The Changing Face of the Past: An Introduction to Western Historiography
Thoughtful and scholarly, yet accessible, The Changing Face of the Past: An Introduction to Western Historiography provides readers with an overview of the changing approaches to understanding the past in the western world over the last 2,500 years. Arguing that it is indispensable for students of history to have a familiarity with the history of their discipline, it demonstrates how these precursors were essential in forming our present views on how history should be composed. Beginning with the earliest historical thought—and ending with the twentieth century—the book explores diverse voices and perspectives on the past through a combination of expository essays by the author and carefully selected primary-source selections that reflect the essays’ most important themes.
The opening chapter addresses the basic concepts of history, historians, and historiography, providing definitions of key terms and critical information on the role and conventions of historians.
Subsequent chapters survey periods of history chronologically, adding philosophical context, and exploring the significance of varying viewpoints from the writers of the time. These chapters include:
- Beginnings: The Invention of History
- Roman History
- History in the Middle Ages
- Early Modern Historiography
- History and Enlightenment
- Historicism and Empiricism
- Into the Twentieth Century
As students read through the material they are exposed to some of the most important figures in the development of western historical thought, including Herodotus, Tacitus, Guicciardini, Gibbon, and Marx. They learn that history has never been the mere representation of past events. History can be purely pragmatic. It can be a moral enterprise. It can be an expression of culture. It can reflect the highest aspirations, and it can come from a place of crisis.
The Changing Face of the Past gives students a sweeping yet detailed introduction to important primary source material. It challenges them to consider what these writings say about the past and more importantly, what they say about history’s ongoing endeavor to describe, explain, and interpret it.
San Diego, CA
Dover, Paul M., "The Changing Face of the Past: An Introduction to Western Historiography" (2014). 2014 Faculty Bookshelf. 47.