Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Historians Behaving Bizarrely

What is going on with modern British historians today? Why can't they just concentrate on er, writing and teaching history?

Exhibit 1: 'A fascinating book...beautifully written, it is a rich and deeply moving history, which leaves the reader awed, humbled, yet uplifted … Figes visits their ordeals with enormous compassion, and he brings their history to life with his superb story-telling skills. I hope he writes for ever'
Orlando Figes reviewed by, er, Orlando Figes

Exhibit 2: Tristram Hunt tries to get himself elected in a previously 'safe Labour seat'

Perhaps one possible explanation is that, thanks to postmodernism, some of the latest fashions and trends in cultural history have taken a turn into places and areas that few other historians really want to follow. Take for example, this new work On Farting, which has garnered the following appreciative review (though one that is at least not written by the actual author):

'Allen takes the fart seriously, refusing to see it either as a marker of abjection or as mere rudeness but also managing to tread the fine line between the portentous and the jeu d'esprit. The book is witty and learned: a tour de force of scholarship and cultural history. The tone is perfectly judged. Allen argues for the fart as a threshold between nature and culture, audible and smellable, and therefore material and bodily, but also roguishly invisible: a challenge to the primarily visual emphasis of contemporary culture. Allen's book savours the power of the fart to call in question not only the canons of good taste but bad taste too, transmuting the whiffy and ineffable into the fresh and audible'

If this is the direction academic history is currently going, we can only expect more idiocy and egotistical attempts to make new careers elsewhere from professional historians. After all, if one wants to get paid to talk shit - then a career as a parliamentary politician offers far more remunerative possibilities...



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