Braudel, Colonialism and the Rise of the West

Gloria Emeagwali (Published as a Book Review in Comparative Civilizations Review. no. 47. Fall 2002 ISSN 0733-4540) Fernand Braudel'sCivilization and Capitalism 15th - 18th century is a majestic work completed 23 years ago but first published in English in 1982.The Wheels of Commerce (Les Jeux de l'Echange) is the second volume in the series and is devoted exclusively to commerce. This text must be seen as one of a series of works written by Braudel and a fairly long line of contemporary scholars on the rise of the West and the evolution of capitalism. Others include E. Jones The European Miracle (1981); J.M Blaut's 1492 (1992); A.G Frank's Re-Orient (1999) and his earlier work World Accumulation (1978) and more recently Samir Amin's, Eurocentrism (1988). Add to these David LandesWealth and Poverty of Nations (1998); Walter Rodney's How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1973) and Eric Williams'Capitalism and Slavery (1944), the oldest of them all - although Braudel's approximately 2000 footnotes in this volume do not include a single reference to Williams. Languages utilized by Braudel in the course of research include French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian and English. Is this text just another eurocentric tome, an exercise in self-congratulation? What are some of its stylistic and structural tendencies, its conceptual assumptions, methodological orientations and epistemological shifts, if any? Are the facts 'like fish on the fishmonger's slab' in Braudel's narrative? Is he an inductive empiricist or a visionary? Does he have an overarching logically consistent scheme and framework, or not? Does he produce generalizations or consume them? What is, in Braudel's work, the role of the individual in the socio-historical process? What do the core assumptions of this work imply about the West and the Rest? What is the role of the historian in Braudel's view? As Wallerstein, his disciple and Director of the Fernand Braudel Center at Binghamton retorts, is he 'a preacher to empty pews'- in his views about the unity of the disciplines? Indeed, does he practice what he preaches? A methodological monist or a pragmatist? Is he 'too big' or 'too little', an issue commented on by Frank recently? A thoughtful researcher once identified 3 Poppers. Which of the Braudels shows up in this tome, granted that Popper and Braudel have so much in common. Larger than life figures, they both towered over the 20th century, one of German heritage, the other French. It is important to note as well that Popper's Conjectures and Refutations was a major contribution to epistemological

studies, areas with which Braudel preoccupied himself throughout his career. Scholars should undoubtedly reflect on matters such as these in the context of Braudelian Studies. In the discussion which follows, however, we briefly comment on a few of the issues mentioned with a focus on the structure, style and subject matter of the text at hand. There are five major segments in the Wheels of Commerce. The discussion includes a focus on (a) the instruments of exchange (b) markets and the economy (c) production (d) domestic capitalism and (e) society. In each of these segments we have intensive analyses. Markets, storehouses, shops, depots, granaries and stock markets; peddlers, wholesalers and bankers, bills of exchange; fixed and circulating capital, land, money and plantations; and individual firms and joint stock companies are some of the multiple units of analysis . Braudel's work also encompasses larger themes and conceptual issues such as the rise of trading empires and economic policies such as mercantilism, within the five organizational units. Pithy, concise sentence units are not the norm. At its worse, mixed metaphors are juxtaposed with tautological phrases and undigested mistranslations. At its best, elegance and erudition flow from his pen. There is a considerable attention to minute detail- for Europe whilst arbitrarily chosen, random examples and case studies prevail for elsewhere. Braudel provides an illuminating discussion of the emergence of various mercantile groups within Europe, their rivalries, colonies and networking systems. Portuguese merchants flocked to Spanish America. Armenian merchants swarmed into Portugal, Spain, Moscow and Amsterdam, often unwelcome and viewed as a threat to local merchants in Marseilles and elsewhere. Networks of Jewish merchants extended around the world, argues Braudel. They were even more successful than the Armenians and far surpassed the Italians 'perpetuating a tradition stretching over many centuries.' With the expulsion from Spain in 1492, and from Portugal a few years later, Sephardic Jews headed in the direction of the Atlantic seaboard and elsewhere, becoming exceedingly rich: Undoubtedly too they were among the architects of the first colonial fortunes of America in particular with the spread of sugar cane and the Brazilian and Caribbean sugar trade. Braudel is generally dismissive of Africa, whilst random conjecture and inferences emerge for Japan, China and India. Obscurities are generalized into the norm and abnormalities elevated to universality. Disembodied and disconnected communities are sometimes arbitrarily plucked from the air. His non-European examples are sometimes misleading. His discussion of pre-industry is a fitting example of his

