is a 1961 non-fiction book by historian Edward Hallett Carr on historiography. WHAT IS HISTORY? His parents’ political creed of free-trade liberalism seemed to be justifying its ascendancy: material living standards were rising; suffrage was expanding; and the period of peace and prosperity that stretched from end of the end of Napoleonic Wars was lengthening. ... Edward Hallett Carr. What is history (second edition) Item Preview remove-circle Share or Embed This Item. Or at least they have done for a section of Western society. However reading this book, a basic introduction to history, I feel its a brilliant book and it does give a different viewpoint of history and its development. And no return is possible.’ (1). History according to EH Carr The historian was prescient in warning that the value of facts depends on who wields them. It’s dialectical in the sense that truth does not lie in one particular part, or in the subject or the object, but in the whole that mediates the existence of the parts. And that to understand the past we must also understand the future. The resulting work was his 14-volume History of … Among avowed liberals, the verdict was no less damning. every Sunday. He also pointed out that a historian’s work cannot be written with out understanding the mind and time in which it came from. First published by Macmillan 1961. Yet this judgement is not only hasty; it also hides what makes Carr’s work of continuing value. So it is our longings in the present, our sense of the future, our self-determined teleology, that lends the absolute in history its always provisional definition, its never finalised, but deepening meaning – and it is our struggles, our conscious activity that constitute the movement of the absolute. The significance of his work has become as doubtful and uncertain as the significance of the revolution that inspired it. (1961) First get your facts straight, then plunge at your peril into the shifting sands of interpretation - that is the ultimate wisdom of the empirical, common-sense school of history. That was until what Carr referred to as ‘the catastrophe of 1914’. Frank believes that "the readings in, What is History? When he died in 1982, aged 90, he was still viewed as a formidable, authoritative public intellectual from an era in which the divide between public and academic had yet to become an iron curtain. Carr recognised that history as a discipline does not follow the logic of discovery. It is actually during a posting to Riga in Latvia in the early 1920s, when finding himself bored, disillusioned and gradually immersing himself in Russian literature, that his world starts to tilt. His faithless faith. In other words, subjective elements (as mentioned above) undermine the objective interpretations, techniques of plot, character, and atmosphere "and carry them to a peak of perfection that has never been surpassed" (1976, 55). He noted that while the belief of Victorian liberals that their creed was moving history in the right direction had its problems, they possessed something too many in the West now lacked: ‘a sense of change as a progressive factor in history’. A story of history-making in action became a story of politicians in conversation, a painstaking chronicle of meetings and decisions, of planning and statecraft. The absolute, the movement of history, persists. A scholarship boy at Merchant Taylors’ School, he moved effortlessly on to study classics at Cambridge under AE Housman, before embarking on what ought to have been an entirely and conventionally successful career in the civil service, or more precisely, the Foreign Office. has been answered in different ways over the years. Book review of Edward Hallett Carr Essay, History is something we live with everyday. This is why Carr, in opposition to Karl Popper, maintained that the ends in history towards which we struggle – including at that moment, communism – were of their very nature, unfalsifiable; because they are always developing in the stream of history. Which Carr’s purpose is to expose the correct …show more content… This was the break, the rupture, the moment when Carr was catapulted out of the world in which he, as he put it, felt ‘secure’. ... philosophy of history is seen to influence Carr, firstly, in that it contributes to an epistemological idealism that underlies Carr’s approach to understanding historical experience. He was the brilliant historian who, thanks to his 14-volume history of Russia after 1917, was feted, in the words of his friend Isaac Deutscher, as ‘the first genuine historian of the Soviet regime’; he was the man who had birthed the discipline of international relations, with his real-politik championing of appeasement in The Twenty Years’ Crisis: 1919‑1939, published, with grim irony, as Hitler’s Germany rolled into Poland; and he was the author, most famously perhaps, of What is