Historical historian



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HISTORICAL HISTORIAN
Herodotus
Historical Reasoning: In order to ensure that great deeds are not forgotten

Herodotus wrote his history:


in the hope of thereby preserving from decay the remembrance of what men have done, and of preventing the great and wonderful actions of the Greeks and the Barbarians from losing their due meed of glory, and withal to put on record what were their grounds of feud.”
This was a popular idea in the ancient world. Many historians made the same case. Some, notably Pliny the Younger, wanted to write history in order that they themselves might not be forgotten. Failing that, Pliny wrote to the great Roman historian, Tacitus, asking him to include Pliny’s own deeds in his history—assuming, rightly as it turned out, that Tacitus’s work would be read for centuries to come thereby ensuring Pliny’s own immortality. Tacitus himself made a similar case to that of Herodotus:
Tacitus (1st-2nd century CE):
My purpose is not to relate at length every motion, but only such as were conspicuous for excellence or notorious for infamy. This I regard as history’s highest function, to let no worthy action be uncommemorated, and to hold out the reprobation of posterity as a terror to evil words and deeds.” (Tacitus)
Note that Tacitus added a corollary to Herodotus’s idea—he proposed that, knowing that histories would be written and future generations would remember, people would be deterred from performing evil deeds.
Info on Herodotus:

Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria (modern Bodrum, Turkey) and lived in the 5th century BC (c. 484 BC – c. 425 BC). He has been called the "Father of History" since he was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a well-constructed and vivid narrative. The Histories — his masterpiece and the only work he is known to have produced — is a record of his "inquiry" (or historía, a word that passed into Latin and took on its modern meaning of history), being an investigation of the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars and including a wealth of geographical and ethnographical information. Although some of his stories were not completely accurate, he claimed that he was reporting only what had been told to him. Little is known of his personal history since ancient records are scanty, contradictory and often fanciful.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herodotus#The_Histories
Herodotus records in his Histories not only the events of the Persian Wars but also geographical and ethnographical information, as well as the fables related to him during his extensive travels.

Typically, he passes no definitive judgment on what he has heard. In the case of conflicting or unlikely accounts, he presents both sides, says what he believes and then invites readers to decide for themselves. The work of Herodotus is reported to have been recited at festivals, where prizes were awarded, as for example, during the games at Olympia. Herodotus views history as a source of moral lessons, with conflicts and wars as misfortunes flowing from initial acts of injustice perpetuated through cycles of revenge. In contrast, Thucydides claims to confine himself to factual reports of contemporary political and military events, based on unambiguous, first-hand, eye-witness accounts, although, unlike Herodotus, he does not reveal his sources.


Thucydides
Historical Reasoning: In order to understand the present and prepare for the future

One of the most enduring reasons for writing and studying history was given by Herodotus’s successor, the great Greek historian, Thucydides.


He wrote of his history:
“…if it be judged useful by those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it, I shall be content.”
Thucydides focused on history’s use for understanding the future, and didn’t mention its role in helping one understand the present, but the Greek philosopher Aristotle did. He wrote:
If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development.”
This idea—that everything has a past and that knowing the past is crucial to understanding, is one of the great pillars on which history stands. Three centuries later, Cicero wrote, along the same lines:
To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”
But was the past just like the present? Can one go beyond what the classical thinkers proposed and assert that one can predict future events and behaviors based on how things turned out in the past? My students often think so. They will often use the cliché that “history repeats itself” to justify why it is important to study history. Some Renaissance thinkers believed this. Machiavelli wrote, for example:
Whoever considers the past and the present will readily observe that all cities and all people are and ever have been animated by the same desires and the same passions; so that it is easy, by diligent study of the past to foresee what is likely to happen in the future in any republic, and to apply those remedies that were used by the ancients…”
Few historians were so optimistic, though. During the Enlightenment, thinkers focused on the study of history not as a way to “foresee” the future but as an aid in planning for the future and avoiding mistakes. Thomas Hobbes and Voltaire both made this case:
For the principal and proper work of history being to instruct and enable men, by the knowledge of actions past, to bear themselves prudently in the present and providently towards the future…”
This benefit consists in the comparison which a statesman or citizen can make between foreign laws and manners and those of his own country…. The great errors of the past can also be used in this way. One cannot too often recall the crimes and misfortunes caused by absurd quarrels. It is certain that by reviewing the memory of these quarrels we can prevent them from being revived.”
In the 19th century, Aristotle’s point was made again by Jules Michelet:
He who would confine his thoughts to present time will not understand present reality.”
Meanwhile, Macaulay was making the case, again, for using history to understand the present and plan for the future:
No past event has any intrinsic importance. The knowledge of it is valuable only as it leads us to form just calculations with respect to the future.”
An intimate knowledge of the domestic history of nations is, therefore, absolutely necessary to the prognosis of political events.”
By the early 20th century, this argument had become a little more sophisticated. James Harvey Robinson was well aware that no historian could ever know everything about the past—the evidence for the reconstruction of most events has been lost. But even if one could know everything (in a “Godlike” way, as he put it), Robinson didn’t believe that the actions of people in the past would be able to provide useful “precedents of conduct.” He wrote:
History… may be regarded as an artificial extension and broadening of our memories and may be used to overcome the natural bewilderment of all unfamiliar situations….Could we suddenly be endowed with a Godlike and exhaustive knowledge of the whole history of mankind…we should gain forthwith a Godlike appreciation of the world in which we live, and a Godlike insight into the evils which mankind now suffers, as well as into the most promising methods for alleviating them, not because the past would furnish precedents of conduct, but because our conduct would be based upon a perfect comprehension of existing conditions founded upon a perfect knowledge of the past.”
By the 1930s, Huizinga was rejecting the idea that any “laws” could be ascertained for history or that the future could be predicted based on the past:
history is pre-eminently an inexact science, …its concept of causality is extremely defective…it resists the formulation of laws…the concept of historical evolution can be considered valid only so far as one accepts the organic analogy…”
Though the past supplies our material and compels our attention, though the mind realizes that not one minute of the future can be predicted, none the less it is the eternal future that moves our mind. The widespread and persistent opinion that history should deal with our understanding of the present rests on a misconception: a ‘present’ is as little known to historical thought as it is to philosophical thought.”
Marc Bloch, one of the founders of the Annales school of history, emphasized this further. In his view, history never repeated itself, at least not exactly:
History is, in its essentials, the science of change. It knows and it teaches that it is impossible to find two events that are ever exactly alike, because the conditions from which they spring are never identical.”
Nonetheless, even if history can’t predict the future, even if it doesn’t repeat itself, surely it is essential for understanding the present and for our sensible functioning in the world. The classic analogy of a people who have forgotten their history (though I’m not sure who first came up with it) is to someone waking up with amnesia. This person can’t make any rational decisions because he or she has no idea about his or her personal past. We all go through our days completely dependent on the wisdom accumulated from our past experiences. So it is with societies and nations. If they forget their pasts, they have no accumulated wisdom on which to act. Individuals can’t predict their personal futures with any accuracy—anything might happen due to circumstances that are out of their control—but that doesn’t prevent them from planning their activities and making decisions based on their past experiences. So it is with history’s usefulness to the population.
Historians, even today, still go back to Thucydides’ and Aristotle’s basic idea, formulated almost 2,500 years ago:
With the historian it is an article of faith that knowledge of the past is a key to understanding the present.” Kenneth Stampp
This idea has been expressed by many modern historians. A good example is found in the article by Peter Stearns that was distributed to the participants in this summit, where he writes as follows:
The past causes the present, and so the future. Any time we try to know why something happened…we have to look for factors that took shape earlier…. Only through studying history can we grasp how things change; only through history can we begin to comprehend the factors that cause change; and only through history can we understand what elements of an institution or a society persist despite change.”
Info on Thucydides:

