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Metahistory and the Objectivity Debate Within the American Historical Profession

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Title: Metahistory and the Objectivity Debate Within the American Historical Profession
Authors: Nakano, Denise
Issue Date: 26 Sep 2014
Publisher: University of Hawaii at Manoa
Abstract: The notion of historical objectivity has played a central role in shaping the nature of historical studies. According to Peter Novick, who researched the objectivity debate in his book, That Noble Dream: “anyone interested in what professional historians are up to --- what they think they are doing, or ought to be doing, when they write history --- might as well begin by considering ‘the objectivity question.’” My particular focus on this debate looks at the way contemporary historians position themselves with regard to the politics of historical writing. I have taken Hayden White, an historian with a particularly radical stand, and compared how various historians of differing persuasions within the objectivity debate have reacted to White and more specifically, his book, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in the Nineteenth Century, (1973). This paper is divided into four sections. The first looks at the history of the objectivity debate within the historical profession. The second section compares how two contemporary historians of opposing views on the question of objectivity, Hayden White, and Peter Gay, have interpreted the nineteenth century German historian, Leopold von Ranke. The third section looks at the richness of the objectivity debate through the differing opinions that appear in the 1980 issue of History & Theory, which devoted its entire issue to a forum on Metahistory. The final section looks at the state of the objectivity debate today. Throughout this essay, I hope to establish a consciousness of the importance and centrality of the question of objectivity in historical writing by using Hayden White as my focus. My ultimate aim is to detect if White has had any impact on his peers. Can we say, after perusing the Metahistory milieu, that White expounded just another interesting view on historical writing and historical truth? Or, has White, "the radical relativist" and symbol of extreme nihilistic relativism," been able to justify the suspect role of pluralism within the American historical profession.
Pages/Duration: 53 pages
Rights: All UHM Honors Projects are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections:Honors Projects for History

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