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Historiography (Set of 7 Books)

Historiography (Set of 7 Books)
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Item Code: NAG412
Publisher: Indira Gandhi National Open University
Language: English
Edition: 2010
Pages: 336
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 11.5 inch X 8 inch
weight of the book: 964 gms


About the Book


Book 1: Understanding History

Book 2: Pre-Modern Traditions-1

Book 3: Pre-Modern Traditions-2

Book 4: Approaches to History in Modern Times-1

Book 5: Approaches to History in Modern Times-2

Book 6: Approaches and Themes in Indian Historiography-1

Book 7: Approaches and Themes in Indian Historiography-2


Book 1: Understanding History


In the toll owing set of essays some of the fundamental questions of historical methodology have been addressed. When we talk of method, we are not talking of something esoteric or unique in the craft of the historian. The methods historians use are commonly used by the man in the street as well in making his own judgments or statements about things and people around him. Our daily life involves our dependence on certain generalisations and causal connections we have made for ourselves on the basis of observation or of knowledge passed on to us by other observers. However, the difference between that mode and the historians' mode of making generalisation or causal connection is that the historians use deliberation and critical consciousness to arrive at judgments or narration of things that happened in the past, going beyond the limits of what is within his/her direct knowledge or the knowledge of people around him, and in doing so the historians examine and evaluate various kinds of evidence. It is the conscious application of the critical mind that distinguishes the methods used in history or social sciences from the manner in which a layman may form judgments about what is generally true or what is a cause and effect relationship in quotidian life.


To begin with we examine the method of arriving at generalisation in history and of testing the validity of generalisations (Unit 1) and causal connections (Unit 2). In the simplest manner possible the authors below have explained the philosophical basis of the principles developed in historiography over centuries. Statements about generalisation as well as causality involve inferences. A critical look at such inferences, often hiding at the back of our mind as unquestioned assumptions, is the crux of the matter in developing a set of principles or a methodology. While the first two essays makes us aware of the necessary critique of judgments concerning what is generalisable and what are the cause-effect links, the third one is about possible bias in judgments, i.e. the necessity of objectivity (Unit 3). Although in recent times the possibility of objectivity or, at any rate, complete objectivity has been questioned, claim to objectivity has been to ages the basis of history's truth-claim. Perhaps it is useful to think of the problem in terms of a sequence of approximations to objectivity through the critical discourse of history. Or else it would hardly be intellectually worthwhile to write history. A similar question is raised by the author of the next essay on ideology and history (Unit 4). Social formations in the past, it is observed, have contained and maintained supportive ideologies which create certain predispositions in interpreting history; the analysis of Karl Marx in this regard is focused upon by the author in course of a survey of the approaches to ideology in different stages of history.


On the whole, these essays in Block 1 explore some basic issues in the agenda of this course on historiography in that some concepts and modes of analysis used later are explicated here.


Book 2: Pre-Modern Traditions-1


What is Historiography?‌While History is an effort on our part to understand what happened in the past, historiography is about how such efforts were made in the past by people who composed history either by word of mouth or in a written form. Thus historiography is the history of history-writing.


It will be obvious to you if you think it for a moment that almost every person has some sense of history in that he or she has a memory of what happened to him or her and people known to him or her in the past. This memory is limited to what happened to that person in the past and perhaps what he or she observed happening to other people. When a person goes beyond that limited personal memory and tries to find out with deliberation what happened in the past of not only individuals but groups or communities or societies, that is an effort to compose history.


Beginnings of Historiography‌In the beginning of human history and even today there is a lot of history which is oral, i.e., not written down but recited, usually in the form of songs or poems to aid memorization. Thus in India there were bards as well as story-tellers and others who spoke to their listeners about the past. That was a kind of history. When history began to be written in some societies the result was a degree of permanency about it and also more people could be reached since something written can be passed from one person to another. Thus in the cultural history of mankind the writing of history entered a new phase.


In this collection of Units (Block 2) we look at the beginnings of history-writing in three ancient civilizations, those of India, China and Greco-Roman traditions. As the authors of the following Units have explained, the method of writing developed slowly and to different degree in different societies, but it is a mistaken notion that some societies had no sense of the historical. It will be more accurate to say that different notions of history existed in different cultural formations even if these notions do not quite match with what in modem times we call 'history'.


