In this incisive look at the history of history, Hunt asserts that globalization will inspire a new paradigm acknowledging...


A noted historian offers a lucid overview of her changing field.

“History is always under construction,” writes Hunt (History/UCLA; Inventing Human Rights, 2007, etc.) in this study of the current state of historical writing. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, histories served the purpose of reinforcing national identity, telling a story meant to provide disparate ethnic groups, classes and regions with a common sense of their country’s past. By midcentury, however, new perspectives emerged, influencing research and writing: Marxism, which focused on class struggles; modernization, which investigated the transmission of knowledge and the conflict “between modernizing forces and traditional groups who are left behind”; the French Annales school, which examined society, social groups and economies; and identity politics, which looked particularly at women, minorities and immigrant groups. These four paradigms, the author argues, were undermined by cultural theories emerging from the 1960s to 1990s: Race studies, queer studies, gender studies and post-colonial studies served as critiques, insisting that “race, gender, and class could not be viewed as stable categories determined by biology, demography, or economics” but rather were “shaped by unstable systems of interrelationship created by shifting cultural values.” Beginning in the ’90s, many historians developed a new interest in transnational and global history, posing a challenge to redefine the boundaries of society. Historians thinking globally widen their scopes to consider the relationship of humans to the natural world, individuals’ psychology and the connection between biology and culture. Hunt offers some startling examples of global interactions—e.g., the desperate demand for Chinese rhubarb, used as a purgative in 17th-century Europe, which affected travel, economics and the transmission of medical knowledge from China to Europe. When tea drinking became a popular leisure time activity, it inspired importation of special cups, saucers and teapots and influenced the creation of meals as “important domestic activities” signaling refinement.

In this incisive look at the history of history, Hunt asserts that globalization will inspire a new paradigm acknowledging the importance—and inevitably—of cross-disciplinary and collaborative inquiry.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-393-23924-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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