The Future of History

John Lukacs

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May 1, 2012
192 pages, 5 x 7 3/4
ISBN: 9780300181692
Paper

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For more than sixty years, John Lukacs has been writing, teaching, and reading about the past. In this inspired volume, he turns his attention to the future. Throughout The Future of History, Lukacs reflects on his discipline, eloquently arguing that the writing and teaching of history are literary rather than scientific, comprising knowledge that is neither wholly objective nor subjective. History at its best, he contends, is personal and participatory.

Despite a recently unprecedented appetite for history among the general public, as evidenced by history television program ratings, sales of popular history books, and increased participation in local historical societies, Lukacs believes that the historical profession is in a state of disarray. He traces a decline in history teaching throughout higher education, matched by a corresponding reduction in the number of history students. He reviews a series of short-lived fads within the profession that have weakened the fundamentals of the field. In looking for a way forward, Lukacs explores the critical relationships between history and literature, including ways in which novelists have contributed to historical understanding. Through this startling and enlightening work, readers will understand Lukacs's assertion that "everything has its history, including history" and that history itself has a future, since everything we know comes from the past.

John Lukacs is the author of some thirty books of history, including the acclaimed Five Days in London and, most recently, The Legacy of the Second World War.

"In the dark world here depicted, we see Lukacs's own bright form, in his irresistibly human prose."—Timothy Snyder, Historically Speaking

"Practicing historians and . . . history buffs will want to read this book."—David Keymer, Library Journal

"The Future of History deserves a wide audience. Its eloquent advocacy reminds readers of the nature and priorities of the best historical writing, even as it elucidates the undeniable perils of the present decline."—Stanley G. Payne, Historically Speaking

"I consider John Lukacs one of the outstanding historians of the generation and, indeed, of our time."--Jacques Barzun

"We are in the presence of one of the most powerful, as well as one of the most learned, minds of the century."'--Conor Cruise O'Brien

"There is no one who has looked at subject[s] as broadly, sensitively, and deeply...This is what gives all of [Lukacs's] works their long-term value."--George F. Kennan

"No historian of the Second World War has John Lukacs's range, acuteness, intuition."--Daniel Patrick Moynihan

"Mr. Lukacs is one of the more incisive historians of the twentieth century."--Washington Times

"A brilliant and penetrating analysis of the present and future of history by one of our wisest historians and philosophers of history, a work that should be read by everyone interested in history in the twenty-first century."--Stanley G. Payne, author of Franco and Hitler: Spain, Germany, and World War II

“In the course of the last six decades, John Lukacs has published more than thirty learned, witty, controversial tomes and innumerable articles and reviews – nearly all of them contributions to the study of modern European and American history, and many of them laced with striking reflections on the present discontents. In this slim, gracefully written volume, this renowned historian turns from tracing, analyzing, and assessing the significance of developments past to ruminating on the present state of historical scholarship and pondering its prospects. Composed in a conversational style reminding one of what it originally meant to pen an essay, The Future of History will be treasured by readers graced with a speculative cast of mind and apt to take delight in the company of a thoughtful and erudite provocateur.”--Paul A. Rahe, author of Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift

"These personal reflections on the nature of history and historical consciousness, the fruit of a long productive career of an historian who never shrank from big subjects and controversial questions, will provoke, stimulate and enlighten readers. Its central thesis, that history is and should remain literature, conveying meaning like great novels more through insight and understanding than by factual narration, is surely worth pondering."--Paul Schroeder, The Transformation of European Politics, 1763-1848

"Lukacs manages to cover a remarkable amount of ground."—Ryan Sayre Patrico, First Things

“To listen to [Lukacs] attempting to reconcile conflicting ideas and facts is the pleasure and instructiveness of The Future of History. It teaches us how to respect our disciplines.”—Ron Slate, On the Seawall

“I do not tire of reading Lukacs . . . It’s almost as if he’s sitting by the fire speaking informally to a gathering of confidants on a topic about which his mind has been quite fertile for many decades. While the topics have been addressed in the past, the fertility of his mind keeps them fresh and relevant.”—Stephen Greenleaf, Taking Readings

“The Future of History should be treasured, not only for its depressing observations about the state of history in the US, but also for its persuasive demonstration that, if history is to endure, it must harness the facts and techniques found in literature and provide meaning like the world’s great novels.”—Walter C. Uhler