history? So, argues Carr, The History of Rome, written by the German classicist Theodor Mommsen in the mid-1850s, presents an idealised version of Caesar, partly because of Mommsen’s frustration with the German people’s inability to fulfil its political aspirations after the failure of the 1848-49 revolutions. So for 1960s civil-rights activists, the aspiration for political and legal equality, provided them with a sense of the inequalities and injustices of the past; and for Carr’s more avowedly Marxist contemporaries, such as Christopher Hill or EP Thompson, the disillusionment with Stalinism and the aspiration for a native English democratic socialist tradition generated their splendid social histories of the English Civil War and the 19th-century working-class. One worldview may be falling, but others are emerging, with their own as yet inchoate ends, in light of which the past will be interpreted in the present. Carr discerned a significant shift in Western society’s relationship to the processes of change. Yet to think that Carr slipped into ‘the bottomless pit of subjective relativity’, as he himself put it in 1953, is to misunderstand the historical vision that he was in the process of developing. We’re going to have to fight for freedom, democracy and sanity all over again this year, and spiked intends to play our part. The answer lies in the book on which his popular reputation still rests: What is History?. Carr was no fabulist, no magical historicist, conjuring up history to suit his whims. is the classic introduction to the theory of history. Professor Carr shows that the 'facts' of history are simply those which historians have selected for scrutiny. It was actually born as a series of GM Trevelyan lectures, delivered to a packed hall in the University of Cambridge between January and March 1961. is that it is a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts, an unending dialogue between the present and the past” (35). he even criticises the American historian Carl Becker who, in 1910, argued that ‘the facts of history do not exist for any historian till he creates them’. The result, at its highest points, is an unusually developed historical consciousness, a consciousness of the perpetual this-worldly transcending of what is, a consciousness of the necessity and, above all, the promise of historical change. Historical truth exists, but as process. So if it is not in Carr’s actual history of Soviet Russia that his sense of history is manifest, then where? still provides a powerful retort to cultural pessimism. e reasons why History shou d not !e ca ed a science+ 1/ History deals e&clusively with the uni(ue, science with the general+ Carr disa*rees, sayin* that the historian constantly uses generalisation to test his e#idence. Second edition 1987. On the other hand, he is never totally independent of it and its unconditional master.’, Carr is arguing, then, more broadly, that subjectivity and objectivity constitute a dynamic, ever shifting unity, and, more specifically, that the historian is neither free to make things up, nor compelled simply to record what is. In Edward Hallatt Carr’s book, What is history? As Carr rightly said, “History is a continuous dialogue with the past”. They were, as Carr put it, ‘unverifiable utopias’. Until recently, every time I paged through it I couldn't help but deride its maddeningly simple-minded premise: in a series of lectures at Cambridge in the 1950s, Carr set out to actually answer the question what is history. And what grants the interpreter, the de facto historian, this degree of freedom, this space in which to revise, is… history. Academia.edu is a platform for academics to share research papers. 1–24. But not immediately. And to the seeming inhumanity of the mind, Carr’s numerous critics, refusing to let Cold War animosities go, have been quick to add the inhumanity of the man. My childhood memories of history and the learning of history were enhanced by the omnipresent familial legacy of my great-grandfather, EH Carr, nicknamed “the Prof”. Oops! The Soviet regime to which he pledged his intellectual allegiance, as the rational, planned society of the future, had within a few years of his death been consigned to the past. History is and every changing chain of events and fact that have been spread over time. Thus, both the realist philosopher of history Michael Stanford and reconstructionist historian Arthur Marwick emphasised Carr's judgement that the answer … … Reviews There are no reviews yet. Even the publication of Jonathan Haslam’s largely sympathetic biography The Vices of Integrity in 1999 served only to reinforce the denigration of Carr rather than rectify it. E. H. Carr Edward Hallett Carr was born in 1892 and educated at the Merchant Taylors' School, London, end Trinity College, Cambridge. ‘Remembrance of these things 60 or 70 years later’, he wrote in 1979, ‘must, I feel, sharpen one’s consciousness of the deep cleft which divides that remote age from the present, and of the historical process that brought it about. Well, yes, to an extent that is what he’s saying, although in arguing this, Carr never doubts the facticity of reality – he merely argues that the stuff of history is constantly in the process of being illuminated by the changing light cast by the development and trajectory of the present. Carr argued that history is always constructed, is a discourse about the past and not a reflection of it. For Carr very greatly wanted to be loved, and he much preferred women’s company to men’s, although he treated his women so badly.’