Bloomsbury History: Theory and Method - Featured Content

Honesty, Truth, and Objectivity

Through a combination of exclusive articles written by leading scholars and eBook chapters exploring the nature and significance of history, this Topic in Focus allows you to reflect upon notions of honesty, truth, and objectivity in historical scholarship.

This image shows Leopold Von Ranke in his library, image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Notions of Objectivity in History and Philosophy

How do we define notions of objectivity? How have these definitions changed throughout history and historical practice? In Tor Egil Førland’s article Objectivity the author grapples with questions such as these with a specific focus on ‘perspective-independence,’ which Førland identifies as ‘the most salient dimension of objectivity.’ Beginning with the ideas of Leopold von Ranke and ending with the perspectives of postmodern history-theorists, this article establishes a timeline of objectivity and points towards a crucial question: what will the objectivity of the future look like?

➜ Explore further by reading Førland’s article.

This image shows a pile of Books.

Intellectual Honesty

Text: Why should the reader, professional, or amateur, within or outside the profession, trust what the historian has written? How can this trust be created and maintained? Engaging with the idea of intellectual honesty within historical and scientific study, Lutz Raphael and Benjamin Zechariah present the potential pitfalls, both socially and intellectually, of how truth and honesty are perceived within academic study. Throughout their article 'Intellectual Honesty and the Purposes of History', the authors explore how intellectual honesty and integrity can be maintained and regulated, particularly with regards to the ethical and professional implications of such honesty.

➜ Explore further by reading Raphael and Zechariah’s article.

This image shows Masculinity by Henk de Smaele, Adapted image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Truth and History on Screen

Historical narratives, both in literature and in film, are ever-present in popular culture. The history presented by these works, however, is frequently overlooked by historians as nothing more than popular entertainment. In Faye Sayer’s chapter from Histories on Screen: The Past and Present in Anglo-American Cinema and Television, the author seeks to establish the value of the moving image as a secondary source of historical information, exploring both the positive and negative implications of using films and television as secondary evidence for historical research – particularly when it comes to whether or not moving images can ever be regarded as ‘good history’.

➜ Read Sayer’s chapter ‘The moving image as a secondary source: Truth, authenticity and narrative’ to learn more.

This image shows Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Credit: Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

History and Collective Memory

In George G. Iggers’ paper The Role of Professional Historical Scholarship in the Creation and Distortion of Memory, the author explores the deeply-rooted relationship between the creation of history and the idea of collective memory. While memory an attached and committed recapturing of the past, professional historical scholarship sees itself in a different light; as a detached reconstitution of the past free from any moral judgements, a scholarly and even scientific discipline. And yet, Iggers argues, such a distinction is fraught with tension, with this idea of the historian as an ‘objective judge of the past’ being compromised by both political function and imperfections in the historical method.

Read Iggers’ paper ➜ The Role of Professional Historical Scholarship in the Creation and Distortion of Memory, taken from Historiography: Critical Readings, Volume III: Scientific Models: From the West to the World, to learn more.

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