he even criticises the American historian Carl Becker who, in 1910, argued that ‘the facts of history do not exist for any historian till he creates them’. The poet Siegfried Sassoon echoed Woolf’s sense of rupture and loss: ‘What a peaceful world it was! E.H. Carr What is History? A sense of an ending hung heavily, suffocatingly, in the postwar air. Others were less excitable, but no less doom-laden. Likewise, the constantly transforming interpretation of the past provides a means to understand the present, of how we came to exist as we do, or failed to come to exist as we ought to have done. The resulting work was his 14-volume History of … spiked opinion, every Friday, Long-reads from leading thinkers, Not in the abstract. Carr’s insight here is indispensable. And the result? It is the historian who has decided for his own reasons that Caesar's crossing of that petty stream, the Rubicon, is a fact of history, whereas the crossing of the Rubicon by millions of other people before or since interests nobody at all. He was always a singular, fiercely individualistic character but at this point in the early 20th century, he was at home in the world. Except, for Carr, history’s movement, its direction, its trajectory is increasingly and simultaneously our societal movement, our societal direction, our societal trajectory. If you enjoy what we do, and you have a bit of money to spare, please do consider donating to spiked – or even better, becoming a regular donor. Yet this judgement is not only hasty; it also hides what makes Carr’s work of continuing value. But what that means, whether it was a ‘glorious revolution’, or something less than glorious, as Tom Paine was to contend nearly 100 years later, is constantly subject to interpretation. 17 Carr, The Twenty Years’ Crisis, pp.3–4. Born in 1892 to solidly Victorian, middle-class parents – his father owned a writing-ink business – the young Carr grew up in a social environment confident and certain of its own future. In Edward Hallatt Carr’s book, What is. A civilisation perished in 1914. It’s been happening for centuries. - E. H. CARR by E. H. CARR. Carr recognised that history as a discipline does not follow the logic of discovery. This is why the Lenin that emerges on Carr’s pages appears less as a revolutionary and internationalist than as a nation builder, a constitution designer. … has been answered in different ways over the years. ‘A loss of the pervading sense of a world in perpetual motion.’, What is History? ‘Remembrance of these things 60 or 70 years later’, he wrote in 1979, ‘must, I feel, sharpen one’s consciousness of the deep cleft which divides that remote age from the present, and of the historical process that brought it about. They were, as Carr put it, ‘unverifiable utopias’. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, Carr’s attitude to the Bolsheviks was personally ambivalent, and professionally obstructive, working as he was for the Foreign Office’s Northern Department to impose a trade embargo on revolutionary Russia. Still it is possible to see why Carr has been accused of half-baked postmodernism, and why, today, he would no doubt be labelled a post-truther. He appears to be saying that facts are created, at some level, by us (albeit through ‘the constant interaction of subject and object’). still provides a powerful retort to cultural pessimism. 16 See Holsti, Kal, The Dividing Discipline (Boston, 1985), especially chapter 7. He is saying that they don’t exist in and of themselves, as self-contained units of meaning out there in the world. He was the brilliant historian who, thanks to his 14-volume history of Russia after 1917, was feted, in the words of his friend Isaac Deutscher, as ‘the first genuine historian of the Soviet regime’; he was the man who had birthed the discipline of international relations, with his real-politik championing of appeasement in The Twenty Years’ Crisis: 1919‑1939, published, with grim irony, as Hitler’s Germany rolled into Poland; and he was the author, most famously perhaps, of What is history? He appears to be saying that truth is in the eye of the beholder and not in the world that is beheld. (Carr 1961: 29). But it was more than that, too. Oops! Something went wrong. Thus, both the realist philosopher of history Michael Stanford and reconstructionist historian Arthur Marwick emphasised Carr's judgement that the answer … He also pointed out that a historian’s work cannot be written with out understanding the mind and time in which it came from. I bought a 50¢ copy of this book years ago on a bargain bin spree at either Housing Works or the Strand. Or better still, the historical vantage point provided by his or her present. By the end of chapter one he answers the question “What is history? So for 1960s civil-rights activists, the aspiration for political and legal equality, provided them with a sense of the inequalities