Historical Method‌The general trend in the writing of history was to develop certain methods and a body of knowledge derived partly from tradition and partly from observation and hearsay to begin with. In course of time some historians and these are people now regarded as precursors of historiography began to consciously apply methods to get their 'facts' right by getting 'them from authentic sources and by cross-checking with other sources. The best among them, in rare instances, also tried to overcome bias in favour of the community or country the individual historians belonged to. In essentials, the search for authenticity, the effort to cross-check evidences, the objective of overcoming bias, remain part of the historians' agenda to this day.


Book 3: Pre-Modern Traditions-2


In the following group of essays an attempt will be made to survey some major trends in historiography in the period following classical antiquity and preceding the modem period, i.e. the period generally described as the mediaeval period in European history. This three-fold division into ancient, medieval, and modem periods makes sense in European history: between the end of classical Greek and Roman civilisations and the commencement of the modem period with the Renaissance and the Reformation, the middle ages were commonly identified in modem European perception, as a distinct period. However, the same three-fold distinction makes little sense in non-European parts of the world. It is merely a convention which has established itself due to European cultural hegemony in the modem world. Hence we talk of the medieval period in Asian history. What were the trends in history-writing in the so-called medieval period in the European and Arab world and in India?‌

In the first place, a common trait was that the writing of historical narratives was often inspired by or influenced by religious traditions. This appears to be true of historiography in Europe (in the essay that follows this has been outlined from roughly the 8th to the 14th century) as well as Arab historiography (the period from approximately the 8th to the l 5 century has been surveyed below). In Europe the Christian Church was the main patron of and participant in scholarly activities, historical enquiries were deeply influenced by Christian theology and philosophy; and even the chronological frame of historical narratives was based on dogmatic canons derived from the Bible. A famous exemplar of the Christian philosophy of history was Augustine (354-430 A.D.) whose work entitled The City of God presented all that happened in history as manifestation of God's will, revealed through Christ, and ultimately leading Christians to 'the celestial city of God's faithful.' In the case of Arab historiography the historical sense was moulded by the Quran and the Hadis. The life and times of the Holy Prophet was the main theme of early histories, and the focus in the narratives was on the Islamicised countries and people of the world.


While the religious culture of the epoch left its mark on the historical thinking of the pre-modern scholars, there developed among scholars certain conventions and methods of scholarship as well. Thus in the Arab world one sees the beginnings of a critical method of ascertaining accurately the sayings and actions of the Prophet. In medieval Europe a similar tradition developed towards comparing texts, coliating and scrutinising different accounts of Biblical times, searching for evidence to prove or refute debated interpretations, and so forth. While the dogmas were incontestable: details of their foundation were subject to repeated examination and re-examination, particularly vigorously when rival schools of scholars were in contest.


While studying the medieval historiographic tradition, one must also pay attention to the factors which made the emergence of modem hi storiography from out of that tradition possible. In medieval Europe there were potentials for developing a discourse of history that was independent of the churchly tradition and these potentials developed to maturity towards the end of the middle ages. To begin with, there existed a narrative tradition pre-dating the churchly writings on history there was a vernacular tradition, sometimes pre-Christian in origin and inspiration. Thus for example there were the annals now collectively known as Anglo-Saxon Chronicles in England and the annals of the Lombards in France. This oral tradition coexisted with the church-sponsored histories in the Latin language. Secondly, there was another source of a relatively secular tradition of writing in the historical narratives patronized by great feudal lords, e.g. Charlemagne, King of the Franks, or Frederick I, the German monarch. Thirdly, there was an internal development in historiography which was in the direction of a methodology of critically reading documents to establish their authenticity; the late mediaeval scholars' effort to study paleography, the study of manuscripts, the style of writing and the language of documents, etc. to establish date and authorship and genuineness of documents was eventually summed up in a masterly work, De Re Diplomatica (1681) by Mabillon.


Book 4: Approaches to History in Modern Times-1


In this Block of the Course we shall focus upon three of the important traditions which developed in modem historiography in Western Europe in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a period of growth of technology and stabilisation of industrial and financial capitalism, as well as the consolidation of the scientific advances made in Europe since the seventeenth century.


Among the philosophical approaches studied in this section Positivism and Marxism aimed to bring into existence a 'scientific' basis for historiography. However, the premises on which a scientific history was to be developed were different for these schools of thought. In the early twentieth century there emerged a third school of history-writing, owing its inspiration in particular to Marxism, in the approach associated with the French journal Annales. Altogether these three thought trends and initiatives radically altered the historians' agenda of research in modern times.


