Main The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past
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21 April 2021 (00:00)
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T H E L A N D S C A P E O F H I STO RY also by john lewis gaddis The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941–1947 Russia, the Soviet Union, and the United States: An Interpretive History Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy The Long Peace: Inquiries into the History of the Cold War The United States and the End of the Cold War: Implications, Reconsiderations, Provocations We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History T H E L A N D S C A P E O F H I STO RY How Historians Map the Past J O H N L EW I S GAD D I S 1 2002 1 Oxford New York Auckland Bangkok Buenos Aires Cape Town Chennai Dar es Salaam Delhi Hong Kong Istanbul Karachi Kolkata Kuala Lumpur Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Mumbai Nairobi São Paulo Shanghai Singapore Taipei Tokyo Toronto Copyright © 2002 by John Lewis Gaddis Published by Oxford University Press, Inc. 198 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016 www.oup.com Oxford is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of Oxford University Press. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Gaddis, John Lewis. The landscape of history : how historians map the past / John Lewis Gaddis. p. cm. Includes index. isbn 0-19-506652-9 1. History—Philosophy. 2. History—Methodology. 3. Aesthetics—History. I. Title. d16.8 .g23 2002 901—dc21 2002010392 Book design and composition by Mark McGarry, Texas Type & Book Works. Set in Linotype Fairﬁeld. 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper For Toni The Love of Life and a Life of Love CON TE N TS Preface ix one The Landscape of History 1 two Time and Space 17 three four five six Structure and Process 35 The Interdependency of Variables 53 Chaos and Complexity 71 Causation, Contingency, and Counterfactu; als 91 seven Molecules with Minds of Their Own 111 eight Seeing Like a Historian 129 Notes 153 Index 183 P R E FAC E The University of Oxford has again provided a hospitable setting in which to write a book. The occasion this time was the 2000/1 George Eastman Visiting Professorship in Balliol College, a chair dating back to 1929 whose occupants have included Felix Frankfurter, Linus Pauling, Willard Quine, George F. Kennan, Lionel Trilling, Clifford Geertz, William H. McNeill, Natalie Zemon Davis, and Robin Winks. As beﬁts a position with such diverse and distinguished predecessors, the Eastman electors do not ﬁnd it necessary to provide current chairholders with detailed instructions as to what they are expected to do. My own letter of appointment speciﬁed only “participation in twenty-four academic functions during the three terms of the academic year.” It then added, accurately enough as I discovered, “that the Eastman Professor enjoys considerable scope for ﬂexibility in adjusting the pedagogical activities in combination with scholarly projects which the holder may wish to pursue.” Confronted with so much latitude in so congenial a setting, I was at ﬁrst at a loss to know how to use my time. One possibility, I suppose, would have been simply to dine: high table at Oxford is deﬁnitely an “academic function.” Another would have been to spend the x p r e fa c e year doing research, but this would have disappointed my hosts, who clearly expected some sort of visibility. A third would have been to lecture on Cold War history; but I’d done that as Harmsworth Professor eight years earlier and had since published the lectures.1 Even in a rapidly changing ﬁeld like this one, would there be that much new to say? I rather doubted it. So in the end, I settled on something completely different: a set of lectures, delivered as before in the Examination Schools building on High Street, on the admittedly ambitious subject of how historians think. I had several purposes in mind in undertaking this project, the ﬁrst of which was to pay homage to scholars now dead and to students very much alive, both of whom had taught me. The scholars, in particular, were Marc Bloch and E. H. Carr, whose respective introductions to the historical method, The Historian’s Craft and What Is History?, ﬁrst forced me to think about what historians do. The students were my own, undergraduates and graduates at Ohio, Yale, and Oxford universities, with whom I’d spent a good deal of time discussing these and other less familiar works on historical methodology. A second purpose derived from the ﬁrst. I’d begun to worry that all this reading and talking might soon begin to produce, in my own mind, something like the effect Cervantes describes when a certain man of La Mancha read too many books on knight-errantry: “he so bewildered himself in this kind of study that . . . his brain . . . dried up, [and] he came at last to lose his wits.” 2 I felt the need, at this stage in life, to begin to sort things out, lest I start attacking windmills. It’s possible, of course, that I’ve already arrived at that stage, and that these lectures were the ﬁrst offensive—but I’ll leave that for my readers to judge. My third purpose—whether or not I’d dodged the dangers implied in the second—was to do some updating. A lot has happened since the Nazis executed Bloch in 1944, leaving us with a classic that breaks off, like Thucydides, in mid-sentence; and since the more fortunate Carr completed his George Macaulay Trevelyan lectures, which became his classic, at Cambridge in 1961. It’s my impression, though, p r e fa c e xi that it’s not so much they as we who need the updating. For Bloch and Carr anticipated certain developments in the physical and biological sciences that have brought those disciplines closer than they once were to what historians had been doing all along. Most social scientists have hardly noticed these trends, and most historians, even as they read and teach Bloch and Carr, neglect what these authors were suggesting about a convergence of the historical method with those of the so-called “hard” sciences.3 That suggests my fourth purpose, which was to encourage my fellow historians to make their methods more explicit. We normally resist doing this. We work within a wide variety of styles, but we prefer in all of them that form conceal function. We recoil from the notion that our writing should replicate, say, the design of the Pompidou Center in Paris, which proudly places its escalators, plumbing, wiring, and ductwork on the outside of the building, so that they’re there for all to see. We don’t question the need for such structures, only the impulse to exhibit them. Our reluctance to reveal our own, however, too often confuses our students—even, at times, ourselves— as to just what it is we do. Bloch and Carr had little patience with such methodological modesty,4 and that brings me to my ﬁnal purpose, which has to do with teaching. It’s striking that, with all the time that’s passed since their introductions to the historical method came out, no better ones for use in the classroom have yet appeared.5 The reason is not just that Bloch and Carr were accomplished methodologists: we’ve had many since and some more skilled. What distinguished them was the clarity, brevity, and wit— in a word, the elegance—with which they expressed themselves. They showed that you can discuss ductwork gracefully. Few methodologists attempt this today, which is why they speak mostly to themselves and not to the rest of us. I’m sure it’s quixotic, on my part, even to aspire to the example of these two great predecessors. But I should like at least to try. It remains only to thank the people who made this project possible: xii p r e fa c e Adam Roberts, who kindly suggested a return visit to Oxford eight years ago as I was completing my ﬁrst; the Association of American Rhodes Scholars, for supporting the Eastman Professorship and for providing such comfortable lodgings in Eastman House; the master and fellows of Balliol College, who in so many ways made my wife Toni and me feel welcome there; the students, faculty, and friends who attended my lectures, and who provided so many insightful comments on them in the question period afterwards; my indefatigable Yale research assistant Ryan Floyd; and, ﬁnally, several careful and critical readers of these chapters in draft form, especially India Cooper, Toni Dorfman, Michael Frame, Michael Gaddis, Alexander George, Peter Ginna, Lorenz Lüthi, William H. McNeill, Ian Shapiro, and Jeremi Suri. I should also like to thank the Oxford microbes, which were much more manageable than they had been eight years earlier. Portions of what follows have appeared elsewhere, in “The Tragedy of Cold War History,” Diplomatic History 17 (Winter 1993), 1–16; On Contemporary History: An Inaugural Lecture Delivered before the University of Oxford on 18 May 1993 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995); “History, Science, and the Study of International Relations,” in Explaining International Relations since 1945, ed. Ngaire Woods (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 32–48; “History, Theory, and Common Ground,” International Security 22 (Summer 1997), 75–85; “On the Interdependency of Variables; or, How Historians Think,” Whitney Humanities Center Newsletter, Yale University, February 1999; and “In Defense of Particular Generalization: Rewriting Cold War History,” in Bridges and Boundaries: Historians, Political Scientists, and the Study of International Relations, ed. Colin Elman and Miriam Fendius Elman (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2001), pp. 301–26. The overall argument, I hope and trust though, is a new one. The dedication, this time, can only go to the person who changed my life. New Haven April 2002 T H E L A N D S C A P E O F H I STO RY Caspar David Friedrich, The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (c. 1818. Hamburg Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany / Bridgman Art Library.) Chapter One T H E L A N D S C A P E O F H I STO RY A young man stands hatless in a black coat on a high rocky point. His back is turned toward us, and he is bracing himself with a walking stick against the wind that blows his hair in tangles. Before him lies a fog-shrouded landscape in which the fantastic shapes of more distant promontories are only partly visible. The far horizon reveals mountains off to the left, plains to the right, and perhaps very far away—one can’t be sure—an ocean. But maybe it’s just more fog, merging imperceptibly into clouds. The painting, which dates from 1818, is a familiar one: Caspar David Friedrich’s The Wanderer above a Sea of Fog. The impression it leaves is contradictory, suggesting at once mastery over a landscape and the insigniﬁcance of an individual within it. We see no face, so it’s impossible to know whether the prospect confronting the young man is exhilarating, or terrifying, or both. Paul Johnson used Friedrich’s painting some years ago as the cover for his book The Birth of the Modern, to evoke the rise of romanticism and the advent of the industrial revolution.1 I should like to use it here to summon up something more personal, which is my own sense— admittedly idiosyncratic—of what historical consciousness is all about. The logic of beginning with a landscape may not be immedi- 2 the landscape of history ately obvious. But consider the power of metaphor, on the one hand, and the particular combination of economy and intensity with which visual images can express metaphors, on the other. The best introduction I know to the scientiﬁc method, John Ziman’s Reliable Knowledge: An Exploration of the Grounds for Belief in Science, points out that scientiﬁc insights often arise from such realizations as “that the behavior of an electron in an atom is ‘like’ the vibration of air in a spherical container, or that the random conﬁguration of the long chain of atoms in a polymer molecule is ‘like’ the motion of a drunkard across a village green.”2 “Reality is still to be embraced and reported without ﬂinching,” the sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson has added. “But it is also best delivered the same way it was discovered, retaining a comparable vividness and play of the emotions.”3 It’s here, I think, that science, history, and art have something in common: they all depend on metaphor, on the recognition of patterns, on the realization that something is “like” something else. For me, the posture of Friedrich’s wanderer—this striking image of a back turned toward the artist and all who have since seen his work— is “like” that of historians. Most of us consider it our business, after all, to turn our back