Postmodernism and the Study of History

In defending the study of history, Richard J Evans argues that the extreme exponents of Postmodernism are Emperors with No Clothes.

Richard Evans | Published in History Review

Reading through recent articles published in this magazine, whether they are dealing with Bismarck, Peter the Great of Russia, the French Revolution, or the origins of the First World War, or indeed with any of a whole range of major and largely traditional topics in modern political history, it is hard to avoid the feeling that they are as much concerned with historiography as with history. In order to understand any aspect of history, it seems generally agreed, we have first to understand what historians have written about it. But what if that was all we needed to understand? What if the past itself was unrecoverable in any meaningfully objective sense, what if historians, instead of merely interpreting and reinterpreting it, simply made it up as they went along? What if, in other words, there was no difference between history and fiction?

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