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Forum LockedEuropean way to world primacy.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: European way to world primacy.
    Posted: 03-Jun-2009 at 11:02
I seem to have opened a can of worms here... Hoped it didn't look like I was suggesting none of ye set foot in a university and I certainly didn't mean to offend JRScotia (I assume everyone on the internet is a man until told otherwise...)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Jun-2009 at 13:56
Malizai, yes they English did become familiar with the process of smallpox innoculation through observations of its use in Istanbul. Though the English made a notable improvement over it. They began using totally harmless cowpox instead of the Turkish method of purposefully infecting an individual with less severe smallpox from existing cases. They also made use of the injecting needle to administer this, itself an invention of the medieval Mahgreb.

Originally posted by JRScotia

Originally posted by Constantine XI

Originally posted by JRScotia

There were some advances but not all that dramatic. Improvements in medicine--nil. Representative government--nil. Rights of the individual--nil.


This is actually totally untrue. A few examples will suffice.

Immunisation was implemented during this period, resulting in smallpox vaccinations. That alone is a large improvement, never mind all the others.

This is actually quite TRUE. From Wikipedia: "The process of vaccination was discovered by Edward Jenner in 1796, who acted upon his observation that milkmaids who caught the cowpox virus did not catch smallpox."

Almost 50 years after the period that was specified.


Who decided that the Early Modern period ended in 1750? This sub forum classes it as extending to WWI, though personally I would be more comfortable extending it to 1871 or 1815 especially.

So this fits well within the Early Modern period by most definitions.


Didn't the Dutch republic spawn during this period? It was no modern liberal democratic state, but by the standards of the time it was a dramatic improvement over most forms of government so far as democracy is concerned.

The Bill of Rights in England also was a very substantial improvement over previous standards of individual rights.

Ok. You're right. It wasn't NIL. Only ALMOST nil. There were two instances in all of Europe of some small improvement. Actually my first statement was that there were tiny improvements, and that is the case. But they were very, very small. In no way can I see any dramatic improvements in those areas.

Literature, sure. Art, absolutely. Some rather dramatic inventions in navigation and warfare, yes. But others that were mentioned, ethics, politics, medicine were amazingly stutified.


The Bill of Rights is no tiny improvement, it is a fundamental shift in how human beings viewed eachother legally at the time. It helped establish the notion that people were their own property with firmly established rights. At that time, this was a big change. To go from being born with your privileges and duties determined by social superiors to having your own innate rights is certainly a formidable shift. And when something like the Bill of Rights or Representative Democracy is established, it can spread to other countries and take root (which both did, and did quite dramatically).

It is wrong to claim there were no geat changes in fields like ethics. France prohibited slavery in 1794, while the UK did so in 1807 and then went on to conduct the most energetic anti-slavery enforcement campaign in history. Again this is merely one example. Ethics is an area which changed considerably through most of Europe during this time, the change in ethical standards being one portion in the overall movement known to history as the 'Enlightenment'.

As far as why Europe was able to dominate, it's the same reason, in my opinion, that the Mongols dominated a large part of the world (ignored by most of us of a European tradition) earlier. Military conquest--pure and simple.  Sometimes the greediest prevail.

Military might was a product of other factors within the European territories (technological innovation, advances in the organisation of the nation state, economic organisation and management). The successful European empires did not succeed due to a simple greedy->military might->domination formula. This is a vast oversimplification, and is untenable.


I disagree and since you offered no proof that I was wrong, I won't bother with listing the huge lists (conquering several contenents anyone?) of why I say I'm right. They were indeed greed and might based conquests and not based on some intrinsic superiority.


The ability to conquer several continents materialised because European countries developed the economic, political and military groundwork at home to conduct these campaigns. When England went to war she had superb shipyards which could churn out and repair vessels at an astounding rate, well drilled infantry with a generally superior rate of rifle fire. She adopted the practice of issuing war bonds under William III, where she could simply borrow the money from her own public to conduct a war, then repay when military victory was accompanied by economic benefits (a HUGE boost). England (and later the US) also benefited by developing a strong patenting system which protected the commercial rights of inventors to profit from their discoveries, which is why it hardly comes as a surprise that these two countries were chiefly responsible for the Industrial Revolution.

So with these factors, and many others I have omitted, what you end up with is a financially resourceful, technologically advanced, politically stable and militarilly well drilled nation facing its enemies. This is how nations in this period developed the economic and military might to conquer so much land. Throughout most of history, the urge to conquer and expand has usually been indulged without apology, constrained by logistical considerations rather than moral scruples. The Mughals under Aurangzeb and Persians under Nadir Shah showed the same tendencies during this period.

