to which German naval officers had dedicated many a toast finally came and war was declared on France.¹ The world would never be the same, nor would scholars, old or young, pressed into national service while trying to maintain their professional standards and careers. Leaving Trieste and already embarked onUlysses, Joyce went into a second exile, this...

  7. 3 After the Great War
    (pp. 89-134)

    The Great War taught humanity to revise its vision of the past. In his fascination with the patterns and cycles of time, T. S. Eliot drew attention to

    The backward look behind the assurance

    Of recorded history, the backward half-look

    Over the shoulder, toward the primitive terror.¹

    The dream of Enlightenment was tempered by the “nightmare of history.” So Freud turned from the pleasure principle to the death instinct, witherosbeing joined bythanatosin a fuller conception of culture in the continuum of time—and “in the shadow of tomorrow.”

    After 1914 was it still possible, beyond such...

  8. 4 Modern Times
    (pp. 135-169)

    Disillusionment with history was a common attitude among intellectuals of the generation of 1914, but the upshot was not so much rejection as skepticism. As T. S. Eliot put it in 1920,

    History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors

    And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,

    Guides us by vanities. . . .¹

    Like Kafka, Eliot exaggerated his own age and, despite his reliance on Western tradition, regarded the Europe of his day as a “decayed house”—“heartbreak house,” Bernard Shaw called it. “And what are poets for in a destitute time?” asked Heidegger, repeating the question posed by Hölderlin well...

  9. 5 After the Good War
    (pp. 170-205)

    Historians have always, though not always ostensibly, sought a “usable past”; and reviewing historiographical practice around the world and back over two and a half millennia, one cannot be surprised that ideas of objectivity, a single “big story,” and other “noble dreams” have given way to even older notions of history as the product of social creation or authorial imagination. “Representation” has become a watchword of contemporary historical writing; and the upshot, Foucauldian warnings about the tyranny of the subject notwithstanding, is to restore the “point of view” as sovereign, whether or not the historical viewer is in full command...

  10. 6 Circumspect and Prospect
    (pp. 206-242)

    The story told eccentrically in these volumes has finally come down to “my times,” so that history becomes for me more overtly autobiographical, and likeFinnegans Wake,my ending connects with my starting point in that this volume covers the period of my own learning, teaching, and writing from the beginning. According to my juvenile records, my serious reading of history (after the Oz books, popular science, and many classic novels) started with Ferdinand Schevill’sHistory of Modern Europe,H. G. Wells’sOutline of History,R. H. Tawney’sReligion and the Rise of Capitalism,Toynbee’sStudy of History(abridged), and...

  11. Conclusion: Millennium
    (pp. 243-252)

    So my trilogy on historical inquiry across the ages comes to an end:Faces of Historyplaced the story of Western historiography in a long perspective and carried it down to the eighteenth century;Fortunes of Historypursued an increasingly complex narrative from the Enlightenment down to World War I; andFrontiers of Historysurveys in a more personal manner, from the author’s own self-examination and “point of view,” from then down to the first decade of the new millennium. “A man sets out to draw the world,” Borges wrote. “As the years go by, he peoples a space with...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 253-284)
  13. Index
    (pp. 285-298)