Hobsbawm on how evolutionary biology can save history

The Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm has an interesting piece on truth in history and historiography.  He suggests that evolutionary biology can save “total history”.

It is time to re-establish the coalition of those who believe in history as a rational inquiry into the course of human transformations, against those who distort history for political purposes – and more generally, against relativists and postmodernists who deny this possibility. . .

The Marxist approach is a necessary component of this reconstruction of the front of reason. While postmodernists have denied the possibility of historical understanding, developments in the natural sciences have put an evolutionary history of humanity firmly back on the agenda.

Firstly, DNA analysis has established a firmer chronology of the spread of the species from its original African origin throughout the world, before the appearance of written sources.

. . .

[T]he DNA revolution calls for a specific, historical, method of studying the evolution of the human species. It also provides us with a rational framework for a world history. History is the continuance of the biological evolution of homo sapiens by other means.

Secondly, the new evolutionary biology eliminates the distinction between history and the natural sciences and bypasses the bogus debates on whether history is or is not a science.

Thirdly, it returns us to the basic approach to human evolution adopted by prehistorians, which is to study the modes of interaction between our species and its environment and its growing control over it.

. . .

However, the new perspectives on history should also return us to that essential, if never quite realisable, objective of those who study the past: “total history”.

Read some responses here. (Via normblog)

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