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Sunday, 22 September 2013

Radio Silence: An Apology

Dear Reader/s.  Sorry for the absence of anything much of intellectual substance for a while.  Truth to tell, I have about half a dozen unfinished blog-posts but haven't been able to get the time to round them off.  Or find the energy.  A bit of general malaise about the state of politics (only one thing more depressing than this government and that is the gutless uselessness of the Labour Party combined with the tired old clichés of the Old Left).  Also a bit of malaise about history.  OK - you all know my malaise with the politics of British academic history, but this goes deeper.  It's been a while since I read any history that really made me sit up and think.  I posted a link a couple of months back, to a perfectly decent account of perfectly decent sessions at a Leeds IMC, in which I said they made me wonder why I did what I did.  I said this because I couldn't see the big questions in any of them.  I still can't - or why any of this matters.  The whole discipline seems to me to be sleep-walking.  It knows that we cannot write Rankean history, 'wie es eigentlich gewesen', but I maintain that that knowledge makes absolutely no difference to the way in which it is written or assessed - which still seems to me to be on the basis of a best-fit to an impossible ideal (i.e. accurate redescription of the past).  We have no measuring tool to allow us to judge the closeness or otherwise of that fit, or to evaluate the different explanations given for the past, other than non-contradiction of data.  Thus it would seem that all that the so-called linguistic turn has done for us (other than yielding a series of intellectually piss-poor attempts to proclaim a sort of historical nihilism) is to shift the emphasis from an obsession with being right to an obsession with not being wrong.  This seems like poor progress to me.  The challenge lies in drawing the meaning out the act of doing history.  But that's for another time.  Anyway, for now, suffice it to say that I have a couple of conferences on the horizon, so I will post the texts of my contributions to those when they're done.  Bear with me.