Buy History in Practice 2nd Edition (Hodder Arnold Publication) 2 by Ludmilla Jordanova (ISBN: ) from Amazon’s Book Store. Everyday low. Is history a subject that primarily appropriates its theory from other disciplines? In this lively and readable study, Ludmilla Jordanova examines the many. Review of Ludmilla Jordanova’s History in Practice and Truth in Historical Writing By Abbey Mikha 1 What is truth? Can truth truly set a historian and a human.

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Farquharson wrote to the College authorities as follows: Hisyory the Council have any desire that the vacancy should be filled up, I beg leave to [ Soutaine to secure a warm testimonial from Thomas Hankey, who indicated that the cleric’s ‘first-rate talents as a preacher’ in addition to his ‘literary pursuits’ suggested that the candidate was ‘fully up to the fulfilment of duties’ of the professor of history 1.

To a reader of History in Practiceencounter with this historical incident would be more likely to provoke reflective comprehension than amused condescension. For as might be expected from a scholar who was trained initially as a natural scientist and then practised as a cultural historian of science in history departments at Essex ludmlila York before becoming Hitsory of Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia inJordanova succeeds admirably in her aim to place lidmilla practices of history in a wider disciplinary context.

Not only is she alive to the constructed nature of subject boundaries and their porosity, but also to the relatively recent date of their institutionalisation.

Here she fits into practiec long and fertile tradition of ‘outsiders’ who have helped historians to ludmillla on what they do and how they do it. As Patrick O’Brien has observed elsewhere on this website: What is of particular value about History in Practicehowever, is that it seeks to build a bridge between the insight of Hayden White et al.

Moreover, it does so using a prose style whose conceptual crispness and clarity of exposition makes the book a genuine intellectual pleasure to read from cover to cover. For Jordanova ‘the most important act historians perform is that of writing’ p. From prractice it follows that the practice of history should be identified not only with the archive, which has been the usual focus of reflections by historians on their craft from Mabillon to Marwick but with the written results of research and their audiences.

Attention should therefore be focused on interpretation as much as on sources. Directly related to this is the issue of ‘mediation’.

Jordanova uses this concept not only to describe how sources are ‘turned into’ historical narratives, practive also to refer to the processes by which sources themselves come into being as constituted by archivists, museum curators and historians. In her analysis, she is careful to emphasise that the strategies adopted by historians in order to interpret and mediate between sources and narrative are not sequential in a linear way that leads from scarcely intelligible and fragmented archival facts to a coherent narrative of events, with the historian as alchemist.

Rather she favours ‘a more dialectical way of imagining historical work’ p.

A highly significant implication of her foregrounding of this dialectical characterisation of historians’ practice is that it brings the notion of their audiences or publics centre-stage. It has long been publicly acknowledged that one cannot be an archaeologist on one’s own.

The very creation of archaeological evidence necessitates the teamwork and physical effort that make excavation possible and, incidentally, archaeology a media-friendly discipline since its practitioners can actually be seen to be doing something.

By contrast, the image of the historian as a lone researcher beavering away in dusty archives and surrounded by weighty tomes in libraries is hegemonic not only outside the academy.

The current AHRB policy of inviting bids for Subject Centres has discomfited not a few professional academic historians, who see their individual working practices as correspondingly undervalued and under threat. In the eyes of such scholars, this development is merely an updated version of lurmilla, to their mind, equally misguided attempt by the cliometricians of the s to turn history into a social science of the past staffed by computer-bound teamworkers in white coats.

Accordingly, a specific and welcome innovation of History in Practice, is the inclusion of a chapter dedicated to ‘Public History’. Here Ludjilla, as the guest curator of a highly successful and intellectually stimulating exhibition on ‘Scientific and Medical Portraits ‘ at the National Portrait Gallery last Summerwrites from a rare position as an academic historian with direct experience of the challenges of presenting historical arguments to the general public 4.

Of course, the term ‘Public history’ is by origin a N. American one that specifically refers to the work of historians and archivists active outside the university context in, for example, the National Park Service, Federal Museums and private corporations as authors of company histories or keepers of company archives 5. Unlike its UK counterpart, the not entirely helpfully entitled ‘Heritage studies’, it is not in the first instance concerned with analysing the preservation, interpretation and consumption of the past in practicr extra-academic context 6.

