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The extract from Eric Hobsbawms’s On History raises the very salient points that history has a definite beginning and end and that in contemporary times it has become fashionable amongst the post modern community to propose that “the past we study is only a construct of our minds” , that objective reality is not accessible. These two contrasting ideas form the basis of Hobsbawn article, the first determines history in a progressive teleological manner reminiscent of Von Ranke, Bede or Hegel while the later which has been espoused by thinkers such as Nietzsche, Foucault and most notably Derrida dismisses any teleological sense to history characterizing history as a collection of discontinuities and ruptures that result in many differing interpretation non of which can be dismissed as wrong. The issue of recording history is also raised in by Eric Hobsbawn citing that the Marxist, teleological conception of history is the best guide to recording history. The debate over what is the best way to record history is one that has been raging since history first came into practice and Hobsbawm’s suggestion of a collective endeavour in order to seek the absolute truth draws sharp criticism from Foucault who examination of historical discourse dismisses the Marxist guide to history as an essentialist notion of history.

Hobsbawm makes his stance apparent relatively early in the article stating that “what historians investigate is real”, that there must be a “distinction between fact and fiction.” Historians all start at the same point, investigating or recording evidence but it is the processes of interpreting the evidence that causes confusion as to what is real and what is not. Hobsbawn believes “that without the distinction between what is and what is not so, there can be no history” , that first facts must be presented. Hobsbawm argues that there needs to a distinction between fact and fiction yet so often historians interpretations make the distinction hazy. This ontological way of thinking and defining history can be best seen in the teleological works of Hegel and Marx who give history a linear quality with a specific beginning and end.

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