HIST 491 || quiz 1 || 27 Oct 2021

Decide whether each question is MORE true or false. If you think it’s too easy, you’re probably right.

1._____ Fulbrook wrote her book to mediate between postmodern critiques of history and empiricist defenses of history.

At least PARTLY TRUE, because that’s obviously part of what she does in almost every chapter. But is her goal really to “mediate” or to develop her own unique position? Another motivation, and perhaps the main one, for her book is to increase theoretical sophistication and transparency of historians, not just to mediate between critiques. I’d say MOSTLY FALSE for that reason, but that’s a subjective call on how you understand her intent.

2._____ The postmodern criticism that pre-interpretation delimits the objectivity or truthfulness of history has not been sufficiently answered by historians.

What does delimit mean? TRUE according to Fulbrook, at least before she wrote her book. You might say false now that you’ve read her book. Fulbrook would agree with this statement, I think, because postmodern critics of history have indeed called objectivity into question, and Fulbook does state she thinks that historians haven’t answered this adequately because the usual answer is to “appeal to evidence”. Maybe she would argue now that it has been answered by her book. Also, pre-interpretation is a necessary part of human existence, and we all function just fine, so it’s not a valid critique of historical interpretation.

3. _____ An anachronistic approach to historical analysis is regarded as sound methodology by most historians because it helps us understand how people from the “foreign” past thought about their world.

FALSE because there are too many moving parts to this statement. Anachronistic history uses present day concepts and ways of understanding the world to explain what happened a long time ago. This is useful to a point because it CAN help us understand how people thought. BUT: 1) we have to recognize there is a low ceiling to what we can ever know about what anyone from the past actually thought about anything. 2) there are dangers of distorting descriptions of the past or explaining it when using present-day terms and ideas that weren’t present at the time. This is dangerous because, per our example, to talk about medieval science almost unavoidably imports modern connotations of science to the medieval world that didn’t exist. How this is done can vary among topics and language communities, etc, so there is no absolute agreement about whether it’s a good idea.

π._____ Because constructivist terms like society and gender have such a broad range of meaning, historians cannot effectively communicate across language communities.

FALSE. This statement is for sure what a postmodern critic of history would say, but Fulbrook is arguing this statement is NOT true (or will not be true) if historians are careful and explicit about assumptions and terminology. She does think historians can communicate across language communities, but I don’t think she’s say this is common practice now.

4._____ Fulbrook would generally agree that “progress” in historical understanding is essentially impossible because of the utility and validity of multiple (and sometimes irreconcilable) interpretations.

FALSE. She is writing the book to show that progress IS possible and that we CAN choose between different interpretations and we can defeat (postmodern) critics of history that question the way it can effectively represent “the actual past”.

5._____ Chapter 7 (for today) describes why most historians in the 21st century, following a general shift in the profession, feel that individuals have generally less influence on history than larger groups or social structures.

FALSE. If we think that history has moved beyond “traditional” history, which is based on individual accomplishments (of white men), we MIGHT agree that especially after the postmodern turn, historians look at large social structures more often. This is not an unreasonable assumption. But historians have been doing that for a long time as well (think the Annale School, for instance), To me, Fulbrook seems to belabor the point that historians are equally divided about what they focus on—and importantly, they aren’t explicit about why and that’s something she wants to change.

6._____ Because different paradigms are concerned with solving different puzzles, paradigms are largely independent of how different historians might view the role of individual human agency.

FALSE. Paradigms might suggest how to solve puzzles differently, but paradigms are CENTRAL to how historians decide the importance of human agency.

7._____ The doctrine of methodological individualism is based on what Fulbrook (via Peter Burke who you don’t need to know) calls “traditional” history.

FALSE. Traditional history is premised on the (usually unstated) assumption that individuals drive history. The doctrine (or fundamental belief) of focusing on the individual is the REASON WHY traditional history was the standard way of operating.

8._____ Structural approaches to history generally reject intentions and actions as important explanatory factors.

FALSE. Fulbrook is clear that while structural approaches to history might minimize intentions of historical actors in general, almost all (structurally pre-disposted) historians still include them as part of the story and necessary for understanding.

9._____ Fulbrook is largely ambivalent about whether historical circumstances or individual agency are more significant in allowing a particular person to “make history”.

FALSE, I think. She seems to qualify the influence of individuals over and over again to emphasize how they are a product of their time. She also repeats how we have obvious examples of individual agency that are hard to deny, but I think her preference is clear.

10._____ Fulbrook is clear that there is no universally applicable approach to history, and that the most appropriate level of analysis (ie individual vs collective) is simply determined by the subject matter.

FALSE. Fulbrook IS clear that there is no universal approach to history, BUT ALSO clear that to assume the level analysis is simply determined by the subject matter misses the point and is wrong to do. BOTH perspectives have to be used in almost all cases of historical analysis.

11._____ Despite the use of competing paradigms, the widely accepted foundations of historical methodology mean that what counts as an “answer” to a particular question or puzzle are largely (but not necessarily entirely) shared across paradigms.

FALSE. Fulbrook argues that what counts as an answer or a solution to a puzzle is wholly dependent on the paradigm that the historian uses to formulate the question and answer. She needs this to be false because she is trying to argue that by recognizing how historians are using paradigms (and of course historians need to be clearer about how they are) helps us determine which interpretations are better than others (and thus defeat postmodern critics who say all histories are valid).

12._____ Even as gender is now recognized as socially constructed, a scientific analysis of chromosomal differences between women and men shows that sex is biologically, not socially determined.

The most wishy washy question. The point is that this example illustrates the power of paradigms. If you are a hard core social constructivist, this is FALSE, because scientists themselves are part of their cultural moment, and even the premise of clear biological distinctions between sex could be considered a product of culture. There could be another equally plausible assumption/paradigm that starts with the idea that all sex difference on a spectrum even if most people tend to be obviously one or the other. If your paradigm of the world defines science as objective and detached from culture, then you would say TRUE.

13._____ The “outer parameters of historical paradigms” are less important than the core tenets of historical paradigms that shape choices about how to read historical sources.

FALSE. For Fulbrook, the outer parameters are MORE important because being careful and explicit about understanding them make ideas move across paradigms. The core tenets of paradigms are often totally incompatible and don’t help us resolve competing interpretations. But when we recognize some overlap between interpretations based on different paradigms, Fulbrook might consider this to be “progress” in historical understanding.

14._____ Fulbrook’s theorizing about history may apply to some aspects of science, but generally does not.

FALSE. It applies to everything, as discussed in our wrap-up convo.

15._____ Although she hasn’t talked about it explicitly, Fulbrook has provided adequate theoretical grounds for differentiating history from historical fiction.

TRUE. At least mostly. We didn’t talk about this issue too much, but her theoretical description of how history works, coupled with her appeal to common sense and everyday life make a strong case for how not many people would have trouble recognizing the difference. I think she has in fact shown that just because some elements of history are fictive in the sense that just because a historian has to tell a story and stylize a narrative to make it more approachable (and interesting), doesn’t automatically mean all history necessarily has to be considered fiction, even if some extreme postmodern critics make that claim.