What Is History is a book by the British historian Edward Hallett Carr, based on his Trevelyan Lectures delivered in 1961. It is one of the most influential and widely read works on the theory and philosophy of history. In this book, Carr challenges the conventional view of history as a collection of objective facts, and argues that history is a continuous dialogue between the present and the past, shaped by the historian's interpretation and perspective.
Carr begins by asking what is history, and what is the role of the historian. He criticizes the empiricist approach that relies on the accumulation of facts as the basis of historical knowledge, and points out the limitations and biases of the sources and evidence that historians use. He also questions the idea of historical objectivity, and claims that all history is relative to the standpoint of the historian and his or her society. He then explores the concepts of causation, progress, morality, and truth in history, and examines how they are influenced by the changing values and interests of different historical periods.
Carr's book is not a systematic treatise on historical methodology, but rather a series of provocative and stimulating essays that invite the reader to rethink the nature and purpose of history. Carr does not offer a definitive answer to his own question, but rather encourages the reader to engage in a critical dialogue with him and with other historians. He also acknowledges the complexity and diversity of historical inquiry, and does not dismiss or reject alternative views or approaches. He writes in a clear, lively, and accessible style, with frequent references to contemporary events and examples from various fields of history.
What Is History is a classic work that has inspired and influenced generations of historians, students, and general readers. It is a book that challenges the reader to reflect on their own assumptions and beliefs about history, and to participate in an ongoing conversation with the past. It is a book that invites the reader to ask: what is history for meIn addition to his theoretical and historical works, Carr also wrote a biography of the Russian anarchist Michael Bakunin (1937), based on his extensive research in the Soviet archives. He also edited and translated several volumes of The Romantic Exiles (1933), a collection of memoirs and letters by Russian revolutionaries of the 19th century. Carr was fascinated by the personalities and ideas of these radical thinkers, who challenged the established order and sought to create a new society based on freedom and equality.
Carr's interest in Russia and its history was not only academic, but also political. He was a supporter of the Soviet Union and its socialist system, especially during the World War II and the early Cold War period. He saw the Soviet Union as a progressive force that opposed fascism and imperialism, and that offered a viable alternative to capitalism and democracy. He also admired Stalin as a strong leader who modernized and industrialized the country, despite his brutal methods and policies. Carr defended the Soviet Union against its critics in the West, and argued for a closer cooperation and understanding between Britain and the Soviet Union.
However, Carr's views on the Soviet Union changed in the late 1950s and 1960s, as he became aware of the atrocities committed by Stalin and his regime, and of the stagnation and repression that followed his death. He also witnessed the rise of nationalism and dissent within the Soviet bloc, as well as the emergence of new social movements and challenges in the West. He revised some of his earlier judgments and assumptions, and acknowledged the complexity and diversity of historical development. He also became more critical of the Soviet system and its ideology, and more sympathetic to the democratic values and aspirations of its people. aa16f39245