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About JPlat

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  • Real name: Jason Platzer

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  1. JPlat added a post in a topic Teaching history   

    I agree that it's not a good thing to learn less about more. What I'm saying is that at the high school or undergraduate level you need to have a sense of scope. You need to understand the historical narrative in my opinion in order to be able to understand at a deeper level later on. For example, imagine getting to graduate school as a European history student and studying the social impact of the French Revolution when you've never covered the French Revolution or the Enlightenment at undergrad. You'd be totally out of your depth.

    Case in point, I read The Russian Revolution by Shiela Fitzpatrick recently. I had heard that it was one of the best introductory texts on the Russian Revolution. Keep in mind, that I had never read anything on the Russian Revolution and didn't really know anything about it. The book, though only 200 pages, was basically an exposition on the causes and implications of the Revolution. In short, it was great introductory study assuming you already knew the facts. I did not, so I found myself fumbling around a bit.

    My own personal style is to understand the event or period at an overview level first (to get a sense of scope) then do the deep dive. As another example, I read Gordon Craig's Germany 1866-1945 and The Germans, as well as Steven Ozment's A Mighty Fortress, before doing a deeper dive into the Reformation or Sonderweg theory for example. I agree that thematic study has it's uses; I myself am very interested in cultural and intellectual history. But how could a student understand the impact of modernity on Weimar Germany and why the conservatives longed for the time of Bismarck without knowing who Bismarck was and why that time was preferable?
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  2. JPlat added a post in a topic History and Philosophy   

    Richard Evans wrote a book called In Defense of History which is more up-to-date and covers the historiography from Carr through Jenkins. Although it has a Marxist slant, this was the first serious book I read on history. I tend to agree with Evans that Carr is more reliable for mainstream historians; more traditional if you will. White and Jenkins are postmodernists, and while I'm not convinced by most of their views, there are some I agree with. To the postmodernists, history is a text, written by historians. In other words, we cannot produce an exact carbon copy of the past containing all the knowable facts and insights. Because of this, historians are forced to get their facts right first (as stated in Carr), then interpret them. It's the interpretation that the postmodernists don't like. They feel as though traditional historians massage the data to support their own thesis (which they undoubtedly do). Where we differ I think is that traditional historians feel that there is something valuable still to be learned from this explanation. The greatest value which I believe the postmodernists have afforded the study of history is in forcing traditional historians to "say what they mean" and to clarify themselves. I think the post-modernist challenge has made traditional historians more thoughtful and in the end better historians.
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  3. JPlat added a post in a topic History and Philosophy   

    I find that the more I study the more skeptical I become. Historiography starts to slip into philosophy on some levels because ultimately you ask yourself whether objectivity or absolute truth is even possible. Since history is the study of man studying man, it automatically introduces bias into any historical work. As Carr says, an historical fact is only a fact because some historian rescued it from the dustbin of history. Otherwise, it would just be a fact. So I think true objectivity, as in being able to approach history from "outside" yourself as an impartial observer is impossible.

    I think it's important to have a philosophical view on such things as objectivity and truth and whether or not they are possible. Epistemology is hugely importantly I think to the study of history. Still, any presuppositions you bring along as an historian only adds to the bias you already introduce into your work. The real question then, is history, and by extension knowledge itself, even possible?
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  4. JPlat added a post in a topic Teaching history   

    I realize this thread is a year old but I'm just coming across it now. Steven Ozment wrote in A Mighty Fortress that, "Even today a tour of German history can be a circular journey around a magnetic Nazi pole, mesmerizing the general public and distracting historians and politicians eager to move on". One of the challenges of European history, German history in particularly, is breaking free of the World War II orbit.

    I agree that a chronological framework would be best. I know there are many historians that would rather teach thematically (social/economic/cultural history) as opposed to a strict chronological narrative. But how can you appreciate the Renaissance if you don't understand the classics they were resurrecting? Or Martin Luther's appeals to Leo X unless you understand the history of the Catholic Church (and its abuses) prior to Luther? You can't have an appreciation for these things otherwise. Teaching thematically works I think, only once you already have a sense of the narrative. In short, I think history should be studied (at least early on) just as it occurred; chronologically.
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  5. JPlat added a topic in Read   

    History and Philosophy
    Right now I'm reading The Early Germans by Malcolm Todd and Main Currents of Western Thought by Franklin Le Van Baumer.

    I recently completed What is History? by E.H. Carr and The Germans by Gordon Craig.

    My interests lie primarily in European and German History, though I'm reading a bit of intellectual history now.
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  6. JPlat added a post in a topic Introduce yourself here...   

    Just introducing myself...hello to the Galilean Community.
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  7. JPlat added a comment on a blog entry Winter is coming: Game of Thrones episode 1 review   

    I caught this when I was on vacation with my family recently. Really good.
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