THE ESSENTIAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HISTORY AND SCIENCE
AndDavidCannadinerecently remarked that A. J. P. Taylor’s inability “to get beneath the skins of otherpeople,toprojecthimselfimaginativelyandempathicallyintotheirheartsor minds” was “a great limitation” in his work as a historian.
With respect to the issue of portraying subjectivity inclusively and in a bal-anced way, Isaiah Berlin has said that in historical studies “we wish, ideally atleast, to be presented, if not with a total experience—which is a logical as wellas practicalimpossibility—at leastwith something. .. seen from asmany pointsof view”as possible.
BernardBailynhas saidthateven thoughrecentinterpre-tations of the American Revolution “have allowed us to see with some claritythe patternof fears, beliefs,attitudesandperceptionsthatbecamethe ideologyof the Revolution” they have “not yet made clear why any sensible, well-in-formed, right-minded American with a modicum of imagination and commonsense could possiblyhave opposed the Revolution.. . . [And] until thatis done,until we look deliberately at the development from the other side around, wehave not understood what the issues really were, what the struggle was allabout.”
Howard Zinn has reminded historians of the importance of their re-porting “accurately
of the subjectivities in a situation,” in particular, thatthey balancetheir accountsof slavery inAmericaby conveying what itwaslikenot only from the slaveowner’s point of view but also from the slave’s point of view.
And so on.If we turn from the things historians say about historical interpretations tothe interpretations themselves, the same preoccupation with subjectivity,agency, and meaningshows up.Consider, for instance, the following represen-tative sample of remarks about subjectivity scattered throughout GordonWood’s recent and highly acclaimed
The Radicalism of the American Revo-lution
We will never comprehend the distinctiveness of that premodern world until we ap-preciate the extent to which many ordinary people still accepted their own lowliness.Only then can we begin to understand the radical changes in their consciousness . . .that the American Revolution brought about.
[T]hecolonistsweremuchmoreacutelyconsciousof legaldependence—andperhapsofthevalueofindependence—thanEnglishmenacrosstheAtlantic.Undersuchcircum-stances it was often difﬁcult for the colonists to perceive the distinctive peculiarity of black slavery.
2. Peter Novick,
That Noble Dream: The “Objectivity Question” and the American Historical Profession
(Cambridge, Eng., 1988), 441.3. David Cannadine, Review,
(February 4, 1994), 4.4. Isaiah Berlin, “The Concept of Scientiﬁc History,”
History and Theory
1 (1960), 1–31. Re-printed in
Philosophical Analysis and History
, ed. William Dray (New York, 1966), 5–53.5. Bernard Bailyn,
The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson
(Cambridge, Mass., 1974), x.6. Howard Zinn,
The Politics of History
(Boston, 1970), 41.7. Gordon Wood,
The Radicalism of the American Revolution
(New York, 1992), 30.8.