Sometimes an art Nine essays on history

Bernard Bailyn

Book - 2015

"From one of the most respected historians in America, twice the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, a new collection of essays that reflect a lifetime of erudition and accomplishments in history. The past has always been elusive: how can we understand people whose worlds were utterly different from our own without imposing our own standards and hindsight? What did things feel like in the moment when outcomes were uncertain? How can we recover the uncertainties of the past, before the outcomes we...re known? What kind of imagination goes into the writing of transformative history? Are there latent trends that distinguish the kinds of history we now write? How unique was North America among the far-flung peripheries of the early British empire? As Bernard Bailyn argues in this elegant, deeply informed collection of essays, history always combines approximations based on incomplete data, with empathic imagination and the interweaving of strands of knowledge into a narrative which also explains. This is a stirring and insightful work drawing on the wisdom and perspective of a career spanning more than five decades--a book that will appeal to anyone interested in history"--From publisher's website.

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Subjects
Published
New York : Alfred A. Knopf 2015.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Item Description
"This is a Borzoi book"--Title page verso.
Physical Description
xi, 307 pages
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9781101874479
1101874473
Main Author
Bernard Bailyn (-)
  • Part One. On history and the struggle to get it right
  • Considering the slave trade : history and memory
  • Context in history
  • Three trends in modern history
  • History and the creative imagination
  • The losers
  • Part Two. The peripheries of the first British Empire
  • Thomas Hutchinson in context : the ordeal revisited
  • England's cultural provinces : Scotland and America (co-authored with John Clive)
  • Peopling the peripheries
  • The search for perfection
  • Appendix.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Perhaps best known for his seminal 1967 work, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Harvard historian Bailyn's professional life has been broadly dedicated to understanding the English-speaking world in the colonial era. The nine essays in this volume, written at various moments in Bailyn's career, show the author at the top of his game, deeply immersed in his specific area of inquiry but also contemplating broader questions about historiography and the goals of historical inquiry. One key theme is the challenge of context, which is the historian's duty to provide but which also presents methodological and even moral pitfalls. Another theme is the role of creativity in historical inquiry, and in one of this selection's more personal (yet unfailingly scholarly) essays, Bailyn pays tribute to historians whose innovative methods revealed "hitherto submerged worlds" while also acknowledging the limitations inherent to such disruptions. Essays on Loyalists in the American Revolution and Thomas Hutchinson, the Royalist governor of Massachusetts, circle back to Bailyn's colonial bailiwick. Recommended for anyone considering a scholarly career in history; casual history buffs may also appreciate Bailyn's rigorous and erudite perspective. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Bailyn (The Barbarous Years), a Pulitzer Prize winner and emeritus Harvard historian, has long pursued the history of the era of the American Revolution, of the ideas that animate humans, and, in his latest works, of the peopling of the Western Hemisphere. Here, his muscular style undiminished, Bailyn reflects on all three subjects, plus the challenges of thinking historically. The nine essays in this volume, three of them previously unpublished, go back as far as 1954, the latest being from 2007. Nonspecialists shouldn't be daunted by the subjects of the essays—current trends (not so current now) in historical scholarship, why history's losers must be made part of the story of the past, the history of Britain's provinces, and comparisons between the settling of North America and Australia. Though these essays have no argumentative thread, no single shared link, everything Bailyn tackles is written about authoritatively and winningly. One wishes only that this master historian had rounded out the implication of his book's title: yes, history is sometimes an art, but what of the times when it isn't? Otherwise, it's an omnium-gatherum of this master historian's scholarship over six decades. (Jan.) [Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Drawing on a career spanning more than five decades, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and one of the most respected historians in America presents a new collection of essays that reflect on a lifetime of erudition and accomplishments in history.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"From one of the most respected historians in America, twice the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, a new collection of essays that reflect a lifetime of erudition and accomplishments in history. The past has always been elusive: how can we understand people whose worlds were utterly different from our own without imposing our own standards and hindsight? What did things feel like in the moment when outcomes were uncertain? How can we recover the uncertainties of the past, before the outcomes were known? Whatkind of imagination goes into the writing of transformative history? Are there latent trends that distinguish the kinds of history we now write? How unique was North America among the far-flung peripheries of the early British empire? As Bernard Bailyn argues in this elegant, deeply informed collection of essays, history always combines approximations based on incomplete data, with empathic imagination and the interweaving of strands of knowledge into a narrative which also explains. This is a stirring and insightful work drawing on the wisdom and perspective of a career spanning more than five decades--a book that will appeal to anyone interested in history"--From publisher's website.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A collection of essays explores how the art of chronicling history requires weaving together strands of knowledge and drawing on imagination to describe the past without imposing modern standards on events.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

From one of the most respected historians in America, twice the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, a new collection of essays that reflects a lifetime of erudition and accomplishments in history.The past has always been elusive: How can we understand people whose worlds were utterly different from our own without imposing our own standards and hindsight? What did things feel like in the moment, when outcomes were uncertain? How can we recover those uncertainties? What kind of imagination goes into the writing of transformative history? Are there latent trends that distinguish the kinds of history we now write? How unique was North America among the far-flung peripheries of the early British empire?As Bernard Bailyn argues in this elegant, deeply informed collection of essays, history always combines approximations based on incomplete data with empathic imagination, interweaving strands of knowledge into a narrative that also explains. This is a stirring and insightful work drawing on the wisdom and perspective of a career spanning more than five decades—a book that will appeal to anyone interested in history.