Clio among the Muses

Essays on History and the Humanities

196 pages

December, 2013

ISBN: 9781479832835



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Peter Charles Hoffer is Distinguished Research Professor of History at the University of Georgia. He has authored and co-authored more than twenty books, including Past Imperfect: Facts, Fictions, and Fraud in American History from Bancroft and Parkman to Ambrose, Bellesiles, Ellis and Goodwin and The Supreme Court: An Essential History.

All books by Peter Charles Hoffer

History helps us understand change, provides clues to our own identity, and hones our moral sense. But history is not a stand-alone discipline. Indeed, its own history is incomplete without recognition of its debt to its companions in the humane and social sciences. In Clio among the Muses, noted historiographer Peter Charles Hoffer relates the story of this remarkable collaboration. Hoffer traces history’s complicated partnership with its coordinate disciplines of religion, philosophy, the social sciences, literature, biography, policy studies, and law. As in ancient days, when Clio was preeminent among the other eight muses, so today, the author argues that history can and should claim pride of place in the study of past human action and thought.
Intimate and irreverent at times, Clio among the Muses synthesizes a remarkable array of information. Clear and concise in its review of the companionship between history and its coordinate disciplines, fair-minded in its assessment of the contributions of history to other disciplines and these disciplines' contributions to history, Clio among the Muses will capture the attention of everyone who cares about the study of history. For as the author demonstrates, the study of history is something unique, ennobling, and necessary. One can live without religion, philosophy and the rest. One cannot exist without history. Rigorously documented throughout, the book offers a unique perspective on the craft of history.


  • "[A]n engaging book of enormous intellectual breadth and insight.  Hoffer has read widely and made a strong case that history 'should stand at the center of our quest for a truly humane spirit.'"

    American Historical Review

  • “This short engaging volume opens up some important questions concerning the relationship between history and other academic disciplines.  In doing so, Hoffer shows very well why those questions are not simply of academic interest.” 

    The Journal of the Historical Association

  • "Hoffer successfully argues that no matter the discipline, history remains vital, supported and enriched by these connections much as the mythological Clio was linked to each of her fellow Greek muses."

    Publishers Weekly

  • "Hoffer masters the extensive subject matter by applying the same analytical pattern to all chapters: brief remarks on the relationship between history and the other disciplines; texts that illuminate the different approaches to truth finding; and history's contributions to and gains from the debate. The author's expertise and lucid writing have enabled him to produce an informative small book on a vast topic." 


  • "An updated pantheon is certainly implied in Peter Charles Hoffer's Clio Among the Muses: Essays on History and the Humanities. Clio, demigoddess in charge of history, is traditionally depicted with a scroll or a book. But as portrayed by Hoffer—a professor of history at the University of Georgia—she is in regular communication with her peers in philosophy, law, the social sciences, and policy studies. I picture her juggling tablet, laptop and cellphone, in the contemporary manner."

    —Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed

  • "Intimate and irreverent at times, Clio among the Muses synthesizes a remarkable array of information. Clear and concise in its review of the companionship between history and its coordinate disciplines, fair-minded in its assessment of the contributions of history to other disciplines' contributions to history, Clio among the Muses will capture the attention of everyone who cares about the study of history."

    —Karen Tani, Legal History Blog

  • “With broad learning, stout argument, and common sense, Peter Charles Hoffer’s newest book enters into a discussion about history’s place within the humanities . . . . [T]his is a lively, useful, thought-provoking, and distinctive book.”

    The Journal of American History

  • "Peter Hoffer has written a learned, lively, and witty review of the history of historical writing from the ancient world right up to the present day. It is a deeply insightful analysis of the never-ending challenge that historians face in getting their story right, and, in the process, reminds us of the vital importance that history plays in shaping our present and future lives."

    —Richard R. Beeman, John Welsh Centennial Professor of History Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania

  • "Clio among the Muses is a dazzling work of mature scholarship. Only a senior scholar of great self-assurance and soaring ambition would even attempt to map the vast landscape that Hoffer surveys here: literally, every field of inquiry on which historians have ever drawn consequentially to advance their endeavor over a span of two millennia and more. Yet he never just covers the ground, never settles for mere pedantic survey, never lapses into dry academic exercise. Despite his extraordinary erudition, he offers his own quirky take on every relationship between history and its diverse 'companions,' as he calls them. No other historian thinks as Hoffer does, and few command a prose as pungent, either. He makes his every chapter matter in humane and poignant ways. I cannot imagine a reader of this book who will not learn from it and be provoked to a new level of thoughtfulness by it."

    —Michael Zuckerman, University of Pennsylvania

  • "Peter Hoffer has done it again—written an appealing book about History that is aimed at the intelligent general reader. Hoffer writes concisely and elegantly about the relation of History to its sister disciplines with the aim of explaining what it is we historians do best. His examples are drawn from across time and geography, and they are concrete enough to be easily grasped. This is a wise, accessible book for the reader who wants to know why he likes History so much."

    —Stanley N. Katz, Princeton University

  • "In Clio among the Muses, Hoffer offers a humane and learned, yet brief and accessible, meditation on the often troubled relationship between the study of History and other ways of seeking knowledge about the human condition. Students and general readers will find no more engaging guide to the value and distinctiveness of what historians do."

    —Daniel K. Richter, University of Pennsylvania