Thucydides (c.460 BC – c. 395 BC) was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC. Thucydides has been dubbed the father of "scientific history", because of his strict standards of evidence-gathering and analysis in terms of cause and effect without reference to intervention by the gods, as outlined in his introduction to his work.


He has also been called the father of the school of political realism, which views the relations between nations as based on might rather than right. His text is still studied at advanced military colleges worldwide, and the Melian dialogue remains a seminal work of international relations theory.
More generally, Thucydides showed an interest in developing an understanding of human nature to explain behaviour in such crises as plague, massacres, as in that of the Melians, and civil war.
Thucydides views life exclusively as political life, and history in terms of political history. Conventional moral considerations play no role in his analysis of political events while geographic and ethnographic aspects are omitted or, at best, of secondary importance. Subsequent Greek historians — Ctesias, Diodorus, Strabo, Polybius and Plutarch — held up Thucydides' writings as a model of truthful history. Lucian refers to Thucydides as having given Greek historians their law, requiring them to say what had been done. Greek historians of the fourth century BC accepted that history was political and that contemporary history was the proper domain of a historian. Cicero calls Herodotus the "father of history;" yet the Greek writer Plutarch, in his Moralia (Ethics) denigrated Herodotus, as the "father of lies". Unlike Thucydides, however, these historians all continued to view history as a source of moral lessons.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thucydides#Thucydides_versus_Herodotus
Josephus
Historical Reasoning: In order to understand the will of God

Ancient historians, especially Jewish and Christian historians, had a main reason for studying history, one that is never cited by historians today: one that now falls only into the realm of theology, not history. It was expressed clearly in the 1st century by Josephus:


the main lesson to be learned from this history by any who care to peruse it is that men who conform to the will of God…prosper in all things beyond belief, and for their reward are offered by God felicity; whereas in proportion as they depart from the strict observance of these laws, things (else) practicable become impracticable, and whatever imaginary good thing they strive to do ends in irretrievable disasters.”
This idea remained popular throughout the Medieval period in Europe, and elaborate frameworks of thought developed around it, based on the Bible. To these historians, God played a role in history, rewarding virtue and punishing sin. Medieval historians readily predicted the future based on what they saw as the correlation between human history and biblical prophecy.
Martin Luther agreed with Josephus that God’s will could be seen in history:
histories are nothing else than a demonstration, recollection, and sign of divine action and judgment, how He upholds, rules, obstructs, prospers, punishes, and honors the world, and especially men, each according to his just desert, evil or good.”
Starting with the Scientific Revolution, however, and continuing into the Enlightenment, historians began to separate their studies from those of the theologians. History’s focus returned to the study of human activities and their human and natural causes. The study of God was something entirely separate.
Info on Josephus:

Josephus (37–c.100 AD), also Yoseph Ben Mattithyahu (Joseph son of Matthias) and Titus Flavius Josephus was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st cent. AD and the First Jewish–Roman War which resulted in the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.


He has been credited by many as recording some of the earliest history of Jesus Christ outside of the gospels, this being an item of contention among historians.
Josephus was a law-observant Jew who believed in the compatibility of Judaism and Graeco-Roman thought, commonly referred to as Hellenistic Judaism. His most important works were The Jewish War (c. 75 AD) and Antiquities of the Jews (c. 94 AD). The Jewish War recounts the Jewish revolt against Roman occupation (66–70). Antiquities of the Jews recounts the history of the world from a Jewish perspective for a Roman audience. These works provide valuable insight into 1st century Judaism and the background of Early Christianity.
The works of Josephus provide crucial information about the First Jewish-Roman War and are also important literary source material for understanding the context of the Dead Sea Scrolls and late Temple Judaism. Josephan scholarship in the 19th and early 20th century became focused on Josephus' relationship to the sect of the Pharisees. He was consistently portrayed as a member of the sect, but nevertheless viewed as a villainous traitor to his own nation— a view which became known as the classical concept of Josephus. In the mid 20th century, this view was challenged by a new generation of scholars who formulated the modern concept of Josephus, still considering him a Pharisee but restoring his reputation in part as patriot and a historian of some standing. Some later authors argued that Josephus was not a Pharisee but an orthodox Aristocrat-Priest who became part of the Temple Establishment as a matter of deference, and not willing association.
Josephus includes information about individuals, groups, customs and geographical places. Some of these, such as the city of Seron, are not referenced in the surviving texts of any other ancient authority. His writings provide a significant, extra-Biblical account of the post-Exilic period of the Maccabees, the Hasmonean dynasty, and the rise of Herod the Great. He makes references to the Sadducees, Jewish High Priests of the time, Pharisees and Essenes, the Herodian Temple, Quirinius' census and the Zealots, and to such figures as Pontius Pilate, Herod the Great, Agrippa I and Agrippa II, John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, and a disputed reference to Jesus. He is an important source for studies of immediate post-Temple Judaism and the context of early Christianity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus
Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch)
Historical Reasoning: In order to provide a moral lesson—a model of good behavior and a warning about evil

Tacitus mentioned the role of history in condemning evil behavior. This, and its corollary—the praise and emulation of virtue--became a common theme in works that promoted the study of history, even when God was not seen as rewarding virtue or punishing evil.


