Some Quotes on Historicism

“In order to qualify as historical, an event must be susceptible to at least two narrations of its occurrence. Unless at least two versions of the same set of events can be imagined, there is no reason for the historian to take upon himself the authority of giving the true account of what really happened. The authority of the historical narrative is the authority of reality itself; the historical account endows the reality with form and thereby makes it desirable by the imposition upon its processes of the formal coherency that only stories possess.”
― Hayden White, The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical

“Readers of histories and novels can hardly fail to be struck by their similarities. There are many histories that could pass for novels, and many novels that could pass for histories, considered in purely formal (or, I should say, formalist) terms. Viewed simply as verbal artifacts histories and novels are indistinguishable from one another. We cannot easily distinguish between them on formal grounds unless we approach them with specific preconceptions about the kinds of truths that each is supposed to deal in. But the aim of the writer of a novel must be the same as that of the writer of a history.”
― Hayden White

“Study the historian before you begin to study the facts.”
― Edward Hallett Carr, What Is History?

“History consists of a corpus ascertained facts. The facts are available to the historian in documents, inscriptions and so on, like fish in the fishmonger’s slab. The historian collects them, takes them home, and cooks and serves them in whatever style appeals to him.”
― Edward Hallett Carr, What Is History?

“The historian without his facts is rootless and futile; the facts without their historian are dead and meaningless.”
― E. H. Carr

“I am reminded of Housman’s remark that ‘accuracy is a duty, not a virtue.’ To praise a historian for his accuracy is like praising an architect for using well-seasoned timber or properly mixed concrete in his building. It is a necessary condition of his work, but not his essential function.”
― Edward Hallett Carr, What Is History?

“It used to be said that facts speak for themselves. This is, of course, untrue. The facts speak only when the historian calls on them: it is he who decides to which facts to give the floor, and in what order or context.”
― Edward Hallett Carr

“What is history?, our answer, consciously or unconsciously, reflects our own position in time, and forms part of our answer to the broader question, what view we take of the society in which we live.”
― Edward Hallett Carr, What Is History?

“The desire to postulate individual genius as the creative force in history is characteristic of the primitive stages of historical consciousness.”
― E.H. Carr, What Is History?

“The historian is necessarily selective. The belief in a hard core of historical facts existing objectively and independently of the interpretation of the historian is a preposterous fallacy, but one which it is very hard to eradicate.”
― Edward Hallett Carr

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