. Helpful. Carr’s absolute is thoroughly humanised – hence Carr’s use of the pronoun ‘we’ in the following passage: ‘[The absolute] is something still incomplete and in process of becoming – something in the future towards which we move, which begins to take shape only as we move towards it, and in the light of which, as we move forward, we gradually shape our interpretation of the past. 3 people found this helpful. Please try submitting the form again. You can find out more here. It persists in and through those today who are in the process of sensing their own ‘unverifiable utopias’, be they new forms of democracy or an enlarged sphere of freedom – those, that is, who have the future in their bones. Rather the ends in the light of which we make sense of the past are constantly being revised and fought over by us in the constantly developing present. He graduated with a degree in classics in 1916. Carr’s own trajectory was similarly and assuredly upwards. Thank you! How do they know what really happened at that time. Published in Pelican Books 1964. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, Carr’s attitude to the Bolsheviks was personally ambivalent, and professionally obstructive, working as he was for the Foreign Office’s Northern Department to impose a trade embargo on revolutionary Russia. There is a clear parallel with Thomas Kuhn's notion that most scientific research operates of necessity within the confines of a dominant paradigm. ‘The facts are available to the historian in documents, inscriptions and so on, like fish on the fishmonger’s slab’, he writes. One reviewer saw fit to reduce his intellectual output to the tribute a ‘misanthrope’ pays to power, be it in the form of Hitler or Stalin. ), But the charge of relativism would still seem to stand, wouldn’t it? What is history? A civilisation perished in 1914. Be the first one to write a review. No one doubts, for instance, that in 1688, King James II of England was overthrown, and William III, Prince of Orange, installed in his place. Another concluded, with a sigh of relief, that Carr was ‘a cold-blooded colossus, whose like we shall not see again – thank God’. So Paine’s interpretation of the Glorious Revolution as a moment of aristocratic reaction is made possible by his present immersion in the radically democratic tumult of the American and French revolutions. It is the historian who has decided for his own reasons that Caesar's crossing of that petty stream, the Rubicon, is a fact of history, whereas the crossing of the Rubicon by millions of other people before or since interests nobody at all. He is saying that they don’t exist in and of themselves, as self-contained units of meaning out there in the world. It discusses history, facts, the bias of historians, science, morality, individuals and society, and moral judgements in history. Publication date 1990 Topics History, Historiography Collection opensource Language English. And what a bullying, barbarian world it is now!’. He joined the Foreign Office in 1916, and, after numerous jobs in and connected with the F.O. 2021 is looking an awful lot like 2020 so far – lockdown authoritarianism, Big Tech censorship and woke hysteria continue to run amok. If you enjoy what we do, and you have a bit of money to spare, please do consider donating to spiked – or even better, becoming a regular donor. Asking about objectivity, context and society when studying history. It discusses history,facts,the bias of historians,science,morality,individuals and society,and moral judgements in history. The book originated in a series of lectures given … I had long been interested in history and had the benefit of excellent teachers but had never read anything specifically on what it meant to do or to write history. 17 Carr, The Twenty Years’ Crisis, pp.3–4. Or better still, the historical vantage point provided by his or her present. WHAT IS HISTORY WHAT IS HISTORY? 