The Positivist philosophy, as developed by Auguste Comte, was a pioneering effort to view history as a social science. History, according to Positivist point of view, was to enter a stage in advance of the previous stages of theological and metaphysical interpretations of history. Comte believed that some general laws of social evolution could be derived from a scientific study of history. The Positivist trend of thought had an affinity with the Empiricist tradition which goes back very far in terms of its origins. But the old Empiricist outlook was recast in modern times by philosophers like George Berkeley, David Hume and John Stuart Mill. In professional historical writings the impact of empiricism was evident in the research methods prescribed and practiced by Leopold von Ranke and his followers. The essence of this method was to examine the past in its own terms without being judgmental about it from the present perspective. Further there was great emphasis from their time onwards on the authenticity of sources, accurate reference to or citation of sources, and an ideal of' objectivity'.


Meanwhile, as Rankean influence spread, there developed a much more radical and fundamental critique of older historiography. In the following pages an attempt has been made to chronicle and assess this new development, the Marxist approach to history. The Marxist tradition has gone through many phases; in the following pages the focus is on the early stage of 'Classical' Marxism, i.e., the contribution made by Karl Marx himself towards constructing a theoretical framework for analysing history as the struggle between classes and evolution of different stages of production relations between classes. This method is also illustrated in the application of this approach by Marx in some of his historical writings, mainly on European themes. At a later stage in this course, in Block 6, we shall examine how the Marxist tradition influenced writings on Indian history,


In the period from around the first World War there developed a kind of skepticism about the 'objectivity' supposed to be attained, according to the Rankean school, by depending on primary sources; it was perceived that different nations, at war in 1914-1918, had been for decades presenting different versions of national history; each historian claimed authority derived from archival sources but the accounts were often at variance with the perception of historians on die other side of the national boundaries. Moreover, the narratives constructed depended heavily upon documents collected by the state for its own purposes, i.e., accounts of events and actions concerning diplomats, politicians, bureaucrats and the like. Long-term processes, specially those which affect people's social and economic life, were marginal to that old perspective. An outcome of such dissatisfactions led to the growth of a new approach to history which is associated with the journal founded in 1929, Annales d'histoire economique et sociale. Originally led by Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre, the Annales recast the agenda of historians and continued to do so for decades.


Book 5: Approaches to History in Modern Times-2


Historiography is not just about narration of the past; it is also about the theoretical positions or inclinations embedded in the narratives. There are trends of thought which are manifested sometimes in the form of theories about history in the abstract, and sometimes as unstated assumptions behind the narration of histories. These thought trends do not necessarily originate in the discipline of history. These may originate in the discourse of pure philosophy or political thought or social concerns. Historiography has been affected by these trends and has also contributed to their development.


In the following units, nos. 15 to 18, we shall consider certain thought trends which influenced the writing of history in the recent decades. To introduce, within the limited space of a small essay, these trends and their theoretical underpinnings was not an easy task for the authors. Moreover, these very recent developments are subjects of intense debate and controversy. The authors were left free to present their subjects in the light of their perception of these developments and it is hoped that in the exercises scheduled in the contact hours between the students and the Faculty teaching this course the issues raised in these essays will be discussed more fully.


It will be pointless to anticipate and duplicate in this Introduction what the following essays say. The issue that needs to be addressed is this: Of the many thought trends one could take up for discussion why are those discussed below supposed to be more important than the others? This question leads us to the core of the issue of the relationship between historiography and the society which produces and nurtures historical enquiry. As human society has evolved, new issues have come to the fore or new approaches to age old issues have developed. Consider for instance gender and the writing of history. It is the recent concern and debates about the subordination of women and the need for the empowerment of women which gave rise to the gender sensitive approach to history. It began to be felt that women were rendered invisible in the received version of history, that conventional history has been to repeat a cliche which represents an accurate perception history has been 'his story', i.e. man's story leaving the woman out. The resultant search for a history inclusive of women has greatly expanded the scope of historical enquiry, a change which is tantamount to a revolution in historiography.


Another neglected aspect of history which the following pages highlight is the issue of race and race relations. In the last half of the twentieth century the process of de-colonisation and the emergence of many former colonies into independent status brought in its wake a new awareness of racism as a factor in the ideology and practices oi imperialism; the efforts to critically understand, the phenomenon of Nazism in Europe also focused on the same question. In more recent years the 'race problem' in multi-ethnic societies and the large scale migration in the era of economic globalisation provided further impetus to the study of race as a category in historiography, Race has been a political construct. in the discourse of domination in various societies from early times, but its systematic critique in historiography really began in the last few decades in response to the developments mentioned above.