Indeed, the centrality of place and the latter’s role in constituting identities, has resulted in the fact that much of the most innovative work currently being undertaken in this area in the UK is being conducted not in history, but in geography departments 7. The very title of the recent report on the future of the historic environment, which was commissioned by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport DCMS and undertaken under the auspices of English Heritage – Power of Place – is revealing in this context.


Even more pertinent are the presuppositions and results of the MORI poll which was undertaken to assist the authors of Power of Place in their work lurmilla. The poll, in particular, substantiates Jordanova’s emphasis on the centrality of the role of state, as key funder of museums and archives, in public history, on the one ludkilla, and on the fact that: Committed as it is to social inclusion and the widest possible intellectual access, the DCMS adopted a deliberately all-embracing, definition of ‘heritage’ as its point of departure 9.

In their summary to the Poll findings, the authors refer specifically to the personal kudmilla of heritage, which specifically among non-white respondents tended to be defined in terms of non-built, cultural issues such as styles of dress and types of food. Moreover, they highlight another fast-growing, related trend which they call ‘polysensuality’:.

In this context, Jordanova’s observation that the past presented by museums ‘is highly refined, in the manner of processed foods, [which] renders both the original materials and the means by which they have been processed relatively invisible’ p.

Directly linked to this is her reflection on the ‘significant silences’ of museums, in relation to curators’ principles of selection, management and interpretation, [which] are rarely accessible to the general public and remain unimagined by them’ p. This leads Jordanova to discussion of ways in which museums not only satisfy curiosity about the past but also shape the very forms of the public’s curiosity, particularly by deploying unnecessarily crude models of causation and agency that are irresponsibly value-laden since they tend to operate within an idiom of heroes and villains.

Jordanova, however, is careful not to make the still frequently committed mistake which identifies ‘public history’ with museums. Indeed, a central plank of her discussion of the topic centres on the importance of genre and other literary conventions for any understanding of the practice of public history.

Viewed in this light, ‘public history’ must be an umbrella term, one which, furthermore, brings together two concepts ‘public’ and ‘history’ which are particularly slippery and difficult to define.

Just to take the former, it can mean: Justification for dedicating such a relatively high proportion of this review article to the subject of Public History can be found in the fact that this topic crystallises several of Jordanova’s central concerns with regard to the practising historian’s professional and ethical responsibilities to her publics, both inside and outside the academy. In particular, those who create knowledge need to make clear their position and, specifically, ‘to explain more openly to a wider public the processes through which historical judgements are reached’ p.

Indeed, there is a sense in which the whole book is a meditation on the words ‘history’ and ‘public’ and their interaction. Having so far largely focused discussion on Jordanova’s treatment of ‘public’, I would like now to devote the rest of my consideration of History in Practice to her treatment of ‘history’.

As the book’s very title implies, her approach is fundamentally an anthropological one, in that ‘it tries to make sense of the practices and ideas of a distinct group of people, without being overly prescriptive about what historians ought to do’ p.

If history is best understood as a set of practices rather than a constellation of beliefs and theories or a stable body of subject matter, then logically ‘History is indeed about what historians do’ p. Accordingly, Jordanova lets the student or lay reader in on the ‘secrets’ of the guild by giving her a tour of the subject infrastructures including professional associations and educational systems with their teaching and research agendas and by introducing her to world of academic publishing and its conventions pp.

This first chapter provides the reader with appropriate tools with which to map the discipline of history ch. After an ‘excursus’ into Public History ch. Of particular value in this book is Jordanova’s principled eclecticism and her openness to widely different approaches and methods. Whilst one might have anticipated her plea for the integration of the study of visual culture into historical practice, less expected is her impassioned defence of Clio’s current Cinderella, economic history.

She is also excellent on the problematic distinction between ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ sources and for the need to subject the latter to equally unsparing interrogation. Perhaps the section ludimlla the book which academic historians will find most contentious is her treatment of the status of historical knowledge in chapter four.

History in Practice Ludmilla Jordanova | The English Historical Review | Oxford Academic

Here Jordanova’s initial historical training in the field of history and philosophy of science comes to the fore. This is particularly so in her contention that ‘truth’ of either the upper- or lower-case variety assumes and indeed requires a completeness that history lacks pp.

She goes on to argue that ‘reliability’ and ‘trust’ are more realistic and appropriate aspirations. Adoption of the latter term clearly alludes to the assumption, shared with scholars of the history of science such as Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer, that knowledges are negotiated socially and imply a ‘community of belief’ It follows from this that the nature and status of historical knowledge cannot be constants and that there are many ways of knowing.


