The Landscape of History by John Lewis Gaddis
How Historians Map the Past

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What is history and why should we study it? Is there such a thing as historical truth? Is history a science? One of the most accomplished historians at work today, John Lewis Gaddis, answers these and other questions in this short, witty, and humane book. The Landscape of History provides a searching look at the historian's craft, as well as a strong argument for why a historical consciousness should matter to us today. Gaddis points out that while the historical method is more sophisticated than most historians realize, it doesn't require unintelligible prose to explain. Like cartographers mapping landscapes, historians represent what they can never replicate. In doing so, they combine the techniques of artists, geologists, paleontologists, and evolutionary biologists. Their approaches parallel, in intriguing ways, the new sciences of chaos, complexity, and criticality. They don't much resemble what happens in the social sciences, where the pursuit of independent variables functioning with static systems seems increasingly divorced from the world as we know it. So who's really being scientific and who isn't? This question too is one Gaddis explores, in ways that are certain to spark interdisciplinary controversy. Written in the tradition of Marc Bloch and E.H. Carr, The Landscape of History is at once an engaging introduction to the historical method for beginners, a powerful reaffirmation of it for practitioners, a startling challenge to social scientists, and an effective skewering of post-modernist claims that we can't know anything at all about the past. It will be essential reading for anyone who reads, writes, teaches, or cares about history.

About John Lewis Gaddis

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John Lewis Gaddisis the Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History at Yale University. A leading authority on Cold War history, his books includeWe Now Know, The Long Peace, andStrategies of Containment.
Published November 14, 2002 by Oxford University Press, USA. 207 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

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He takes on social scientists (especially economists), observing that as they attempt to become more “scientific” (establishing laws, making accurate predictions), they move in the opposite direction of today’s “hard” scientists: “When social scientists are right, they too often confirm the obvio...

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to what insights from one field can tell you about another.'' Historians have paid too little attention to these nonlaboratory natural sciences, Gaddis writes, but there are many unacknowledged similarities between the way they do their work and the way historians do theirs, and much that each ca...

Nov 17 2002 | Read Full Review of The Landscape of History: How...


Those who truly see the field of history as a narrative for the history of the world understand how this field of academic thought should be presented to the general public.

Sep 17 2012 | Read Full Review of The Landscape of History: How...

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