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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
February 2024
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Book description

What is a classic in historical writing? How do we explain the continued interest in certain historical texts, even when their accounts and interpretations of particular periods have been displaced or revised by newer generations of historians? How do these texts help to maintain the historiographical canon? Jaume Aurell's innovative study ranges from the heroic writings of ancient Greek historians such as Herodotus to the twentieth century microhistories of Carlo Ginzburg. The book explores how certain texts have been able to stand the test of time, gain their status as historiographical classics, and capture the imaginations of readers across generations. Investigating the processes of permanence and change in both historiography and history, Aurell further examines the creation of historical genres and canons. Taking influence from methodologies including sociology, literary criticism, theology, and postcolonial studies, What Is a Classic in History? encourages readers to re-evaluate their ideas of history and historiography alike.


‘Jaume Aurell's book on the emergence, meaning, and cultural position of works of history that are considered, or at least colloquially referred to as, classics is not going to compete with any other book on this topic because there aren't any others. What Is a Classic in History? maps out the entire terrain, chronologically and thematically, of a new specialized field.’

Nancy Partner - Professor of History Emeritus, McGill University

‘What Is a Classic in History? makes a strong case for seeing canonicity in works of history as something liquid and protean, with works and even entire genres falling out of or into favour.’

Daniel Woolf - Professor of History, Queen’s University

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