Imprisoned by History
Aspects of Historicized Life
Routledge – 2009 – 276 pages
Series: Routledge Approaches to History
Imprisoned by History: Aspects of Historicized Life offers a controversial analysis, grounded both in philosophical argument and empirical evidence, of what history does in contemporary culture. It endorses and extends the argument that contemporary society is, in historical terms, already historicized, shaped by history – and thus history loses sight of the world, seeing it only as a reflection of its own self-image. By focusing on history as a way of thinking about the world, as a thought-style, this volume delivers a major, decisive, thought-provoking critique of a crucial aspect contemporary culture and the public sphere.
By illustrating the ways in which history enforces socially coercive attitudes and forms of behaviour, Martin Davies argues that history is therefore in itself ideological and exists as an instrument of political power. Contending that this ideological function is the "normal" function of professional academic history, he repudiates entirely the conventional view that only biased or "bad" history is ideological. By finding history projecting onto the world and getting reflected back at it the exacting, history-focused thinking and behaviour on which the discipline and the subject rely, he concludes that history’s very "normality" and "objectivity" are inherently compromised and that history works only in terms of its own self-interest.
Preface. Acknowledgments. 1. ‘Shaking the respect for history’. 2. Imprisoned by History. 3. The Historical Unconscious. 4. History: A Self-centred Science. 5. History: Deception as Cultural Practice. Appendix. References. Index.
Martin L. Davies works in the School of Historical Studies, University of Leicester, UK, having previously lectured in the School of Modern Languages. Besides numerous articles he has written Identity or History? Marcus Herz and the End of the Enlightenment (1995) and Historics: Why History Dominates Contemporary Society (Routledge, 2006).