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Edward Hallett Carrs contribution to the study of Soviet history is widely regarded as highly distinguished In all probability very few would argue against this assessment of his multi-volume history of Soviet Russia For the majority of historians he pretty much got the story straight However for several years there was disagreement about his contribution to the analytical philosophy of history His ideas were outlined in uWhat is Historyu first published in 1961 For many today uWhat is Historyu is the most influential book on history thinking published in Britain this century For many years however the methodologically foundationalist wing of the history profession regarded the book as espousing a dangerous relativism This has now all changed Arguably the central ideas in the book constitute todays mainstream thinking on British historical practice Most British commentators if not that many in America acknowledge the significance and influence of the book l In this review I want to establish why it is uWhat is Historyu now occupies a central place in British thinking about the relationship between the historian and the past I conclude that the important message of uWhat is Historyu - fundamentally misconceived though I believe it to be - lies in its rejection of an opportunity to re-think historical practice This failure has been most significant in rationalising the epistemologically conservative historical thinking that pervades among British historians todayp pJohn Tosh in the most recent edition of his own widely read methodological primer uThe Pursuit of History udescribes Carrs book as still unsurpassed as a stimulating and provocative statement by a radically inclined scholar Tosh 1991 234 Keith Jenkins much less inclined to view Carr as a radical scholar never-the-less confirms the consequential nature of uWhat is Historyu suggesting that along with Geoffrey Eltons uThe Practice of History uboth texts are still popularly seen as essential introductions to the history question Jenkins 1995 1-2 Jenkins concludes both Carr and Elton have long
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