on wherever it is we may be going, and to focus our attention, from whatever vantage point we can ﬁnd, on where we’ve been. We pride ourselves on not trying to predict the future, as our colleagues in economics, sociology, and political science attempt to do. We resist letting contemporary concerns inﬂuence us—the term “presentism,” among historians, is no compliment. We advance bravely into the future with our eyes ﬁxed ﬁrmly on the past: the image we present to the world is, to put it bluntly, that of a rear end.4 I. Historians do, to be sure, assume some things about what’s to come. It’s a good bet, for example, that time will continue to pass, that grav- the landscape of history 3 ity will continue to extend itself through space, and that Michaelmas term at Oxford will continue to be, as it has been for well over seven hundred years, dreary, dark, and damp. But we know these things about the future only from having learned about the past: without it we’d have no sense of even these fundamental truths, to say nothing of the words with which to express them, or even of who or where or what we are. We know the future only by the past we project into it. History, in this sense, is all we have. But the past, in another sense, is something we can never have. For by the time we’ve become aware of what has happened it’s already inaccessible to us: we cannot relive, retrieve, or rerun it as we might some laboratory experiment or computer simulation. We can only represent it. We can portray the past as a near or distant landscape, much as Friedrich has depicted what his wanderer sees from his lofty perch. We can perceive shapes through the fog and mist, we can speculate as to their signiﬁcance, and sometimes we can even agree among ourselves as to what these are. Barring the invention of a time machine, though, we can never go back there to see for sure. Science ﬁction, of course, has invented time machines. Indeed two recent novels, Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book and Michael Crichton’s Timelines, feature graduate students in history at, respectively, Oxford and Yale, who use these devices to project themselves back to England and France in the fourteenth century for the purpose of researching their dissertations.5 Both authors suggest some things time travel might do for us. It could, for example, give us a “feel” for a particular time and place: the novels evoke the denser forests, clearer air, and much louder singing birds of medieval Europe, as well as the muddy roads, rotting food, and smelly people. What they don’t show is that we could easily detect the larger patterns of a period by visiting it, because the characters keep getting caught up in complications of everyday life that tend to limit perspective. Like catching the plague, or being burned at the stake, or getting their heads chopped off. Maybe this is just what it takes to keep the novel exciting, or to 4 the landscape of history make the movie rights marketable. I’m inclined to think, though, that there’s a larger point lurking here: it is that the direct experience of events isn’t necessarily the best path toward understanding them, because your ﬁeld of vision extends no further than your own immediate senses. You lack the capacity, when trying to ﬁgure out how to survive a famine, or ﬂee a band of brigands, or ﬁght from within a suit of armor, to function as a historian might do. You’re not likely to take the time to contrast conditions in fourteenth-century France with those under Charlemagne or the Romans, or to compare what might have been parallels in Ming China or pre-Columbian Peru. Because the individual is “narrowly restricted by his senses and power of concentration,” Marc Bloch writes in The Historian’s Craft, he “never perceives more than a tiny patch of the vast tapestry of events. . . . In this respect, the student of the present is scarcely any better off than the historian of the past.”6 I’d argue, indeed, that the historian of the past is much better off than the participant in the present, from the simple fact of having an expanded horizon. Gertrude Stein got close to the reason in her brief 1938 biography of Picasso: “When I was in America I for the ﬁrst time travelled pretty much all the time in an airplane and when I looked at the earth I saw all the lines of cubism made at a time when not any painter had ever gone up in an airplane. I saw there on earth the mingling lines of Picasso, coming and going, developing and destroying themselves.”7 What was happening here, quite literally, was detachment from, and consequent elevation above, a landscape: a departure from the normal that provided a new perception of what was real. It was what the Montgolﬁer brothers saw from their balloon over Paris in 1783, or the Wright brothers from their ﬁrst “Flyer” in 1903, or the Apollo astronauts when they ﬂew around the moon at Christmas 1968, thus becoming the ﬁrst humans to view the earth set against the darkness of space. It’s also, of course, what Friedrich’s wanderer sees from his mountaintop, as have countless others for whom elevation, by shifting perspective, has enlarged experience. the landscape of history 5 This brings us around, then, to one of the things historians do. For if you think of the past as a landscape, then history is the way we represent it, and it’s that act of representation that lifts us above the familiar to let us experience vicariously what we can’t experience directly: a wider view. II. What, though, do we gain from such a view? Several things, I think, the ﬁrst of which is a sense of identity that parallels the process of growing up. Taking off in an airplane makes you feel both large and small at the same time. You can’t help but have a sense of mastery as your airline of choice detaches you from the ground, lifts you above the trafﬁc jams surrounding the airport, and reveals vast horizons stretching out beyond it—assuming, of course, that you have a window seat, it isn’t a cloudy day, and you aren’t one of those people whose fear of ﬂying causes them to keep their eyes clamped shut from takeoff to landing. But as you gain altitude, you also can’t help noticing how small you are in relation to the landscape that lies before you. The experience is at once exhilarating and terrifying. So is life. We are born, each of us, with such self-centeredness that only the fact of being babies, and therefore cute, saves us. Growing up is largely a matter of growing out of that condition: we soak in impressions, and as we do so we dethrone ourselves—or at least most of us do—from our original position at the center of the universe. It’s like taking off in an airplane: the establishment of identity requires recognizing our relative insigniﬁcance in the larger scheme of things. Remember how it felt to have your parents unexpectedly produce a younger sibling, or abandon you to the tender mercies of kindergarten? Or what it was like to enter your ﬁrst public or private school, or to arrive at places like Oxford, or Yale, or the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?8 Or as a teacher to confront your ﬁrst class- 6 the landscape of history room ﬁlled with sullen, squirmy, slumbering, solipsistic students? Just as you’ve cleared one hurdle another is set before you. Each event diminishes your authority at just the moment at which you think you’ve become an authority. If that’s what maturity means in human relationships—the arrival at identity by way of insigniﬁcance—then I would deﬁne historical consciousness as the projection of that maturity through time. We understand how much has preceded us, and how unimportant we are in relation to it. We learn our place, and we come to realize that it isn’t a large one. “Even a superﬁcial acquaintance with the existence, through millennia of time, of numberless human beings,” the historian Geoffrey Elton has pointed out, “helps to correct the normal adolescent inclination to relate the world to oneself instead of relating oneself to the world.” History teaches “those adjustments and insights which help the adolescent to become adult, surely a worthy service in the education of youth.”9 Mark Twain put it even better: That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for [man] is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is. I dunno. If the Eiffel Tower were now representing the world’s age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle knob at its summit would represent man’s share of that age; and anybody would perceive that the skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would, I dunno.10 Here too, though, there’s a paradox, for although the discovery of geologic or “deep” time diminished the signiﬁcance of human beings in the overall history of the universe, it also, in the eyes of Charles Darwin, T. H. Huxley, Mark Twain, and many others, dethroned God from his position at its center—which left no one else around but man.11 The recognition of human insigniﬁcance did not, as one might have expected, enhance the role of divine agency in explaining human affairs: it had just the opposite effect. It gave rise to a secular conscious- the landscape of history 7 ness that, for better or for worse, placed the responsibility for what happens in history squarely on the people who live through history. What I’m suggesting, therefore, is that just as historical consciousness demands detachment from—or if you prefer, elevation above— the landscape that is the past, so it also requires a certain displacement: an ability to shift back and forth between humility and mastery. Niccolò Machiavelli made the point precisely in his famous preface to The Prince: how was it, he asked his patron Lorenzo de’ Medici, that “a man from a low and mean state dares to discuss and give rules for the governments of princes?” Being Machiavelli, he then answered his own question: For just as those who sketch landscapes place themselves down in the plain to consider the nature of mountains and high places and to consider the nature of low places place themselves high atop mountains, similarly to know well the nature of peoples one needs to be [a] prince, and to know well the nature of princes one needs to be of the people.12 You feel small, whether as a courtier or an artist or a historian, because you recognize your insigniﬁcance in an inﬁnite universe. You know you can never yourself rule a kingdom, or capture on canvas everything you see on a distant horizon, or recapture in your books and lectures everything that’s happened in even the most particular part of the past. The best you can do, whether with a prince or a landscape or the past, is to represent reality: to smooth over the details, to look for larger patterns, to consider how you can use what you see for your own purposes. That very act of representation, though, makes you feel large, because you yourself are in charge of the representation: it’s you who must make complexity comprehensible, ﬁrst to yourself, then to others. And the power that resides in representation can be great indeed, 8 the landscape of history as Machiavelli certainly understood. For how much inﬂuence today does Lorenzo de’ Medici have, compared to the man who applied to be his tutor? Historical consciousness therefore leaves you, as does maturity itself, with a simultaneous sense of your own signiﬁcance and insignificance. Like Friedrich’s wanderer, you dominate a landscape even as you’re diminished by it. You’re suspended between sensibilities that are at odds with one another; but it’s precisely within that suspension that your own identity—whether as a person or a historian—tends to reside. Self-doubt must always precede self-conﬁdence. It should never, however, cease to accompany, challenge, and by these means discipline self-conﬁdence. III. Machiavelli, who so strikingly combined both qualities, wrote The Prince, as he immodestly informed Lorenzo de’ Medici, “considering that no greater gift could be made by me than to give you the capacity to be able to understand in a very short time all that I have learned and understood in so many years and with so many hardships and dangers for myself.” The purpose of his representation was distillation: he sought to “package” a large body of information into a compact usable form so that his patron could quickly master it. It’s no accident that the book is a short one. What Machiavelli offered was a compression of historical experience that would vicariously enlarge personal experience. “For since men almost always walk on paths beaten by others . . . , a prudent man should always . . . imitate those who have been most excellent, so that if his own virtue does not reach that far, it is at least