Guldi and Armitage 2014

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Guldi, Jo and David Armitage. The History Manifesto. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

"Only in rare conversations does anyone notice that there are long- term changes flowing around us, ones that are relevant and possible to see. The world around us is clearly one of change, irreducible to models. Who is trained to steadily wait upon and translate them for others, these vibrations of deeper time?" (3)
"Centuries and epochs are often mysteries too deep and wide for journalists to concern themselves with. Only in rare conversations does anyone notice that there are continuities that are relevant and possible to see. Who is trained to wait steadily upon these vibrations of deeper time and then translate them for others?" (5)
"Universities, along with religious institutions, are the carriers of traditions, the guardians of deep knowledge. They should be the centres of innovation where research takes place without regard to profit or immediate application.7 Precisely that relative disinterested- ness has given the university particular room to ponder long-term questions using long-term resources." (5)
"Their educational purpose was precisely not to be instrumen- tal: to examine theories and instances, to pose questions and the means of their solution, but not to propose practical objectives or strategies. As the medieval university mutated into the modern research university, and as private foundations become subject to public control and funding, the goals of the humanities were increas- ingly tested and contested. For at least the last century, wherever the humanities have been taught or studied there has been debate about their ‘relevance’ and their ‘value’. Crucial to the defence of the humanities has been their mission to transmit questions about value – and to question values – over hundreds, even thousands, of years. Any search for antidotes to short-termism must begin with them." (6)
"Our argument is that History – the discipline and its subject-matter – can be just the arbiter we need at this critical time." (7)

retreat of historians from the public sphere -- that role was "taken over by other scholars, whose views of the past were determined less by historical data and more by universal models" (11), especially economists

explosion of big data offers new mechanisms for explaining/understanding past

"History’s power to liberate, we argue, ultimately lies in explaining where things came from, tacking between big processes and small events to see the whole picture, and reducing a lot of information to a small and shareable version. We recommend these methods to a society plagued by false ideas about the past and how it limits our collective hopes for the future."

Going forward by looking back: the rise of the longue duree

"Preferences and habits alike change from generation to generation; they are reformed entirely over the course of centuries.3 Historians focus on the question of how: Who did the changing, and how can we be sure they were the agents? These analytics of causality, action, and consequence make them specialists in noticing the change around us." (14)
"Transnational history is all the rage. Transtemporal history has yet to come into vogue." (15)

Braudel -- time sticks to historian's work like soil to the gardener's spade

Baudel & Annales -- quest "to find the relationship between agency and environment over the longue duree" (16)

"For scholars who came of age in the 1950s and 1960s longue-durée history had been a tool for persuading bureaucrats and making policy." (26)

offer three approaches for historical thinking:

  1. thinking about destiny and freewill
  1. counterfactual thinking
  1. utopian thought
"Stories with a long-term argument can have the powerful effect of banishing myths and overturning false laws. This, and not the mere appreciation of antiquities, is the reason that universities have history departments and the reason for history’s classical mission as magistra vitae, the teacher of all aspects of life.We must use the past in the indispensable work of turning out the falsehoods established in the past, of making room for the present and the future, lest those mythologies come to dominate our policy-making and our relationships." (37)

The short past, or, the retreat of the longue duree

students are told to focus their work more

"While sophistication with data about the past is well and good for learning to ask precise, academic questions and how to answer them, sometimes our student wonders when and how the big questions can be asked, and by whom." (38)

The long and the short: climate change, governance, and inequality since the 1970s

"History, with its rich, material understanding of human experience and institutions and its apprehension of multiple causality, is reentering the arena of long-term discussions of time where evolutionary biologists, archaeo- logists, climate scientists, and economists have long been the only protagonists. Today, we desperately need an arbiter for these mytho- logical histories, capable of casting out prejudice, reestablishing con- sensus about the actual boundaries of the possible, and in so doing opening up a wider future and destiny for modern civilisations. History as a discipline can be that referee." (86-7)

Big questions, big data

"Digitally structured reading means giving more time to counterfactuals and suppressed voices, realigning the archive to the intentions of history from below." (93)
"Long-term thinkers frequently avoid engaging digital tools for analysing the big picture. The new longue durée-ists might have been expected to step into this role of carefully analysing the data of many disciplines, as their stories synthesise and interweave narratives borrowed from other places. But they have often shied away from big data; they generally prefer to construct traditional synthetic narratives by way of secondary sources. When there is such a mismatch between goals and resources, there may yet be opportunities for more ambitious work on a larger scale. Some have heard the clarion call to return to the big picture, and some have responded to the promise of the digital toolkit. But few have used the two together, applying tools designed to analyse large troves of resources to questions about our long-term past and long-term future." (95)

cliometrics "banished for its sins" -- but now can return to quantitative analysis with sensitivity fostered by microhistories of individual experiences

"Rich information can help to illuminate the deliberate silences in the archive, shining the light onto parts of the government that some would rather the public not see. These are the Dark Archives, archives that do not just wait around for the researcher to visit, but which rather have to be built by reading what has been declassified or removed. Here, too, big data can help to tell a longer, deeper story of how much has disappeared, when, and why." (100)
"Digitisation by itself is not sufficient to break through the fog of stories and the confusion of a society divided by competing mythologies. Cautious and judicious curating of possible data, questions, and subjects is necessary. We must strive to discern and promote questions that are synthetic and relevant and which break new methodological ground. Indeed, the ability to make sense of causal questions, to tell persuasive stories over time, is one of the unresolved challenges facing the information industry today." (103)
"The reality of natural laws and the predominance of pattern do not bind individuals to any particular fate: within their grasp, there still remains an ability to choose, embodied in individual agency, which is one cause among many working to create the future. But this is not how many disciplines today reason." (110)
"The strength of digital tools to promote longue-durée synthesis that includes perspectives other than that of the nation-state rests upon the ongoing creation and maintenance of inclusive archives." (113)

inclusion of micro-archives that preserve subaltern voices within big data

"Tools of critical historical thinking about where data come from,

about multiple causality, and about bias will free us from the mythologies of natural laws propounded about market, state, and planetary fate in our time, stories that spell starvation and destruction for the masses. They will make clear that dogmatic thinking about the market or the climate that leads to the abandonment of our fellow human beings is a choice, and that other worlds are possible. And they will accomplish that by looking at the hard data of our planetary resources, their use, and the many alternatives displayed in the deep past and the various possible futures" (115)