Originally posted on Diary of a Catholic Reader:

Historian John Lukacs on The Future of History, title of his newly published book (Yale), as elucidated by reviewer Anne Barbeau Gardiner (New Oxford Review, Jan.-Feb., 2003), italics mine.

What is this thing called history?

The central point of Lukacs’s book is that history is a form of literature and not a science. Yes, professional historians must have “serious archival knowledge and practice,” but they must also be dedicated to finding out the truth about the past.

What’s it for?

“The purpose of history is understanding even more than accuracy (though not without a creditable respect for the latter).” A good history is “unavoidably anthropocentric” because it conveys “the knowledge that human beings have of other human beings.”

[In pursuit of this human element] historians should be willing to consult not only the documentary evidence but also the great literary achievements of past ages . . . .

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