7th Edition

The Pursuit of History Aims, Methods and New Directions in the Study of History

By John Tosh Copyright 2021
    324 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    324 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This classic introduction to the study of history invites the reader to stand back and consider some of its most fundamental questions – what is the point of studying history? How do we know about the past? Does an objective historical truth exist and can we ever access it?

    In answering these central questions, John Tosh argues that, despite the impression of fragmentation created by Postmodernism in recent years, history is a coherent discipline which still bears the imprint of its nineteenth-century origins. Consistently clear-sighted, he provides a lively and compelling guide to a complex and sometimes controversial subject, while making his readers vividly aware of just how far our historical knowledge is conditioned by the character of the sources and the methods of the historians who work on them.

    History does not stand still, and this updated seventh edition deals with complex and wide-ranging material in a clear and accessible way that is up-to-date with current historiographical trends. A fuller treatment is given to the importance of digitization both in the section on source criticism and in relation to public history, reflecting its growing importance within historical study. Both the text and references have been expanded to include a fuller range of both American and global scholarship, and the book concludes with a forthright reminder that historical perspective illuminates major problems in the present.

    Lucid and engaging, this edition retains the user-friendly features that make it a favourite with both students and lecturers, including marginal glosses, illustrations and suggestions for further reading. Along with its companion website, this is an essential guide to the theory and practice of history.

    1. Historical Awareness

    2. The Uses of History

    3. Mapping the Field

    4. The Raw Materials

    5. Using the Sources

    6. Writing and Interpretation

    7. The Limits of Historical Knowledge

    8. History and Social Theory

    9. Cultural Evidence and the Cultural Turn

    10. Gender History and Postcolonial History

    11. Memory and the Spoken Word

    12. History Beyond Academia

    13. Conclusion: The Topicality of History


    John Tosh is Emeritus Professor of History at Roehampton University and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is the author of several works on historiography, notably The Pursuit of History (6th edn., 2015), Historians on History (3rd edn., 2018) and Why History Matters (2nd edn., 2019).

    Praise for the previous edition:

    "This exceptionally insightful book makes the study of history a joy to read. Tosh maps out the major questions and developments in historiography with extraordinary clarity, guiding the reader on debates and methods of research in concise and informative ways. His continued attention to up‐dating the book without doubt makes it a critical text for undergraduates and an essential resource for postgraduates and scholars."

    Catherine Dewhirst, University of Southern Queensland, Australia

    "John Tosh’s book is the most useful introduction to recent historiography now available. It surveys major trends and achievements more clearly and concisely than its main competitors, and is an excellent and easy resource for contextualising other historical writings of all kinds. It can add a great deal to students’ understanding of historical writing."

    Nicholas Karn, University of Southampton, UK

    "The Pursuit of History has many strengths. It is extremely well‐written and lucid. It strikes a very nice balance between tracing historiography, delineating historical methodology, and discussing the major historiographical developments over the last few decades. Comprehensive, insightful and conversant with the latest historiographical currents, it is essential reading in any undergraduate or graduate theory and method course."

    Thomas W. Gallant, University of California, San Diego, USA

    "John Tosh’s Pursuit of History was so far ahead of the game on its first publication that much of the profession are only just now catching up with his wonderfully diverse and pluralistic approach to the study of the past. This new edition promises to equip and inspire the next generations of historians once again very much for the better."

    Richard Sheldon, University of Bristol, UK

    "Tosh’s Pursuit of History, in its newest edition, remains the definitive introduction to historical criticism and historiography. Well‐structured, up‐to‐date, highly readable and drawing on a wealth of fascinating illustrative material from the author’s own research, it stands out as the best text combining fundamental method with key theoretical approaches and research trends."

    William L. Chew III, Vesalius College, Brussels, Belgium

    "The sixth edition of John Tosh’s The Pursuit of History is a clearly written, informative and absorbing introduction to the practice of ‘doing’ history. While retaining the most useful features of earlier editions of the book, this latest edition introduces new, valuable material on public history, digitised sources, historical controversies, transnational history and the nature of the archive. It includes an expanded range of examples and case‐studies, including additional material on American history, along with an updated reference list, making it an invaluable text for both tutors and students of history alike."

    Robert James, University of Portsmouth, UK