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History in the Making

History in the Making

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    History in the Making
    Book Description:

    From the vantage point of nearly sixty years devoted to research and the writing of history, J. H. Elliott steps back from his work to consider the progress of historical scholarship. From his own experiences as a historian of Spain, Europe, and the Americas, he provides a deft and sharp analysis of the work that historians do and how the field has changed since the 1950s.

    The author begins by explaining the roots of his interest in Spain and its past, then analyzes the challenges of writing the history of a country other than one's own. In succeeding chapters he offers acute observations on such topics as the history of national and imperial decline, political history, biography, and art and cultural history. Elliott concludes with an assessment of changes in the approach to history over the past half-century, including the impact of digital technology, and argues that a comprehensive vision of the past remains essential. Professional historians, students of history, and those who read history for pleasure will find in Elliott's delightful book a new appreciation of what goes into the shaping of historical works and how those works in turn can shape the world of thought and action.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18701-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xv-xxii)
  7. CHAPTER ONE Why Spain?
    (pp. 1-39)

    I became a historian of Spain largely by accident. In the summer of 1950, near the end of my first year reading history at Cambridge University, I saw a notice inVarsity, the undergraduate newspaper, saying that a few places remained for an expedition round the Iberian peninsula in an old army truck. With no plans in mind for the summer vacation I decided to sign on, and for six weeks in the heat of July and August we drove round Spain and Portugal, staying in cheap boarding houses or spending the night camping out in olive groves, sometimes to...

  8. CHAPTER TWO National and transnational history
    (pp. 40-79)

    My immersion in Catalan history and Catalan society in the 1950s proved to be a rude awakening. Nothing in the first twenty years of my life as a middle-class mid-twentieth-century Englishman had even remotely prepared me for existence in a country without liberty, ruled by a dictatorial regime which even refused the right of many of its citizens to express themselves freely in their own language. Although Catalan was not entirely prohibited, its use was officially discouraged, as I found in my encounter with the Barcelona traffic policeman,¹ and a generation of children never learnt in school how to write...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Political history and biography
    (pp. 80-113)

    My long years of work on the Catalan revolt of 1640 led me down unexpected avenues of historical inquiry, and gave me a set of insights into the nature of Spanish and also European history that might otherwise have eluded me. They introduced me to the fraught question of nationality and collective identity, and forced me to grapple with issues in political, cultural and economic history that gave me a better understanding of the societies of early modern Europe and of the tensions that could drive them down the road to revolution. Yet even as research, writing and the teaching...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Perceptions of decline
    (pp. 114-135)

    In 1962 the British journalist and author Anthony Sampson publishedAnatomy of Britain, a critical and highly influential study of the institutions by which post-war Britain was being governed, and of the people who ran them. The book’s success led to a substantially revised edition nine years later, entitledThe New Anatomy of Britain. During those years there had been an intensifying debate about the status of post-war and post-imperial Britain – in particular about its relations with Europe and the United States, and its capacity to meet the challenges of a changing world. On opening this revised version of...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE Art and cultural history
    (pp. 136-167)

    Spain’s century of ‘decline’ was also the Golden Age of its arts. By any standards the Spanish seventeenth century was an age of extraordinary cultural creativity, and the artistic achievements and stature of its constellation of artists and writers raise questions of broad historical interest. What relationship, if any, exists between a country’s political and economic situation and the vitality, or otherwise, of its cultural life? How far do creative artists simply give expression to the values and preoccupations of the society in which they live, and how far do they actually shape them? Above all, can historians take works...

  12. CHAPTER SIX Comparative history
    (pp. 168-195)

    At the Sixth International Congress of Historical Sciences, held in Oslo in 1928, Marc Bloch made an eloquent plea for a comparative history of European societies.¹ He believed that a comparative approach would allow historians, by looking both for similarities and for differences, to identify what, if anything, was unique about the society they were studying. Bloch was in fact by no means the first historian to draw attention to the possibilities inherent in comparative approach. A French predecessor, Charles-Victoire Langlois, made a similar plea in 1890, and the great Belgian historian Henri Pirenne chose the theme of comparative history...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN The wider picture
    (pp. 196-218)

    In a review of the publications of Christopher Hill on the history of seventeenth-century England, the American historian J. H. Hexter famously divided historians into ‘lumpers’ and ‘splitters’. ‘Historians who are splitters’, he tells us, ‘like to point out divergences, to perceive differences, to draw distinctions. They shrink away from systems of history and from general rules, and carry around in their heads lists of exceptions to almost any rule they are likely to encounter. They do not mind untidiness and accident in the past; they rather like them.’ ‘Lumpers’, on the other hand, would prefer to see untidiness and...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 219-235)
  15. Select bibliography
    (pp. 236-237)
  16. Index
    (pp. 238-250)