Imprisoned by History: Aspects of Historicized Life offers a controversial analysis, grounded both in philosophical argument and empirical evidence, of what history does in contemporary culture. It endorses and extends the argument that contemporary society is, in historical terms, already historicized, shaped by history – and thus history loses sight of the world, seeing it only as a reflection of its own self-image. By focusing on history as a way of thinking about the world, as a thought-style, this volume delivers a major, decisive, thought-provoking critique of a crucial aspect contemporary culture and the public sphere.
By illustrating the ways in which history enforces socially coercive attitudes and forms of behaviour, Martin Davies argues that history is therefore in itself ideological and exists as an instrument of political power. Contending that this ideological function is the "normal" function of professional academic history, he repudiates entirely the conventional view that only biased or "bad" history is ideological. By finding history projecting onto the world and getting reflected back at it the exacting, history-focused thinking and behaviour on which the discipline and the subject rely, he concludes that history’s very "normality" and "objectivity" are inherently compromised and that history works only in terms of its own self-interest.