Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington is Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at the Australian National University, Canberra. She is also one of HTANSW's patrons and was particularly supportive of HTANSW's professional learning program when she was at Macquarie University. Marnie is a recognised authority on historiography. Her publications include How Good an Historian Shall I Be?: R.G. Collingwood, the Historical Imagination and Education (2003), History Goes to the Movies: Studying History on Film (2007) and Revisionist Histories (2013).
Fifty Key Thinkers on History is the recently published third edition of a book that is obviously popular around the world. It will already be familiar to many History Extension teachers who use it as a one of their core resources. The book presents concise profiles of fifty historians, from Herodotus (c. 484 - c. 424 BCE) to Niall Ferguson (1964 - ). Each entry offers some biographical information and an outline of each thinker's approach to history and influence. It is an ideal starting point for teachers and students seeking to equip themselves with knowledge of a broad range of historians.
On this reading I was particularly drawn to the entry on Richard Evans because of his forthcoming visit to Australia (see review below). As in all the profiles, it contains numerous quotes and observations that can be used to generate discussion. For example:
The "jigsaw" we build through the close appraisal of evidence is often so complex as to defy overarching generalisations and linear narrations of causes and effects. But this does not mean that it cannot be narrated.
The Evans entry concludes with some comments about the dangers of simplistic generalisation when we attempt to categorise historians:
It is all too easy to frame Richard J. Evans as the mirror image of postmodern writers such as Keith Jenkins. To be sure, Evans does hold to the independent existence of facts. But he also holds that evidence never bears a single meaning... labelling him as an empiricist masks some of the clear differences between his views and those of other writers who are often so labelled, like E. H. Carr and Geoffrey Elton. Nor, finally, should we conclude that his practice-based historiographical writing is impoverished in comparison to that of philosophers and intellectual historians.
One of the very welcome additions to the second edition was an introductory discussion on the question "What is Historiography?". While the introductory chapter in the third edition has been changed, much of the very useful discussion from the second edition remains or has been developed. The discussion about history 'improving' over time and the process by which it has been 'democratised' offers a context that may help students develop a clearer overview of historiography.
Who is in and who is out? Each edition sees newcomers and deletions from the select group of fifty. In the third edition Arnold J. Toynbee, Carl Gustav Hempel, W. H. Walsh and Cheikh Anta Diop no longer appear. The newcomers are Machiavelli, Ranajit Guha, William Hardy and Niall Ferguson.
Paul Kiem, HTANSW