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E-story, or the New Hollywood Myth

  • Claudia Moatti (a1)

David Armitage and Jo Guldi’s History Manifesto has sparked an important debate in the United States. This article criticizes three specific aspects of their work. First, it takes issue with their description of a “moral crisis” of history, which they postulate without any discussion of serious epistemological and political issues. Second, it calls into question their enthusiasm for technological solutions, an ideological stance highlighted by their call for a return to long-term history and large-scale syntheses relying on the crunching of vast quantities of digitized data. Finally, it interrogates their conception of the utility of history, a notion that reveals serious confusion between research, teaching, and popularization and supports their unquestioning acceptance of the direction taken by institutions of higher learning. Although the scientism and positivism expressed in their manifesto illuminate their lack of attention to, and perhaps simply awareness of, the slow construction and transmission of accumulated knowledge, they do reflect the prevailing intellectual nonchalance and philosophical regression. The authors’ vision would see the replacement of “history” by “e-story,” the dissolution of historicity and scholarly critique and their substitution by techno-chronology and marketing.

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1. Noiriel, Gérard, Sur la “crise” de l’histoire (Paris: Belin, 1996).

2. Armitage, David and Guldi, Jo, “The Return of the Longue Durée: An Anglo-American Perspective,” Annales HSS (English Version) 70, no. 2 (2015): 219–47 , here p. 232.

3. Ibid., 221.

4. Chanteau, Julien, “L’archéologie virtuelle,” Médium 35, no. 2 (2013): 95–111 .

5. Skinner, Quentin, The Return of Grand Theory in the Human Sciences (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 184 .

6. Traverso, Enzo, L’histoire comme champ de bataille. Interpréter les violences du XXe (Paris: La Découverte, 2011), 40 .

7. Toynbee, Arnold J., The Study of History, vol. 1, Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1934), 15–50 .

8. See the reflection of Chevalier, Jean-Yves, “Le paradoxe du continu,” Médium 35, no. 2 (2013): 52–71 .

9. Veyne, Paul, Writing History: Essay on Epistemology, trans. Moore-Rinvolucri, Mina (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984), 134.

10. Riot-Sarcey, Michèle, Le procès de la liberté. Une histoire souterraine du XIXe siècle (Paris: La Découverte, 2016).

11. Détienne, Marcel, Comparing the Incomparable, trans. Lloyd, Janet (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008).

12. Graeber, David, Debt: The First 5,000 Years (New York: Melville House, 2011).

13. Price, David H., Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State (Oakland: AK Press, 2011).

14. Cicero, De finibus bonorum et malorum 5.2.5–6.

15. de Certeau, Michel, The Writing of History, trans. Conley, Tom (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988).

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Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales - English Edition
  • ISSN: 2398-5682
  • EISSN: 2268-3763
  • URL: /core/journals/annales-histoire-sciences-sociales-english-edition
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