in the odor of it.”13 This is as good a summary of the uses of historical consciousness as I have found. I like it because it makes two points: ﬁrst, that we’re bound to learn from the past whether or not we make the effort, since the landscape of history 9 it’s the only data base we have; and second, that we might as well try to do so systematically. E. H. Carr elaborated on the ﬁrst of these arguments when he observed, in What Is History?, that the size and reasoning capacity of the human brain are probably no greater now than they were ﬁve thousand years ago, but that very few human beings live now as they did then. The effectiveness of human thinking, he continued, “has been multiplied many times by learning and incorporating . . . the experience of the intervening generations.” The inheritance of acquired characteristics may not work in biology, but it does in human affairs: “History is progress through the transmission of acquired skills from one generation to another.”14 As his biographer Jonathan Haslam has pointed out, Carr’s idea of “progress” in twentieth-century history tended disconcertingly to associate that quality with the accumulation of power in the hands of the state.15 But in What Is History? Carr was making a larger and less controversial argument: that if we can widen the range of experience beyond what we as individuals have encountered, if we can draw upon the experiences of others who’ve had to confront comparable situations in the past, then—although there are no guarantees—our chances of acting wisely should increase proportionately. This brings us to Machiavelli’s second point, which is that we should learn from the past systematically. Historians ought not to delude themselves into thinking that they provide the only means by which acquired skills—and ideas—are transmitted from one generation to the next. Culture, religion, technology, environment, and tradition can all do this. But history is arguably the best method of enlarging experience in such a way as to command the widest possible consensus on what the signiﬁcance of that experience might be.16 I know that statement will raise eyebrows, because historians so often and so visibly disagree with one another. We relish revisionism and distrust orthodoxy, not least because were we to do otherwise, we might put ourselves out of business. We have, in recent years, embraced postmodernist insights about the relative character of all 10 the landscape of history historical judgments—the inseparability of the observer from that which is being observed—although some of us feel that we’ve known this all along.17 Historians appear, in short, to have only squishy ground upon which to stand, and hence little basis for claiming any consensus at all on what the past might tell us with respect to the present and future. Except when you ask the question: compared to what? No other mode of inquiry comes any closer to producing such a consensus, and most fall far short of it. The very fact that orthodoxies so dominate the realms of religion and culture suggests the absence of agreement from below, and hence the need to impose it from above. People adapt to technology and environment in so many different ways as to defy generalization. Traditions manifest themselves so variously across such diverse institutions and cultures that they provide hardly any consistency on what the past should signify. The historical method, in this sense, beats all the others. Nor does it demand agreement, among its practitioners, as to precisely what the “lessons” of history are: a consensus can incorporate contradictions. It’s part of growing up to learn that there are competing versions of truth, and that you yourself must choose which to embrace. It’s part of historical consciousness to learn the same thing: that there is no “correct” interpretation of the past, but that the act of interpreting is itself a vicarious enlargement of experience from which you can beneﬁt. It would ill serve any prince to be told that the past offers simple lessons—or even, for some situations, any lessons at all. “The prince can gain the people to himself in many modes,” Machiavelli wrote at one point, “for which one cannot give certain rules because the modes vary according to circumstances.” The general proposition still holds, though, that “for a prince it is necessary to have the people friendly; otherwise he has no remedy in adversity.”18 This gets us close to what historians do—or at least, to echo Machiavelli, should have the odor of doing: it is to interpret the past for the purposes of the present with a view to managing the future, the landscape of history 11 but to do so without suspending the capacity to assess the particular circumstances in which one might have to act, or the relevance of past actions to them. To accumulate experience is not to endorse its automatic application, for part of historical consciousness is the ability to see differences as well as similarities, to understand that generalizations do not always hold in particular circumstances. That sounds pretty daunting—until you consider another arena of human activity in which this distinction between the general and the particular is so ubiquitous that we hardly even think about it: it’s the wide world of sports. To achieve proﬁciency in basketball, baseball, or even bridge, you have to know the rules of the game, and you have to practice. But these rules, together with what your coach can teach you about applying them, are nothing more than a distillation of accumulated experience: they serve the same function that Machiavelli intended The Prince to serve for Lorenzo de’ Medici. They’re generalizations: compressions and distillations of the past in order to make it usable in the future. Each game you play, however, will have its own characteristics: the skill of your opponent, the adequacy of your own preparation, the circumstances in which the competition takes place. No competent coach would lay out a plan to be mechanically followed throughout the game: you have to leave a lot to the discretion—and the good judgment—of the individual players. The fascination of sports resides in the intersection of the general with the particular. The practice of life is much the same. Studying the past is no sure guide to predicting the future. What it does do, though, is to prepare you for the future by expanding experience, so that you can increase your skills, your stamina—and, if all goes well, your wisdom. For while it may be true, as Machiavelli estimated, “that fortune is the arbiter of half our actions,” it’s also the case that “she leaves the other half, or close to it, for us to govern.” Or, as he also put it, “God does not want to do everything.”19 12 the landscape of history IV. Just how, though, do you present historical experience for the purpose of enlarging personal experience? To include too little information can render the whole exercise irrelevant. To include too much can overload the circuits and crash the system. The historian has got to strike a balance, and that means recognizing a trade-off between literal and abstract representation. Let me illustrate this with two well-known artistic portrayals of the same subject. The ﬁrst is Jan van Eyck’s great double portrait The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolﬁni, from 1434, which documents a relationship between a man and a woman in such precise detail that we can see Two representations of the same subject, one from a particular time and the other for all time. Jan van Eyck, The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolﬁni, 1434, London, National Gallery (Alinari / Art Resource, New York), and Pablo Picasso, The Lovers, 1904, Musée Picasso, Paris (Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, New York; © 2002 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York). the landscape of history 13 every fold in their clothes, every frill in the lace, the apples on the windowsill, the shoes on the ﬂoor, the individual hairs on the little dog, and even the artist himself reﬂected in the mirror. The picture is striking because it’s as close as anything we have to photographic realism four hundred years before photography was invented. This can only have been 1434, these can only have been the Arnolﬁnis, and they can only have been painted in Bruges. We get the vicarious experience of a distant but very particular time and place. Now, contrast this with Picasso’s The Lovers, an ink, watercolor, and charcoal drawing dashed off quickly in 1904. The image, like van Eyck’s, leaves little doubt as to the subject. But here everything has been stripped away: background, furnishings, shoes, dog, even clothes, and we’re down to the essence of the matter. What we have is a transmission of vicarious experience so generic that anyone from Adam and Eve onward would immediately understand it. The very point of this drawing is the abstraction that ﬂows from its absence of context, and it’s this that projects it so effectively across time and space. Switch now, if you can manage this leap, to Thucydides, in whom I ﬁnd both the particularity of a van Eyck and the generality of a Picasso. He is, at times, so photographic in his narrative that he could be writing a modern screenplay. He tells us, for example, of a Plataean attempt against a Peloponnesian wall in which the soldiers advanced with only their left feet shod to keep from slipping in the mud, and in which the inadvertent dislodgment of a single roof tile raised the alarm. He places us in the middle of the Athenian attack on Pylos in 425 b.c. just as precisely as those remarkable ﬁrst moments of Steven Spielberg’s ﬁlm Saving Private Ryan place us on the Normandy beaches in 1944 a.d. He makes us hear the sick and wounded Athenians on Sicily “loudly calling to each individual comrade or relative whom they could see, hanging upon the necks of their tent-fellows in the act of departure, and following as far as they could, and when their bodily strength failed them, calling again and again upon heaven and shrieking aloud as they were left behind.”20 There is, in short, an 14 the landscape of history authenticity in this particularity that puts us there at least as effectively as one of Michael Crichton’s time machines. But Thucydides, unlike Crichton, is also a great generalizer. He meant his work, he tells us, for those inquirers “who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reﬂect it.” He knew that abstraction—we might even call it a Picassolike separation from context—is what makes generalizations hold up over time. Hence he has the Athenians telling the rebellious Melians, as a timeless principle, that “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”: it follows that the Athenians “put to death all the grown men whom they took, and sold the women and children for slaves, and subsequently sent out ﬁve hundred colonists and inhabited the place themselves.” Thucydides also shows us, though, that there are exceptions to any rule: when the Mityleneans rebel and the Athenians conquer them, the strong suddenly have second thoughts and send out a second ship to overtake the ﬁrst, countermanding the order to slaughter or enslave the weak.21 This tension between particularization and generalization— between literal and abstract representation—comes with the territory, I think, when you’re transmitting vicarious experience. A simple chronicle of details, however graphic, locks you into a particular time and place. You move beyond it by abstracting, but abstracting is an artiﬁcial exercise, involving an oversimpliﬁcation of complex realities. It’s analogous to what happened in the world of art once it began, in the late nineteenth century, to depart from the literal representation of reality. One objective of impressionism, cubism, and futurism was to ﬁnd a way to represent motion from within the necessarily static media of paint, canvas, and frame. Abstraction arose as a form of liberation, a new view of reality that suggested something of the ﬂow of time.22 It worked, though, only by distorting space. Historians, in contrast, employ abstraction to overcome a different constraint, which is their separation in time from their subjects. the landscape of history 15 Artists coexist with the objects they’re representing, which means that it’s always possible for them to shift the view, adjust the light, or move the model.23 Historians can’t do this: because what they represent is in the past, they can never alter it. But they can, by that means of the particular form of abstraction we know as narrative, portray movement through time, something an artist can only hint at. There’s always a balance to be