What is history for?

New York: Routledge (2005)
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What is History For? is a timely publication that examines the purpose and point of historical studies. Recent debates on the role of the humanities and the ongoing impact of poststructuralist thought on the very nature of historical enquiry, have rendered the question "what is history for?" of utmost importance. Charting the development of historical studies, Beverley Southgate examines the various uses to which history has been put. While history has often supposedly been studied "for its own sake," Southgate argues that this seemingly innocent approach masks an inherent conservatism and exposes the ways in which history, has, sometimes deliberately, sometimes inadvertently, been used for socio-political purposes. With traditional notions of truth and historical representation now under question, it has become vital to rethink the function of history and renegotiate its uses for the post-modern age. History in the 21st century, Southgate proposes, should adopt a morally therapeutic role that seeks to advance human happiness. This fascinating historicisation of the study of history is unique in its focus on the future of the subject as well as its past. What is History For? provides compulsive reading for the general reader and students alike.



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