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Historical Theory

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Historical Theory

Mary Fulbrook

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Writing history involves selection, imagination, creativity. What then is left of notions of objectivity? Is history really nothing but fiction masquerading as fact? Practising historians claim that their accounts of the past are something other than fiction, myth or propaganda. Yet there are significant challenges to this view. Different theoretical approaches provide competing explanations and interpretations; historical controversies are often closely connected with political commitments; and postmodernists have queried whether there is indeed any means of accessing and recounting the past ‘as it really was’. Written by a prominent historian, Historical Theory develops a highly Original argument in the context of recent debates. Against naive empiricism, Mary Fulbrook argues that all historians face key theoretical questions, and that an emphasis on the facts alone is not enough. Against postmodernism, she argues that historical narratives are not simply inventions imposed on the past, and that some answers to historical questions are more plausible or adequate than others. Focusing on central theoretical issues and strategies for bridging the gap between the traces of the past and the interpretations of the present, and deploying a range of substantive examples to illustrate the argument, Historical Theory provides an essential guide to and through major debates about the nature of history and representations of the past.

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