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History after HobsbawmWriting the Past for the Twenty-First Century$
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John H. Arnold, Matthew Hilton, and Jan Rüger

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198768784

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198768784.001.0001

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Indigenous Comparisons

Indigenous Comparisons

(p.50) 4 Indigenous Comparisons
History after Hobsbawm

Renaud Morieux

Oxford University Press

What are the purposes and uses of comparison for the historian? What is the heuristic value of comparing countries, cultures, and societies in the past? And how and why did historical actors deploy comparison in practice? The chapter focuses on two archetypal contemporary and neighbouring societies, France and Britain in the eighteenth century. Instead of the classic comparisons made by philosophers or travel writers, it is the comparisons formulated in situ by a much broader variety of actors that will provide the case studies. Prisoners of war who were complaining about their jailors or criminals who requested asylum resorted to a rich stock of arguments, highlighting the universality of moral norms and legal values that transcended national state borders or the superiority of one national model over another. Ultimately the chapter emphasizes the necessity for historians to engage in a reflexive analysis of what they compare and why.

Keywords:   historian, comparison, prisoner of war, criminal, France, Britain, eighteenth century

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