Traditionally, the study of history has had fixed boundaries and focal points—periods, countries, dramatic events, and great leaders. It also has had clear and firm notions of scholarly procedure: how one inquires into a historical problem, how one presents and documents one’s findings, what constitutes admissible and adequate proof.
Anyone who has followed recent historical literature can testify to the revolution that is taking place in historical studies. The currently fashionable subjects come directly from the sociology catalog: childhood, work, leisure. The new subjects are accompanied by new methods. Where history once was primarily narrative, it is now entirely analytic. The old questions “What happened?” and “How did it happen?” have given way to the question “Why did it happen?” Prominent among the methods used to answer the question “Why” is psychoanalysis, and its use has given rise to psychohistory.
Psychohistory does not merely use psychological explanations in historical contexts. Historians have always used such explanations when they were appropriate and when there was sufficient evidence for them. But this pragmatic use of psychology is not what psychohistorians intend. They are committed, not just to psychology in general, but to Freudian psychoanalysis. This commitment precludes a commitment to history as historians have always understood it.
Psychohistory derives its “facts” not from history, the detailed records of events and their consequences, but from psychoanalysis of the individuals who made history, and deduces its theories not from this or that instance in their lives, but from a view of human nature that transcends history. It denies the basic criterion of historical evidence: that evidence be publicly accessible to, and therefore assessable by, all historians. And it violates the basic tenet of historical method: that historians be alert to the negative instances that would refute their theses. Psychohistorians, convinced of the absolute rightness of their own theories, are also convinced that theirs is the “deepest” explanation of any event, that other explanations fall short of the truth.
Psychohistory is not content to violate the discipline of history (in the sense of the proper mode of studying and writing about the past); it also violates the past itself. It denies to the past an integrity and will of its own, in which people acted out of a variety of motives and in which events had a multiplicity of causes and effects. It imposes upon the past the same determinism that it imposes upon the present, thus robbing people and events of their individuality and of their complexity. Instead of respecting the particularity of the past, it assimilates all events, past and present, into a single deterministic schema that is presumed to be true at all times and in all circumstances.
20. Which of the following best states the main point
of the passage?
(A) The approach of psychohistorians to historical study is currently in vogue even though it lacks the rigor and verifiability of traditional historical method.
(B) Traditional historians can benefit from studying the techniques and findings of psychohistorians.
(C) Areas of sociological study such as childhood and work are of little interest to traditional historians.
(D) The psychological assessment of an individual’s behavior and attitudes is more informative than the details of his or her daily life.
(E) History is composed of unique and nonrepeating events that must be individually analyzed on the basis of publicly verifiable evidence.
21. It can be inferred from the passage that one way in which traditional history can be distinguished from psychohistory is that traditional history usually
(A) views past events as complex and having their own individuality
(B) relies on a single interpretation of human behavior to explain historical events
(C) interprets historical events in such a way that their specific nature is transcended
(D) turns to psychological explanations in historical contexts to account for events
(E) relies strictly on data that are concrete and quantifiable
22. It can be inferred from the passage that the methods used by psychohistorians probably prevent them from
(A) presenting their material in chronological order
(B) producing a one-sided picture of an individual’s personality and motivations
(C) uncovering alternative explanations that might cause them to question their own conclusions
(D) offering a consistent interpretation of the impact of personality on historical events
(E) recognizing connections between a government’s political actions and the aspirations of government leaders
23. The passage supplies information for answering which of the following questions?
(A) What are some specific examples of the use of psychohistory in historical interpretation?
(B) When were the conventions governing the practice of traditional history first established?
(C) When do traditional historians consider psychological explanations of historical developments appropriate?
(D) What sort of historical figure is best suited for psychohistorical analysis?
(E) What is the basic criterion of historical evidence required by traditional historians?
24. The author mentions which of the following as a characteristic of the practice of psychohistorians?
(A) The lives of historical figures are presented in episodic rather than narrative form.
(B) Archives used by psychohistorians to gather material are not accessible to other scholars.
(C) Past and current events are all placed within the same deterministic schema.
(D) Events in the adult life of a historical figure are seen to be more consequential than are those in the childhood of the figure.
(E) Analysis is focused on group behavior rather than on particular events in an individual’s life.
25. The author of the passage suggests that psychohistorians view history primarily as
(A) a report of events, causes, and effects that is generally accepted by historians but which is, for the most part, unverifiable
(B) an episodic account that lacks cohesion because records of the role of childhood, work, and leisure in the lives of historical figures are rare
(C) an uncharted sea of seemingly unexplainable events that have meaning only when examined as discrete units
(D) a record of the way in which a closed set of immutable psychological laws seems to have shaped events
(E) a proof of the existence of intricate causal interrelationships between past and present events
26. The author of the passage puts the word “deepest” (line 44)
in quotation marks most probably in order to
(A) signal her reservations about the accuracy of psychohistorians’ claims for their work
(B) draw attention to a contradiction in the psychohistorians’ method
(C) emphasize the major difference between the traditional historians’ method and that of psychohistorians
(D) disassociate her opinion of the psychohistorians’ claims from her opinion of their method
(E) question the usefulness of psychohistorians’ insights into traditional historical scholarship
27. In presenting her analysis, the author does all of the following EXCEPT:
(A) Make general statement without reference to specific examples.
(B) Describe some of the criteria employed by traditional historians.
(C) Question the adequacy of the psychohistorians’ interpretation of events.
(D) Point out inconsistencies in the psychohistorians’ application of their methods.
(E) Contrast the underlying assumptions of psychohistorians with those of traditional historians.