If you could please now demonstrate how an abstract moral concept such as 'greed' resulted in the same, I would be appreciative Smile


Edited by Constantine XI - 03-Jun-2009 at 18:06
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Post Options Post Options   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Jun-2009 at 20:35
Now some of You may regard me as "geography - fanatic".  I think any discussion of British (and even English) way to its (former) "hegemony" should include some remarks about its extraordinary geographical situation ("advantages" from the imperial point of view) in several ways. Perhaps even having much to do  with its inner development, though in this field I am certainly an outsider).
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Jun-2009 at 20:57
If you are going to take the moral high road you will end up with nothing. Simple as that. History tells us that only aggressive powers achieve any advancements. Empires that try to make nice are either conquered or end up in oblivion. China under the Ming and then Qing did this and come the 19th century the country that had a third of the world's population couldn't even prevent 10 thousand europeans from occupying its capital and humiliating the son of Heaven.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Jun-2009 at 21:29
Originally posted by Al Jassas

If you are going to take the moral high road you will end up with nothing. Simple as that. History tells us that only aggressive powers achieve any advancements.
 
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I have met and heard some historians, not History him/herself, yet.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Jun-2009 at 22:46
Originally posted by Parnell

I seem to have opened a can of worms here... Hoped it didn't look like I was suggesting none of ye set foot in a university and I certainly didn't mean to offend JRScotia (I assume everyone on the internet is a man until told otherwise...)
 
You've not only opened the can, but you've come perilously close to eating its contents as well, Parnell. Assumptions, even in historiography, often result in off-the-wall conclusions. A female historian (budding or otherwise) is no longer a rarity, and often a distinct pleasure if not wrapped in one of the current PC rants. Nevertheless, I did find interesting the voluminous protests against the classics, all required reading in my student days back before the Flood. Why, we were even forced to handle the sources in their original languages [mastery of two languages besides your own was a Ph.D. requirement]. Therein lay many of the problems arising in this forum and on this thread.
 
As for the gritting of the teeth on display in the above several posts, the simplifications border more on the simplistic than the succinct. The fall of the Ming, as well as Qing, are far from direct products of European "intervention" or expansion. In 1793, China under the Qianlong emperor was still an expanding power, while Europe was descending into a generation of  internecine warfare. Likewise, the encounter by Europeans of the Ming dynasts in the 16th century can hardly be described as European disruption of an empire. The disastrous reign of the Chongzen emperor and his disruption of the Ming army can hardly be blamed on European incursions (in fact, Chinese merchants incessantly pleaded to no avail for imperial action against the pirates of "Formosa", who were disrupting Cantonese trade with Manila).
 
In historical speculation, postulates premised on geography abound. The "island" hypothesis has been applied to both England and Japan, and there is the also the old standard on Constantinople/Byzantium/Istanbul as the cross-road of trade laying the foundatons for political power. A favored thesis among Spanish Imperial historians is the famous "what if" touching upon Lisbon: What if Philip II had chosen Lisbon rather than Madrid for the administrative seat of power.


Edited by drgonzaga - 03-Jun-2009 at 23:15
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Post Options Post Options   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Jun-2009 at 23:06
My apologies to all if I momentarily slip into dialect:

   Distinguido drgonzaga, in re: "I'd bet you'd have the same experience in deciphering "the classics" at the institutions you mention. Imagine what you would make of reading Unamuno or Ortega y Gasset at Salamanca!"

Bueno, adoro a Unamuno, pero Don Miguel era autor de "nivolas" en vez de "historias". En mis anos universitarios, mi "nivola" favorita del distinguido ex-rector de Salamanca fue "San Manuel Bueno, Martir". Pero de veras, hoy en dia me divierto mejor con las novelas de Arturo Perez-Reverte. Aqui hablo no solamente de "El Maestro de esgrima" y "El Club Dumas", ejemplares cumbres de su genero, sino tambien de su serie sobre las aventuras de "Capitan Alatriste", tan ricos que son en los detallles historicos del Siglo de Oro. Pena que algunos de los comentaristas hispanoparlantes aqui comentando no han aprovechado de la oportunidad de leerselas.

For Parnell. Sorry I can'y throw out anything in Gaelge, but I only learned about ten phrases. After I fired off my comment, it occurred to me that you might have mentioned keeping Gibbons by your bed for the same reasons. To cure the occasional insomnia? But yes, Gibbons too is rich in historical details, though the constant allusion challenges those not raised in an English (or perhaps Irish/Ulster) educational environment. 


