Cover image for Sometimes an art : nine essays on history
Title:
Sometimes an art : nine essays on history
Author:
Bailyn, Bernard.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, [2015]
Physical Description:
307 pages ; 22 cm
Summary:
"From one of the most respected historians in America, twice the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, a new collection of essays that reflect a lifetime of erudition and accomplishments in history. The past has always been elusive: how can we understand people whose worlds were utterly different from our own without imposing our own standards and hindsight? What did things feel like in the moment when outcomes were uncertain? How can we recover the uncertainties of the past, before the outcomes were known? What kind of imagination goes into the writing of transformative history? Are there latent trends that distinguish the kinds of history we now write? How unique was North America among the far-flung peripheries of the early British empire? As Bernard Bailyn argues in this elegant, deeply informed collection of essays, history always combines approximations based on incomplete data, with empathic imagination and the interweaving of strands of knowledge into a narrative which also explains. This is a stirring and insightful work drawing on the wisdom and perspective of a career spanning more than five decades--a book that will appeal to anyone interested in history"--From publisher's website.
General Note:
"This is a Borzoi book"--Title page verso.
Language:
English
Contents:
On history and the struggle to get it right. Considering the slave trade : history and memory ; Context in history ; Three trends in modern history ; History and the creative imagination ; The losers -- Peripheries of the early British Empire. Thomas Hutchinson in context : "The ordeal" revisited ; England's cultural provinces : Scotland and America (co-authored with John Clive) ; Peopling the peripheries ; The search for perfection : Atlantic dimensions.
ISBN:
9781101874479
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

The past has always been elusive- how can we understand people whose worlds were utterly different from our own without imposing our own standards and hindsight? What did things feel like in the moment when outcomes were uncertain? How can we recover the uncertainties of the past, before the outcomes were known? What kind of imagination goes into the writing of transformative history? Are there latent trends that distinguish the kinds of history we now write? How unique was North America among the far-flung peripheries of the early British empire?

As Bernard Bailyn argues in this elegant, deeply informed collection of essays, history always combines approximations based on incomplete data, with empathic imagination and the interweaving of strands of knowledge into a narrative which also explains. This is a stirring and insightful work drawing on the wisdom and perspective of a career spanning more than five decades-a book that will appeal to anyone interested in history.


Author Notes

Bernard Bailyn was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1922, and did his undergraduate work at Williams College. He began his teaching career at Harvard University immediately after the university granted him a Ph.D. in 1953, and he remained there until he retired in 1991. During his tenure at Harvard, he was Winthrop Professor, Adams University Professor, and James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History. For years Bailyn was editor in chief of the Harvard Library and director of the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History.

An innovative and influential historian of early America, Bernard Bailyn has written quantitative studies of the colonial New England economy, probing examinations of the ideological origins of the American Revolution, and penetrating studies of the social and cultural foundations of American education. Bailyn is particularly adept at interweaving social, intellectual, economic, and political factors into coherent narrative history. A pioneer in adapting the new tools of social science to the writing of history, he is also a fine literary stylist.

Bailyn has been Pitt Professor at Cambridge University and president of the American Historical Association. He holds membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in the British Academy. His writings have earned him the Bancroft Prize and the National Book Award. Bailyn received two Pulitzers-one in 1968 for The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1967), which challenges traditional interpretations of the causes of the American Revolution, and the other in 1987 for Voyagers to the West (1986), which explores reasons for migration to America just prior to the Revolution.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Perhaps best known for his seminal 1967 work, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Harvard historian Bailyn's professional life has been broadly dedicated to understanding the English-speaking world in the colonial era. The nine essays in this volume, written at various moments in Bailyn's career, show the author at the top of his game, deeply immersed in his specific area of inquiry but also contemplating broader questions about historiography and the goals of historical inquiry. One key theme is the challenge of context, which is the historian's duty to provide but which also presents methodological and even moral pitfalls. Another theme is the role of creativity in historical inquiry, and in one of this selection's more personal (yet unfailingly scholarly) essays, Bailyn pays tribute to historians whose innovative methods revealed hitherto submerged worlds while also acknowledging the limitations inherent to such disruptions. Essays on Loyalists in the American Revolution and Thomas Hutchinson, the Royalist governor of Massachusetts, circle back to Bailyn's colonial bailiwick. Recommended for anyone considering a scholarly career in history; casual history buffs may also appreciate Bailyn's rigorous and erudite perspective.--Driscoll, Brendan Copyright 2014 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Bailyn (The Barbarous Years), a Pulitzer Prize winner and emeritus Harvard historian, has long pursued the history of the era of the American Revolution, of the ideas that animate humans, and, in his latest works, of the peopling of the Western Hemisphere. Here, his muscular style undiminished, Bailyn reflects on all three subjects, plus the challenges of thinking historically. The nine essays in this volume, three of them previously unpublished, go back as far as 1954, the latest being from 2007. Nonspecialists shouldn't be daunted by the subjects of the essays-current trends (not so current now) in historical scholarship, why history's losers must be made part of the story of the past, the history of Britain's provinces, and comparisons between the settling of North America and Australia. Though these essays have no argumentative thread, no single shared link, everything Bailyn tackles is written about authoritatively and winningly. One wishes only that this master historian had rounded out the implication of his book's title: yes, history is sometimes an art, but what of the times when it isn't? Otherwise, it's an omnium-gatherum of this master historian's scholarship over six decades. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Part 1 On History and the Struggle to Get It Right
1 Considering the Slave Trade: History and Memoryp. 3
2 Context in Historyp. 18
3 Three Trends in Modern Historyp. 53
4 History and the Creative Imaginationp. 80
5 The Losersp. 109
Part 2 Peripheries of the Early British Empire
6 Thomas Hutchinson in Context: The Ordeal Revisitedp. 147
7 England's Cultural Provinces: Scotland and America (co-authored with John Clive)p. 171
8 Peopling the Peripheriesp. 193
9 The Search for Perfection: Atlantic Dimensionsp. 232
Appendixp. 261
Acknowledgmentsp. 263
Notesp. 265
Indexp. 299