Friday, September 08, 2006

experimental historians?

The cover story in this week's TIME magazine seems to have raised a bit of a stir in my head. There seems to be indignation, mostly at the debasement of the authority of the historian or the profession of [writing?] history. There maybe a logic to the indignation though. Speculative future-historiography is a bit too fantastic (and trendy?).
But even given that, I suppose my uneasiness is with a historian (Niall Ferguson, in this case) experimenting with history. Is it even possible for a historian to seek to cleave open a space within official accounts of the relationship between the past and the present within which the possibilities of the past (and the future) can be re-imagined and re-explored? On the other hand, if the subversion of the authority of the historian is indeed the beginning of experimental histories, then what is Mr. Ferguson experimenting with? Outcomes?

Finally, is there any difference between imagining and experimenting?

1 comment:

Harold Kumar said...

Niall Ferguson has also been involved in a public spat with the Indy columnist Johann Hari recently, over the British Empire in India.

JH: http://www.johannhari.com/archive/article.php?id=903

NF: http://comment.independent.co.uk/commentators/article994043.ece
(NF was backed up by: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2092-2230453,00.html)

JH: http://www.johannhari.com/archive/article.php?id=909