struck, though, for the more time the narrative covers, the less detail it can provide. It’s like the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, in which the precise measurement of one variable renders another one imprecise.24 This then, is yet another of the polarities involved in historical consciousness: the tension between the literal and the abstract, between the detailed depiction of what lies at some point in the past, on the one hand, and the sweeping sketch of what extends over long stretches of it, on the other. V. Which brings me back to Friedrich’s Wanderer, a representation in art that comes close to suggesting visually what historical consciousness is all about. The back turned toward us. Elevation from, not immersion in, a distant landscape. The tension between signiﬁcance and insigniﬁcance, the way you feel both large and small at the same time. The polarities of generalization and particularization, the gap between abstract and literal representation. But there’s something else here as well: a sense of curiosity mixed with awe mixed with a determination to ﬁnd things out—to penetrate the fog, to distill experience, to depict reality—that is as much an artistic vision as a scientiﬁc sensibility. Harold Bloom has written of Shakespeare that he created our concept of ourselves by discovering ways—never before achieved—of portraying human nature on the stage.25 John Madden’s ﬁlm Shakespeare in Love, I think, shows that actually happening: it’s the moment when Romeo and Juliet has been staged for the ﬁrst time, when the 16 the landscape of history last lines have been delivered, and when the audience, utterly amazed, sits silently with eyes bulging and mouths agape, unsure of what to do. Confronting uncharted territory, whether in theater, history, or human affairs, produces something like that sense of wonder. Which is probably why Shakespeare in Love ends at the beginning of Twelfth Night, with Viola shipwrecked on an uncharted continent, ﬁlled with dangers but also with inﬁnite possibilities. And as in Friedrich’s Wanderer, it’s a backside we see in that last long shot as she wades ashore. Now, I don’t mean to suggest that historians can, with any credibility, play the role of Gwyneth Paltrow. We’re supposed to be solid, dispassionate chroniclers of events, not given to allowing our emotions and our intuitions to affect what we do, or so we’ve traditionally been taught. I worry, though, that if we don’t allow for these things, and for the sense of excitement and wonder they bring to the doing of history, then we’re missing much of what the ﬁeld is all about. The ﬁrst lines Shakespeare has Viola speak, ﬁlled as they are with intelligence, curiosity, and some dread, could well be the starting point for any historian contemplating the landscape of history: “What country, friends, is this?” C h a p t e r Tw o T I M E A N D S PAC E One of the things that’s striking about that ﬁnal scene in Shakespeare in Love is its suggestion of an abundance of time and space: all possibilities are open; nothing is ruled out. “Had we but world enough and time,” the poet Andrew Marvell wrote regretfully, acknowledging that he did not.1 But in this cinematic image of a backside, an empty beach, and an uncharted continent, it seems that we really do. Individual historians, like Marvell, are of course bound by time and space, but history as a discipline isn’t. Precisely because of their detachment from and elevation above the landscape of the past, historians are able to manipulate time and space in ways they could never manage as normal people. They can compress these dimensions, expand them, compare them, measure them, even transcend them, almost as poets, playwrights, novelists, and ﬁlm-makers do. Historians have always been, in this sense, abstractionists: the literal representation of reality is not their task. And yet they must accomplish these manipulations in such a way as at least to approach the standards for veriﬁcation that exist within the social, physical, and biological sciences. Artists don’t normally 18 the landscape of history expect to have their sources checked. Historians do.2 That fact suspends us somewhere in between the arts and the sciences: we feel free to rise above the constraints of time and space, to use our imagination, to boldly go—as the scriptwriters of Star Trek might have put it in their relentless pursuit of the split inﬁnitive—where no actual person has or ever could have gone before. But we have to do this in such a way as to convince our students, our colleagues, and anyone else who reads our work that these departures from the dimensions in which we usually live our lives do indeed give us reliable information about how people in the past lived theirs. This isn’t an easy task. I. Let me begin my discussion of it with one of the most famous of all ﬁctional rearrangements of time and space (to say nothing of gender), Virginia Woolf ’s novel Orlando. It begins and ends with her eponymous hero sitting quietly on a hill, under a large oak tree, from which he (who by the end of the book has become a she) can see some thirty English counties, “or forty, perhaps, if the weather was very ﬁne.” The spires and smoke of London are visible in one direction, the English Channel in another, and the “craggy top and serrated edges of Snowden [sic]” in another. Orlando returns to this place regularly over some three and a half centuries without visibly aging. Elizabeth I ﬁnds him enchanting, but she—for there is an unexpected change of sex about a third of the way through—is still ﬂourishing in the reign of George V. So what’s going on here? Well, ﬁrst of all, Orlando is a thinly disguised portrayal of Woolf ’s lover, Vita Sackville-West: what better gift than to liberate such a person from constraints of time, space, and gender? But the novel is also Woolf ’s send-up of biography as a genre—especially those tedious multivolume “life and times” monuments favored by the Victorians.3 t i m e a n d s pa c e 19 “It was now November,” she tells us in recounting one of the less eventful years in Orlando’s life: After November, comes December. Then January, February, March, and April. After April comes May. June, July, August follow. Next is September. Then October, and so, behold, here we are back at November again, with a whole year accomplished. This method of writing biography, though it has its merits, is a little bare, perhaps, and the reader, if we go on with it, may complain that he could recite the calendar for himself and so save his pocket whatever sum the publisher may think it proper to charge for the book. More signiﬁcantly for our purposes, and as this quote suggests, Orlando is a protest against the literal representation of reality. Woolf makes the point most clearly in a striking passage on the nature of time: “An hour, once it lodges in the queer element of the human spirit, may be stretched to ﬁfty or a hundred times its clock length; on the other hand, an hour may be accurately represented on the timepiece of the mind by one second. This extraordinary discrepancy between time on the clock and time in the mind is less known than it should be, and deserves fuller investigation.” 4 So let us take her up on that suggestion, and see where it leads. The desk calendar method of writing history has ancient precedents in the form of chronicles, which dutifully recount the weather, the crops, and the phases of the moon, as well as more extraordinary developments. But as the philosopher of history Hayden White has noted, events recorded in the strict order of their occurrence almost immediately get rearranged into a story with a discrete beginning, middle, and end.5 These then become histories, and White’s analysis of them beyond this point becomes jargon-laden. Sufﬁce it to say, though, that when he’s writing about “emplotment” and “formist, organicist, mechanistic, and contextualist” modes of explanation, what he’s really 20 the landscape of history describing is the historian’s liberation from the limitations of time and space: the freedom to give greater attention to some things than to others and thus to depart from strict chronology; the license to connect things disconnected in space, and thus to rearrange geography. These procedures are so basic that historians tend to take them for granted: we rarely even think about what we’re doing when we do it. And yet they get at the heart of what we mean by representation, which is simply the rearrangement of reality to suit our purposes.6 As a way of illustrating this point, consider Thomas Babington Macaulay and Henry Adams, two prominent nineteenth-century exemplars of the traditional historical narrative. Despite their reputations, both managed to liberate themselves from literal representation with a selfconﬁdence that would have astonished the world of art at the time, had they been capable of expressing it in visual terms. The multiple volumes of Macaulay’s History of England, published between 1848 and 1861, and of Adams’s History of the United States of America during the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, which appeared between 1889 and 1891, move grandly through time, not hesitating to select evidence that conﬁrms their authors’ convictions and to neglect that which does not. Macaulay, hence, imposes the “Whig” interpretation of history so authoritatively that subsequent generations of historians have staggered under its weight. Adams, for his part, bears the burden of family history: his view of Jefferson and Madison is, inescapably—even genetically— that of John and John Quincy Adams.7 The discrepancy Woolf detected between time on the clock and time in the mind is, in this ﬁltering of evidence, most assuredly there. But Macaulay and Adams do not only move through time: they both begin their histories with a trip through space at a single point in time that bears a striking resemblance to that of Orlando from his or her oak tree. Macaulay’s famous third chapter on “The State of England in 1685” views the entire country as no actual observer could possibly have done.8 We see things from a distance, to be sure, as t i m e a n d s pa c e 21 when he tells us that we might recognize “Snowdon and Windermere, the Cheddar Cliffs and Beachy Head,” but these would be the exceptions, for thousands of square miles, which are now rich corn land and meadow, intersected by green hedge-rows, and dotted with villages and pleasant country seats, would appear as moors overgrown with furze, or fens abandoned to wild ducks. We should see straggling huts built of wood and covered with thatch where we now see manufacturing towns and sea-ports renowned to the farthest ends of the world. The capital itself would shrink to dimensions not much exceeding those of its present suburb on the south of the Thames. Macaulay then zooms in to give us precise details: we learn, for example, that the “litter of a farmyard gathered under the windows” of the typical country gentleman of the era, and that “cabbages and gooseberry bushes grew close to his hall door.”9 Adams is just as ambitious, devoting six chapters to what could almost be a satellite reconnaissance of the United States in the year 1800, and only then getting around to Jefferson’s inauguration. Like Macaulay, he focuses on particularities, such as the fact that there was then no road between Baltimore and Washington, only tracks that “meandered through forests,” with stagecoach drivers choosing whichever “seemed least dangerous.” But he also zooms out, as when he makes the larger point that “ﬁve million Americans struggling with the untamed continent seemed hardly more competent to their task than the beavers and buffalo which had for countless generations made bridges and roads of their own.”10 So here we have two eminently Victorian gentlemen who would hardly have known what to make of Virginia Woolf—although she would have known what to make of them—manipulating time and space with just as much ease and aplomb as her hero/heroine Orlando does, or as the most accomplished operator of a time machine in sci- 22 the landscape of history ence ﬁction might do. And they only occasionally wrinkle their frock coats along the way. II. I expressed skepticism, in the ﬁrst chapter, about the utility of time machines in historical research. I especially advised against graduate students relying on them, because of the limited perspective you tend to get from being plunked down in some particular part of the past, and the danger of not getting back in time for your orals.11 If you consider historical research itself as a kind of time machine, though, you’ll immediately notice that its capabilities go well beyond what