HISTORY AS ART AND AS SCIENCE by Stuart Hughes

HISTORY AS ART AND AS SCIENCE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

These days the study of history, rather like history itself, is in flashing flux; disciplines once distinctly separate, such as anthropology, sociology, economics, psychology, even physiology and linguistics, are now dumped on the historians's tables along with the usual documents and period-pieces. Heatedly everyone is asking: What then is history, what are its limits and latitudes- in short, what is the philosophy, its methodological provenance? Entering the debate is Harvard's Stuart Hughes, a public -- spirited savant who recently and unsuccessfully ran in the Massachuseths senatorial race. His speculations, snappy in sense and substance, re-examine, re-evaluate and revamp traditionally opposing points of view, from the Idealism of Ranke, Dilthey and roce, essentially contemplative and subjective, to the Positivism of Bloch and Febvre, stensibly objective and analytical or observational. He notes Voltaire's sassy saying that history is only the ""tricks we play on the dead"", but believes the historian's labors are- (and he implies no derogation)- half-art, half-science, i.e. wherever we take our schematic structure, whether grounded in the environmental, the humanistic or whatever, the narrative sweep, the spirited interest is a necessity too. Thus he envisions the esthetic and the scientific enriching each other in an integrated whole. Nothing revolutionary, certainly, but it clears the air, clarifies the scene.

Publisher: Harper & Row