In this analysis the writer seeks with some measure of conservative passion to highlight major assumptions posited by Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt and Margaret Jacob describing how pertinent it is to “Tell the Truth about History.” Also, with equal energy similar critique of a fine piece of historic literary evidence would be undertaken as ‘Postmodernism in History – Fear or Freedom’ is espoused by Beverley Southgate.
Evidently, historians have carved the concept ‘Postmodernism’ to bring clarity regarding what is acceptable historical evidence for assumptions created in the past. Precisely,with distinct segments of the society being labeled victims and others victors; heroes and others mere losers; successful and others non-achievers, it is imperative that a paradigm be perceived to free souls from these ashes of the past.
Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, Margaret Jacob and Beverly Southgate have professionally distinguished these obvious fallacies, which made the history of some glorious and that of millions disgraceful. It is with this discrete aim for reformative evaluation, that the writer embraces these scholarly debates in presenting an exposition and analysis of the authors’ theoretical propositions and conclusions.
Telling the Truth about history 2003 by Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret Jacob. Truth and Objectivity pages 241-270.
As the debate begins readers are directed towards interpretations of ‘truth’ advancing an objective approach in defining elements within an historical context when related in the past; present and projections of the future. From the tone it would appear that these authors had personal struggles deciphering ‘truth ‘of their own history, Diaspora and social content affiliated with it.
Precisely, three absolutisms were dethroned. They are firstly, Enlightenment’s faith in the heroic model of science; secondly, Laws of human development embedded in the inevitability of human progress inclusive of Marx’s theories. Thirdly, Nationalistic histories that gave people a sense of superior identity. (Appleby, Hunt & Jacob 2003)
Further deliberations point towards an era whereby it has become imperative for historians to unclothe themselves from such historical idiosyncrasies and face the truth of their own existence, that of others within the society and world.
Judging from this paradigm the authors’ call for massive reformation regarding how scientific knowledge is created and dispersed, is heard. A serious reassessment of ‘speculated truth’ as it relates to ‘profound truth’ must be undertaken in the twenty-fist century for history to be relevant. It ought not be mere ridiculous assumptions of human pre-existence as a social species, but truth born out of objectivity, has been the argument.
Conclusively, the authors have posited, “Our version of objectivity concedes the impossibility of any research being neutral … and accepts the fact that knowledge seeking involves a lively, contentious struggle among diverse groups of truth-seekers.” (Appleby, Hunt & Jacob pp. 268).
This statement culminates the debate, which even with more objectivity infiltrating declarations of truth, there is still the likelihood of subjective embedment within research conclusions. Hence, a perpetual struggle among different groups must be embraced for ‘profound truth’ to emerge out of ‘speculations of truth’ based on egotistic, individualistically charged historical paradigms.
Postmodernism in History – Fear or Freedom by Beverley Southgate pages 27-58
Beverley Southgate begins the argument with an astounding statement projecting postmodernism in history to be closely linked with attitudes. Its adaptations, she claims, reveal that is has made “uneasy partners” (Southgate 2003). This was in direct response to describing its influence pertaining to fear or freedom.
More importantly, she further ascribes postmodernism among Historians as being infected with ‘bouts of severe pomophobia’ (Southgate 2003), which, more precisely, implies ‘the intellectual equivalent to crack.’(Southgate 2003). These seminal assumptions incorporate concepts posited by Samuel Auguste Tissot (1768); Professor Norman Davies ( 2011) and Charles Jencks (1992).
In concluding the theoretical assumptions of her counterparts, it was highlighted that in Professor Norman Davies’ (2011) remarks he viewed postmodernism merely as a pastime which had nothing to do with historians, history, neither what historians do. ” (Southgate 2003).
While contradicting these presumptions, Southgate turns to David Harvey’s (1989) propositions to assert the notion of postmodernism sharing concerns alongside alternative disciplines such as art, literature, social theory, psychology and philosophy. With this conceptual framework in place, Southgate then, suggests that the integrity of a Historian must be assessed from these other disciplines for transparency. Definitively, it is within these parameters that “uneasy partners’ emerge. (Southgate 2003).
It was then postulated that the greatest fear paralyzing this culture of history internationally, according to Southgate, is that’ the object of their (Historians) passion is subject to critique.’ (Southgate 2003).Historians cannot accept that there is more to discover beyond what has been seen; more to history apart what has been told and there are truths which have not been revealed due to deliberate attempts to conceal.
Freedom is therefore, synonymous with the future when taken from a postmodernism perspective. It is confronting the real world. In the author’s point of view, judging from assumptions advanced, there will always be historians who would enjoy perpetuating the nomadic theory of human evolution. Alternatively, there are a dedicated few who would embrace a future where history does not define presence, but rather inform opportunities ahead that would foster personal and collective development as a people.
In this exposition and analysis of scholarly debate engaging Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, Margaret Jacob and Beverly Southgate the writer presented theoretical perspectives contained in ‘Telling the Truth about History’ and ‘Postmodernism in History – Fear or Freedom.’
A new lens for historians, potential historians and the world at large through which history can be viewed was designed in the analysis of truth and concepts of postmodernism. The truth is yet to be free of subjectivity and subjectivity must swiftly fly out its doors as an alien. Hence, objectivity emerging from transparency mingled with social justice has been the cry of diverse groups in the twenty-first century.
What is truth as it pertains to history? Simply, none of us know! Just as how there are still suppositions as to how life began on earth and human species came into existence, even so, history that has not been witnessed carries with it immense inconclusive speculations. Are myths told in the bible true or accounts of scientific evolutions authentic? No one living now was there to give accurate account of the experiences offered as theories.
These are the mitigating challenges modern day historians face as issues pertaining to “Telling the truth about history’ and ‘Postmodernism in History: Fear or Freedom’ are espoused. Do Historians, really, have an unusual fear of telling the truth as suggested in Postmodernism? Are their senses so thwarted that they deny the truth being argued by Southgate?
In concluding my personal perspective in the exposition and analysis of these scholarly debates, it must be emphasized that neither Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, Margaret Jacob nor Beverly Southgate have convincingly assessed the notion of finding truth in a way for the reading audience to be ignited with the belief that history could one day be trusted to tell the truth.
Appleby, J. Hunt, L. Jacob, M. (2003), Telling the Truth about history, W. W. Norton &
Company, New York.
Southgate, B, (2003), Postmodernism in History – Fear or Freedom,
Supplemental Reading list
Arnold, John H, (2000), History: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford
Bauman, Z, (1997) Postmodernity and its Discontents, Polity Press, Cambridge.
Budd, A,( 2009) The Modern Historiography Reader: Western Sources, Routledge, London
Burke, P, (1992), History and Social Theory, Polity Press, Oxford.
Cannadine, D, (2002), what is History Now? Palgrave Macmillan, London
Charlton, T, (2007), History of Oral History: Foundations and Methodology,
AltaMira Press, New York.
Davies, N, (2011), Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half Forgotten Europe. Allen
Lane, New York.
Fischer, F, (1970), Historians’ Fallacies: Towards a Logic of Historical Thought, Harper
& Row, New York
Smith, B, G, (2000), The Gender of History: Men, Women, and Historical Practice,
Harvard University Press, New York
Woolf, D, (2011) “A Global History of History” Queens University, Ontario