shift in thinking

After a 2 hour sleep yesterday morning I got up feeling tons better. Sleep was definitely a good idea. Then in the afternoon I worked on Coward’s book. As I said yesterday the third edition has a preface that reviews the historiography of the period, focusing on work produced between 1994 and 2003 (between the second and third editions), which is very very interesting and useful. I’m still only part way through it, but it is so useful that I’m making intensive notes, and listing a lot of secondary works that will be useful to check out.

One thing that has come about as a result of this reading is realising that the terms ‘revisionist’ and ‘post-revisionist’ aren’t quite what I thought they were. I had always understood them within the context of Reformation history as pertains to the Tudor period, where traditional ideas said that the reformation was inevitable, the catholic church was corrupt and no longer useful for the people, who welcomed it with open arms, became happy protestants and never looked back. Revisionist historians said, hang on a sec, the church wasn’t wholly corrupt and useless, many people actually didn’t want the reformation, they liked their smells and bells, and the reformation was an enforced process. Post-revisionists have gone, well, hang on a sec, yes, revisionists, you have a point, but traditionalists do too, and maybe we need to be thinking in other terms than just ‘top down’/’bottom up’, its all a lot more complex than THAT. I’m simplifying, but you get the point. I understood the terms purely within the context of Reformation history, and that they were only ever used that way.

Coward’s work has shown conclusively that that .. well.. ain’t so. The terms revisionist and post-revisionist have much wider application than just Reformation history. I feel a bit embarrassed that I’ve reached Masters level and not realised this! Still, better late than never. The different ways of seeing history are clearly important, being able to define them and historians writing from the different perspectives clearly is a key skill, I think, and particularly important in any review that you do of the existing literature. Although we’re solidly in post-revisionist territory now, the bigger question becomes… what next?

More than that though, the preface has given me something of an example of what it is I need to do for the proposal: to examine the literature, analyse it and the various perspectives that different historians have written on, and find a gap. Just saying “this kind of study ain’t been done on Herefordshire” isn’t enough. Quite frankly, its been done in a number of places already – so what makes us think that Herefordshire will present different results to Warwickshire, Wiltshire – the places where they’ve already been done? What will Herefordshire show that the other places haven’t? What relevance does it have for the modern world?

That’s the job I have to do in the next few months …. tough ask!

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