3 Peter Wilson, ‘Radicalism for a Conservative Purpose: the Peculiar Realism of EH Carr’, Millennium, 30(1), 2001, 123-136 (see 123-124). In Edward Hallatt Carr’s book, What is. As Carr writes, ‘the concrete ends pursued by mankind arise from time to time out of the course of history, not from some source outside it’. It is huge, detailed and architecturally intimidating, tracing the development of the Soviet state from its Bolshevik inception through to its bureaucratic Stalinist apotheosis. Carr begins his essay by criticizing the common misconception, often held by Positivists, that history is simply about the gathering of facts. If the theological Day of Judgement is the point at which God steps in to deliver his verdict on mankind, Carr’s secularised version is daily generated and delivered by us. ‘In those [pre-1914] days there was an ordered way of life, a law, a temple and a city – a civilisation of sorts’, reflected the Bloomsbury Group patriarch, Leonard Woolf, in 1939. But Carr is not dismissing facts. (5) E. H. Carr, What Is History? This is why the Lenin that emerges on Carr’s pages appears less as a revolutionary and internationalist than as a nation builder, a constitution designer. Another point make is that the facts aren’t even in a pure form. Even £5 per month is a huge help, allowing us to keep bringing you our free articles, essays and insights every day. No, it is the worldview of the today’s elites that is in peril, not the world itself. From this point onwards, he is forever trying to come to terms with and understand a world that is no longer immediately his – no longer his parents’, no longer that of his class. Indeed, he mocks the empiricist tradition of Locke and Hume which informs, as he sees it, the commonsense view of history, in which facts are assumed to exist independently of the observing or knowing subject. That is to say, as Carr argues, the meaning of the past is always being mediated by the concerns, hopes and desires of the present. But if the Great War cracked the confidence of Britain’s ruling classes, the Russian Revolution delivered the shattering blow. We should continue to engage in such a dialogue with the past, revisiting and revising accepted historical facts by accepting there is no such a thing as absolute truth; and ultimately, achieve greater relative objectivity, aiding us to understand the past better for the purpose of the present. At best, his judgement looked questionable. (Carr 1961: 29). As one of his myriad detractors put it, ‘Carr today has a special claim to attention: he was consistently and egregiously wrong’. Rather, we play an active, interpretive role in producing facts. Not that it began life as a book. In mid-20th-century Britain, there was still much talk of change, he continued, but ‘the significant thing is that change is no longer thought of as achievement, as opportunity, as progress, but as an object of fear’. in a European History course in my final year of high school. History has not been kind to EH Carr. When he is mentioned, it is with bile in the throat. E. H. Carr's What Is History? This sentiment ran like a black thread through the British culture of the 1920s and 1930s, prompting the declinist visions of historian Arnold Toynbee just as much as the apocalyptic yearnings of WB Yeats or the grinning fascist daydreams of Wyndham Lewis. It’s been happening for centuries. Stone then kindly laid bare the conjugal catastrophe of Carr’s domestic life: ‘there were three Mrs Carrs (not one, as The Times obituary claimed), and each marriage ended in hideous circumstances: one wife was left when she already had terminal cancer, another abandoned, when Carr was almost 90, because she was “depressing”. On the left, Sidney and Beatrice Webb proudly announced the ‘the moral bankruptcy of capitalism’ in 1922, while the historian GDH Cole declared in The Present Confusion, published in 1933, that the intellectual case against capitalism had become ‘overwhelmingly strong’. The absolute, then, does not exist at the beginning or at the end of time. The poet Siegfried Sassoon echoed Woolf’s sense of rupture and loss: ‘What a peaceful world it was! Rather, the truth of reality lies in the generative process by which things come to exist and appear as things – a process in which humans, as active, increasingly self-conscious subjects, play an ever greater determining role; and, likewise, the truth of history, lies in the generative process by which meaning, significance and facts are constantly being established – a process in which humans, as increasingly historical subjects, play an ever more conscious role. If Bakunin and Dostoyevsky give him an intellectual shove, it’s the Great Depression of 1929 that delivers the decisive push. He had almost come of age, and yet the world in which he was to be initiated, the world in which he thought he would make his way, was at that very moment coming to an end. Now, this could sound like Hegel’s Geist, or some supra-personal ruse-happy reason. History means interpretation. Facts do not speak for themselves; they speak for us. But it was more than that, too. 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