Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Culture of History: English Uses of the Past 1800-1953 by Billie Melman


"Melman's work represents a valuable addition to a section of British historiography that all too often focuses--overly simplistically--on the links between culture and the promotion of a unified, conservative, state-propagated sense of national identity. Previous historians have tended to view popular conceptions of history as revolving around narratives, when in reality ordinary people often view the past in a far more disjointed and disorderly form. Melman's work represents a useful corrective to such assumptions."--Stephanie Barczewski, Journal of Modern History
"A powerful, imaginative, and exciting interdisciplinary book."--Rohan McWilliam, American Historical Review
"Her text and the meticulously constructed bibliography are replete with generous references to the writings of John Burrow, Stefan Collini, Stephen Bann and other historians whose interpretations she wishes to extend rather than replace. This is a book that should be read in conjunction with their work."--History
"A kaleidoscopic inquiry into the popular imagination of history that succeeds triumphantly in presenting the strange and partially-obscured mentalities of non-elite people in the past. Dealing principally with the ways in which the French Revolution and the Tudor monarchy have been presented and consumed in modern English culture, Melman's unusually broad survey of periods and sources brings out the populist, gothic, and grotesque elements of 'historical consciousness' in a wholly original way, and helps to disturb some of our more comforting myths about English people's consciousness of their own history. Ambitious, sophisticated, and swashbuckling."--Peter Mandler, University of Cambridge
"Astonishingly outstanding contribution to our understanding of modern historical culture."--Rosemary Mitchell, Journal of Victorian Culture
"The Culture of History is an engaging, original, and provocative study of popular history that combines a broad historical sweep with persuasive detail drawn from an unusual complex of sourcesIt is exciting, well written , and a major revisionist work."--Reba Soffer, California State University
"A brilliant new book."--Leslie Howsam, Canadian Journal of History
"Tremendous breadth and analytical power...a stunning contribution to historical scholarship on how the English past was understood."--Sonya O. Rose, Victorian Studies

The Culture of History: English Uses of the Past 1800-1953 Book Review

Billie Melman takes us on a panoramic voyage of the 'culture of history' which developed in England after the French Revolution. She vividly recovers unexplored aspects of popular history, and unpicks notions of the uncosy past, a place of pleasurable horror and sensationalism, which survived into the 1950s.

About the Author:Billie Melman

Billie Melman was educated in Tel Aviv and London. She is Professor of Modern History at Tel Aviv University. She has written extensively on British popular culture, British orientalism and the culture of colonialism, on history and memory, and on gender.