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Post Options Post Options   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Jun-2009 at 23:42
Not so sure about that, the literary differences between Gibbon and modern historians is quite vast. Being acquainted with the English language doesn't necessarily give me an added advantage when reading Gibbon. I just find his turn of phrase marvellous, a little like Drgonzaga here!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Jun-2009 at 23:43
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Fantasus: in re:  “I think any discussion of British … (…English)…way to … "hegemony" should include some remarks about its extraordinary geographical situation ("advantages" from the imperial point of view) in several ways.”

 

Ireland and Scotland would have had the same geographical advantages in that they too were separated from the Continent. Yet neither of those ever became maritime powers. The Seven (Dutch) Provinces were a part of the Continent, yet they, like the English, developed as maritime powers, and thus acquired “Empire”. The real question is: Would either have done so had they been able to match the Spanish Army on land during Spain’s “Golden Age”? Yes, the gold and silver of the Americas financed Spain’s wars, but it was the birth of modern armies, as exemplified by the Spanish “Tercio”, that made Spain the master of Europe until at least the end of the “80 Years War” (Tachttien Jaar Orlog).  

 

Al Jassas: in re: “Empires that try to make nice are either conquered or end up in oblivion. China under the Ming and then Qing did this and come the 19th century the country that had a third of the world's population couldn't even prevent 10 thousand europeans from occupying its capital and humiliating the son of Heaven.”

 

I’m inclined to agree, but I think “trying to make nice” is a bit simplistic. Certainly the conditions that support an Empire can change over time, and it is not always a simple question of might. Might itself in based upon the active or passive support of the empire’s component entities, whether these be kingdoms, territories, vassals, or colonies. In China’s case, Empire appears to have been supported when things were going well (i.e., the mandate of heaven was obvious) and cracks began to appear when things began to fall apart. The Ching (Qing) in your example were foreigners to begin with. And sitting on the throne at a time when China was not only changing, but more aware of its inferior status vis-à-vis outside powers. The fact that “10,000 Europeans” could march to Beijing when the Qing likely viewed the Taiping rebellion, and its holdover campaigns, as of higher priority, is not surprising. I’m not sure the Ching ever tried to make nice, but in the end, they were overthrown by the Chinese themselves, rather than an Army of foreigners. I’m inclined to believe that all Empires must have a base of support among the populations they rule over. And as long as that base of support is maintained, the Empire will endure.   

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Post Options Post Options   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Jun-2009 at 23:45

Ah, Lirelou, you betray yourself! A dazzled Romantic after all...the revival of the "capa y espada" genre in Spanish literature was a most welcome phenomenon at the hands of Perez-Reverte; however, I must warn you that the "powers-that-be" frown upon such an extended reparte in a language other than English.

Many years ago, longer than I would like to recall, I made a pilgrimage of Salamanca to visit the "aula" in which Unamuno confronted General Millan Astray and his henchmen with their shouts of "Abajo la inteligencia". It was 1969 and the UNAM had just reopened to students (although all the entrances to the Facultad de Filosofia were still guarded by the Guardia Civil, who demanded ID before admission). Consequent to that visit, my friends and I decided to challenge the status quo on entry by donning fine tailored woolen suits and wearing winter coats with fox collars to seminars. Guess what, when we appeared at the doorways, the young guards simply saluted and did not request documents. How's that for adventure, and really on the cheap since one could live like a king back then on just 30,000 pesetas a month [$US1=125 pesetas]. Shades of Valle Inclan and the Marquez de Bradomin!
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Jun-2009 at 23:50
Originally posted by Parnell

Not so sure about that, the literary differences between Gibbon and modern historians is quite vast. Being acquainted with the English language doesn't necessarily give me an added advantage when reading Gibbon. I just find his turn of phrase marvellous, a little like Drgonzaga here!
 
And for a similar reason I devoured the Captain Aubrey/Maturin novels of Patrick O'Brien. They reeked of historical skill over that period, which is the one under discussion.


Edited by drgonzaga - 03-Jun-2009 at 23:51
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Post Options Post Options   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 00:25
Originally posted by lirelou

Fantasus: in re:  “I think any discussion of British … (…English)…way to … "hegemony" should include some remarks about its extraordinary geographical situation ("advantages" from the imperial point of view) in several ways.”