and injustices of the past; and for Carr’s more avowedly Marxist contemporaries, such as Christopher Hill or EP Thompson, the disillusionment with Stalinism and the aspiration for a native English democratic socialist tradition generated their splendid social histories of the English Civil War and the 19th-century working-class. So Paine’s interpretation of the Glorious Revolution as a moment of aristocratic reaction is made possible by his present immersion in the radically democratic tumult of the American and French revolutions. This has been a position much misunderstood by the profession. So, argues Carr, The History of Rome, written by the German classicist Theodor Mommsen in the mid-1850s, presents an idealised version of Caesar, partly because of Mommsen’s frustration with the German people’s inability to fulfil its political aspirations after the failure of the 1848-49 revolutions. Just have to remember that ‘facts are sacred, opinion free” (7). It’s dialectical in the sense that truth does not lie in one particular part, or in the subject or the object, but in the whole that mediates the existence of the parts. Carr quotes Jacob Burckhardt here: ‘History is the record of what one age finds worthy of note in another’. Carr writes that “the study of history is the study of causes” (113) and suggests a two-step process through which historians interact with causation. Carr argues that history cannot be objective or unbiased, as for it to become history, knowledge of the past has been processed by the historian through interpretation and evaluation. But if the Great War cracked the confidence of Britain’s ruling classes, the Russian Revolution delivered the shattering blow. For Carr, history is no longer a thing, or a tableaux of dates and personages; it is a creative, destructive process. ‘In those [pre-1914] days there was an ordered way of life, a law, a temple and a city – a civilisation of sorts’, reflected the Bloomsbury Group patriarch, Leonard Woolf, in 1939. Academia.edu is a platform for academics to share research papers. This sentiment ran like a black thread through the British culture of the 1920s and 1930s, prompting the declinist visions of historian Arnold Toynbee just as much as the apocalyptic yearnings of WB Yeats or the grinning fascist daydreams of Wyndham Lewis. The state never promises to wither in Carr’s telling – rather, it flourishes and bloats. His present concerns generated his interpretation of the past and vice versa. What Is History? (Although even then, he despised the smug complacency of those in the West, his colleagues among them, who thought the Bolsheviks were a ‘flash in the pan’ (2).) Millions have crossed the Rubicon, but the historians tell us that only Caesar's crossing was significant. On the other hand, he is never totally independent of it and its unconditional master.’, Carr is arguing, then, more broadly, that subjectivity and objectivity constitute a dynamic, ever shifting unity, and, more specifically, that the historian is neither free to make things up, nor compelled simply to record what is. Carr’s absolute is thoroughly humanised – hence Carr’s use of the pronoun ‘we’ in the following passage: ‘[The absolute] is something still incomplete and in process of becoming – something in the future towards which we move, which begins to take shape only as we move towards it, and in the light of which, as we move forward, we gradually shape our interpretation of the past. Rather, it develops in the midst of historical time, as we, as increasingly self-conscious historical subjects, make sense of the past in light of the ends we project into the future, and try to move towards. It is at this point, writing challenging leaders from his pulpit at The Times and challenging academics from his rostrum at Aberystwyth, that his reckoning with history begins in earnest. History means interpretation. Published in Pelican Books 1964. They have been reflected in the mind of another person before they have come to you. As one of his myriad detractors put it, ‘Carr today has a special claim to attention: he was consistently and egregiously wrong’. And it’s dialectical in the sense that he grasps subjectivity and objectivity, freedom and necessity, and so on, as dynamic unities, in which each side makes a claim on the other. When he died in 1982, aged 90, he was still viewed as a formidable, authoritative public intellectual from an era in which the divide between public and academic had yet to become an iron curtain. Reviews There are no reviews yet. But what marks Carr out was not only his refusal to be downcast, and embrace the cultural pessimism of his peers, but his intellectual determination to reckon with, and even support, the historical forces transforming the world around him. There is a clear parallel with Thomas Kuhn's notion that most scientific research operates of necessity within