READING: Ludmila Jordanova, History in Practice London – Essaylink

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From the READING: Ludmila Jordanova, History in Practice London (pp.87-104):
1. We have seen that in order to do historical research, it is necessary to investigate primary sources. In what ways can such documents be deceiving?

From the READING: Ludmila Jordanova, History in Practice London (pp.87-104):

2. In the “Judging Writing” section of the chapter, what are some of the ways “persuasiveness” can be achieved in the writing history?

On p.121, the authors state that “nationalist histories do more than simply legitimize claims to nation status; they can also have a therapeutic and ideological function in that they help to develop a shared national identity and, in doing so, encourage people to take pride in their nation and to develop a collective sense of self-esteem and dignity.” They mention James W. Loewen, who argued that “American history textbooks (…) present mythologized and ideologically distorted depictions of American history.”

Read statements below, and explain how they differ from the narrative of American history to which you were accustomed in high school or which you received from textbooks:

a. Had the United States not come into being in 1776 and proclaimed the freedom of settlers to establish property rights over lands previously ceded to Indians by the Royal Proclamation of 1763, the western limit, the frontier, would not have reached the Mississippi River, where the Spanish Empire still stood in its way.
b. Prior to its demise after the Anglo-North American and French Revolutions, Spain had firmly established itself as the sovereign power from California to the Mississippi Valley and the Gulf Coast. Before the nineteenth century, however, there was tremendous political flux on the continent. Patterns of migration within and across sovereignties, the palimpsest of customs, traditions and cultural systems and quarreling imperial regimes that intersected with mercantile trade systems and forms of usufruct and property of the land, rendered “national” belonging of little attraction in the repertoire of sources of “identity” available to people inhabiting these contested spaces, freely or otherwise
c. The 1803 Louisiana Purchase extended the new nation to the Gulf Coast and the Rocky Mountains and opened the floodgates of the western frontier, a notion that entered into usage as the state-sanctioned policy of Indian removal relentlessly advanced. The extension of United States territorial sovereignty also involved an ongoing struggle over African slavery as well as resistance to it, as New Orleans grew into the largest slave market in North America.

4. Give one example of how history as taught in schools and universities today, and as manifested in academic histories, plays a crucial socio-political role. What is the boas or the assumption behind it?

5. After having read pages 118-119 and 138-140, imagine you are a 13th or 14th century European. The Silk Road has just recently established contact and trade with a distant land; a land so far away and so difficult to reach that it exists only in the imagination of the average European. Almost from the moment of first contact, the West established a unique and specific relationship with the East — one that still impacts and influences our conceptions of these regions today. In this relationship (as defined by Edward Said), the West is the “Occident”: the norm, the standard, the center, the fixed point around which the rest of the world orbits. The East is, by contrast, the “Orient”: the abnormal, the exotic, the foreign, the other defined specifically by its deviancy from the Occidental, Western norm. Importantly, this relationship — what Said terms “Orientalism” — draws upon exaggerations of both Occidental and Oriental traits in order to create an Orientalist that is a fictional recapitulation of both East and West. Western men are reimagined as universally Godly, good, moral, virile, and powerful — but ultimately innately human. By contrast, those traits that best serve as a counter-point to the Occidental West are emphasized in the West’s imagined construct of the East: strange religions and martial arts, bright colors and barbaric practices, unusual foods and incomprehensible languages, mysticism and magic, ninjas and kung fu. Asia becomes innately unusual, alien, and beastly. In Orientalism, Asia is not defined by what Asia is; rather, Asia becomes an “Otherized” fiction of everything the West is not, and one that primarily serves to reinforce the West’s own moral conception of itself.

Said is a prominent exponent of “post-colonial” history. Based on the images and thoughts that come to your mind when you think of “Asia”, is your perspective “Orientalist”? Explain.

6. Explain Eric Hobsbawm’s comment: “HIstory is the raw material for nationalist or ethnic or fundamentalist ideologies […]. The past is an essential element, perhaps the essential element, in these ideologies. If there is no suitable past, it can always be invented.” Give an example from the contemporary period.

7. Read p.128, and the following 2019 article, which claims that that the changes made to the history curriculum by the Texas Board of Education were “in good faith”:

a. Summarize the arguments of Donnelly & Norton and Kritika Agarwald.

a. Having considered them, what is your opinion on the matter?

8. What is “denialist” history (p.131)?
9. “History for its own sake” (p.134) – its objectivity and neutrality – is questioned by post-colonialism (see pp.139-142). Define what this means.
10. After having read pp.145-147, explain how feminist history and gender history differ.

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