In the Middle Ages, the Venerable Bede made this case:
For if history records good things of good men, the thoughtful hearer is encouraged to imitate what is good: or if it records evil of wicked men, the good, religious listener or reader is encouraged to avoid all that is sinful and perverse, and to follow what he knows to be good and pleasing to God.”
History was a moral lesson, one that would improve and inspire the student. Petrarch, the early Renaissance writer agreed that history was designed to:
point up to the readers those things that are to be followed and those to be avoided, with plenty of distinguished examples provided on either side.”
Petrarch, perhaps a little futilely, wrote letters to Cicero and other classical authors, as though they were his contemporaries (though they had been dead for well over a millennium), taking issue with, or applauding them, for their actions (and even wondering whether they might taken offense at his word. He was a little eccentric, to our eyes, but he clearly felt that there was much to be learned from the past. Two centuries later, Jean Bodin said much the same thing:
This, then, is the greatest benefit of historical books, that some men, at least, can be incited to virtue and others can be frightened away from vice.”
Generally, modern historians make little mention of this idea that history provides such a clear-cut morality tale—even some “heroes” often prove to have feet of clay when studied in depth—but the idea was raised by the Bradley Commission in the late 1980s as a reason to promote the study of history in schools:
It [history] can convey a sense of civic responsibility by graphic portrayals of virtue, courage, and wisdom—and their opposites.”
Some virtues in historical figures are obvious, but some are less clear. What about someone like Alexander the Great? Does he provide an example of virtue or vice? Anyone emulating Alexander today would be roundly condemned by the international community. But to condemn him for his behavior in the past would be ahistorical; he lived at a time when modern ideas of human rights had not yet developed. We now believe that is not our job, as historians, to judge the past based on modern values.
Peter Stearns provides a more nuanced view related to this reason for the study of history. Rather than adopting the idea that there are clear, unambiguous instances of virtue and evil in history, he proposes that students of history look at the very complexities of situations in the past in order to “test” and “hone” their “moral sense”:
Studying the stories of individuals and situations in the past allows a student of history to test his or her own moral sense, to hone it against some of the real complexities individuals have faced in difficult settings.”
Info on Petrarch:

Francesco Petrarca (July 20, 1304 – July 19, 1374), known in English as Petrarch, was an Italian scholar, poet and one of the earliest Renaissance humanists. Petrarch is often called the "Father of Humanism". In the 16th century, Pietro Bembo created the model for the modern Italian language based on Petrarch's works, as well as those of Giovanni Boccaccio and, especially, Dante Alighieri. This would be later endorsed by the Accademia della Crusca. His sonnets were admired and imitated throughout Europe during the Renaissance and became a model for lyrical poetry. Petrarch was also known for being one of the first people to refer to the Dark Ages.


Petrarch is traditionally called the father of Humanism and considered by many to be the "father of the Renaissance." He was the first to offer a combination of abstract entities of classical culture and Christian philosophy. In his work Secretum meum he points out that secular achievements did not necessarily preclude an authentic relationship with God. Petrarch argued instead that God had given humans their vast intellectual and creative potential to be used to their fullest. He inspired humanist philosophy which led to the intellectual flowering of the Renaissance. He believed in the immense moral and practical value of the study of ancient history and literature – that is, the study of human thought and action. Petrarch was a devout Catholic and did not see a conflict between realizing humanity's potential and having religious faith.

A highly introspective man, he shaped the nascent humanist movement a great deal because many of the internal conflicts and musings expressed in his writings were seized upon by Renaissance humanist philosophers and argued continually for the next 200 years. For example, Petrarch struggled with the proper relation between the active and contemplative life, and tended to emphasize the importance of solitude and study. Later the politician and thinker Leonardo Bruni argued for the active life, or "civic humanism". As a result, a number of political, military, and religious leaders during the Renaissance were inculcated with the notion that their pursuit of personal fulfillment should be grounded in classical example and philosophical contemplation.


Edward Gibbon
Historical Reasoning: With reason and rational thought, human history will progress
Depth and accuracy

Gibbon’s methodology was so accurate that, to this day, little can be found to controvert his use of primary sources for evidence. While modern historical methodology has changed, his skill in translation of his sources was impeccable, and contemporary historians still rely on Gibbon as a secondary source to substantiate references. His literary tone is old-fashioned, skeptical, and pessimistic; it mirrors both his own character and the topic under discussion, the gradual decay of a mighty empire.
Gibbon is considered to be a true representative of the Enlightenment; this is reflected in his famous verdict on the history of the Middle Ages: "I have described the triumph of barbarism and religion.” However, politically, he aligned himself with both Burke's rejection of the democratic movements of the time as well as Burke's dismissal of the "rights of man." It is generally accepted that Gibbon's treatment of Byzantium has had a detrimental effect on the study of the Middle Ages.  There remains a question as to whether his poor analysis is primarily due to a lack of primary sources in this field or to the prejudices of the time. Gibbon's work has been praised for its style, his piquant epigrams and its brilliant irony. Winston Churchill noted, "I set out upon Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire [and] was immediately dominated by both the story and the style. I devoured Gibbon. I rode triumphantly through it from end to end." Churchill modeled much of his own style upon Gibbon's, though with less use of irony. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Edward_Gibbon#Gibbon.27s_theory

History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Because of its relative objectivity and heavy use of primary sources, at the time, its methodology became a model for later historians. Gibbon writes with pessimism and detached use of irony.
Thesis

