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Release: Immediate

UI history professors offer new perspectives for recording history

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Social historians document what future generations will read and interpret about a particular event in history. Because of that, historians should critically examine the way historical narratives are recorded, according to two University of Iowa professors who are editors of "Contesting the Master Narrative: Essays in Social History."

Edited by UI History Professors Jeffrey Cox and Shelton Stromquist, the book is a three-sectioned essay collection that highlights a range of "new" narrative possibilities available to historians who become self-conscious about the pervasive use of traditional master narratives.

The essays show how limited traditional narratives can be compared to diverse alternatives derived from, for example, gendered traditions of Latin American travel writers of the nineteenth century, Victorian women's historical writing, or the lively subaltern tradition in Indian social history.

Cox and Stromquist say social historians have lost a great deal of objectivity and are motivated by personal and professional commitments to solving problems by telling stories. In the book, written for social historians and history devotees, the editors lay out a simple claim that historians should rely more on reality than on efforts to appeal to a wider audience.

The essays do not argue for the abandonment of historical materialism or the elimination of all master narratives, but for the reinvigoration of social history through the use of new and more persuasive arguments based on alternative narratives.

"Contesting the Master Narrative: Essays in Social History," is published by the UI Press and is available in bookstores for $32.95 cloth, or directly from the UI Press by calling (773) 568-1550 or via the Web at