J. H. Hexter, one of the nation’s most distinguished historians, reflects on some major historical works and their authors: Carl Becker, Wallace Ferguson, Hiram Hayden, Fernand Braudel, Lawrence Stone, Christopher Hill, and J. G. A. Pocock. The nature and condition of historical proof are Hexter’s continual concerns as he examines the varying interpretations of history in early modern times, probing each thesis and testing it by marshaling the evidence offered in its support and counter-evidence that displays its vulnerability. Writing with pungency and wit, Hexter engages the reader with his authoritative and often controversial frameworks of historical truth.
His great skills are those of a duelist… He is indeed a master of the lethal counter-example, capable of skewering entire theoretical structures with a sudden thrust of apparently effortless learning.
Hexter…is a pugnacious optimist, with a devout belief in historical objectivity and in professional history… His most recent volume…underscores once again the pivotal function of criticism…full of glittering observations on the historian’s craft.
Hexter writes (and thinks) so energetically as to give his essays an edge that makes them powerful.