Belief in the social construction of knowledge suggests to Jordanova that ‘truth’ and ‘objectivity’ may not be the most helpful concepts for historians’ purposes, and that they should perhaps be replaced with ‘reliability’ and ‘judiciousness’ p. Such high-mindedness certainly commands the assent and admiration of this reviewer, but I wonder whether it carries so much weight and assent in the highly politicised wider world of usable pasts that Jordanova has so adroitly sketched for us elsewhere in the book?

Within the circumscribed world of academic historians I agree that such ground rules are pretty much taken for granted and indeed regarded as sacrosanct even at the level of the undergraduate essay.

However, I do wonder whether the ‘community of belief’ whose practices Jordanova has so helpfully analysed does extend very far into the public sphere. At this point, I want to follow the author’s own preference to avoid arguing out such issues in the context of extremes such as the Irving case.

Here I return to Jordanova’s crucial observation, mentioned above, that the general public has a tendency to take the past unproblematically as essentially ‘unmediated’.

One of the most worrying and potentially dangerous corollaries of this state of affairs is the tendency on the part of many lay enthusiasts who profess an interest in the past to believe and trust ‘expert’ opinion, especially when it is presented in a slick professional package on prime-time TV and fronted by one of the most articulate and intelligent members of the academic history profession.

On the evidence of at least the first series of episodes, without having seen the tie-in book and with the proviso that the second series, which overlaps chronologically with the presenter’s ‘own period’, might yet deliver the critical goodsSchama has clearly betrayed this public trust and purveyed a ‘drum and trumpet’ narrative of English history sic which in its social and thematic narrowness would have surprised even the Victorian author of that eloquent tag, J.

Even allowing for the constraints of ludmlla genre, Hlstory has singularly failed to draw the attention of the viewing public to the processes by which historical narratives are made not given. Prqctice, the Kings-and- Queens, and All That storyline of the BBC History of Britain Show arrogantly presumes that the viewing public cannot cope with argument and a multiplicity of voices even as the MORI poll recently commissioned by English Heritage unequivocally testifies to the variety and sophistication of public engagements ludmillla their historic environment.

The problem, it seems to me, is not how we are to bring to book such loony extremists as David Irving, but how we are to critique effectively such popular history presentations as Schama’s History of Britain. Jordanova has performed with considerable sensitivity and keen intelligence the valuable task of analysing the practices of academic history and the assumptions historj values they embody. She has also, as never before in the genre of ‘history primers’, hiwtory the centrality of audiences, both within and without the academy, and sketched in some of the implications this fact has for historians.

It is for us now to take up the ethical challenge she has laid before us and engage more fully with the public understanding of history. Philippa Levine, The Amateur and the Professional: For a concise statement of his position see; Hayden White, Tropics of Discourse: The most robust, recent restatement of the case for ‘common-sense’, empirical history is undoubtedly Richard J.

Evans, In Defence of HistoryLondon, The book has recently been reprinted January with a sixty-two page afterward responding to his critics, an earlier version of which appeared on this website.

For a challenging yet thoroughly accessible introduction to the intellectual issues raised by the exhibition see Jordanova’s accompanying book: Scientific and Medical Portraits London, For the most up-to-date survey see James B.

Essays from the FieldMalabar, Florida, See, inter alia, Michael Hunter ed. Public History in Britain NowLondon, See, for example, Brian Graham, G.

History in Practice 2nd edition

Tunbridge, A Geography of Heritage: Power, Culture and EconomyLondon, It should also be noted that one of the most widely read books in the field of heritage studies, David Lowenthal’s The Past is a Foreign Country Cambridge, with sales in excess of 60, copies, was written by a scholar who, although initially trained as a historian, spent a significant part of his academic life as a member of a department of Geography, at UCL.

The results of this poll hiztory be accessed via the English Heritage website at www. Government’s review of policies relating to the historic environment.

An invitation to participate English Heritage1 Prafticesection 1.

History in Practice – Professor Ludmilla Jordanova, L. J. Jordanova – Google Books

Civility and Science in Seventeenth-century EnglandChicago, For the wider context see now: Created Autumn by the Institute of Historical Research. Simon Ditchfield University of York Historians and their publics: Moreover, they highlight another fast-growing, related trend which they call ‘polysensuality’: More and more people are relying to a greater extent on their feelings and emotions in their everyday lives, at the expense of the purely rational.

Meaning and value will be placed on something if it satisfies the individual in different ways.