such devices in science ﬁction normally accomplish. For as the examples of Macaulay and Adams illustrate, historians have the capacity for selectivity, simultaneity, and the shifting of scale: they can select from the cacophony of events what they think is really important; they can be in several times and places at once; and they can zoom in and out between macroscopic and microscopic levels of analysis. Let me develop each of these points in greater detail. Selectivity. To be transported, in a conventional time machine, to a particular point in the past would be to have signiﬁcances imposed on you. Assuming your instruments were working properly, you could choose the time and place you’d like to visit, but once there you’d have little control: events would quickly overwhelm you, and you’d just have to cope. We all know the plot from there: you’d spend the rest of the novel dodging voracious velociraptors, or fending off the Black Death, or trying to persuade the locals that you’re not really a witch or a wizard and should therefore be spared the stake. In the historian’s method of time travel, though, you impose significances on the past, not the other way around. By remaining in the present as you explore the past, you retain the initiative: you can, like Macaulay and Adams, defend Whiggery or discredit Jefferson. You can t i m e a n d s pa c e 23 focus on kings and their courtiers, or on warfare and statecraft, or on the great religious, intellectual, or ideological movements of the day. Or you can follow Fernand Braudel’s example in The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II by bringing that monarch on stage only after some nine hundred pages in which you’ve discussed the geography, the weather, the crops, the animals, the economy, and the institutions—everything, it seems, but the great man himself, who was in his day at the center of things but in this history certainly is not.12 Who would have anticipated that we would today be studying the Inquisition through the eyes of a sixteenth-century Italian miller, or prerevolutionary France from the perspective of a recalcitrant Chinese manservant, or the ﬁrst years of American independence from the experiences of a New England midwife? Works like Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms, Jonathan Spence’s The Question of Hu, and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A Midwife’s Tale result from the fortunate preservation of sources that open windows into another time.13 But it’s the historian here who selects what’s signiﬁcant, no less than would have been the case with a more traditional account of, say, the Battle of Hastings, or the life of Louis XIV. Millions of people over thousands of years have crossed the Rubicon, E. H. Carr pointed out in What Is History? We decide which ones we want to write about.14 It’s an unsettling exercise to try to guess what historians two or three hundred years hence will select as signiﬁcant about our age. One depressing possibility might be the defunct websites we leave lying around in cyberspace. For if Robert Darnton can reconstruct early eighteenth-century Parisian society on the basis of bookseller reports, gossip-ﬁlled scandal sheets, and accounts of the trial, torturing, and execution of aristocrats’ cats, imagine what someone like him might do with what will remain of us.15 All we can say for sure is that we’ll only in part be remembered for what we consider signiﬁcant about ourselves, or from what we choose to leave behind in the documents and the artifacts that will survive us. Future historians will have 24 the landscape of history to choose what to make of these: it’s they who will impose meanings, just as it’s we who study the past, not those who lived through it, who do so.16 Simultaneity. Even more striking than selectivity is the capacity history gives you for simultaneity, for the ability to be at once in more than a single place or time. To achieve this, in science ﬁction, would no doubt require wormholes, beam splitters, and all kinds of other complicated devices; moreover, the plot, we can assume, would quickly lose its focus. Historians routinely frequent many places at once, though: their investigations of the past can extend to multiple subjects within the same period, as my examples from Macaulay and Adams illustrate, or to multiple points in time within the same subject, as traditional narratives do, or to some combination of both. Consider John Keegan’s classic accounts of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme in The Face of Battle. No one could have witnessed those engagements in their entirety, nor could anyone have compared them on the basis of direct experience. And yet Keegan is able to take us there—in an Orlando-like extension of time horizons—to let us see all three battles with appalling clarity, even though as he himself acknowledges in the ﬁrst line of the book: “I have not been in a battle; nor near one, nor heard one from afar, nor seen the aftermath.”17 Or, for simultaneity in space at a particular time, there is Stephen Kern’s remarkable but neglected book The Culture of Time and Space, which brings together developments in diplomacy, technology, and the arts in Europe and the United States on the eve of World War I to document an acceleration in the pace of events and a departure from traditional modes of representing them that could hardly have been visible while it was happening. Even Virginia Woolf waited until 1924 to make her famous observation that “on or about December, 1910, human character changed.”18 It’s only by standing apart from the events they describe, as Keegan and Kern do, that historians can understand and, more signiﬁcantly, compare events. For surely understanding implies comparison: t i m e a n d s pa c e 25 to comprehend something is to see it in relation to other entities of the same class; but when these stretch over spans of time and space that exceed the physical capabilities of the individual observer, our only alternative is to be in several places at once.19 Only viewing the past from the perspective of the present—the posture of Friedrich’s wanderer on his mountaintop—allows you to do that. Scale. A third way in which historians’ time machines exceed the capability of those in science ﬁction is the ease with which they can shift the scale from the macroscopic to the microscopic, and back again. In one sense there’s nothing surprising here, for this is the basis for a fundamental tool of narrative, the illustrative anecdote. Anytime a historian uses a particular episode to make a general point, scale shifting is taking place: the small, because it’s easily described, is used to characterize the large, which may not be. In another sense, though, the results of this procedure can be startling. A good example appears in the work of William H. McNeill, who, after completing his magisterial study The Rise of the West almost four decades ago, began producing a series of books that start from microscopic insights into human nature but then expand them into macroscopic reinterpretations of an extended past. The ﬁrst of these focused quite literally on the microscopic: Plagues and Peoples, published in 1976, dealt with the effects of infectious diseases on world history. What McNeill showed was that great macro-events—the decline of Rome, the Mongol invasions, the European conquest of North and South America—can’t be satisfactorily explained apart from the workings of micro-processes we’ve only come to understand in the last hundred years. What’s known now about immunities or their absence projects a new angle of vision back into the past. This particular form of time travel only works, though, when the historian is prepared to shift scales: to consider how phenomena so small that they totally escaped notice at the time could shape phenomena so large that we’ve always wondered why they occurred.20 McNeill then did something similar in The Pursuit of Power (1982), 26 the landscape of history where he focused on the role of new military technologies in determining the location and extent of political power over the past thousand years, and more recently in Keeping Together in Time (1995), which showed how so a simple matter as mass rhythmic movement— dance, drill, exercise—could provide a basis for social cohesiveness and hence for human organization.21 What these books have in common is travel across not only time and space but also scale: the ability to select, to be in several places at once, to see processes at work that are visible to us now but were not then. III. Historians have no choice but to engage in these manipulations of time, space, and scale—these departures from literal representation— because a truly literal representation of any entity could only be the entity itself, and that would be impractical. David Hackett Fischer, whose list of historians’ fallacies has delighted several generations of their students, provides a crisp explanation of why this is the case. The holist fallacy, he writes, “is the mistaken idea that a historian should select signiﬁcant details from a sense of the whole thing.” The problem with this approach is that “it would prevent a historian from knowing anything until he knows everything, which is absurd and impossible.” The historian’s evidence “is always incomplete, his perspective is always limited, and the thing itself is a vast expanding universe of particular events, about which an inﬁnite number of facts or true statements can be discovered.”22 What Fischer has described, one of my more mathematically inclined students has pointed out to me, is a problem in set theory. The easiest way to understand this is to take all whole numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and so on) and extract from the set all odd numbers (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and so on): you wind up with just as many numbers as you started out with. The subset has as many units—an inﬁnite number—as the t i m e a n d s pa c e 27 whole set. The part is as great as the whole.23 The physicist Stephen Hawking makes a similar point when he begins his A Brief History of Time with an anecdote about a lecturer explaining the workings of the solar system. At the end of the presentation, a little old lady in the back of the room gets up and announces ﬁrmly: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a ﬂat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” “What is the tortoise standing on?” the lecturer asks patiently. She replies: “It’s tortoises all the way down.”24 The answer isn’t as ﬂaky as you might think, because when it comes to the dimensions of time and space with which historians have to deal, it really is tortoises all the way down: time and space are inﬁnitely divisible. We’ve agreed, as a matter of convenience, to measure time by a series of arbitrary units called centuries, decades, years, months, days, minutes, and seconds—historians don’t normally go beyond these. But they could, for there are milliseconds, nanoseconds, and goodness knows what else at one end of the scale, just as there are light years, parsecs, and such at the other end of it. To try to capture everything that happened to an ordinary person on an ordinary day in an ordinary place took James Joyce over seven hundred pages in Ulysses. So imagine turning Joyce loose on an account, say, of Napoleon at Waterloo. The level of detail would be such that most readers would nod off before the great man (Napoleon, I mean, not Joyce) had even got his underwear on. If indeed he wore underwear, a point I’m content to leave to whoever feels the need to divide history down to this level.25 This same principle of divisibility applies to space. Consider the meteorologist Lewis Richardson’s famous question: how long is the coastline of Britain? The answer is that there is no answer—it depends. Are you measuring in miles, meters, or microns? The result will differ in each instance, and not just as a consequence of converting from one unit of measurement to another. For the further down you go in the scale of measurement, the more irregularities of coastline you’ll pick up, so that the length will expand or contract in rela- 28 the landscape of history tion to the manner in which you’re measuring it. And yet, as an object lodged in space, Britain is obviously a ﬁnite entity which does not inﬂate or deﬂate according to how we look at it. It’s the modes with which we measure it that do.26 So once again, as with Napoleon, we make an estimate and move on. No one can know everything the emperor did on the disastrous day. No one can know, if Richardson is right, how far it actually is from London to Oxford. And yet