The relevance of Marxism in contemporary historiography scarcely needs elaboration. Consider the political entities (ranging from political parties to states) which declare themselves to be 'Marxist': for the major part of the twentieth century their presence, their political praxis, and their ideological agenda were infused with a Marxist historical vision. While that vision avowedly did not alter radically, within the discipline of History there has been a considerable change since the days of classical Marxism. In a survey of these changes, the concerned essay (Unit 15) points out why the Marxist approach continues to be an important strand in contemporary historiography finally, we may note that while-the categories of Gender, Race and Class are central in the units discussed above, the category of Modernity is in focus in the essay on, post-modernist history. While there are rather few practitioners of the theory of post-modernism in the field of History, it 'is an influential source of ideas in literary criticism and some areas of history like cultural studies. It is a controversial approach to history indeed it is regarded by some historians as the negation of history and a careful reader will notice that there is a strong critique of post-modernism in Unit 17.



Book 6: Approaches and Themes in Indian Historiography-1


In the following collection of essays you will be introduced to some of the leading' schools' of history in India since the beginning of the nineteenth century. When we talk of schools in historiography we group together various writers of history on the basis of some common traits: characteristics may be shared by a number of historians in this manner due to many reasons. Sometimes it is what we call the influence of the times, i.e. the fact that people sharing a common historical experience may tend to have a unity of approach. More often this unity of approach may be due to common interests of a class or a status group. A third source of a common approach to history may be due to ideological inclinations which of course is not unconnected with perceptions of community of interests.


Whatever the origin of shared ideas and an approach to history may be in a 'school', they usually remain unstated by the individual members of the school in their works. In our study of historiography we try to identify the common characteristics and their possible origins and it should be possible to do so without necessarily attributing motivation or assuming intentionality. Moreover, as has been pointed out below in the first Unit in this Block, not every member of a school of history may share every characteristic of the school as a whole: it is the dominant trend in a school which one aims to characterise.


For the major part of the nineteenth century the school of historiography which occupied a hegemonic position in India was the Colonial school. The author of the Unit on this theme has " pointed to the series of historical writings which may he identified as colonial, and then he has pointed to the ideological positions commonly held by the historians of this school; this is followed by an evaluation of the contributions and the limitations of this school of historiography. Ibis is, by and large the pattern of all the Units in Blocks Six and Seven, i.e. this and the following Block.


Since the themes of Colonial, Nationalist, Communalist, Marxist and the Cambridge School interpretations are examined separately in different Units in this Block by different authors, what you might miss is the contestation between these schools, a reflection of ideological contestation between them. But, on the other hand, the conflict and debates between these schools of history writing may be easily surmised. If the Colonial school focused uponthe benefits of British rule, the Nationalists pointed to the exploitative and oppressive aspects of colonialism, while the Marxists focused upon the class exploitation that accompanied colonial exploitation. The Communalist historians (Hindu and Muslim communalism included in this category) distinguished themselves from the others in emphasising overwhelmingly on the differences which allegedly made it inevitable that India would be divided on communal lines; in some writings of the Colonial historians, the Communalist point of view was anticipated or "reinforced. The so-called Cambridge School, as will be evident from the essay in this Block, was characterised by what was represented as a 'revisionist' approach, critical of the Nationalist school in particular, and sometimes reviving the old ideas of the nineteenth and early twentieth century colonialist point of view. However, the historians of the so-called Cambridge school often display a diversity in their approach and interpretative framework and you may well wonder if they constitute a 'school' in a rigorous sense of the term. Be that as it may, on the whole what the essays in Block 6 tell us is that History has been the site of contestation between various ideologies. But this does not exhaust the range of ideological positions which have been taken in relation to the Indian past. In Block 7 we shall explore some other ideological positions and‌consequent historiographic approaches.


The bottom line, when you consider the different schools of historiography, seems to be that historians interpret the past in the light of the different ways in which they imagine the future.


Book 7: Approaches and Themes in Indian Historiography-2


In the previous group of Units, Block 6, we have examined some leading 'schools' of historiography. These were the Colonialist, Nationalist and Communalist schools (if one can call their mishmash of ideas a 'school') as well as the Marxist approach and the so-called Cambridge school which emerged in critical response to other approaches. In Block 7 we turn to the examination of some more recent trends which prevail ill contemporary research: (a) the growth of some new interpretative attempts in writing history from a 'non-elite' point of view, and (b) the development of specialised areas within historiography in recent research.


The exposition of these themes, in so far as the exposition is concerned with very recent and contemporary writings is qualified by the fact that the perspective on the

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