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The Duties of Historians

Kousser, J. Morgan (2000) The Duties of Historians. H-Net Reviews . ISSN 1538-0661.

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Beneath its calm tone, Prof. Benedict’s long, thoughtful, and at times quite sympathetic review of my book challenges assumptions about the purposes of history and the duties of historians that lie at the book’s (and other books’) foundations. Thus, Benedict questions, among other things, the propriety of choosing and exploring historical topics in part out of a desire to contribute to current policy debates; the utility of combining historical, social scientific, and legal approaches; the desirability of openly declaring one’s convictions and contending with opposing viewpoints; the likelihood that clear statements and explicit tests of hypotheses and open consideration of all major pieces of evidence will allow conclusions to be and to be seen as objective; and the possibility of assigning motives to historical actors. Do historians necessarily betray their profession and their objectivity by focusing on topics relevant to contemporary policies? Must they appear dispassionate, their histories, bloodless? Can historians assess human motives, or are people’s capacities for rationalization so overwhelming and the probability of unintended consequences of their actions so high that any search for motives is fruitless? Putting the skeptical views of historians’ objectivity and their subjects’ subjectivity together, is historical knowledge even possible? It is worth taking a bit of space to respond to such questions.

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Alternate Title:Colorblind Injustice: Minority Voting Rights and the Undoing of the Second Reconstruction
Additional Information:Debate on review of Colorblind Injustice on H-POL (subset of H-NET). Book review of: J. Morgan Kousser. Colorblind Injustice: Minority Voting Rights and the Undoing of the Second Reconstruction. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999. 608 pp. (paper), ISBN 9780807847381; (cloth), ISBN 978080782431-3.
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ID Code:41621
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Deposited On:15 Nov 2013 19:48
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 05:50

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