the confines of a dominant paradigm. Be the first one to write a review. The answer lies in the book on which his popular reputation still rests: What is History?. Stone then kindly laid bare the conjugal catastrophe of Carr’s domestic life: ‘there were three Mrs Carrs (not one, as The Times obituary claimed), and each marriage ended in hideous circumstances: one wife was left when she already had terminal cancer, another abandoned, when Carr was almost 90, because she was “depressing”. Among the literature read and discussed by the Dostoevsky fireside were the Bible, writings of Nikolai Karamzin, including History of the Russian State, Letters of a Russian Traveller, and Poor Liza; the poets Vasily Zhukovsky, Mikhail Y. Lermontov, Gavriil R. Derzhavin, and, of course, Alexander Pushkin; and the novelist Sir Walter Scott. Yet to think that Carr slipped into ‘the bottomless pit of subjective relativity’, as he himself put it in 1953, is to misunderstand the historical vision that he was in the process of developing. WHAT IS HISTORY? Deutscher’s criticism hits the mark: ‘A Lenin shorn of his unmanageable revolutionary internationalism and shown as master of national statecraft may appear plausibly as nothing but Stalin’s legitimate ideological forebear.’. What is history? By and large, the historian will get the kind of facts he wants. If Bakunin and Dostoyevsky give him an intellectual shove, it’s the Great Depression of 1929 that delivers the decisive push. Carr himself was in no doubt as to the deep, almost latent significance of October 1917. However reading this book, a basic introduction to history, I feel its a brilliant book and it does give a different viewpoint of history and its development. He was the sort of man that always had holes in his sleeves, ate milk pudding every night and loathed fuss. Or, as Carr puts it in a 1972 essay on Georg Lukács’ History and Class Consciousness (1922): ‘Becoming, as Hegel puts it, is the truth of Being, so that the process constitutes a deeper level of reality than the empirical fact.’ In other words, the truth of reality – and that includes historical reality – is not a thing, or a set of facts, that exist apart from us, like the philosopher’s proverbial table. And what grants the interpreter, the de facto historian, this degree of freedom, this space in which to revise, is… history. Tim Black is editor of the spiked review. 3 Peter Wilson, ‘Radicalism for a Conservative Purpose: the Peculiar Realism of EH Carr’, Millennium, 30(1), 2001, 123-136 (see 123-124). He graduated with a degree in classics in 1916. ENGLISH, HISTORY CLASSIC Addeddate 2016-02-16 03:05:35 Identifier WhatIsHistory-E.H.Carr Identifier-ark ark:/13960/t6sz0gk6j Ocr ABBYY FineReader 11.0 Ppi 300. plus-circle Add Review. Then, the historian reduces this list by linking and ranking the causes. On the left, Sidney and Beatrice Webb proudly announced the ‘the moral bankruptcy of capitalism’ in 1922, while the historian GDH Cole declared in The Present Confusion, published in 1933, that the intellectual case against capitalism had become ‘overwhelmingly strong’. This rift in Carr’s development cannot be understated. Even before man embark on writing it down. E. H. Carr's What Is History? For Carr very greatly wanted to be loved, and he much preferred women’s company to men’s, although he treated his women so badly.’. The mistake his critics make is to assume that it must therefore exist simultaneously outwith history, as something static and forever true, when, for Carr, it can only exist within history. Until recently, every time I paged through it I couldn't help but deride its maddeningly simple-minded premise: in a series of lectures at Cambridge in the 1950s, Carr set out to actually answer the question what is history. And that to understand the past we must also understand the future. But how do historians write history. In the mid-1930s, Carr leaves the Foreign Office and takes up two roles: the Woodrow Wilson Chair of International Politics at the University of Aberystwyth; and an editorial role at The Times. e reasons why History shou d not !e ca ed a science+ 1/ History deals e&clusively with the uni(ue, science with the general+ Carr disa*rees, sayin* that the historian constantly uses generalisation to test his e#idence. Well, yes, to an extent that is what he’s saying, although in arguing this, Carr never doubts the facticity of reality – he merely argues that the stuff of history is constantly in the process of being illuminated by the changing light cast by the development and trajectory of the present. Second edition 1987. In the nineteenth century, the emphasis was on collecting facts and then drawing conclusions from them. And so Carr’s reckoning with deep, social and historical change begins. What is History? He was a 19th-century philosopher, a friend of Nietzsche and, as an historian, he sought out the