 

Ireland and Scotland would have had the same geographical advantages in that they too were separated from the Continent. Yet neither of those ever became maritime powers. The Seven (Dutch) Provinces were a part of the Continent, yet they, like the English, developed as maritime powers, and thus acquired “Empire”. The real question is: Would either have done so had they been able to match the Spanish Army on land during Spain’s “Golden Age”? Yes, the gold and silver of the Americas financed Spain’s wars, but it was the birth of modern armies, as exemplified by the Spanish “Tercio”, that made Spain the master of Europe until at least the end of the “80 Years War” (Tachttien Jaar Orlog).  

 

Perhaps there is other things important about Great Britain than being separated from continent: One is being located approximately in the middle of European Atlantic coast, at bit further west than most of the rest, especially when Scotland and Ireland were included as they were most of the period. second, having a probably much longer coastline - that means much more ressources and peoples located near the cost, and at easy disposal for maritime purposes in peace and wartime (proportionally) especially compared with the Iberian peninsula. Third - it is most lowland (at least England), probably meaning better easier internal communication, even often by rivers.  Of course as long they were non-independent,  Ireland, Scotland, Belgium or Norway, could hardly exploit their positions - (or if they could, then rather for easy emigration than anything else). Portugal, Britain and Spain were the westernmost located powers on the edge of the Eurasian landmass, and left the greatest impact of European countries, Followed by France and Netherlands.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 01:37
Ireland was in a brilliant strategic position to be a middling European power if it had of being able to secure internal peace and fight off the invaders in the early modern period. We had rich grazing land, the best wool in Europe, deep ports and were the nearest drop off point from North America to Europe.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 03:51
Parnell In re: "and were the nearest drop off point from North America to Europe."  that's true coming from west to east, but not for the trip over. In the age of sail, it was the currents off Senegal pushing towards the Caribbean that made for the shortest passage. Ergo, the reason that the Caribbean became a contested area from shortly after the Conquest. And, one of the reasons that Piracy arose there. At least, that was my take from Samuel Eliot Morrison's "The European Discovery of (North) America".
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Post Options Post Options   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 06:28
Originally posted by Parnell

Ireland was in a brilliant strategic position to be a middling European power if it had of being able to secure internal peace and fight off the invaders in the early modern period. We had rich grazing land, the best wool in Europe, deep ports and were the nearest drop off point from North America to Europe.
"Someone else" (guess) seems however to have been in a favourable position as well to "include" that Island and undoubtly use those advantages for themselves (if they were not completely stupid).
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Byzantine Emperor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 07:30
Originally posted by drgonzaga

In the scheme of things, a "grand narrative" within historiography is akin to the false elitism the old European bourgeois derived from the "grand tour": it is a superficiality that obscures true character. Now do not let such an observation upset because there is a parallel discussion at the root of Historical Study and the urge toward utilitarianism. Is Historiography a Science or an Art?
 
The existence of "grand-" or "meta-" narratives in historical traditions is something that postmodernists and literary critics set upon over thirty years ago.  Except in the realm of pop history or fiction, most academics with a brain would not declare the existence of such a thing these days on the scale of Ranke or Gibbon.  Nevertheless, speaking of elitism, I think the postmodernists and literary critics have brought their own intellectual snobbery and problematic methodology to the field of history.  The better question might be, is not history turned into something akin to NYT Bestseller fiction once those types get their hands on it?
 
Originally posted by drgonzaga

For example, Gibbons elaborated a masterly treatise on Rome with the simple object of underscoring how Christianity was the vehicle that brought the Empire down; however, this intellectual premise or assumption has more to say about the historical milieu of his time than any Roman perception or force. Therein the caveat. For in the writing of history, no matter how great the insight, one also carries the assumptions and prejudices of one's own being.
 
From the perspective of a Byzantinist, I can vouch that Gibbon and those who subscribed to his savagings of Byzantium did a great deal of damage to its historical image and even the discipline itself.  It took a long while before historiographic advancements weeded out the bias that he planted.  However, in the 21st century, most scholars, and definitely Byzantinists, do not consider Gibbon to be history, but rather literature.  Of course he is fun to read and his style shows a mastery of the English language.  But his "scholarship" has long been superceded and his historiographical perspective jettisoned as Enlightenment and Victorian elitism.
 
Originally posted by drgonzaga

Is there an objective conclusion in History? Let us use shorthand, will A in the presence of B always result in C? Thus, in terms of the human condition do certain events taken in sequence provide a predetermined conclusion that is unalterable and static? Yes, we can move back into the philosophy of history and notice the constructs of Vico (whom Marx plagiarized) and understand the impact of ideas on the writing of history, for example we are still in thrall to the concept of progress being the dynamic catalyst behind interpretative flow...
 
