Historiography

The word “historiography” has two meanings of which I am aware: 1. the literal meaning, “the writing of history,” as in the Historiographer Royal that the Tudors employed and 2. “the history of history,” that is, a book or article that uses secondary sources as primary sources and charts the changing views of successive generations of historians toward a particular occurrence in the past. I favor the latter meaning for the word, because I also favor the restriction of the meaning of the word “history” itself to its academic sense of “the study of the human past as elucidated through documents” and not simply “whatever has happened in the past.” This is not academic snobbery, but humility – we can never know for certain what really happened in the past, but think we have a pretty good idea because we have documents that were composed by eyewitnesses to the events in question. That’s all that “history” ever is. And besides, to say that Prof. X’s new book on the Civil War is “a great work of historiography” is the sort of verbal inflation that saw “methodology” replace “method” and “discipline” replace “field” (See Paul Fussell, BAD, pp. 103, 102).