Making History: How Great Historians Interpret the Past [TTC Video]

Making History: How Great Historians Interpret the Past [TTC Video]
Making History: How Great Historians Interpret the Past [TTC Video] by Allen C Guelzo
Course No 8818 | AVI, XviD, 640x480 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 4.46GB

History is not truth. While it forms the backbone of our knowledge about the world, history is nevertheless only a version of events. History is shaped by the interpretations and perspectives of the individual historians who record it. Consider:

  • Sallust, writing his dark history of Rome to rail against the political corruption he saw consuming the empirewhile artfully concealing his own role in it;
  • John Foxe, in his Book of Martyrs, writing about church history to discredit the Catholics and legitimize the reign of Elizabeth I;
  • David Hume, penning his massive History of England with the deliberate goal of creating a potboiler that will earn him a fortune.

What, then, is the motive and the vision of the historian? How do historians create their histories? And what role does the historian's viewpoint and method play in what we accept as truth?

These questions underlie a history lesson of the most revealing kind.

In Making History: How Great Historians Interpret the Past, award-winning scholar Allen C. Guelzo of Gettysburg College takes you inside the minds of our greatest historians. Over 24 intriguing lectures, he challenges you to explore the idea of written history as it has shaped humanity's story over 2,000 years. Told through enthralling historical anecdotes, the course travels deep into mankind's fundamental desire to record and understand the world, to shed new light on the events and experiences of yesterday, and to use the past as a window onto the present and the future.

History: The Art of Discovery

"History is more than merely a pile-up of facts or a chronicle of the past," notes Dr. Guelzo. "It is an artand a very complicated one at that. And like the others arts, it has techniques and perspectives, some of them old and long-since retired, some of them in violent conflict with each other."

The actors in this art of discovery are the great historians themselves, from the ancient Greeks to our own time. You look through the eyes of our civilization's greatest historical minds to ponder why they conceived and wrote history the way they did.

In key sections, you explore the seminal thinking of these men:

  • Herodotus, considered by many the first history writer, who replaced the epic imagination of Homer with istorieis, or inquiry
  • Livy, the author of a 142-volume didactic history of Rome that spanned three continents and seven centuries
  • David Hume, who framed English history with an evolutionary vision of economic, political, and intellectual freedom
  • Edward Gibbon, whose monumental Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire forged a complex picture of epic collapse and decay

Beneath the Surface of Written History

With Professor Guelzo's penetrating perspective, you examine the processes that create accepted views of historical events. As you take apart the elements of history writing, you discover how the great stories of the past were chosen and how they were interpreted.

In considering the key choices the historian makes, you uncover the ways in which understanding how history is written is crucial to understanding historical events themselves. You also explore how the version of history you accept reveals much about you as an individual and as a member of a community.

The journey rewards you with an unforgettable insight into our human heritage and the chance to look with discerning eyes at human events in their deeper meanings. Anyone with an interest in history, philosophy, or intellectual history will find these lectures a far-reaching meditation on the evolution of historical thought.

"Constructing" the Past

As a core feature of Making History, you explore the major interpretive concepts or historical genres that form the backbone of Western history writing. These are among the many fundamental genres you examine:

  • Celebration: History writing as the remembrance or glorification of great deeds or events, providing a cultural identity for a given people
  • Declension: An interpretive model of decline, charting the deterioration of political, social, and moral systems
  • Continuity: The understanding or justification of present events as they conform to patterns of the past
  • Apocalyptic: A view of human events as moving toward an ultimate, devastating rupture with the past, leading to a new order

You follow these core genres through time and learn how they interact with other ways of viewing history, including history as science, as economics, as progress, as class struggle, and as culture. You also chart the ways these themes intersect and oppose each other across the centuries, as they illuminate the origins of our contemporary thinking.

In the Trenches with Great Minds

Professor Guelzo's storytelling enriches the background of the writing. In the Greek world, you travel with Xenophon and Thucydides through their own dramatic military exploits, as they develop models of history writing that still carry weight. In the early Christian era, you witness Augustine's personal trials as he defends Christianity against the pagans. In the 19th century, you trace Macaulay's dynamic career and his white-hot impact on the reading public.

From Thucydides, you hear Pericles' great articulation of democracy. You hear Sallust's reasoning that ancient Rome declined due to moral rot, Luther's condemnation of the papacy, and Macaulay's soaring rhetoric in his contemplation of the Puritans.

Throughout the story, the evolving arc of historical thought plays out as a heated series of battles of interpretation.

In the bloody era of the Christian Reformation, you see how the conflict of Luther's ideology with Catholic dogma takes the form of warring views of church history. In the revolutions of the Enlightenment, Gibbon, Leopold von Ranke, and Auguste Comte overthrow the Christian influence, advocating the use of scientific systems in understanding history.

Rejecting the logic of Enlightenment ideals, the Romantics develop another method for understanding history: the glorification of emotions, nature, and the sublime. On the heels of Romanticism, you meet another breed of historian, from Wilhelm Dilthey to Arnold Toynbee, who demands understanding of cultures and patterns.

On our own shores, you taste the poignant struggles of the Puritans, the Indian wars, and the closing of the frontier, as history writers come to grips with the promise and disillusionment of the new nation.

Professor Guelzo highlights compelling connections in theme and thinking between historians of different epochs. You see how Bancroft and Prescott's narratives of the American Revolution hearken back to the ancient Greeks, and how Karl Marx's writing echoes themes articulated by Augustine in the 5th century.

This is knowledge to enrich all the history you know and all the history you encounter. Join one of America's outstanding historical scholars in this bold engagement with critical thinking about the past.

Making History: How Great Historians Interpret the Past [TTC Video]