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The sub-branch of history that is known by the ambiguous (and frightening to undergraduates, cats, and many mainstream academics) name “historiography” seems to be undergoing a Renaissance at the moment.
The Birth of Modern Belief is seriously good. It is erudite, insightful, and cogent; but, above all, it enables us to think hard about the relationship between our past and our present.
Historians are good at putting objects in their place. Details about context, manufacture, use, abuse, meaning, significance, decay, and so on are layered so that an object itself becomes a carrier of its moment in history. Putting material back into the fabric of history itself enriches that history.