The Tyranny of the Discrete: A Discussion of the Problems of Local History in England, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Tyranny of the Discrete

A Discussion of the Problems of Local History in England, 1st Edition

By John D. Marshall


162 pages

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Hardback: 9781859282908
pub: 1997-02-28
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This book argues that in the work of trained historians, as well as amateurs, English local history is weakened by a pervasive antiquarianism: an obsession with detail as opposed to substance. It examines such antiquarianism and shows it to be educationally damaging and wasteful of resources. The author examines the development of the main concepts in local history, and shows the importance of comparative and regional study, pursued through an ongoing and developing debate. He condemns the use of local history merely as a ’quarry’, and suggests that local residents, societies and followers of family history can be brought together in the study of a new form of people’s history - one which reflects the life experiences of the people concerned, and only then moves back into other, less familiar periods.


'Many superb ideas are distilled here…The strength of Marshall’s discussion is its educational focus, civic concern and review of the literature. His critique of a pervasive and primitive antiquarianism is incisive and balanced.' Journal of Rural History, Vol 9, No. 1 'Over the past forty years John Marshall’s contribution to the debates in English local history has been immense…Marshall’s perspective is remarkably refreshing and English local historians of whatever inclination must be immensely indebted to him..This book is..neither a cosy nor an easy read. It is iconoclastic, but it is also reflective, and it is important.' Albion, Vol. 30, No. 2

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Local History in England: the Formative Influences; Local History and the Fragmentation Impasse; The Tyranny of the Discrete: The Problem of Antiquarianism; The Community Obsession in English Local History; Beyond the Single Place; Space, Place and Region; Some Propositions: Local History and the Challenge of Civic Obligation; Appendix: A Corrective to Enthusiasm; Raphael Samuel and the Popular Past; Bibliography; Index.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General