Part I is a stimulating, philosophical introduction to the key elements of history--evidence, narrative, and judgment--that explores how the study and concepts of history have evolved over the centuries.
Part II guides readers through the workshop of history. Unlocking the historian's toolbox, the chapters here describe the tricks of the trade, with concrete examples of how to do history. The tools include documents, primary and secondary sources, maps, arguments, bibliographies, chronologies, and many others. This section also covers professional ethics and controversial issues, such as plagiarism, historical hoaxes, and conspiracy theories.
Part III addresses the relevance of the study of history in today's fast-paced world. The chapters here will resonate with a new generation of readers: on everyday history, oral history, material culture, public history, event analysis, and historical research on the Internet. This Part also includes two new chapters for this edition. "GIS and CSI" examines the use of geographic information systems and the science of forensics in discovering and seeing the patterns of the past. "Too Much Information" treats the issue of information overload, glut, fatigue, and anxiety, while giving the reader meaningful signals that can benefit the study and craft of history.
A new epilogue for this edition argues for the persistence of history as a useful and critically important way to understand the world despite the information deluge.
The point of departure for the treatment of values and objectivity is an exceptionally heated debate on Cold War historiography in Denmark, involving not only historians but also the political parties, the national newspapers, and the courts. The in-depth analysis that follows concludes that historians can produce accounts that deserve the label "objective," even though their descriptions are tinged by ineluctable epistemic instability. A separate chapter dissects the postmodern notion of situated truths.
The second part of the book proffers a new take on historical explanation. It is based on the notion of the ideal explanatory text, which allows for not only causal—including intentional—but also nomological, structural, and functional explanations. The approach, which can accommodate narrative explanations driven by causal plots, is ecumenical but not all-encompassing. Emergent social properties and supernatural entities are excluded from the ideal explanatory text, making scientific historiography methodologically individualistic—albeit with room for explanations at higher levels when pragmatically justified—and atheist.
In this concise introductory guide, Stephen Davies:
- explains what historians mean by empiricism
- examines the origins and growth of the empirical method and how it has fought off challenges from other ways of studying the past
- assesses its application to an ever wider range of subjects
- shows how students can apply empirical methods to their own work.