What place do images hold among other kinds of historical evidence? In Eyewitnessing, Peter Burke reviews graphics, photographs, films, and other media from many countries and periods and examines their pragmatic uses. This profusely illustrated book surveys the opportunities and the challenges of using images to understand other times. In a thorough and compelling defense of the importance of the visual to history, Burke argues that images should not be considered mere reflections of their time and place, but rather extensions of the social contexts in which they were produced. The author describes and evaluates the methods by which art historians have traditionally analyzed images, and finds them insufficient to deal with the complexities of visual imagery. In developing a richer mode of visual interpretation, Burke devotes much attention to religious icons and narratives and political propaganda posters, caricatures, and maps. Eyewitnessing also addresses the economics of images--some, such as films, are commodities in themselves, and others are created to advertise other products. Concentrating on the representation of social groups, the author explores stereotypes as well as notions of foreignness and gender. In this wide-ranging, highly accessible volume, Burke helps us to understand the promise and the pitfalls of using visual evidence in the writing of history.
"Peter Burke provides a lively introduction to the use of visual evidence in history and invites readers to take the next steps in the process of making and utilizing pictures of the past. Burke's selections are excellent and his judgments insightful. He demonstrates a keen appreciation of cinema as an art form that also plays a role in shaping historical consciousness."--Joan B. Landes, Penn State University "As Peter Burke illustrates in Eyewitnessing, images have a long tradition of distorting the facts. Of what use, then, are images to scholars of history? What types of historical evidence do images provide? Burke sets out to answer these questions. His book is intended to encourage and instruct readers in the historiographic use of images, and it succeeds splendidly on both counts. . . . Through an impressive array of case studies, Burke demonstrates the value of images to historians while providing instructive warnings about their use. . . . For those new to the study of images, Eyewitnessing provides an accessible and practical introduction to the historiographic use of visual culture. For art historians and scholars already committed to the study of visual phenomena, Burke's book serves as a cogent reminder of the complex relations between images and history."--Technology and Culture "This book is especially valuable for its many examples of images that could be used in historical research, and for its coherent summary of key concepts and theories. . . . Eyewitnessing is highly recommended for historians and art historians alike."--Art Documentation "Burke has produced a fine book resulting from his study of images as sources of historical evidence. . . .The author is known for his interest in finding links between languages, cultures, and epochs as well as methodologies and disciplines. The present volume is an example of this sweeping intelligence at work and is a must for students of history, culture, fine arts, anthropology, and film."--Choice "Eyewitnessing is not about the value of images at all, but rather about the primacy of words. . . . The book becomes a sustained argument for the preservation of old-fashioned text-based history, through the constant citing of contexts in which images are nothing without textual support."--Times Literary Supplement
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