scanty use of sources for regions outside of Europe - and his inability or unwillingness to free himself from prejudices and stereotypes. Armed with two non-representative references, Braudel pontificates on Africa in a rather unsavory way and in absolutist terms, throwing caution to the wind and contradicting much of what we know about the emergence of sustainable and complex metallurgical traditions in the continent. Braudel's reference implies tiny workshops with no more than two apprentices and an absence of division of labor. The works of several scholars on metallurgy and other industries in pre-colonial Africa have proven these pontifications wrong. High levels of specialization emerged in various parts of the continent before the 15th century not only in metallurgy but also in textile and food processing. In a similar vein, in his comments on India and China, Braudel arrogantly asserts that the workforce 'did not produce the high quality of tools with which we are familiar in European history,' a debatable viewpoint in the light of the works of Needham, Frank and others. Through his eurocentric lens Braudel proceeds to discuss the variables associated with the rise of capitalism, which for him includes a mix of values in favor of dynastic continuity and wealth accumulation; profitable marriages which no doubt assisted in the consolidation of property; social divisions alongside social mobility, and what he considers the liberating action of long distance trade: 'Long distance trading was not everything but it was the only doorway to a superior profit level." What was liberating for Europe was no doubt liberating for the whole world, implies Braudel. The genocidal campaigns, which brought about the destruction of populations, exploitative structures, mechanisms of impoverishment and processes of dehumanization, are excluded from the narrative. In fact Braudel pontificates as follows: The obvious first condition was a vigorous and expanding market economy. A whole range of factors, geographical, demographic, agricultural, industrial and commercialcontributed to this. It is evident that such development operated world-wide: the population was increasing everywhere, inside and outside Europe in the countries of Islam, in India, China, Japan even up to a point in Africa and before long in America where Europe made a fresh start. For the millions who lost their lives in the process of capitalist expansion in Native America and elsewhere Braudel sheds not a single tear but there is a major convergence between Eric Williams and Fernand Braudel in the acknowledgement of the centrality of colonial commercial activity for the emergence of capitalism. Braudel's triumphalism is, however, in deep contrast to the moral outrage of Williams. Williams successfully identifies the prehistory of Barclays Bank and the slave trading credentials of David and Alexander Barclay. Braudel is on the verge of uncovering the primary source of capital of the Bank of France:

Even more fascinating to my mind would be the prehistory of the Banque de France of the families who founded it who all or almost all seem to have had connections with the silver of Spanish America. Braudel's discussion of the significance of the Jamaican plantation converges with that of Eric Williams: In fact the balance of trade for Jamaica, even calculated in colonial pounds works out at a slight advantage for the island (1,1336000 to 1,3335000 pounds sterling ) but at least half of the total for imports and exports made its way invisibly back to England (in freight charges, insurance, commissions, interest on debts and transfers of money to absentee landlords. All in all the net benefits for England in the year 1773 was 1,500,000 pounds sterling. In London as in Bordeaux the proceeds of colonial trade were transformed into trading houses, banks and state bonds. They made the fortunes of certain powerful families whose most active representatives were to be found in the House of Lords. The Jamaican plantation was a 'capitalist creation par excellence', a 'wealth creating machine,' 'remote controlled' from Seville, Cadiz, Bordeaux, Nantes, Rouen, Amsterdam, Bristol and Liverpool. It was assailed by pillage and piracy and was similar to other plantations in the regions such as those of Saint Domingue. Planters often lost money while middlemen thrived and siphoned the money to the metropolis. For Braudel the narrative is about wealth creation but the exploitation of Africans, the violation of their human rights, and their justifiable quest for liberation merit very little discussion. Braudel glibly cites, in a fashion, the Maroon Wars of 1730 to 1739 and the 'difficulties and dangers of runaway slaves.' No enlightened humanism or moralistic outrage emerges from his discourse. Braudel is too expansive, too impressive, too exhausting and too exhaustive to be written off with a stroke of the pen. His masterpiece is no doubt a labor of love and a product of passion, no less than an extensive intellectual enterprise which has in no small measure contributed to our understanding of the accumulation of wealth and resources and the rise of Europe to hegemonic status between the 15th and the 18th centuries. The historian, according to Braudel, must give micro details and focus on total society. The thousands of humble points of intersection must be brought to the fore, discussed and explained in the context of a comparative method, he posits, but he fails to do this with respect to the regions outside of Europe in his tedious and painstaking analysis. Dialectical interconnectedness between Europe and the rest of the plundered world is hinted indirectly by Braudel but not adequately or systematically examined. Europe's debt to Africa and the Caribbean remains only partly recognized. Detailed minutiae are grafted on to an essentially unilinear Eurocentric evolutionary model. European capitalism was the product of 'the patient accumulation of wealth' argues Braudel and by editorial fiat, swashbuckling piracy and blood curdling episodes of violence, tyranny, despotism and treachery are erased

Reorient.A Notturno (ed) Knowledge and the Body -Mind Problem . 2001. Routledge and Kegan Paul. See Gloria T. Journal of the Fernand Braudel Center. one which had created a favorable environment from far back in time without being aware in the slightest of the process thus being set in train or of the processes for which it was preparing the way in future centuries. -------. Vol. In addition to the SUNY Fernand Braudel Center. Gloria T. and the Meta theories and Mega philosophies confronting any scholar who contemplates the rise of capitalism. 1963. Iron Technology in East Africa. University of California Press. Braudel p. Emeagwali (ed)Science and Technology in African History. See also Maurice Aymard's 'One Braudel in Several' Review. References 1. Gauteng. 2001. XX1V. No. 1998 See also Thomas Patterson. 2. 5.from the annals of global history. April 2002. 1997. and Europe's rise to fame and fortune. there is also the Instituto Fernand Braudel de Economia Mundial . 'Africa's Indigenous Knowledge Systems'. Indiana University Press. from which Europe benefited so bountifully. