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Studying History by Jeremy Black, Donald M. MacRaild (auth.)

By Jeremy Black, Donald M. MacRaild (auth.)

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There are particular tensions, for example, attached to the histories of peoples or nations with their emphases upon distinctness and uniqueness. The Whig view of English history is a fine example of this. This chapter also discussed how scholars and students of history must come to tenns with a number of key ideas if they are to understand the past more effectively. Historical studies are crucially shaped by the conception of what we call 'historical problems'. Using the concept of time itself, we argued that academics today see themselves not simply as story-tellers, but as problem-solvers.

The Scottish cleric William Robertson (1721-93) acquired a European reputation with his works, which were praised by Catherine the Great, D'Holbach and Voltaire, and he was elected to academies in Madrid, Padua and St Petersburg. ' The Scottish philosopher and Tory historian David Hume (1711-76) was best known in his lifetime as the author of The History qfEngland (1754-62), a six-volume work of enormous popular appeal which earned him considerable royalties. Hume's great work of history was primarily a synthesis, although he did conduct research in documents he felt to be relevant to his arguments and he employed explanatory notes; nor did he avoid critical controversy.

Hegel (1770-1831), the German philosopher, and writers like him, gave no credence to the role played by Mrican civilisation. While Mrican scholarship was well established by the early Middle Ages, principally through Islamic historians, European historiography was bitty by comparison. The Renaissance saw a revival of the cyclical view of history which had been popular with the Greeks and Romans. Behind the cyclical interpretation of history was the idea that great civilisations - for example Greece, Rome and Egypt - rose and fell, with new ones rising in their place.

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