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How the community of historians works (on the book by A.V. Gordon and its sad characters)

Uvarov Pavel

The author of the article analyses the book by A.V. Gordon “Historians of the iron age”. The research devoted to the fate of Soviet researchers of the French revolution, their work and their concepts is considered as a case study that allows to reveal the hidden mechanisms of functioning of the professional community of historians. An important task for them was to establish relationship with the authorities. In the USSR, especially at the early stages of its existence, the history of the French revolution, which was considered a “prototype revolution” for the Soviet experience, was located too close to the core of the dominant ideology. The problem of the relationship between the leaders of the Jacobin dictatorship and the “people” represented by the activists of the Parisian sections and participants in the peasant jacqueries was particularly sensitive. The professional skill of the Soviet historian presupposed the ability to understand the “social orde” which was not a constant quantity. However the authority and reputation of a historian were determined to a greater extent by the recognition of colleagues, especially by those who held strategic positions in the professional community of historians. The “friend foe” opposition permitted to unite a particular group of historians; it was no less important element in evaluating colleagues than their professional achievements. Such oppositions might have an ontological basis, but they were more often the object of competing interpretations. One of these oppositions was the opposition of “system-builders” and historians, who relied primarily on sources and empirical material. The ideas about the deontology of the historical profession and about history-writing also played an important role in the mutual assessments of historians. Finally, the personal literary talents and empathy were also significant. A.V. Gordon himself is endowed with this ability of empathy, and the characters of his work appear so vividly that it is appropriate to recall the term resurrection, once used by Jules Michelet.

Keywords: French revolution, Soviet historiography, the professional ethics of historians, the criteria for mutual assessment
Link: Uvarov P. How the community of historians works (on the book by A.V. Gordon and its sad characters) // Annual of French Studies 2020: Wars and Revolutions in Modern Times.М. P. 368-391.