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The Purpose of the Past
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Table of Contents

The Purpose of the PastIntroduction
1. "Influence" in History
2. Anachronism in History
3. Narrative History
4. The Lessons of History
5. Continuity in History
6. History and the New Historicism
7. History as Fiction
8. History as High Politics
9. Microhistory
10. Truth in History
11. History Versus Political Theory
12. History Without Ideas
13. History and Heritage
14. Comparative History
15. Postmodern History
16. Satirical History
17. Multicultural History
18. History and Myth
19. History as Cultural Criticism
20. Race, Class, Gender and History Writing
21. Presentism in History
Index

About the Author

Gordon S. Wood is the Alva O. Way University Professor and professor of history emeritus at Brown University. His 1969 book, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, received the Bancroft and John H. Dunning prizes and was nominated for the National Book Award. Wood's 1992 book, The Radicalism of the American Revolution, won the Pulitzer Prize and the Emerson Prize. His 2009 book, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815, won the New-York Historical Society American History Book Prize. In 2011, Wood was awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Obama. He contributes regularly to the New Republic and the New York Review of Books.

Reviews

A Pulitzer Prize winner on how the study of history has changed-for better and for worse. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

The subtitle of this latest offering from Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Wood (The Radicalism of the American Revolution) is far grander than what he delivers between the covers: a collection of 21 book reviews of works by Simon Schama, Theodore Draper and Joyce Appleby, among others, written over the past three decades for periodicals like the New York Review of Books and the New Republic. Though reviews are occasional pieces not designed to be republished years later, some of Wood's pieces make enduring points. He lambastes scholars who clutter their writing with unintelligible jargon, and he worries that today's historical scholarship, too driven by present concerns, fails to retain a sense of how the past really is different. He makes clear that he prefers old-fashioned political history to cultural history that draws on postmodern theory. Indeed, the book is maddeningly repetitive: Wood invokes Peter Novick's This Noble Dream over and over, though not as often as he laments the use of theory in cultural history and the "radical Foucault-like agendas" that seem to drive certain literary historians. This volume is not without merit, but rather than appending a short afterword to each review, Wood would have done better to craft a new, unified reflection on the discipline of history. (Mar. 17) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"Essential reading for anyone who cares about history."
-Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

"Illuminating . . . [Wood's] pitch-perfect erudition is legendary."
-Douglas Brinkley, Los Angeles Times

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