people manage to ﬁnd their way between these points all the time, some of them even reading about Napoleon at Waterloo as they do so. Three views of the British coastline. The Bill of Portland, barely visible in the ﬁrst image, shows up as a small peninsula in the second and in detail in the third. Measurements based on each would produce different results for the coastline’s length, and yet all three accurately represent the same coastline (GlobeXplorer). t i m e a n d s pa c e 29 If our methods of measurement render entities inﬁnitely divisible into other entities, as set theory suggests they do, then the only defense against going bonkers in attempting to deal with this problem is to glide grandly over it, rather in the manner of Virginia Woolf. We have no choice but to sketch what we cannot precisely delineate, to generalize, to abstract. What this means, though, is that our modes of representation determine whatever it is we’re representing. We’re back with the historians’ equivalent of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle: the act of observation alters what’s being observed. Which means that objectivity as a consequence is hardly possible, and that there is, therefore, no such thing as truth. Which in turn means that postmodernism, which asserts all of these things, is conﬁrmed.27 Q.E.D. Or so it might seem. IV. But before we accept that unsettling conclusion, we should probe a little more deeply into the nature of time and space, as historians understand them. Leibniz deﬁned time elegantly as “the order of noncontemporaneous things.”28 This isn’t completely satisfactory, because words like “order” and “contemporaneous” all themselves depend on a conception of time, so that the word is deﬁned in terms of itself. It’s hard to see how we can do much better, though, for if truth be told we deﬁne ourselves in just the same way: to say what we are is to reﬂect what we’ve become. We cannot therefore stand apart from time: it is, as Marc Bloch wrote, “the very plasma in which events are immersed, and the ﬁeld within which they become intelligible.”29 How, then, do we think and write about something of which we’re a part? We do it ﬁrst, I believe, by noting that although time itself is a seamless continuum, it doesn’t look that way to those who exist within it. Anyone with even a minimal level of consciousness would see time as divided, like ancient Gaul, into three parts: what lies in the past, what is yet to come in the future, and—most difﬁcult of all to pin down—that elusive entity we know as the present. 30 the landscape of history St. Augustine doubted that the present even exists, describing it as something that “ﬂies with such speed from future to past, as not to be lengthened out with the least stay.”30 But the historian R. G. Collingwood, writing some ﬁfteen centuries later, took just the opposite view: “The present alone is actual,” he insisted, using an Oxford illustration; the past and future had no existence comparable to the way in which, “when we are walking up the High past Queen’s, Magdalen and All Souls exist.”31 So what’s the problem here? It may be that neither Augustine nor Collingwood had heard of singularities, those strange things that exist at the bottom of black holes (if black holes have bottoms) which cannot be measured, but which nonetheless transform all measurable objects that pass through them.32 I prefer to think of the present as a singularity—or a funnel, if you prefer a more mundane metaphor, or a wormhole, if you favor a more exotic one—through which the future has got to pass in order to become the past. The present achieves this transformation by locking into place relationships between continuities and contingencies: on the future side of the singularity, these are ﬂuid, decoupled, and therefore indeterminate; however, as they pass through it they fuse and cannot then be separated. The effect is that of DNA strands combining, or of a zipper that zips up but not back down. By continuities, I mean patterns that extend across time. These are not laws, like gravity or entropy; they are not even theories, like relativity or natural selection. They are simply phenomena that recur with sufﬁcient regularity to make themselves apparent to us. Without such patterns, we’d have no basis for generalizing about human experience: we’d not know, for example, that birth rates tend to decline as economic development advances, or that empires tend to expand beyond their means, or that democracies tend not to go to war with one another. But because these patterns show up so frequently in the past, we can reasonably expect them to continue to do so in the future. Trends that have held up over several hundred years are not apt to reverse themselves within the next several weeks. By contingencies, I mean phenomena that do not form patterns. t i m e a n d s pa c e 31 These may include the actions individuals take for reasons known only to themselves: a Hitler on a grandiose scale, for example, or a Lee Harvey Oswald on a very particular one. They can involve what the chaos theorists call “sensitive dependence on initial conditions,” situations where an imperceptible shift at the beginning of a process can produce enormous changes at the end of it.33 They may result from the intersection of two or more continuities: students of accidents know that when predictable processes come together in unprecedented ways, unpredictable consequences can follow.34 What all of these phenomena have in common is that they don’t fall within the realm of repeated and therefore familiar experience: we generally learn about them only after they’ve happened. We might deﬁne the future, then, as the zone within which contingencies and continuities coexist independently of one another; the past as the place where their relationship is inextricably ﬁxed; and the present as the singularity that brings the two together, so that continuities intersect contingencies, contingencies encounter continuities, and through this process history is made.35 And even though time itself isn’t structured this way, for anyone who’s stuck within time— and who isn’t?—this distinction between past, present, and future is close to universal. We perceive time in a manner relevant to ourselves: as Woolf pointed out, though, there’s a difference between what it actually is and the way in which we represent it. V. So much for time; what about space? For our purposes, let us deﬁne it simply as the location in which events occur, with the understanding that “events” are those passages from the future through the present into the past.36 There is, at ﬁrst glance, no comparably universal perception of space divided into distinct parts, as there is with time. The familiar dimensions of height, width, and depth are conventions we rely upon to measure space, much as we use hours, minutes, and sec- 32 the landscape of history onds to measure time. They aren’t conceptions of space, though, analogous to our divisions of time into past, present, and future. If there is such a division for space, I suspect it lies in the distinction between the actual and the cartographic. The making of maps must be as ancient and ubiquitous a practice as is our three-part conception of time. Both reduce the inﬁnitely complex to a ﬁnite, manageable, frame of reference.37 Both involve the imposition of artiﬁcial grids—hours and days, longitude and latitude—on temporal and spatial landscapes, or perhaps I should say on timescapes and landscapes. Both provide a way of reversing divisibility, of retrieving unity, of recapturing a sense of the whole, even though it can never be the whole. For to try to represent everything that’s in a particular landscape would be as absurd as to attempt to recount everything that actually happened, whether at Waterloo or anywhere else. Such a map, like such an account, would have to become what it represented, a circumstance imagined only by such connoisseurs of the ridiculous as Lewis Carroll or Jorge Luis Borges. Borges writes, for example, of an empire in which: the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that . . . . the Cartographers Guilds struck a map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography . . . , saw that that vast Map was Useless, and . . . they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars.38 We avoid the literal in making maps because to do otherwise would not be to represent at all but rather to replicate. We’d ﬁnd ourselves drowning in detail: the distillation that’s required for the comprehension and transmission of vicarious experience would be lost. Maps do exactly that: they distill the experiences of others for the t i m e a n d s pa c e 33 purpose of helping you get from where you are to where you want to go. Think how much time we’d waste if everyone going from Oxford to London had to ﬁnd their own way, like molecules bouncing around in a beaker or monkeys poised before computer keyboards. Think how risky it would be to send ships to sea without any means of knowing the locations of rocks and shoals. Think how perilous air travel would become without the radios, radar, and now satellite guidance systems that create virtual pathways through a featureless sky. Whether they take the form of crude markings in the sand or of the most sophisticated computer graphics, maps have in common, as do the works of historians, a packaging of vicarious experience. But despite their obvious utility, there’s no such thing as a single correct map.39 The form of the map reﬂects its purpose. A highway map will exaggerate certain features of the landscape and neglect others: you need to be able to see the routes, their numbers, and the cities they run between. You don’t need to know the nature of the soil, or the vegetation, or (except maybe in certain parts of California) the geologic fault lines to be found along the way. Much the same is true of scale: you’d not plot an automobile trip on a globe, but you might very well an intercontinental airplane route. No map tells you everything it’s possible to know. They do generally tell you enough, though, to get you from here to there, and that’s generally sufﬁcient. VI. So what if we were to think of history as a kind of mapping? If, as I suggested earlier, the past is a landscape and history is the way we represent it, then this might make sense. It would establish the linkage between pattern recognition as the primary form of human perception and the fact that all history—even the most simple narrative—draws upon the recognition of such patterns. It would permit varying levels of detail, not just as a reﬂection of scale but also of 34 the landscape of history the information available at any given time about a particular landscape, geographical or historical. But, most important, this metaphor would allow us to get closer to the way historians know when they’ve got it right. For veriﬁcation in cartography takes place by ﬁtting representations to reality. You have the physical landscape, but you wouldn’t want to try to replicate it. You have, in your mind, reasons for representing the landscape: you want to ﬁnd your way through it without having to rely on your own immediate senses; hence you draw on the generalized experience of others. And you have the map itself, which results from ﬁtting together what is actually there with what the user of the map needs to know about what is there. The ﬁt becomes more precise the more the landscape is investigated. The ﬁrst maps of newly discovered territories are usually crude sketches of a coastline, with lots of blank spaces and perhaps a few sea monsters or dragons occupying them. As exploration proceeds, the map’s features become more speciﬁc and the beasts tend to disappear. In time, there’ll be multiple maps of the same territory prepared for different purposes, whether to show roads, towns, rivers, mountains, resources, topography, geology, population, weather, or even the volume of trafﬁc—and hence the probability of trafﬁc jams—along the routes marked out on other maps. Cartographic veriﬁcation is, therefore, entirely relative: it depends upon how well the mapmaker achieves a ﬁt between the landscape that’s being mapped and the requirements of those for whom the map is being made. And yet, despite this indeterminacy, I know of no postmodernist who would deny the existence of landscapes, or that it’s useful to represent them. It would be most unwise for sailors to conclude, simply because we cannot specify the length of the British coastline, that it isn’t there and that they can sail self-conﬁdently through it. So too it would be imprudent for historians to decide, from the fact that we have no absolute basis for measuring