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Microhistory and the Post-Modern Challenge

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Chapter Summary

This chapter begins by de-constructing the remarks of one of the foremost scholars of the early republic, Henry Adams, who was so deeply skeptical of historians' pretensions to factual accuracy and objectivity that he may fairly be called an early post-modernist. Like post-modernists, he recognized that though historians might pose as 'scientific', historical writing is a subjective, imagined construction. The glory of microhistory lies in its power to recover and reconstruct past events by exploring and connecting a wide range of data sources so as to produce a contextual, three-dimensional, analytic narrative in which actual people as well as abstract forces shape events. Microhistorians are aware that every event embodies an existential moment in which the course of history intersects with individual action; and when participants' past experiences shape their current perceptions, and their behavior.

Keywords: analytic narrative; Henry Adams; microhistory; post-modernist



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