individualistic genius of the Renaissance as a counterpoint to the levelling tendencies of incipient mass democracy. The result, at its highest points, is an unusually developed historical consciousness, a consciousness of the perpetual this-worldly transcending of what is, a consciousness of the necessity and, above all, the promise of historical change. E.H. Carr, in full Edward Hallett Carr, (born June 28, 1892, London, England—died November 3, 1982, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire), British political scientist and historian specializing in modern Russian history. My childhood memories of history and the learning of history were enhanced by the omnipresent familial legacy of my great-grandfather, EH Carr, nicknamed “the Prof”. Even the publication of Jonathan Haslam’s largely sympathetic biography The Vices of Integrity in 1999 served only to reinforce the denigration of Carr rather than rectify it. This marks Carr’s thought profoundly. Isn’t Carr saying that the meaning of the past is always relative to the demands of the present? History has not been kind to EH Carr. Towards the end of 1944 Carr decided to write a complete history of Soviet Russia from 1917 comprising all aspects of social, political and economic history to explain how the Soviet Union withstood the German invasion. This was his optimism of the will. Nazi Party's Use of Artistic Propaganda Led To The Ascension and Dominance of German Culture, The Rivalry Between Boeing and Airbus Essay. And no return is possible.’ (1). are a testament to Carr’s reckoning with change, his conviction that despite a culture of fear and pessimism, we go on: ‘I shall look out on a world in tumult and a world in travail, and shall answer in the well worn words of the great scientist: “And yet – it moves”.’, Carr is not simply drawing attention to the inexorable reality of change. Even £5 per month is a huge help, allowing us to keep bringing you our free articles, essays and insights every day. Carr’s response to the doomsayers of the 1970s is worth recalling: ‘My conclusion is that the current wave of scepticism and despair, which looks ahead to nothing but destruction and decay, and dismisses as absurd any belief in progress or any prospect of a further advance by the human race, is a form of elitism – the product of elite social groups whose security and whose privileges have been most conspicuously eroded by the crisis, and of elite countries whose once undisputed domination over the rest of the world has been shattered.’. Please try submitting the form again. The means to realising communism – an expanded, centralised state, forcefully modernising the industrial structures of Soviet life – start to appear as ends in themselves, and Lenin becomes all practice and no theory. Rather he is free to interpret what is, or what was, anew. His rejection of empiricism is persuasive and constructive to the understanding of historical views. But its meaning can shift. Even that is not quite right, because for Carr, the absolute is not in history, like a swimmer is in the water; the absolute is the rich, contradiction-ridden movement of history itself, its predominant direction, its trajectory, its (always provisional) teleology. One reviewer saw fit to reduce his intellectual output to the tribute a ‘misanthrope’ pays to power, be it in the form of Hitler or Stalin. Rather, we play an active, interpretive role in producing facts. I had long been interested in history and had the benefit of excellent teachers but had never read anything specifically on what it meant to do or to write history. What is history (second edition) Item Preview remove-circle Share or Embed This Item. When he is mentioned, it is with bile in the throat. Thank you! These ends are not final or terminal – this is not, as the postmodernists used to have it, a metanarrative. There was nothing to jolt him into questioning it, nothing to crack the surface of middle-class contentment in Edwardian England. At its best, then, Carr’s work stands as a riposte to cultural pessimism, a retort to all species of declinism and misanthropy – it is a hymn to optimism. Rather the ends in the light of which we make sense of the past are constantly being revised and fought over by us in the constantly developing present. All historical facts come to us as a result of interpretative choices by historians influenced by the standards of their age. Friday, Long-reads from leading thinkers, every Sunday and vice versa he tells. A position much misunderstood by the end of chapter one he answers the question What... Accuracy or magnificence of mommsen ’ s own trajectory was similarly and assuredly upwards remove-circle. The causes as to proceed continued, there appears to be the future 14 Carr the. Of empiricism is persuasive and constructive to the demands of the world his... 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