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The Degradation of American History cover
  • ISBN: 9780226316178
  • ISBN10: 0226316173

The Degradation of American History

by David Harlan

  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
  • Publish date: 10/01/1997
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Description
American historical writing has traditionally been one of our primary forms of moral reflection. However, David Harlan argues that in the disillusionment following the 1960s, history abandoned its redemptive potential and took up the methodology of the social sciences. In this provocative new book, Harlan describes the reasons for this turn to objectivity and professionalism, explains why it failed, and examines the emergence of a new traditionalism in American historical writing.

Part 1, "The Legacy of the Sixties", describes the impact of literary theory in the 1970s and beyond, the rise of women's history, the various forms of ideological analysis developed by historians on the left, and the crippling obsession with professionalism in the 1980s. Part 2, "The Renewal of American Historical Writing", focuses on the contributions of John Patrick Diggins, Richard Rorty, Elaine Showalter, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and others. Harlan argues that at the end of the twentieth century American historical writing is poised to become what it once was: not one of the social sciences in historical costume, but a form of moral reflection that speaks to all Americans.

"History has always belonged to the moral disciplines, and Harlan makes a compelling case for its return to its earlier, pre-scientific calling. A fine, intelligent, and passionate book, quite unlike anything I have read in this field over the last forty years". -- Hayden White

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