John Arnold – History

There are many stories we can tell about the past, and we are not, perhaps, as free as we might imagine in our choice of which stories to tell, or where those stories end. John Arnold’s addition to Oxford’s popular Very Short Introductions series is a stimulating essay about how people study and understand history. The book begins by inviting us to think about various questions provoked by our investigation of history, and then explores the ways in which these questions have been answered in the past. Such key concepts as causation, interpretation, and periodization are introduced by way of concrete examples of how historians work, thus giving the reader a sense of the excitement implicit in discovering the past–and ourselves.The aim throughout History: A Very Short Introduction is to discuss theories of history in a general, pithy, and accessible manner, rather than delve into specific periods. This is a book that will appeal to all students and general readers with an interest in history or historiography.
Author: John Arnold
Narrator: Richard Davidson
Duration: 4 hours 43 minutes
Released: 9 Apr 2008
Publisher: Audible Studios
Language: English

User Review:

gunsight separated

“The past itself is not a narrative. In its entirety, it is chaotic, uncoordinated, and complex as life. History is about making sense of that mess, finding or creating patterns and meanings and stories from the maelstrom.” — John H. Arnold, History

A friend on Facebook introduced me to this series a couple weeks ago. I usually steer towards larger books (Diary of Samuel Pepys, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, etc.). I like to submerge in a book, so I was initially skeptical of this format. These are short books, almost novella size (although the font being 8 or 9 point might allow Oxford’s editors to squeeze a bit more in). These are books not meant for the expert, but the enthusiast. They are, as Oxford titled them, VERY SHORT INTRODUCTIONS. Perfect. There is an art to writing tight. To cutting your story, your explanation, your introduction into the fewest words possible. Things are not included, left out, obviously, but like haikus there is beauty in scarcity and there is a definite place for these books in my library. I’ve only finished one (This one), but I’m addicted.

I loved Arnold’s voice, his take, and his approach. I think he managed to engage, explain, synthesize the history of history, and did ALL of that in just under 124 pages.

I just ordered World War II: A Very Short Introduction (for my son) and The American Revolution: A Very Short Introduction (for my daughter). I expect I will be buying more very shortly.