Worth Reading On...
issue 247 - September 1993
Barbara Taylor takes
The Death of the Past by JH Plumb (Macmillan, London 1967) is one of the best overviews of history. This series of essays by the liberal historian is a delight - erudite learning set forth in readable prose with passion and insight. Plumb examines the lens through which previous societies viewed the past in order to justify their own present and hopes for a more democratic history.
Beyond Geography: The Western Spirit Against the Wilderness by Frederick Turner (New York, Viking Press, 1980) is a masterpiece of historical sweep that chronicles the way in which human beings and their natural surroundings have been moulded in the image of Western mythologies.
Communalism: from its Origins to the Twentieth Century by Kenneth Rexworth (Seabury Press, New York 1974). An unsung classic by a self-taught scholar and poet from San Francisco. A fascinating exploration through the ages of communal resistance to the aggressions of the state and to materialistic individualism.
History, Classes and Nation States: Selected Writings of Victor Kiernan edited by Harvey J Kaye (Polity Press 1988). Kiernan exemplifies what is best in Marxist historiography: great breadth of learning combined with creative insight and political purpose.
In the Spirit of the Earth: Rethinking History and Time by Calvin Luther Martin (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993). Another thought-provoking look at the hammerlock our sense of history has on human imagination and possibility and how it has distorted our obligation to the eco-system that gives us life.
History Workshop (available through the Journals Department of Oxford University Press). This British-based journal of social and gender history has very high-quality work even if it slips into studies too detailed for the casual reader. An important source for those interested in new approaches to historical study.
Radical History Review. The US equivalent of History Workshop, available through Cambridge University Press. Somewhat more readable and eclectic than Workshop and a good reference for current issues in the politics of history-writing.