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The Virtuous Circle of Facts and Values in the New Western History

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The relations between facts and values in the writing of historical geography need to be mutual and reinforcing. I explore this point by examining the work of a group of historians who have foregrounded the relations between facts and values. These New Western Historians take up themes such as social justice, regionalism, and environmentalism that have been central to the concerns of historical geographers, but they are more explicit than many historical geographers about both the political motivations behind the questions they ask and their choice of subjects to study. I consider the work of two historians, William Cronon and Donald Worster, who have made environmentalism the core of their historical writing, and two others, Richard White and Patricia Limerick, for whom questions of social justice inform historical interpretation. I conclude by exploring how attention to the interplay between facts and values might rekindle the utopian dimension of explicitly political historical geographies.
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Keywords: New Western History; environmentalism; social justice

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Publication date: 1998-09-01

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