The past has always been elusive: How can we understand people whose worlds were utterly different from our own without imposing our own standards and hindsight? Read more...
The past has always been elusive: How can we understand people whose worlds were utterly different from our own without imposing our own standards and hindsight? What did things feel like in the moment, when outcomes were uncertain? How can we recover those uncertainties? What kind of imagination goes into the writing of transformative history? Are there latent trends that distinguish the kinds of history we now write? How unique was North America among the far-flung peripheries of the early British empire?
As Bernard Bailyn argues in this elegant, deeply informed collection of essays, history always combines approximations based on incomplete data with empathic imagination, interweaving strands of knowledge into a narrative that also explains. This is a stirring and insightful work drawing on the wisdom and perspective of a career spanning more than five decades a book that will appeal to anyone interested in history."
- ISBN-13: 9781101874479
- ISBN-10: 1101874473
- Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
- Publish Date: January 2015
- Page Count: 320
- Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-11-03
- Reviewer: Staff
Bailyn (The Barbarous Years), a Pulitzer Prize winner and emeritus Harvard historian, has long pursued the history of the era of the American Revolution, of the ideas that animate humans, and, in his latest works, of the peopling of the Western Hemisphere. Here, his muscular style undiminished, Bailyn reflects on all three subjects, plus the challenges of thinking historically. The nine essays in this volume, three of them previously unpublished, go back as far as 1954, the latest being from 2007. Nonspecialists shouldn’t be daunted by the subjects of the essays—current trends (not so current now) in historical scholarship, why history’s losers must be made part of the story of the past, the history of Britain’s provinces, and comparisons between the settling of North America and Australia. Though these essays have no argumentative thread, no single shared link, everything Bailyn tackles is written about authoritatively and winningly. One wishes only that this master historian had rounded out the implication of his book’s title: yes, history is sometimes an art, but what of the times when it isn’t? Otherwise, it’s an omnium-gatherum of this master historian’s scholarship over six decades. (Jan.)