This page is dedicated to readings in history that are particularly good for inspiring debate – whether about classic issues, like the causes of WWI, or questions about the philosophy of history, the role of the historian, the nature of historical truth and enquiry. Please feel free to suggest chapters and articles that you have found inspiring or which may inspire others and we will attach them where allowed.
Within the generally excellent History in Focus website there is an excellent section (2. What is History?) on the theory of history which will provide you with an overview of the key thinkers from E. H. Carr to Ernst Gellner and R. J. Evans (including a defence of his book In Defence of History).
Below you will find downloadable chapters and articles.
E.H. Carr’s ‘What is History’, chapter 1 of which is entitled ‘The Historian and His Facts’ is an excellent place to start. How does he compare with Geoffrey Elton’s The Practice of History, which emphasises the objectivity of facts and history as a ‘science’?
More on E.H. Carr, this time an excellent article by John Mearsheimer about Carr’s realism in dealing with international relations between the Wars.
E.H. Carr vs Idealism – The Battle Rages On
Many of our history society contributors are interested in the role of counter-factuals in historical thought. Here is an interesting contribution to that debate, published by Gavriel Rosenfeld in the December 2002 edition of History and Theory, and entitled ‘Why do we ask what if? Reflections on the function of alternate history’.