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That Noble Dream

That Noble Dream
The 'Objectivity Question' and the American Historical Profession


Part of Ideas in Context

  • Date Published: February 1989
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521357456

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About the Authors
  • The aspiration to relate the past 'as it really happened' has been the central goal of American professional historians since the late nineteenth century. In this remarkable history of the profession, Peter Novick shows how the idea and ideal of objectivity were elaborated, challenged, modified, and defended over the last century. Drawing on the unpublished correspondence as well as the published writings of hundreds of American historians from J. Franklin Jameson and Charles Beard to Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Eugene Genovese, That Noble Dream is a richly textured account of what American historians have thought they were doing, or ought to be doing, when they wrote history - how their principles influenced their practice and practical exigencies influenced their principles.

    • Drawing on the published and unpublished writings of hundreds of American historians from J. Franklin Jameson and Charles Beard to Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Eugene Genovese
    • Covering the periods from the founding of the profession in the 1880s to World War I, the interwar years, World War II, the Cold War, and the mid 1960s onwards
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'A brilliant and fascinating book.' Laurence Veysey

    'A judicious appraisal of men and circumstances, erudite and wide-ranging. Irreverent but not nastily irreverent, with an admirable delicacy of touch.' William H. McNeill

    'An astute and provocative account of how the historical profession in America has dealt with its founding myth and central norm - the ideal of objectivity.' Dorothy Ross

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 1989
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521357456
    • length: 662 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 38 mm
    • weight: 0.91kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: nailing jelly to the wall
    Part I. Objectivity Enthroned:
    1. The European legacy: Ranke, Bacon, Flaubert
    2. The professionalization project
    3. Consensus and legitimation
    4. A most genteel insurgency
    Part II. Objectivity Besieged:
    5. Historians on the home front
    6. A changed climate
    7. Professionalism stalled
    8. Divergence and dissent
    9. The battle joined
    Part III. Objectivity Reconstructed:
    10. The defense of the West
    11. A convergent culture
    12. An autonomous profession
    Part IV. Objectivity in Crisis:
    13. The collapse of comity
    14. Every group its own historian
    15. The center does not hold
    16. There was no king in Israel
    Appendix: manuscript collections cited

  • Author

    Peter Novick

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