Although Vico was first, we must include Fichte and Hegel within the chain of development before we get to Marx.  It can be argued that Marx largely appropriated Hegel et al.'s interpretative framework and switched the "World Spirit" and "Idea" with materialist production.  This ultimately encourages "progress" and historical consciousness.
 
Originally posted by drgonzaga

Jacob Burckhardt, warned:
 
"Our moral criticism of past ages can easily be mistaken. It transfers present-day desiderata to the past. It views personalities according to set principles and makes too little allowance for the exigencies of the moment."
 
Burckhardt stated this very distinctly.  Too bad more did not take this to heart and spared us all the existential, jargon-filled, reality/consciousness-denying babble of the postmodernists that dominated the history field from the late sixties through the nineties.  They were essentially saying the same thing with all the added fluff.
 
Originally posted by Parnell

I believe there is such a thing as objective fact/truth. Human beings are incapable of seeing objectivity with their own eyes, but they get close. Better historians with the use of the tools in the historians trade strike even closer. All history is a mere approximation of the past. It cannot ever be considered to have a complete understanding of it. But through the investigation of the traces left behind for us we can get close to actually understanding what happened. On the other hand if you believe all events of the past are mere construct of our imaginations then I think we run into an intolerable situation, where there are no accurate or negative statements, just statements made by constructs of our consciousness. Relativism is, in a word, nuts.
 
You do realize, however, and unfortunately, that many in the field are still under the influence of the postmodern turn and would call your defense of objectivity "nuts."  They believe that everything, from culture itself to consciousness to ultimate reality, is linguistically and culturally constructed.  Therefore it contains an inherent bias and fictionalizes all attempts at producing anything close to honest, objective history.  We are just formless blobs bouncing around on a grid.  Of course, if you corner one of these people at a conference and ask them to define their terms and explain their epistemological assumptions, they become "deer in the headlights," so to speak! LOL
 
Originally posted by drgonzaga

What then would you make of cultural historians and their breadth of vision (shades of Braudel)? Each tool must be kept to its limited setting and if you are worried over jargon, you'll find that the flaw of the manipulators of documents, who somehow are fully intent on not permitting these to speak for themselves.
 
Yes, but wouldn't you say that the longue duree approach of the Annalistes has its drawbacks as well?  It is sad that Marc Bloch came to such a tragic end, for I admired his method and approach far more than Braudel.  Bloch encouraged the use of different tools in historical investigation, although within limits.  Braudel seemed to go overboard.  There is only so much one can glean from 2000 pages of discussion on wheat, beans, rice, and copper sites!


Edited by Byzantine Emperor - 04-Jun-2009 at 07:33
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 10:41

There is only so much one can glean from 2000 pages of discussion on wheat, beans, rice, and copper sites!


Thats what I find inherently boring about economic and cultural historians... Wouldn't they just be better off heading down to the train station and counting the number of trains that go past all day?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 11:48

Originally posted by lirelou


Ireland and Scotland would have had the same geographical advantages in that they too were separated from the Continent. Yet neither of those ever became maritime powers.

Scotland in fact got off to a rather good start in the 16th century, especially considering the disparity in population. As early as the 1520s they and the French were ahead of the English in raiding the Spanish in the Americas. They also at least held their own against the English in the North Sea, and English attempts to enter the waters around Scotland itself were rarely successful. By then of course Ireland and Wales no longer had independent fleets.

After 1603 the distinction between English/Scots ships became blurred, finally vanishing entirely into the Royal Navy.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 12:02
Also archaeology has been influenced by the postmodernists (or post processualists that they are called in the archaeological world). The post processual archaeology was a reaction on the modernist processual archaeology that was popular in the 70:ties. That in turn was a reaction to the functionalistic approach which came after the culture history archaeology (as it was a reaction to).
It will be interesting to see what new isms and also what kind of synthesises the archeology of the future will hold.
Also there is the old debate about archeology as a (natural) science, or archaeology as humanistics or as social science that is still going on, especially since archaeology uses more and more tools and methods from the (natural ) sciences.
 


Edited by Carcharodon - 04-Jun-2009 at 12:03
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Post Options Post Options   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 13:22
A reason for special attention towards the relationship between history (and related disciplines) on the one hand, and what we can label loosely "geographical and environmental disciplines" on the other could be the "danger" of growing distance to reality, especially "past reality", loosing a possible path to understand. One reason to this of course is the growing "artificial world", that may make us unaware of anything else. especially academics in universities, but now more and more the majority of us.
Topics from this debate as Byzantine and Roman history are as far as I see it very retated to their location, natural surroundings etcetera (Self evident? yes, but perhaps less so the less related we are to our own "natural" surroundings).
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