time and space, that they can’t know anything about what happened within them. Chapter Three ST R U C T U R E A N D P R O C E S S H i s t o r i c a l l a n d s c a p e s d i f f e r from cartographic landscapes, however, in one important respect: they are physically inaccessible to us. Anyone mapping even the most remote regions of the earth’s surface can visit or at least photograph the terrain in question. Historians can’t do that. “No Egyptologist has ever seen Ramses,” Marc Bloch points out in The Historian’s Craft. “No expert on the Napoleonic Wars has ever heard the sound of the cannon at Austerlitz.” Historians “are in the predicament of a police magistrate who strives to reconstruct a crime he has not seen; of a physicist who, conﬁned to his bed with the grippe, hears the results of his experiments only through the reports of his laboratory technician.” As a consequence, the historian “never arrives until after the experiment has been concluded. But, under favorable circumstances, the experiment leaves behind certain residues which he can see with his own eyes.”1 If time and space provide the ﬁeld in which history happens, then, structure and process provide the mechanism. For it is from structures that survive into the present—the “certain residues” of which Bloch wrote—that we reconstruct processes inaccessible to us because they took place in the past. “A historical fact is an inference from the 36 the landscape of history relics,” the sociologist John Goldthorpe has observed.2 These may include bones and excrement, tools and weapons, great ideas and works of art, or documents that get deposited in archives; but in each case processes produced them. We can know these only from the structures they leave behind. A good way to visualize this is to consider the humble roadcut. Geologists love them because they expose tilts, folds, and uncomformities in strata, structures from which one can derive processes extending back millions and even billions of years. They are, as John McPhee has put it, “windows into the world as it was in other times.”3 Roadcuts wouldn’t exist, though, were it not for decisions made, so recently as to remain within the geologic present, to construct the canals, railways, and highways that required them.4 For geologists, then, the distinction between structure and process corresponds to The Sideling Hill roadcut, I-68, in western Maryland (courtesy of the Maryland Geological Survey; photo by Paul Breeding). structure and process 37 the one between the present, where structures exist, and the past, where processes produced them. Does it also for historians? That’s the question I want to explore here, and the best place to start is with the old debate over whether history is, or isn’t, a science. I. “When I was very young,” E. H. Carr commented in his 1961 Trevelyan lectures at Cambridge, “I was suitably impressed to learn that, appearances notwithstanding, the whale is not a ﬁsh. Nowadays these questions of classiﬁcation move me less; and it does not worry me unduly when I am assured that history is not a science.”5 If you were to deconstruct that statement, you could give it several possible meanings. One is that history is indeed a science. The second is that it isn’t. The third is that Carr had the habit of sweeping away ambiguities, rather in the way that Oxford and Cambridge college waiters, at high table, sweep away crumbs.6 I’m inclined to think, though—and Carr’s own lectures suggest this—that the question can’t be dismissed quite so easily. For science has one quality that privileges it above all other modes of inquiry: it has shown itself more capable than any of the others at eliciting agreement on the validity of results across cultures, in different languages, and among highly dissimilar observers. The structure of the DNA molecule looks much the same to researchers in Switzerland, Singapore, and Sri Lanka. Aircraft wings bear stress similarly whether the airlines that rely on them operate as subsidized state monopolies or adventurous entrepreneurial enterprises. Astronomers of Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist persuasions have little difﬁculty reaching a consensus on what causes eclipses, or how galaxies move. There are of course other ways to resolve issues like these. You could, for example, probe the entrails of animals, read tea leaves, consult a horoscope, seek divine guidance, or make inquiries in an Inter- 38 the landscape of history net chat room. You’d certainly get results, but you’d not get very many other people to agree on the accuracy of the results. The advantage of science, John Ziman has pointed out, is that it provides “a consensus of rational opinion over the widest possible ﬁeld.”7 To be sure, we can’t expect the methods of science to work with equal precision, or to command comparably broad assent, when it comes to the study of human affairs. The reason is obvious: consciousness—perhaps I should say willfulness—can override the kinds of laws that govern the behavior of molecules, or air ﬂows, or celestial objects. People, the political scientist Stanley Hoffmann once reminded his colleagues, are not “gases or pistons.”8 I see no reason, however, why this difﬁculty should invalidate Ziman’s standard as one historians ought to try to reach—a consensus of rational opinion over the widest possible ﬁeld—even if they never actually get there. You don’t have to read very far in Carr to discover that, despite his pronouncement on whales and ﬁshes, he thought so too. So did Marc Bloch. They both saw science as a model for historians, but not because they thought historians were becoming, or ought to become, more scientiﬁc. It was rather because they saw scientists as becoming more historical. With the nineteenth-century achievements of Charles Lyell in geology and Charles Darwin in biology, Carr noted, “[s]cience was concerned no longer with something static and timeless, but with a process of change and development.”9 Bloch argued similarly, focusing on twentieth-century developments: The kinetic theory of gases, Einstein’s mechanics, and the quantum theory have profoundly altered that concept of science which, only yesterday, was unanimously accepted. . . . For certainty, they have often substituted the inﬁnitely probable; for the strictly measurable, the notion of the eternal relativity of measurement. . . . Hence, we are much better prepared to admit that a scholarly discipline may pretend to the dignity of a science without insisting upon Euclidian demonstrations or immutable laws of repetition. . . . We no longer structure and process 39 feel obliged to impose upon every subject of knowledge a uniform intellectual pattern, borrowed from natural science, since even there, that pattern has ceased to be entirely applicable.10 By discovering that what exists in the present has not always done so in the past, that objects and organisms evolve through time instead of remaining the same for all time, scientists had begun to derive structures from processes: they had, in short, brought history into science. As a consequence of this shift from a static to an evolutionary view, Carr concluded, “the historian has some excuse for feeling himself more at home in the world of science today than he could have done a hundred years ago.”11 Carr wrote those words four decades ago. Do they still make sense today? I think they do, provided you specify the kind of science you have in mind. II. The key to consensus, in science, is reproducibility: observations made under equivalent conditions, no matter who makes them, are expected to produce closely corresponding results.12 Mathematicians recalculate pi to billions of decimal places with absolute conﬁdence that its value will remain what it has been for thousands of years.13 Physics and chemistry are only slightly less reliable, for although investigators can’t always be sure of what’s happening at subatomic levels, they do tend to get similar results when they perform laboratory experiments under similar conditions, and they probably always will. Veriﬁcation, within these disciplines, takes place by repeating actual processes. Time and space are compressed and manipulated; history itself is in effect rerun. In that sense, obviously, the historical method can never approximate the scientiﬁc method. But not all sciences work this way. In ﬁelds like astronomy, geology, 40 the landscape of history paleontology, or evolutionary biology, phenomena rarely ﬁt within laboratories, and the time required to see results can exceed the life spans of those who seek them.14 These disciplines instead depend upon thought experiments: practitioners rerun in their minds—or perhaps now in their computer simulations—what their test tubes, centrifuges, and electron microscopes can’t manage. They then look for evidence suggesting which of these mental exercises comes closest to explaining their physical observations. Reproducibility means building a consensus that such correspondences seem plausible. The only way these scientists can rerun history is to imagine it, but they must do so within the limits of logic. They can’t attribute the inexplicable to pixies, wizards, or extraterrestrial visitors and still expect to persuade their peers that their ﬁndings are valid.15 How, apart from such thought experiments, could geologists account for the fact that strata that can only have been laid down horizontally nevertheless often wind up tilted, or even vertical? Or for granite that intrudes itself into limestone? Or for seashells that show up thousands of feet above, and hundreds of miles away from, the nearest sea?16 How else could biologists make sense of organs with no apparent function: the whale’s vestigial legs, for example, or the panda’s thumb, or the human tail bone?17 Why do human genes differ so little from those of ﬂeas, worms, ﬂies, monkeys, and mice?18 How, for that matter, can astrophysicists explain the origins of the universe? In each of these instances, structures have survived that only past processes can explain: the geological uplift and collapse driven by plate tectonics, for example, or the evolution of species that results from natural selection, or the residual radiation left over from the Big Bang. Laboratory experiments would hardly sufﬁce to test such explanations. Darwin’s required a time scale extending over hundreds of millions of years. Alfred Wegener visualized an entire earth on which continents could come together and drift apart. Albert Einstein’s imagined experiments exceeded the size not just of his laboratory but of his galaxy. All of these scientiﬁc revolutionaries coupled imagina- structure and process 41 tion with logic to derive past processes from present structures. Nor were they in any way exceptional in this, for the same thing happens every day in natural history museums before critical audiences of small children. What’s the reconstruction of dinosaurs and other ancient creatures from fossils, after all, if not a ﬁtting of imagined ﬂesh to surviving bones, or at least to impressions of them?19 And the kids are, most of the time at least, suitably impressed. It’s here that the methods of historians and scientists—at least those scientists for whom reproducibility cannot take place in the laboratory—roughly coincide. For historians too start with surviving structures, whether they be archives, artifacts, or even memories. They then deduce the processes that produced them. Like geologists and paleontologists, they must allow for the fact that most sources from the past don’t survive, and that most daily events don’t even generate a survivable record in the ﬁrst place. Like biologists and astrophysicists, they must deal with ambiguous or even contradictory evidence. And like all scientists who work outside of laboratories, historians must use logic and imagination to overcome the resulting difﬁculties, their own equivalent of thought experiments, if you will. It’s in this sense, I think, that R. G. Collingwood was correct when he insisted on the inseparability of the past from the historian’s present: the present is where the thought experiments take place.20 This doesn’t mean, though, that the past didn’t exist, for without it there’d be nothing to experiment upon. To illustrate this point, let me cite two very different examples of how historians use the laboratory that’s in their mind to reconstruct past processes from surviving structures. