THE HISTORY PRIMER by J. H. Hexter

THE HISTORY PRIMER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

With a cursory nod to R. G. Collingwood, Carl Becker and C. G. Hempel, Hexter delves into a very abstruse, convoluted meditation on the nature of historical causality, which turns out to be a protracted polemic against those historians (unnamed) who would force Clio into the incommodious conceptual framework of the natural sciences. Historical explanation, according to Hexter, is neither deductive nor probabilistic; ""factor analysis"" does violence to the seamless web by applying ""encapsulation and closure."" Hexter prefers narrative history and a commonsense standard of credibility. None of this is terribly startling except for the methodology and presentation which is jarring and sensational. After initiating his readers with an admittedly gratuitous ""Non-Chapter,"" Hexter proceeds from example to bizarre example of how not to write history. (There are the cases of Muddy Pants and the Dead Mr. Sweet and a full ten pages on Galloping Gertie, or the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge complete with equations, ""causal inputs,"" and ""event constellations"" accessible only to architects and engineers.) As iconoclastic and opinionated a sally as his Reappraisals in History (1962) but without the historical substance.

Pub Date: Feb. 22nd, 1970
Publisher: Basic Books