What is Cultural History?
What is Cultural History?, 3rd Edition

What is Cultural History? has established itself as an essential guide to what cultural historians do and how they do it. Now fully updated in its third edition, leading historian Peter Burke offers afresh his accessible guide to the past, present and future of cultural history, as it has been practised not only in the English-speaking world, but also in Continental Europe, Asia, South America and elsewhere.

Burke begins by providing a discussion of the "classic" phase of cultural history, associated with Jacob Burckhardt and Johan Huizinga, and of the Marxist reaction to it, from Frederick Antal to Edward Thompson. He then charts the rise of cultural history in more recent times, concentrating on the work of the last generation, often described as the "New Cultural History". He places cultural history in its own cultural context, noting links between new approaches to historical thought and writing and the rise of feminism, postcolonial studies and an everyday discourse in which the idea of culture plays an increasingly important part. The new edition also surveys the very latest developments in the field and considers the directions that cultural history has been taking in the twenty-first century and may take in the future.

This landmark book will continue to be essential reading for students of history, anthropology, cultural studies and literary studies.

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  • November 2018 (pb)
    November 2018 (hb)
  • 192 pages
  • 138 x 216 mm / 5 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $69.95
  • 9781509522200
  • Paperback $19.95
  • 9781509522217
  • Open eBook $19.95
  • 9781509522248
Table of Contents



1. The Great Tradition

Classic Cultural History

Culture and Society

The Discovery of the People

2. Problems of Cultural History

The Classics Revisited

Marxist Debates

The Paradoxes of Tradition

Popular Culture in Question

What is Culture?

3. The Moment of Historical Anthropology

The Expansion of Culture

The Moment of Historical Anthropology

Under the Microscope

Postcolonialism and Feminism

4. A New Paradigm?

Four Theorists



Material Culture

The History of the Body

5. From Representation to Construction

The Rise of Constructivism

New Constructions

Performances and Occasions


6. Beyond the Cultural Turn?

Burckhardt’s Return

Politics, Violence and Emotions

The Revenge of Social History

Frontiers and Encounters

Narrative in Cultural History

7. Cultural History in the Twenty-First Century

A changing scene

Cultural History and its Neighbours

Culture in Question

The Natural Turn



Select Publications: A Chronological List

Further Reading


About the Author
Peter Burke is Professor Emeritus of Cultural History at the University of Cambridge.
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"Here is a classic, fluently updated to include recent developments in the field. This is a must for all students of cultural history, a feast prepared by a master."
Jay Winter, Yale University

"Peter Burke has done it again! This lucid book will delight any reader who wants to understand cultural history."
Natalie Zemon Davis, University of Toronto

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