World historians and their goals : twentieth century answers to modernism /

Saved in:
Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Costello, Paul
Imprint:DeKalb [Ill.] : Northern Illinois University Press, 1993.
Description:x, 315 p. ; 24 cm.
Subject:Historiography -- History -- 20th century
Format: Print Book
URL for this record:
Hidden Bibliographic Details
Notes:Includes bibliographical references (p. [277]-295) and index.
Review by Choice Review

Costello (St. Michael's College) offers an arresting thesis: World historians of the 20th century are, willy-nilly, resisting visions of entropy and defending visions of a future "open" to progress. Spengler, in Costello's view, successfully challenged the concept of history as an unfolding of freedom and progress represented by H.G. Wells's Outline of History (2v., rev. ed., 1971). The other thinkers treated here--Arnold Toynbee, Pitirim Sorokin, Christopher Dawson, Lewis Mumford, William McNeill--are said to have been attempting to water the resulting entropic desert ever since. Costello argues that the intellectual path of the 20th century therefore allegedly runs from doubtful progress (Wells) to entropy (Spengler) to cyclical theories with saving remnants (Toynbee, Sorokin, Dawson, Mumford) to "a renewed progressivism" (McNeill). Costello knows many academic historians will frown on such a psychologizing of history and at several points offers the standard postmodernist riposte about everyone having an implicit "paradigm" or "story." He also knows books such as this are criticized for choosing the thinkers to fit the theory, and his inclusion of minor Catholic figures like Dawson while excluding the multiculturalists and the Marxists does make him vulnerable despite his disclaimers. Nevertheless, Costello is surely correct in highlighting the search for meaning implicit in many world histories even if he emphasizes the religious aspects of the search while neglecting ideological and national aspects. Advanced undergraduate; graduate; faculty. T. J. Knight; Colorado State University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Choice Review