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The Future of History

The Future of History

John Lukacs
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 200
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1nq170
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  • Book Info
    The Future of History
    Book Description:

    For more than sixty years, John Lukacs has been writing, teaching, and reading about the past. In this inspired volume, he turns his attention to the future. ThroughoutThe Future of History, Lukacs reflects on his discipline, eloquently arguing that the writing and teaching of history are literary rather than scientific, comprising knowledge that is neither wholly objective nor subjective. History at its best, he contends, is personal and participatory.

    Despite a recently unprecedented appetite for history among the general public, as evidenced by history television program ratings, sales of popular history books, and increased participation in local historical societies, Lukacs believes that the historical profession is in a state of disarray. He traces a decline in history teaching throughout higher education, matched by a corresponding reduction in the number of history students. He reviews a series of short-lived fads within the profession that have weakened the fundamentals of the field. In looking for a way forward, Lukacs explores the critical relationships between history and literature, including ways in which novelists have contributed to historical understanding. Through this startling and enlightening work, readers will understand Lukacs's assertion that "everything has its history, including history" and that history itself has a future, since everything we know comes from the past.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17513-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. ONE Historianship
    (pp. 1-24)

    Everything has its history, including history. (Everything has its history, including memory … but letthatgo, at least for the moment.) In most languages “history” has a double meaning. It is the past, but it is also the study of and the description of the past, storytelling of a particular kind. And what is the state and what are the prospects of storytelling—now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century? I shall—I must—say something about that big—very big—question later in this little book. But here I must start with the state and the prospects...

  4. TWO Problems for the Profession
    (pp. 25-60)

    In 1694, theDictionary of the French Academydefined history as “the narration of actions and matters worth remembering.” (In 1935 the eighth edition said much of the same: “The accounts of acts, and events, of matters worth remembering.”) Worth remembering? Is the historian the kind of savant whose training qualifies him to tell people what is worth remembering and what is not? To authenticate events and persons and matters as if they were fossil fish or scrapings of rock? Is there such a thing as a person and another such thing as a historical person? Of course not. But...

  5. THREE The Appetite for History
    (pp. 61-80)

    We may date the appearance of a new phenomenon around 1960, in many different countries of the world. This was, and still is, the emergence of a wide and spreading interest in history, different from other waves of such interest in the past (as, for example, the one in the second half of the eighteenth century, then current mostly in certain Western European countries and among a minority of the reading classes). After 1960 an interest in history has appeared among peoples largely untouched by such in the past. It spread to many kinds of history, beyond revelations or details...

  6. FOUR Re-Cognition of History as Literature
    (pp. 81-108)

    History; is it art or science? “History is an art, like the other sciences”; a felicitous paradoxical epigram crafted by Veronica Wedgwood, a very erudite and charmingly modest English historian, not inclined to produce epigrams. Here my question is somewhat different. Is the writing of history literary or scientific? Is history literature or science? Well—itisliterature rather than science. And so it should be. For us.

    In the eighteenth century Veronica Wedgwood’s epigram would have been a truism, since in that century people did not regard the difference between art and science that is obvious for us. We...

  7. FIVE History and the Novel
    (pp. 109-138)

    “History,” Macaulay once wrote, “begins in novel and ends in essay.” This is a terse maxim. What does it mean? The historian, like the novelist, tells a story; a story of some portion of the past; he describes (rather than defines). The novelist has it easier: he can invent people who did not exist and events that did not happen. The historian cannot describe people and events that did not exist; he must limit himself to men and women who really lived; he must depend on evidences of their acts and words—though, like the novelist, he too must surmise...

  8. SIX Future of the Profession
    (pp. 139-158)

    Until now I wrote much—perhaps too much—about the state of history at the present time (2011). In some ways optimistically: that “history” has a future; that there is a new and widespread appetite for history; that much good history is written and published even now; that history may even absorb the novel. Some of these developments may go on and on. But I cannot be optimistic about the future.

    We cannot know much about the future, save projecting what we can see at present: but so much of that will not come about. Some of it will. Foresight...

  9. SEVEN Tradition, Inheritance, Imagination
    (pp. 159-172)

    “Historical thinking has now entered our very blood.” One result of this is the present recognition, at least for some of us in the West, that an entire historical age has passed, or is passing. This “recognition”—for many, not more than a sense—is often feeble, more than often uneasy: nonetheless it exists. Many people are reluctant to face it—perhaps especially Americans. Historians, too, are often reluctant to state it, since it is such a broad generalization. Yet we ought to recognize the very significance of such a recognition, which is something that did not exist in the...

  10. Apologia
    (pp. 173-177)