Gibbon offers an explanation for why the Roman Empire fell, a task made difficult by a lack of comprehensive written sources, though he was not the only historian to tackle the subject. Most of his ideas are directly taken from what few relevant records were available: those of the Roman moralists of the 4th and 5th centuries.
According to Gibbon, the Roman Empire succumbed to barbarian invasions in large part due to the gradual loss of civic virtue among its citizens. They had become weak, outsourcing their duties to defend their Empire to barbarian mercenaries, who then became so numerous and ingrained that they were able to take over the Empire. Romans, he believed, had become effeminate, unwilling to live a tougher, "manly" military lifestyle. He further blames the degeneracy of the Roman army and the Praetorian guards. In addition, Gibbon argued that Christianity created a belief that a better life existed after death, which fostered an indifference to the present among Roman citizens, thus sapping their desire to sacrifice for the Empire. He also believed its comparative pacifism tended to hamper the traditional Roman martial spirit. Finally, like other Enlightenment thinkers, Gibbon held in contempt the Middle Ages as a priest-ridden, superstitious, dark age. It was not until his own age of reason and rational thought, it was believed, that human history could resume its progress.
Gibbon sees the primary catalyst of the empire's initial decay and eventual collapse in the Praetorian Guard, instituted as a special class of soldiers permanently encamped in a commanding position within Rome, a seed planted by Augustus at the establishment of the empire. As Gibbon calls them at the outset of Chapter V: The Praetorian bands, whose licentious fury was the first symptom and cause of the decline of the Roman empire. He cites repeated examples of this special force abusing its power with calamitous results, including numerous instances of imperial assassination and demands of ever-increasing pay.
Citations

Gibbon provides the reader with a glimpse of his thought process with extensive notes along the body of the text, a precursor to the modern use of footnotes. Gibbon's footnotes are famous for their idiosyncrasies. They provide an entertaining moral commentary on both ancient Rome and 18th-century Great Britain. This technique enabled Gibbon to compare ancient Rome to modern times. Gibbon's work advocates a rationalist and progressive view of history.
Gibbon's citations provide in-depth detail regarding his use of sources for his work, which included documents dating back to ancient Rome. The detail within his asides and his care in noting the importance of each document is a precursor to modern-day historical footnoting methodology.
The work is notable for its erratic but exhaustively documented notes and research. John Bury, following him 113 years later with his own "History of the Later Roman Empire," utilized much of the same research, and commended the depth and accuracy of Gibbon's work. It is notable that Bury, over a century after Gibbon, and Heather, over a century after Bury, both based much of their own work on Gibbon's factual research. Both found little to argue with his facts, though both disagreed with his theories, primarily on Christianity as a prime factor in the Empire's decline and fall. Unusual for the 18th century, Gibbon was notably not content with secondhand accounts when the primary sources were accessible, and used them so well that even today historians still cite his work as the definitive factual history of the western empire. "I have always endeavoured," Gibbon wrote, "to draw from the fountain-head; that my curiosity, as well as a sense of duty, has always urged me to study the originals; and that, if they have sometimes eluded my search, I have carefully marked the secondary evidence, on whose faith a passage or a fact were reduced to depend.” The Decline and Fall is a literary monument and a massive step forward in historical methodology.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_History_of_the_Decline_and_Fall_of_the_Roman_Empire#Legacy
Info on Edward Gibbon:

Edward Gibbon (April 27, 1737-January 16, 1794) was an English historian and MP. Gibbon's work has been criticised for its scathing view of Christianity as laid down in chapters XV and XVI. Those chapters were strongly criticised and resulted in the banning of the book in several countries. Gibbon's alleged crime was disrespecting, and none too lightly, the character of sacred Christian doctrine, by "treat[ing] the Christian church as a phenomenon of general history, not a special case admitting supernatural explanations and disallowing criticism of its adherents".

More specifically, Gibbon's blasphemous chapters excoriated the church for "supplanting in an unnecessarily destructive way the great culture that preceded it" and for "the outrage of [practicing] religious intolerance and warfare". Gibbon, though assumed to be entirely anti-religion, was actually supportive to some extent, insofar as it did not obscure his true endeavour – a history that was not influenced and swayed by official church doctrine. Although the most famous two chapters are heavily ironical and cutting about religion, it is not utterly condemned, and its truth and rightness are upheld however thinly.
Gibbon expected some type of church-inspired backlash, but the utter harshness of the ensuing torrents far exceeded anything he or his friends could possibly have anticipated. Contemporary detractors such as Joseph Priestley and Richard Watson stoked the nascent fire, but the most severe of these attacks was an "acrimonious" piece by the young cleric, Henry Edwards Davis. Gibbon subsequently published his Vindication in 1779, in which he categorically denied Davis' "criminal accusations", branding him a purveyor of "servile plagiarism." Davis followed Gibbon's Vindication with yet another reply (1779).
Gibbon's apparent antagonism to Christian doctrine spilled over into the Jewish faith, leading to charges of anti-Semitism. For example, he wrote:
Humanity is shocked at the recital of the horrid cruelties which [the Jews] committed in the cities of Egypt, of Cyprus, and of Cyrene, where they dwelt in treacherous friendship with the unsuspecting natives; and we are tempted to applaud the severe retaliation which was exercised by the arms of legions against a race of fanatics, whose dire and credulous superstition seemed to render them the implacable enemies not only of the Roman government, but also of humankind.
Burke, Churchill and ‘the fountain-head'

Gibbon is considered to be a son of the Enlightenment and this is reflected in his famous verdict on the history of the Middle Ages:
"I have described the triumph of barbarism and religion." However, politically, he aligned himself with the conservative Edmund Burke's rejection of the democratic movements of the time as well as with Burke's dismissal of the "rights of man."
Gibbon's work has been praised for its style, his piquant epigrams and its effective irony. Winston Churchill memorably noted,
"I set out upon...Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire [and] was immediately dominated both by the story and the style. ...I devoured Gibbon. I rode triumphantly through it from end to end and enjoyed it all." 
Churchill modelled much of his own literary style on Gibbon's. Like Gibbon, he dedicated himself to producing a "vivid historical narrative, ranging widely over period and place and enriched by analysis and reflection."
Unusually for the 18th century, Gibbon was never content with secondhand accounts when the primary sources were accessible (though most of these were drawn from well-known printed editions). "I have always endeavoured," he says, "to draw from the fountain-head; that my curiosity, as well as a sense of duty, has always urged me to study the originals; and that, if they have sometimes eluded my search, I have carefully marked the secondary evidence, on whose faith a passage or a fact were reduced to depend." In this insistence upon the importance of primary sources, Gibbon is considered by many to be one of the first modern historians:

In accuracy, thoroughness, lucidity, and comprehensive grasp of a vast subject, the 'History' is unsurpassable. It is the one English history which may be regarded as definitive. ...Whatever its shortcomings the book is artistically imposing as well as historically unimpeachable as a vast panorama of a great period.
Influence on other writers

The subject of Gibbon's writing as well as his ideas and style have influenced other writers. Besides his influence on Churchill, Gibbon was also a model for Isaac Asimov in his writing of The Foundation Trilogy, which he said involved "a little bit of cribbin' from the works of Edward Gibbon".
Evelyn Waugh admired Gibbon's style but not his secular viewpoint. In Waugh's 1950 novel Helena, the early Christian author Lactantius worried about the possibility of " '...a false historian, with the mind of Cicero or Tacitusand the soul of an animal,' and he nodded towards the gibbon who fretted his golden chain and chattered for fruit."
J. C. Stobart, author of The Grandeur that was Rome (1911), wrote of Gibbon that "The mere notion of empire continuing to decline and fall for five centuries is ridiculous...this is one of the cases which prove that History is made not so much by heroes or natural forces as by historians."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Gibbon#Burke.2C_Churchill_and_.27the_fountain-head.27
Auguste Comte 
Historical Reasoning: In order to understand the history of one’s nation and to increase patriotism or sense of identity:

With the development of the idea of the “nation” came a new role for history. People reasoned that a sense of national identity could be generated through a knowledge of shared history. Already, this was being voiced by Leonardo Bruni in the Renaissance when he referred to “our own history”:


History: a subject which must not on any account be neglected by one who aspires to true cultivation. For it is our duty to understand the origins of our own history and its development; and the achievements of Peoples and of Kings.”
In the 19th century, French historian Augustin Thierry was typical of his time in proposing that national history be widely taught in order to strengthen patriotism:
I believe that our patriotism would gain a great deal both in selflessness and in steadfastness if the knowledge of history, and particularly of French history, were more widely diffused among us and were to become in a certain sense more popular.”
By the late 20th century the Bradley Commission recognized the need for both a common political vision and a recognition of the multicultural nature of American society, both of which were aided through the study of history:
An historical grasp of our common political vision is essential to liberty, equality, and justice in our multicultural society.”
Peter Stearns emphasized that awareness of a shared history could provide not only a nation, but a business, institution, or ethnic group with a common identity:

History also helps provide identity, and this is unquestionably one of the reasons all modern nations encourage its teaching in some form….Many institutions, businesses, communities and social units, such as ethnic groups in the United States, use history for similar identity purposes.”


Info on August Comte:

Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte (19 January 1798 – 5 September 1857), better known as Auguste Comte, was a French philosopher, a founder of the discipline of sociology and of the doctrine of positivism. He may be regarded as the first philosopher of science in the modern sense of the term.


Strongly influenced by the Utopian socialist Henri de Saint-Simon, Comte developed the positive philosophy in an attempt to remedy the social malaise of the French revolution, calling for a new social paradigm based on the sciences. Comte was of considerable influence in 19th century thought, impacting the work of thinkers such as Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill. His version of sociologie and his notion of social evolutionism, though now outmoded, set the tone for early social theorists and anthropologists such as Harriet Martineau and Herbert Spencer. Modern academic sociology was later formally established in the 1890s by Émile Durkheim with a firm emphasis on practical and objective social research.
Comte attempted to introduce a cohesive "religion of humanity" which, though largely unsuccessful, was influential in the development of various Secular Humanist organizations in the 19th century. He also created and defined the term "altruism".
Lord Acton

Historical Reasoning: In order to pass moral judgment
Notable quotations of Lord Acton:

And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that. All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Universal History is . . . not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.”
The strong man with the dagger is followed by the weak man with the sponge.”
"The science of politics is the one science that is deposited by the streams of history, like the grains of gold in the sand of a river; and the knowledge of the past, the record of truths revealed by experience, is eminently practical, as an instrument of action and a power that goes to making the future."
"Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.”
Info about Lord Acton:

John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton, KCVO, DL (10 January 1834 – 19 June 1902), usually referred to simply as Lord Acton, was an English Catholic historian, politician, and writer. Acton took a great interest in America, considering its Federal structure the perfect guarantor of individual liberties. During the American Civil War, his sympathies lay entirely with the Confederacy, for their defense of States' Rights against a centralized government that, by all historical precedent, would inevitably turn tyrannical. His notes to Gladstone on the subject helped sway many in the British government to sympathize with the South. After the South's surrender, he wrote to Robert E. Lee that "I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo," adding that he "deemed that you were fighting battles for our liberty, our progress, and our civilization."
He was an intimate friend and constant correspondent of Prime Minister Gladstone, and the two men had the very highest regard for one another. Matthew Arnold used to say that "Gladstone influences all round him but Acton; it is Acton who influences Gladstone."[4]
Religion and writings

In 1870 came the great crisis in Catholicism over the First Vatican Council's promulgation of the doctrine of papal infallibility.It was in this context that, in a letter he wrote to scholar and ecclesiastic Mandell Creighton, dated April 1887, Acton made his most famous pronouncement:
"I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it."
Thenceforth he steered clear of theological polemics. He devoted himself to reading, study and congenial society. With all his capacity for study, he was a man of the world and a man of affairs, not a bookworm.[4] His only notable publications were a masterly essay in the Quarterly Review of January 1878 on "Democracy in Europe;" two lectures delivered at Bridgnorth in 1877 on "The History of Freedom in Antiquity" and "The History of Freedom in Christianity" — these last the only tangible portions put together by him of his long-projected "History of Liberty;" and an essay on modern German historians in the first number of the English Historical Review, which he helped to found (1886).
Legacy

Acton's reputation for learning gradually spread abroad, largely through Gladstone's influence. The latter found him a valuable political adviser, and in 1892, when the Liberal government came in, Lord Acton was made a lord-in-waiting. Finally, in 1895, on the death of Sir John Seeley, Lord Rosebery appointed him to the Regius Professorship of Modern History at Cambridge. His inaugural lecture on The Study of History, afterwards published with notes displaying a vast erudition, made a great impression in the university, and the new professor's influence on historical study was felt in many important directions. He delivered two valuable courses of lectures on the French Revolution and on Modern History, but it was in private that the effects of his teaching were felt most. The Cambridge Modern History, though he did not live to see it, was planned under his editorship.