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A Midwife’s Tale recounts the life of Martha Ballard, a woman hardly anyone beyond her late eighteenthcentury Maine village could have known about at the time, on the basis of a single surviving source: the laconic diary she kept, not for posterity, but for the purpose of recording payments for services rendered. Ulrich ﬂeshes out this archival fossil—neglected by several generations of male historians—in several ways: by drawing on what’s 42 the landscape of history known from other sources about the time and place in which Ballard lived; by imagining how Ballard herself must have understood and sought to manage her situation; and by using contemporary gender and family relationships to compare it with what women experience today. The book is an exercise in historical paleontology, and it succeeds brilliantly.21 Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, conversely, works from a contemporary circumstance—the persistence of inequality throughout the world—to try to determine how it came about. He examines several cultures, some advanced, some not, that have survived into the present. He traces them back to their prehistoric roots when all societies were roughly equal, and then employs thought experiments to explain what happened to them along the way. His conclusions are striking: an east-west axis, as in Eurasia, allowed movement along more or less the same latitude and hence facilitated the interchange of people, economies, ideas, and—not least in importance—the germs that could build up immunities. A north-south axis, as in Africa and North and South America, impeded such movement. As a result in large part of plate tectonics, the Eurasians came to rule the world.22 It would be difﬁcult to think of two more dissimilar works of history in terms of their scope and scale. And yet, in method they’re much the same: each starts with a surviving structure—Ballard’s diary in Ulrich’s case, global inequality in Diamond’s; each seeks, through thought experiments, to derive the processes that gave rise to that structure; each does so with an eye to the contemporary signiﬁcance of those ﬁndings. They each combine logic with imagination. And they both won the Pulitzer Prize. But don’t novelists, poets, and playwrights also combine logic with imagination? They do, of course, although in a different way. Artists can, if they wish, conjure up their subjects out of thin air. Historians can’t do this: their subjects must really have existed. Artists can coexist in time with their subjects, altering them as they please. Historians can never do this: they can alter their representations of a subject, but structure and process 43 not the subject itself. The historian’s imagination must be “sufﬁciently powerful to make his narrative affecting,” Macaulay once wrote. “Yet he must control it so absolutely as to content himself with the materials which he ﬁnds, and to refrain from supplying deﬁciencies by additions of his own.”23 Imagination in history then, as in science, must be tethered to and disciplined by sources: that’s what distinguishes it from the arts and all other methods of representing reality. So is history a science? I put the question to a group of Yale seniors recently, and the answer one of them came up with made perfect sense to me: it was that we should instead concentrate on determining which sciences are historical.24 The distinction would lie along the line separating actual replicability as the standard for veriﬁcation—the rerunning of experiments in a laboratory—from the virtual replicability that’s associated with thought experiments. And it would be the accessibility versus the inaccessibility of processes that would make the difference. III. No geologist has ever penetrated the surface of the earth beyond a few miles, and yet they self-conﬁdently tell us how what happens down there causes continents to drift and earthquakes to occur up here. No paleontologist has ever actually seen a dinosaur, and yet they reconstruct the lives and deaths of these creatures in ways that convince their colleagues—to say nothing of small children—that they know what they’re talking about. No astronomer has ever been beyond the earth’s orbit, and yet from this very limited vantage point they map the universe. With the exception of a few biologists who’ve tracked the changing shapes of ﬁnches’ beaks in the Galapagos, no one has ever witnessed the process of natural selection beyond the microscopic level, and yet an entire discipline is based on it.25 And if all of this sounds like Marc Bloch on the absence of living witnesses to the Battle of Austerlitz, there’s a good reason for that. 44 the landscape of history It is that both history and the evolutionary sciences practice the remote sensing of phenomena with which they can never directly interact. They are, metaphorically, in the position of Friedrich’s wanderer on his mountaintop. They can’t simply view the fog and mist, though: they must ﬁnd ways to determine what lies beneath it, and to represent whatever they ﬁnd in such a way as to persuade those for whom the representation is intended that it’s reasonably accurate. Logic and imagination can certainly help; but there’s also, I think, a particular sequence of procedures to be followed in accomplishing this task. Two quite different examples of remote sensing, one drawn from recent history, the other from prehistory, suggest what it is. The ﬁrst is arguably the most famous historical case of remote sensing, the discovery of Soviet medium- and intermediate-range missiles in Cuba in October 1962. The story begins with the discovery, by means of U-2 spy plane photoreconnaissance, of the missiles themselves, which Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and his advisers apparently thought could be deployed secretly on the island because they’d be indistinguishable from its palm trees.26 This was an unexpected development, because hardly anyone in Washington had anticipated that the Kremlin leadership would behave in such a risky manner, or that its intelligence estimates—not least about the nature of palm trees—would be so bad. Other less provocative forms of military assistance had been expected, though, which is why the U-2s were ﬂying over Cuba in the ﬁrst place. When one of them detected structures resembling missile sites in the Soviet Union—known from earlier U-2 ﬂights over that country—the photo-analysts realized instantly what they were seeing, even though they’d not been looking for it. By citing this comparison, they convinced President Kennedy that their conclusions made sense, a judgment then conﬁrmed by subsequent U-2 missions.27 You can break this episode down, therefore, into three stages: the reality on the ground, what the experts made of that reality, and what they could persuade their superiors to accept. My second case comes from paleontologists, who also practice a structure and process 45 kind of remote sensing based on the analysis of bones, shells, and fossils. Representing the creatures that left these behind requires linking precise observation and description of what’s survived with the ability to imagine what life must have been like hundreds of millions of years ago. As in the Cuban missile crisis, newly discovered evidence has to be compared with what’s already known. More is involved than just taxonomy, though, for paleontologists must also persuade their colleagues that their conclusions are plausible. They can’t simply assert that the allosaurus nurtured its young, or that the archaeopteryx is the ancestor of today’s birds; they must also convince. This too requires ﬁtting together three things: what remains from original sources; what the paleontologists themselves make of what remains; and what they can bring their fellow professionals to accept.28 In both of these cases, the discovery of structures led to the derivation of processes. The Cuba photographs forced Washington ofﬁcials into a desperate scramble to try to determine why Khrushchev had placed the missiles there—an important thing to know before deciding on what should be done to get them out. Fossils suggesting dinosaur nests and even feathers have forced paleontologists to reconsider what they thought they knew about where birds may have come from. I don’t want to push this comparison too far: it’s a stretch, of course, to link such dissimilar examples of remote sensing. It’s precisely their dissimilarities in all other respects, though, that cause me to think their procedural similarities signiﬁcant. Now return, if you will, to my cartographic metaphor from the previous chapter. Mapmakers also go through a three-stage process of connecting reality, representation, and persuasion. They represent realities they can’t replicate and wouldn’t want to: a truly accurate map of Oxford would be an exact clone of Oxford and wouldn’t easily ﬁt within backpacks or briefcases. Maps vary scale and content according to need. A world map has a different purpose from one intended to identify bicycle paths or garbage dumps. Nor are maps free from preconceptions. There’s always some prior reason for what’s 46 the landscape of history shown, and not shown.29 We evaluate maps according to their usefulness: is the layout legible? Is the representation credible? Does the map extend our perceptions beyond what we ourselves can manage, so that it performs the practical task of getting us from here to there? As with the reconstruction of dinosaurs and the construction of history, there is again the reality to be represented, the representation itself, and its reception by those who use it. “To construct a good . . . map,” Jane Azevedo, one of the most interesting theorists of map-making, has pointed out, requires more than just a set of data and a simple truth-preserving mechanism by which to represent it. Given the purposes for which the map is to be used, there must be a theory of what relationships an appropriate map for that purpose is required to represent, to what degree of accuracy, and in what form. Where there are multiple interests, judgments must be made as to which is of prior importance, as they may not all be able to be represented with equal accuracy. This relationship between data, modes of representation, and interests to be served in presenting the representation is not, however, a hierarchical one: it’s rather, as she demonstrates, “a reiteration loop.” The map is a function of both the data and the theory. The data selected is a function of the theory. Both the map and the theory may have to be modiﬁed in the light of the data. Finally, the map may itself bring about change in the theory. All levels of the hierarchy are subject to modiﬁcation in interaction with the other levels.30 I like this notion of a “reiteration loop” because it privileges neither inductive or deductive modes of inquiry.31 The remote sensing of processes by way of surviving structures—whether in history or science—functions similarly. For to begin with such a structure, as all his- structure and process 47 torians and evolutionary scientists must, is a deductive act: the task is to deduce the processes that produced it. You can hardly perform that task, though, without repeated acts of induction: you have to survey the evidence, sense what’s there, and ﬁnd ways to represent it. Finding those ways, though, gets you back to the deductive level, for you must deduce them from the interests of those for whom the representation is being made. It makes little sense, then, to try to align structure and process neatly with deduction and induction. What’s required instead is to apply both techniques to the objects of your inquiry, ﬁtting each to the other as seems most appropriate to the task at hand.32 An easier way to think about this is to imagine yourself as a tailor. Clothes make it possible for people to appear in public: tailors are the intermediaries between society and naked bodies.33 But unless you were working for, say, Mao Zedong, you wouldn’t want to dress all your customers in exactly the same way. You’d want to allow for their varying shapes and sizes. You’d probably want to reﬂect their preferences as to fabric, style, and ornamentation. You would, in this sense, be representing them to a world in which they wouldn’t want to be seen as they really are. But since you’d have a professional reputation to uphold, you’d also be representing yourself: you wouldn’t want to deck your clients out, these days, in bell-bottom trousers or polyester leisure suits. You might even want to try to shift current fashions a bit by coming up with a style others might emulate. Once again, though, the “ﬁt” would have to extend across three levels: the body to be clothed, the design of the clothing, and the world of fashion that would either embrace, reject, or ignore what results. I ﬁnd these metaphors useful in explaining how historians work, for like paleontologists, cartographers, and ta