A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and by John Burrow

By John Burrow

This unparalleled publication through one in every of Britain’s such a lot well-known historians describes the highbrow impression that the research and attention of background has had within the Western global over the last 2,500 years.

Treating the perform of background now not as an remoted pursuit yet as a facet of human society and a necessary a part of the tradition of Europe and the US, John Burrow magnificently brings to lifestyles and explains the certain characteristics present in the paintings of historians from the traditional Egyptians and Greeks to the current, together with Livy, Tacitus, Bede, Froissart, Clarendon, Gibbon, Macaulay, Michelet, Prescott and Parkman. the writer units out to not supply us the heritage of educational self-discipline yet a heritage of selections: the alternative of pasts, and the methods they've been demarcated, investigated, offered or even occasionally realized from as they've got replaced in accordance with political, spiritual, cultural, and (often most vital) partisan and patriotic situations. Burrow goals, in addition, to alter our perceptions of the the most important turning issues within the historical past of historical past, permitting the tips that historians have had approximately either their very own instances and their founding civilizations to emerge with unforeseen freshness.

Burrow argues that taking a look at the historical past of heritage is without doubt one of the best methods we need to comprehend the previous. definitely, this quantity stands on my own in its ambition, scale and fascination.

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Extra info for A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the Twentieth Century

Sample text

Herodotus lists conscientiously, sometimes amusingly, occasionally incredibly, w h a t became the standard objects of ethno­ graphic curiosity: clothing, diet, marriage and funerary customs, ranks of society, religious beliefs and practices, health and the treatment of disease. His o w n attitude throughout is tolerant and unshockable. As he says - i t is one of the ways i n w h i c h he anticipates Montaigne * - every people considers its o w n customs best, even those customs most bizarre to others.

These precursors and per­ haps contemporaries appear to have w r i t t e n accounts of peoples and cities, usually about their alleged origins. Another early writer k n o w n to us f r o m excerpts i n Dionysius is Hellanicus o f Lesbos, w h o wrote an early history of Athens, mostly mythical, and also o n the origins of peoples more generally - a k i n d of early universal history - and o n the customs of the Egyptians, Persians and Babylonians. Whatever differences there may be i n the quality of achievement, Herodotus' interest i n such matters was therefore n o t held i n isolation.

Warned by Cyrus, the Persians choose for preference to live i n a rugged land, but the association i n European thought and historiography conveyed by the phrase 'Asiatic softness' was to endure d o w n to the nineteenth century. The East-West antithesis was t o be highly significant for the Greeks and Romans. T h r o u g h them i t reached a particular pitch of intensity i n the European Enlightenment, and i t still echoes resonantly i n nineteenth-century historiography and the literature of imperialism, and i n this long tradition Herodotus is by no means the most biased and unqualified manipulator of i t .

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