According to Hugh Chisholm, editor of the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica:
"Lord Acton has left too little completed original work to rank among the great historians; his very learning seems to have stood in his way; he knew too much and his literary conscience was too acute for him to write easily, and his copiousness of information overloads his literary style. But he was one of the most deeply learned men of his time, and he will certainly be remembered for his influence on others.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dalberg-Acton,_1st_Baron_Acton
Frederick Jackson Turner 
Historical Reasoning: In order to encourage civic participation and citizenship
History could do more than simply make citizens feel proud of their nation, or share a common identity. It could make them better citizens.
In the 19th century, Frederick Jackson Turner wanted history to come alive and to be relevant to students, and to inspire them to be good citizens.
But perhaps its most practical utility to us, as public school teachers, is its service in fostering good citizenship… We must make history living instead of allowing it to seem mere literature, a mere narration of events that might have occurred on the moon….Historical study has for its end to let the community see itself in the light of the past, to give it new thoughts and feelings, new aspirations and energies.”
A few years later, John Bagnell Bury also emphasized the need for citizens to be knowledgeable about history, a theme continued, after World War II, in a yearbook put together by the National Council for Social Studies:
it is of vital importance for citizens to have a true knowledge of the past and to see it in a dry light, in order that their influence on the present and future may be exerted in the right directions.”
NY Times on the NCSS Yearbook (1947):
American history is called the necessary and vital core in any program of preparation for intelligent American citizenship in an interdependent world….The educators observe that citizens of the United States must, without losing their national identity, become citizens of the world.” (NY Times, Feb 2, 1947)
By the late 20th century and continuing today, this was seen as one of the most important reasons for placing history at the center of the school curriculum—a familiarity with history, along with the “habits of mind” it encourages, are seen as absolutely necessary in order for citizens to function in our democratic society.
It [history] is vital for all citizens in a democracy, because it provides the only avenue we have to reach an understanding of ourselves and our society, in relation to the human condition over time, and of how some things change and others continue….The knowledge and habits of mind to be gained from the study of history are indispensable to the education of citizens in a democracy.” The Bradley Commission (1989)
History that lays the foundation for genuine citizenship returns, in one sense, to the essential uses of the study of the past….studying history encourages the habits of mind that are vital for responsible public behavior, whether as a national or community leader, an informed voter, a petitioner, or a simple observer.” Peter Stearns (2007)
A number of other reasons for the study of history have been put forward over the last century, most of which remain valid and are uncontroversial.

Info on Frederick Jackson Turner 

Frederick Jackson Turner (November 14, 1861 – March 14, 1932) was an influential American historian in the early 20th century. He is best known for his book, The Significance of the Frontier in American History, whose ideas are referred to as the Frontier Thesis. He is also known for his theories of geographical sectionalism. In recent years western history has seen pitched arguments over his Frontier Thesis, with the only point of agreement being his enormous impact on historical scholarship and the American mind.


Turner's "Frontier Thesis", was put forth in a scholarly paper in 1893, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History", read before the American Historical Association in Chicago during the Chicago World's Fair. He believed the spirit and success of the United States was directly tied to the country's westward expansion. Turner expounded an evolutionary model; he had been influenced by work with geologists at Wisconsin. The West, not the East, was where distinctively American characteristics emerged. The forging of the unique and rugged American identity occurred at the juncture between the civilization of settlement and the savagery of wilderness. This produced a new type of citizen - one with the power to tame the wild and one upon whom the wild had conferred strength and individuality. As each generation of pioneers moved 50 to 100 miles west, they abandoned useless European practices, institutions and ideas, and instead found new solutions to new problems created by their new environment. Over multiple generations the frontier produced characteristics of informality, violence, crudeness, democracy and initiative that the world recognized as "American".
Turner's ideas influenced many areas of historiography. In the history of religion, for example, Boles notes that William Warren Sweet at the University of Chicago Divinity School, argued that churches adapted to the characteristics of the frontier, creating new denominations such as the Mormons, the Church of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, and the Cumberland Presbyterians. The frontier, they argued, shaped uniquely American institutions such as revivals, camp meetings, and itinerant preaching. This view dominated religious historiography for decades. Moos (2002) shows that the 1910s to 1940s black filmmaker and novelist Oscar Micheaux incorporated Turner's frontier thesis into his work. Micheaux promoted the West as a place where blacks could transcend race and earn economic success through hard work and perseverance.
Slatta argues that the widespread popularization of Turner's frontier thesis influenced popular histories, motion pictures, and novels, which characterize the West in terms of individualism, frontier violence, and rough justice. Disneyland’s Frontierland of the late 20th century reflected the myth of rugged individualism that celebrated what was perceived to be the American heritage. The public has ignored academic historians' anti-Turnerian models, largely because they conflict with and often destroy the icons of Western heritage. However, the work of historians during the 1980s-1990s, some of whom sought to bury Turner's conception of the frontier and others who have sought to spare the concept while presenting a more balanced and nuanced view, have done much to place Western myths in context and rescue Western history from them.
Turner ignored gender and race, downplayed class, and left no room for victims. His values represented a challenge to historians of the 1960s and later who stressed that race, class and gender were powerful explanatory tools. The new generation stressed gender, ethnicity, professional categorization, and the contrasting victor and victim legacies of manifest destiny and imperialist expansion. Some criticized Turner's frontier thesis and the theme of American exceptionalism. The disunity of the concept of the West, the similarity of American expansion to European colonialism and imperialism in the 19th century, and the realities of minority group oppression revealed the limits of Turnerian and exceptionalist paradigms.
His sectionalism essays are collected in The Significance of Sections in American History, which won the Pulitzer Prize in History in 1933. Turner's sectionalism thesis had almost as much influence among historians as his frontier thesis, but never became widely known to the general public as did the frontier thesis. He argued that different ethno-cultural groups had distinct settlement patterns, and this revealed itself in politics, economics and society.
Turner's theories slipped out of fashion in the 1960s, as critics complained, unfairly, that he neglected regionalism. They complained that he celebrated too much the egalitarianism and democracy of a frontier that was rough on women and minorities. His ideas never disappeared; indeed they influenced the new field of environmental history. Turner gave a strong impetus to quantitative methods, and scholars using new statistical techniques and data sets have, for example, confirmed many of Turner's suggestions about population movements.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Jackson_Turner
George Macaulay Trevelyan
Historical Reasoning: In order to lessen prejudices:

Knowing more about the histories of peoples different from oneself tends to generate more understanding. Trevelyan referred to this as “sympathizing with others:


It [history] can mould the mind itself into the capability of understanding great affairs and sympathizing with other men.”
Others have written more recently of history’s ability to undermine stereotypes and diminish unfounded prejudices.
Info on George Macaulay Trevelyan:

George Macaulay Trevelyan, (16 February 1876 – 21 July 1962), was an English historian. Trevelyan was the third son of Sir George Trevelyan, whose staunch liberal Whig principles he espoused in accessible works of literate narrative avoiding a consciously dispassionate analysis that became old-fashioned during his long and productive career. The noted historian E. H. Carr considered Trevelyan to be one of the last historians of the Whig tradition.


Many of his writings promoted the Whig Party, an important aspect of British politics from the 17th century to the mid-19th century, and of its successor, the Liberal Party. Whigs and Liberals believed the common people had a more positive effect on history than did royalty and that democratic government would bring about steady social progress.
Trevelyan's history is engaged and partisan. Of his Garibaldi trilogy, "reeking with bias", he remarked in his essay "Bias in History", "Without bias, I should never have written them at all. For I was moved to write them by a poetical sympathy with the passions of the Italian patriots of the period, which I retrospectively shared."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G._M._Trevelyan
Simon Schama
Historical Reasoning: In order to appreciate arts and literature:

All works of art and literature were produced during specific time periods. In many instances the works cannot truly be appreciated without an understanding of the histories of those times.


Another educative function of history is to enable the reader to comprehend the historical aspect of literature proper….For much of literature is allusion, either definite or implied….History and literature cannot be fully comprehended, still less fully enjoyed, except in connection with one another.” George Macaulay Trevelyan (1913)
History provides both framework and illumination for the other humanities. The arts, literature, philosophy, and religion are best studied as they develop over time and in the context of societal evolution. In turn they greatly enliven and reinforce our historical grasp of place and moment.” Bradley Commission (1989)
Info on Simon Schama

Simon Michael Schama (born 13 February 1945) is a British historian and art historian. He is a professor at Columbia University. He is best known for writing and hosting the 15-part BBC documentary series A History of Britain. Other works on history and art include The Embarrassment of RichesLandscape and MemoryDead CertaintiesRembrandt's Eyes, and his history of the French Revolution, Citizens. Schama is an art and cultural critic for The New Yorker.


Schama is a supporter of the Labour Party, donating £2,000 to Oona King's bid to become Labour's candidate for the 2012 London Mayoral election.
Schama was critical of a call by British novelist John Berger for an academic boycott of Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians. Writing in The Guardian in an article co-authored with lawyer Anthony Julius, Schama compared Berger's academic boycott to policies adopted by Nazi Germany, noting "This is not the first boycott call directed at Jews. On 1 April 1933, a week after he came to power, Hitler ordered a boycott of Jewish shops, banks, offices and department stores."
In 2006 on the BBC, Schama debated with Vivienne Westwood the morality of Israel's actions in the Israel-Lebanon war. He characterised Israel's bombing of Lebanese city centres as unhelpful in Israel's attempt to "get rid of" Hezbollah. With regard to the bombing he said: "Of course the spectacle and suffering makes us grieve. Who wouldn't grieve? But it's not enough to do that. We've got to understand. You've even got to understand Israel's point of view." 
Schama is a vocal supporter of Barack Obama and critic of George W. Bush. He appeared on the BBC's coverage of the 2008 U.S. presidential election, clashing with John Bolton.
Schama has a literary way of writing that is attractive to both historians and a wider readership. It is "packed with evocative detail: rich fruit cakes crammed with raisins, currants, nuts and glacé cherries all mulled in brandy sauce". He has also received criticism from one critic for dumbing down history, presenting a "grossly oversimplified and mythologising view of the history of nations" and not fostering critical thinking.
Susan Buck-Morss criticizes Schama's The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age for its "selective national history" of the Dutch Republic, "that omits much or all of the colonizing story." "One would have no idea that Dutch hegemony in the slave trade (replacing Spain and Portugal as major players) contributed substantially to the enormous "overload" of wealth that he describes as becoming so socially and morally problematic during the century of Dutch "centrality" to the "commerce of the world.""

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Schama


Michel Foucault
Historical Reasoning: In order to foster personal growth

In addition to making us better, more informed citizens, a knowledge of history simply makes us wiser, according to this line of thought.


It [history] can satisfy young people’s longing for a sense of identity and of their time and place in the human story. Well-taught, history and biography are naturally engaging to students by speaking to their individuality, to their possibilities for choice, and to their desire to control their lives.” Bradley Commission (1989)
[History] offers the only extensive evidential base for the contemplation and analysis of how societies function, and people need to have some sense of how societies function simply to run their own lives.” Peter Stearns (2007)
Info on Michel Foucault:

Paul-Michel Foucault (15 October 1926 – 25 June 1984), was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas. He held a chair at the prestigious Collège de France with the title "History of Systems of Thought," and also taught at the University at Buffalo and the University of California, Berkeley.


