Presentation on theme: "The ENIGMATIC E H CARR “The facts only speak when the historian calls on them: it is he who decides which facts to give the floor, and in what order or."— Presentation transcript:
The ENIGMATIC E H CARR “The facts only speak when the historian calls on them: it is he who decides which facts to give the floor, and in what order or context“
“He was someone who, shortly after his death had the rare distinction of being violently denounced in both of the two leading organs of British Intellectual and literary opinion, The Times Literary Supplement and the London review of books.” REALIST, OPTIMIST, POLEMIC!!!
EDWARD HALLETT CARR 1892-1982 Carr was born in London to a middle-class family, and was educated at the Merchant Taylors' School in London, and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was awarded a First Class Degree in Classics in 1916 He joined the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1916, resigning in 1936 In 1919, Carr was part of the British delegation at the Paris Peace Conference and was involved in the drafting of parts of the Treaty of Versailles relating to the League of Nations Starting in 1929, Carr started to review books relating to all things Russian and Soviet and to international relations in several British literary journals such as the Fortnightly Review, The Spectator, the Times Literary Supplement and later towards the end of his life, the London Review of Books Because of his status as a diplomat (until 1936), most of Carr’s reviews in the period 1929-36 were published either anonymously or under the pseudonym "John Hallett”. Between 1931 and 1937, Carr published many works on many historians and history. 1939 wrote and published The Twenty Year Crisis, arguing that the peace settlement was flawed
After the war, Carr was a fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, and then Trinity College, where he published most of his popular works—A History of Soviet Russia and What is History He remained at Trinity College until his death. He was a tutor in Politics at Balliol College, Oxford from 1953 to 1955 when he became a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge In 1961 Carr published. What is History? (1961), a book based upon his series of G. M. Trevelyan lectures, delivered at the University of Cambridge between January-March 1961. In this work, Carr argued that he was presenting a middle-of-the-road position between the empirical view of history and R. G. Collingwood's idealism Carr would live out the remainder of his life as a Fellow of Trinity College at Cambridge, constantly quarreling and convinced of capitalism's imminent demise. He died of cancer on 5 November 1982
CONTEXT AND MINDSET In 1940 Carr wrote a long lead article in the Times called “The Two Scourges”, which were war and unemployment; the first was to be avoided by new international order based on a realistic acknowledgement of the interests of the dominant powers, the second by adapting to the peacetime economy many of the measures of central planning and control that were willingly accepted in the circumstances of war. He evinced little sympathy for minorities of any kind and was quoted as saying “ The peasant is the spoilt child of Western Historians”
Historical Context- WAR, DEPRESION, WAR "It was the Russian revolution which decisively gave me a sense of history which I never lost and which turned me into a historian," Carr claims to have been impressed by one of his teachers saying that Herodotus view of the war with the Persians was shaped and moulded by the time that he was living in.. “This was a revelation and gave me my first understanding of what History was about: the relativism of historiography.”
A History of Soviet Russia The decision to embark on his History of Soviet Russia complicated his career. He was vetoed for a Chair in Russian Studies in London for being too pro Soviet and he was in effect blackballed for a Senior Research position at Cambridge University because of his support for the Stalin Regime. Setting his position clearly against the prevailing western view he maintained that Lenin had been a nation builder and collectivisation had been a success, at least in terms of increasing production. He paid little public attention to the human cost of Stalin’s regime.
CRITICAL VIEW “It quickly becomes evident that other than a lifelong predilection for countering prevailing opinion, Carr lacked any real ideological or moral conviction. He was neither pro- German nor a Marxist but simply bitter toward the bourgeois class from which he sprang, an eternal outsider taking solace in the politics of any social change that might usurp these values.” Jonathan Haslam
HISTORIOGRAPHER or HARANGUE!!! His What is History grew out of his Trevelyan Lectures delivered at Cambridge University ( Carr had finally won a seat in 1955). In his opening he criticised the Cambridge History Faculty for their narrow mindedness and Anglocentrism in their teaching. However he also said that it was typical of the prevailing parochialism in all British Universities. He accused British intellectuals of isolating themselves from what is really going on in the rest of the world. He rejected mistrust and pessimism about “far reaching ideas” and he embraced radical change. “I remain an optimist…and fear that this country will relapse into some nostalgic backwater.”
What is History? “My first answer to the question, What is History? Is that it is a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts, an unending dialogue between the present and the past.” “….is a dialogue not between abstract ideas and individuals, but between the society of today and the society of yesterday. The past is intelligible to us only in the light of the present; and we can fully understand the present only in the light of the past. To enable man to understand the society of the past and to increase his mastery over the society of the present, is the dual function of history
The facts of History never come to us pure since they do not and cannot exist in a pure form; they are always refracted through the mind of the recorder. It follows then that when we take up a work of history, our first concern should not be with facts which it contains but with the Historian who wrote it. Study the historian before you begin to study the facts.
GOT TO LOVE THE METAPHOR! The facts are really not like fish at all on the fishmongers slab. They are like fish swimming about in a vast sometimes inaccessible ocean; and what the Historian catches will depend partly on chance, but mainly on what part of the ocean he chooses to fish in and what tackle he chooses-these two factors being, of course, determined by the kind of fish he wants to catch. By and large the historian will get the kind of facts he wants
We can view the past and achieve our understanding of the past only through the eyes of the present. The Historian ids of his own age, and is bound to it by the conditions of human existence. The very words which he uses- words like democracy, empire, war, revolution- have current connotations from which he cannot divorce them……the use of language forbids him to be neutral
The commonist assumption appears to be that the historian divides his work into two sharply distinguishable phases..First he spends a long preliminary period reading hissource and filling his notebook with facts…then he puts his sources away and writes his book from beginning to end. This to me is an unconvincing and implausable picture. The writing is added to, subtracted from, re shaped, cancelled, as I go on reading…the more I write,the more I know what I am looking for…the two processes of what an economist would call input and output go on simultaneously and are in practice part of a single process.
IS CARR A RELATIVISTIC POST MODERNIST? “ It does not follow that because a mountain appears to take on different shapes from different angles of vision, it has objectively no shape at all or an infinity of shapes.”
Our examination of the relation of the Historian to the facts of history finds us therefore, in an apparently precarious situation, navigating delicately between the Scylla of an untenable theory of History as an objective compilation of facts, of the unqualified primacy of fact over interpretation, and the Charybdis of an equally untenable theory of history as the subjective product of the mind of the Historian who establishes the facts of history and masters them through the process of interpretation …” Scylla and Charybdis are two sea monsters of Greek mythology FACT INTERPRETATION
Anne Curthoy “ He developed in all intellectual matters an esprit de contradiction, irritated that the Western world was treating the Russian Revolution as a mere passing event.” “ Sometimes it could be said that he placed himself in the Foreign office, or at least in the Chancelleries of the great powers; he came to the writing of History relatively late and and always retained some of the brisk instrumentalism of the career official.” Stefan Collini