Four Eras of Writing

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History has evolved over the last two centuries. In the introduction to Interpretations of American History edited by Francis G. Couvares, et al., he states that the transition of the way history was interpreted has only “linked the past more strongly to the present” (Couvares 1). Before, historians –mostly white male- used to report only about “male” topics but since then, different issues have transformed the way history used to be. Over the last 400 years, the four different stages that have reshaped the writing of American history have been the providential, the rationalist, the nationalist, and the professional.

Late- nineteenth-century historians, usually called “historicists” or “positivists” believed that history was like science and with practice it could be solved. According to Couvares, Croce believed that Positivists were faulty in their assumptions because history was perceived differently every time it was written down since no one thinks exactly alike. With so many different views, historians are usually adding more and more information to each other’s perceptions. Couvares says that “history is historiography, the study of history and its changing interpretations” (Couvares 3). When interpreting history, historians were influenced by their personal circumstances, beliefs, and environment. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, all through the Civil War, historians wrote a form of “providential history” (Couvares 4). Puritans – usually ministers, magistrates, and women- wished to “justify the ways of God to man, and vice-versa” (Couvares 4) in their history. They interpreted what was happening at the time as a sign of God wanting them to move forward which led them to believe that the Revolution was a win for “reformed” Christianity. With the European Enlightenment, came more of an intellectual and natural way of thinking. Couvares notes how the “rationalist historians”, greatly influenced by Newton and Locke, prospered along with the...
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