Foucault is best known for his critical studies of social institutions, most notably psychiatry, medicine, the human sciences, and the prison system, as well as for his work on the history of human sexuality. His writings on power, knowledge, and discourse have been widely influential in academic circles. In the 1960s Foucault was associated with structuralism, a movement from which he distanced himself. Foucault also rejected the poststructuralist and postmodernist labels later attributed to him, preferring to classify his thought as a critical history of modernity rooted in Kant. Foucault's project was particularly influenced by Nietzsche, his "genealogy of knowledge" being a direct allusion to Nietzsche's "genealogy of morality". In a late interview he definitively stated: "I am a Nietzschean."
Foucault was listed as the most cited scholar in the humanities in 2007 by the ISI Web of Science.
The English edition of Madness and Civilization is an abridged version of Folie et déraison: Histoire de la folie à l'âge classique, originally published in 1961. A full English translation titled The History of Madness has since been published by Routledge in 2006. "Folie et deraison" originated as Foucault's doctoral dissertation; this was Foucault's first major book, mostly written while he was the Director of the Maison de France in Sweden. It examines ideas, practices, institutions, art and literature relating to madness in Western history.
Foucault begins his history in the Middle Ages, noting the social and physical exclusion of lepers. He argues that with the gradual disappearance of leprosy, madness came to occupy this excluded position. The ship of fools in the 15th century is a literary version of one such exclusionary practice, namely that of sending mad people away in ships. In 17th century Europe, in a movement Foucault famously calls the "Great Confinement," "unreasonable" members of the population were institutionalised. In the 18th century, madness came to be seen as the reverse of Reason, and, finally, in the 19th century as mental illness.
Foucault also argues that madness was silenced by Reason, losing its power to signify the limits of social order and to point to the truth. He examines the rise of scientific and "humanitarian" treatments of the insane, notably at the hands of Philippe Pinel and Samuel Tuke who he suggests started the conceptualization of madness as 'mental illness'. He claims that these new treatments were in fact no less controlling than previous methods. Pinel’s treatment of the mad amounted to an extended aversion therapy, including such treatments as freezing showers and use of a straitjacket. In Foucault's view, this treatment amounted to repeated brutality until the pattern of judgment and punishment was internalized by the patient.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Foucault#Criticisms
Niall Ferguson
Historical Reasoning: In order to prepare for work by developing analytical skills:

The skills one uses in learning to read, analyze, and interpret history extend to many other aspects of life. Whether at home (for example, trying to determine the credibility of information on a website) or at work (e.g. doing research for a business report), skills learned in well-taught history classes have a lasting value. Such skills even help students do well on standardized tests of reading, though this can hardly be viewed as an end in itself. More important is that a different (and arguably more useful) type of literacy is needed for reading primary or secondary sources in history than is required for reading fiction.


A proper teaching of history, the Yearbook authors hold, can develop critical thinking among students, as well as built democratic attitudes. NY Times on NCSS Yearbook (NY Times, Feb 2 1947)
History is generally helpful to the third aim of education, preparation for work. It is needed for such professions as law, journalism, diplomacy, politics, and teaching. More broadly, historical study develops analytical skills, comparative perspectives, and modes of critical judgment that promote thoughtful work in any field or career.” Bradley Commission (1989)
History is useful for work. Its study helps create good businesspeople, professionals, and political leaders.” Peter Stearns (2007)
These are not the only reasons for studying history, of course. One can think of many more. What rings true throughout the centuries, however, is that history has always been an essential element of the educational curriculum. It is not a luxury or an add-on to be brought in if time allows. Its study is part of the life-blood of a society.
Info on Niall Ferguson:

Niall Campbell Douglas Ferguson (born April 18, 1964) is a Scottish historian who specializes in financial and economic history, particularly hyperinflation and the bond markets, as well as the history of colonialism.


Ferguson, who was born in Glasgow, is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University as well as William Ziegler Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, and also currently the Philippe Roman Chair in History and International Affairs at the London School of Economics. He was educated at the private Glasgow Academy in Scotland, and at Magdalen College, Oxford. During the 2008 U.S. presidential election, Ferguson advised Senator John McCain's campaign.
In 2008, Ferguson published The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, which he also presented as a Channel 4 television series. Both at Harvard College and at LSE, Ferguson teaches a course entitled "Western Ascendancy: The Mainsprings of Global Power from 1600 to the Present."
In October 2007, Ferguson joined the Financial Times where he is now a contributing editor. He also writes for Newsweek. Ferguson has often described the European Union as a disaster waiting to happen, and has criticized President Vladimir Putin of Russia for authoritarianism. In Ferguson's view, certain of Putin's policies, if they continue, may stand to lead Russia to catastrophes equivalent to those that befell Germany during the Nazi era.
Ferguson is an academic champion of counterfactual history, and edited a collection of essays exploring the subject titled Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals (1997). Ferguson likes to imagine alternative outcomes as a way of stressing the contingent aspects of history. For Ferguson, great forces don't make history; individuals do and nothing is predetermined. Thus, for Ferguson there are no paths in history that will determine how things will work out. The world is neither progressing nor regressing; only the actions of individuals will determine whether we live in a better or worse world. His championing of the method has been controversial within the field.
Ferguson is critical of what he calls the "self-flagellation" that he says characterizes modern European thought.
"The moral simplification urge is an extraordinarily powerful one, especially in this country, where imperial guilt can lead to self-flagellation," he told a reporter. "And it leads to very simplistic judgments. The rulers of western Africa prior to the European empires were not running some kind of scout camp. They were engaged in the slave trade. They showed zero sign of developing the country's economic resources. Did Senegal ultimately benefit from French rule? Yes, it's clear. And the counterfactual idea that somehow the indigenous rulers would have been more successful in economic development doesn't have any credibility at all."
Fellow academics have questioned Ferguson's commitment to scholarship. Benjamin Wallace-Wells, an editor of The Washington Monthly, comments that:
"The House of Rothschild remains Ferguson's only major work to have received prizes and wide acclaim from other historians. Research restrains sweeping, absolute claims: Rothschild is the last book Ferguson wrote for which he did original archival work, and his detailed knowledge of his subject meant that his arguments for it couldn't be too grand."
John Lewis Gaddis, a renowned Cold War era historian, characterized Ferguson as having unrivaled "range, productivity and visibility" at the same time as criticizing his work as being "unpersuasive". Gaddis goes on to state that "several of Ferguson's claims, moreover, are contradictory".
Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm has praised Ferguson as an excellent historian. However, he has also criticized Ferguson, saying, on the BBC Radio programme "Start the Week", that he was a "nostalgist for empire". 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niall_Ferguson#Career_as_commentator
Fernand Braudel 

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