Historical Controversies and Historians by William Lamont

I started Historical Controversies and Historians by William Lamont a month ago, I stopped reading it during the holidays, but finished it on the first day I “went back” to university, as in, a week before the actual start of the term, when I also had a tutorial.

This is a good book, even if it was written over 20 years ago and some things have changed since it was written. Even so, the whole idea of the book is to familiarize history students with how to engage with controversial topics or how to interpret what other historians have said.

Historical Controversies and Historians by William Lamont

The first half of the book deals with controversies: the legacy of the French Resistance, Germans as Hitler’s executioners, oral history, Oliver Cromwell, race in South Africa, the origins of the Welfare State, agrarian histories. I think this part can be very interesting for people who are not studying history too.

The second part of the book is about historians, such as Tawney, Carr, Buckhardt, Weber, Thompson. All historians interpret historical events and I found that part of the book just as fascinating as the first one. The last chapter especially, on Soviet history and its past was really interesting.

I would recommend this book to all studying history, but I think it might make for an interesting read for people who are not pursuing a history degree too. Thinking of how different facts are interpreted can easily draw parallels with what happens today. As someone is quoted in the book: “It is a devastating thing for a society to discover that their greatest myths are based not on truth but on propaganda and fantasy.”

Historical Controversies and Historians by William Lamont

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it:yes
Published by: UCL Press
Year it was published: 1998
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): Study of history
Pages: 242

About the author: William Lamont is the editor of this book. He published a number of book, including Godly rule: Politics and religion, 1603-60; Puritanism and historical controversy; Marginal Prynne 1600-1669; Last Witnesses: The Muggletonian History, 1652-1979.
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7 thoughts on “Historical Controversies and Historians by William Lamont”

  • Sounds interesting. It can be hard sometimes to spot a historian’s bias and allow for it, but it’s nearly always there. It’s particularly problematic in histories of recent events. I think that’s why it’s important to always read a variety of books on any subject, rather than, as a lot of casual readers do, simply reading one and assuming it’s “right”, or perhaps even worse, ensuring one only reads books from historians who share one’s own political leanings. The raised fist or hand always seems to me an aggressive symbol, whoever is using it.

    • I fully agree with you, there are people who read only books by historians who share their political views. I try my best to read as broad as possible, at least an article or two if I do not have time to read full books.

  • This sounds like a fascinating book and I’ve shared your review with my daughter and her husband, both of whom earned Masters Degrees in history.

    I’ve always found the raised fist to be a militant, if not frightening symbol. I first remember it from the days of racial unrest in the US in the 60s and 70s. “Black Power”
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    • It is one of the books recommended for the Approaches to History module in Britain and I can see why, it makes one think on how history is interpreted.
      The raised fist was used by communists in the 30s, maybe before, which is, for me, as scary as the raised hand.

  • Hi Anca,
    I really liked the quote you shared from the book:-
    “It is a devastating thing for a society to discover that their greatest myths are based not on truth but on propaganda and fantasy.”
    Methinks (that is a word, I promise) these words might be as relevant today as when the author wrote the book 20 odd years ago!
    The cover art is really creepy!
    Take Care 🙂
    Yvonne Xx

    • The quote was from a communist, after Gorbachev’s Glasnost. I agree with you the art is creepy. I saw a few pictures with children making the Nazi salute and they are disturbing. I also find chilling the raised fist, as the communist salute, which is today used by the BLM movement.

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