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A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and by John Burrow

By John Burrow

This exceptional e-book via considered one of Britain’s so much favorite historians describes the highbrow impression that the research and attention of heritage has had within the Western international over the last 2,500 years.

Treating the perform of background no longer as an remoted pursuit yet as a facet of human society and a necessary a part of the tradition of Europe and the USA, John Burrow magnificently brings to existence and explains the particular characteristics present in the paintings of historians from the traditional Egyptians and Greeks to the current, together with Livy, Tacitus, Bede, Froissart, Clarendon, Gibbon, Macaulay, Michelet, Prescott and Parkman. the writer units out to not supply us the background of educational self-discipline yet a historical past of selections: the alternative of pasts, and the methods they've been demarcated, investigated, offered or even occasionally realized from as they've got replaced based on political, spiritual, cultural, and (often most crucial) partisan and patriotic conditions. Burrow goals, in addition, to alter our perceptions of the an important turning issues within the heritage of heritage, permitting the tips that historians have had approximately either their very own occasions and their founding civilizations to emerge with unforeseen freshness.

Burrow argues that the background of historical past is without doubt one of the best methods we need to comprehend the earlier. definitely, this quantity stands by myself in its ambition, scale and fascination.

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Additional info for A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the Twentieth Century

Sample text

Herodotus has used direct speech f r o m the beginning, but its use is largely informal, conversational and 18 HERODOTUS designed to further immediate action; i t is not oratory; i t is easy to think of the more conspiratorial words being spoken i n whispers. Consider, for example, the way Herodotus describes the conspiracy of Persian nobles w h o , suspecting their ruler, Smerdis the Magus, w h o is passing himself off as the son of Cyrus the Great, is an impostor, agree to k i l l h i m . Herodotus makes extensive use of direct speech.

His o w n attitude throughout is tolerant and unshockable. As he says - i t is one of the ways i n w h i c h he anticipates Montaigne * - every people considers its o w n customs best, even those customs most bizarre to others. 38). Sometimes one has to suspect Herodotus of an artful shaping of his accounts. The Egyptians, w h o read f r o m right to left and whose great river floods i n summer and falls i n winter, 'seem to have reversed the ordinary practices of m a n k i n d ' - eating i n the streets and relieving themselves indoors (which casts a light o n Greek habits), the men urinating sitting d o w n , the w o m e n standing up, and so o n ( I I .

But, though he is 27 A HISTORY OF HISTORIES respectful and discreet, he remains worldly-wise; he believes emphatic­ ally i n portents as divine warnings, i n omens, oracles, the sacredness of temples and the penalties of sacrilege, as well as the punishments of hubris, but he also knows h o w vested interests can misinterpret and even manipulate these things. 123). 91). A p a r t f r o m providing an example t o later historians and much ethnographic i n f o r m a t i o n , Herodotus left a prose epic of Greece's deliverance - the deliverance of freedom f r o m the threat of an imperial despotism - w h i c h became a staple of European collective memory.

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