Jo Guldi and David Armitage, The History Manifesto (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014)

history manifesto

Now here is a book that has been getting some press so I had to buy it despite the fact that I do not often read works on historiography. Does that make me a bad historian? I am not sure but despite having to do it in my first few units as an undergraduate; it is not something that enthrals me. However, this interesting work argues for a return to long-term analysis of subject in order to assess trends. It is an argument against short-termism that seems to affect much of society today in that we cannot look past the end of our nose! I think everyone should read it, even if just to engage with the arguments. From the perspective of military history and defence policy, I think there are many who would benefit from an analysis of the longue durée. For example, in order to understand Russia’s current position, I think it is worth looking back over 300 years of Russian history to understand that what is currently going on is nothing new. However, I disagree with the authors on their critique of PhDs that have a short-term focus (pp. 7-8). This I think is actually a benefit as such detailed studies allow us to better understand the richness of the period that we often focus on. Without these studies broader analysis of long-term trends would not, I believe be possible, as they would ignore the nuances of history. Additionally, I do not believe junior scholar would be able to produce a wide-ranging study over a long period without the rigorous training provided by such a specialist study. This skill emerges, ironically, over time. While I bought the book, you can download it as an open access text and it has its own website with various additional resources.

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