BOOK REVIEW



What is History?
-AASTHA JOSHI


What is history? written by Edward Haller Carr is an amalgamation of various views of him about what history actually is and how is it suppose to be written.

It’s a classical contribution to the field of history and a treasure box for the lovers of history. Carr starts by discussing that history is all about facts and collection of as much facts as one can to strength the source of history. He says that some facts are like fish on the fish mongoose slab which are ready to be chosen and cooked. According to him facts are raw and only speaks when the historians cooks then to turn them into a dish. One fact is selected over other because its considered more importance and useful in the sight of historians. He said that use use facts to understand something larger so we have the historians in the present on one side ,making judgements about what facts are suppose to chosen. While we have other fact sources like dairies, treaties, document, letters butcertainly they are the source that tell us no more then what the author thought and so are one sided. He said about the classical liberal view of history that was extensively popular in the 19th century allows the historians to choose from the humongous market of facts would result in universal social harmony. He pointed out several probl9ems with this issue, the facts of past are only assessable through present. The ideas and word used then are also very applicable in the current scenario. To answer the issue of skepticism he said in his book that facts are collected and interpreted turning into a narrative. He says that the historians and continuously engaged in the process of collection of facts, interpreting them and again molding their facts and interpretation, it’s impossible to priorities one over other both have their equal share of importance and none of them can be neglected. He mentions in his book that past is only useful to us in the light of present and wecan’t fully understand the present with the reference of past, so the are interlinked. The process according to him is not an individual one because the person historians study were not located in isolation andvacuumed, they functioned in a social context with a proper environment and a physical surrounding and so it becomes important that we look towards and study the social forces,classes and the physical environment that existed so that we donot miss any important facts and information. He in his book said that the scientist no more spend time studying the nature but instead come up with results and hypothesis, test if it’s a fact and then reassess. Science is also driven by back and forth and also values the ideas and notions of present. He finds lots of objections questioning about history being a science, like its said that history deal with particular with unique events and dates but science deals in general but also argue that history is also general another argument was that history is unable to protect the future. Like science can predict only possibilities but history cannot be predicted prior. According to him search of causality is impossible without the reference to values behind the causality that lie directly or indirectly behind the incident. As we always learn and grow with history so to avoid total skepticism the facts and interpretations chosenand done by the historians should be organized with the idea of efficient progress. He says when we mean about historian object we mean two things,first that he has the capacity to raise above the limited versions of situation in the society and in the history. Secondly that he has the potential to project his vision into the future in such a way that they leave a more lasting and profound insight into the past that can be attained by the historians whose outlook is bound by their own immediate situation, and so historians must work in the direction of development. He has been criticized for having a different view about the history. The book in the beginning also reveals about the multiple professions of E.H Carr like philosopher, historian, journalist and biographer. This book would give the readers a deep insight about history and will make a aware about a very different perspective and ideology about the history, help them to makeup their own mind about the history. The book fully expresses that he has just not studied history but mastered in it efficiently. One cannot copy or create history by merely collection facts but by actuallycollecting various facts and putting them together to create a piece of history. The actual idea of history expressed is that we can certainly know more about the past then the past actually knows about us. Carr proposed the idea in the progress of history that each generation of historians assimilate the insight of previous generations, not replacing them but incorporating then to give a comprehensive and wide perspective The variety of ways in which he has portrayed his notions about history makes him one of the best historians of the last century. He moved forward to gave a systematic way of writing history so that it is approachable to wider section of people and incorporate various ideas within history. He is a leading historian for many who are studying history and his was of thinking influences young mind. This book is a must read specially for the students of historian and people perusing history in the near future. It would also keen the interested minds of history, so all those who are linked with history must read this book