Posted by: aboutalbion | May 8, 2012

What is History? (1)

In the past few months, I have been trying to sharpen my understanding of history, and the book I began with was Carr’s ‘What is History?’  Today’s post comes from reading chapter 2.

 I’ve grasped the idea that a historian is (a) someone who is sensitive to change and (b) someone who is committed to the idea that the animal world (which includes the human animals) is in a state of perpetual change.

 What Carr points out at the end of chapter 2 is that he is going to use the word ‘history’ in two ways.

 First, in his view, ‘history’ can refer to the activity of the historian as s/he researches some aspect of the past – for example, “my current history project is the Papal Interdict on England 1208 -1214”.

 Second, in his view, ‘history’ can refer to her/his written account of some aspect of the past after the research is completed – for example, “my latest book is an account of the Papal Interdict on England 1208-1214”.

 Carr quotes with approval a previous judgment that history is “the record of what one age finds worthy of note in another”. [Burckhardt, J (1959) Judgements on History and Historians, p158.]

 [Carr, E H (2001) What is History? Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.]

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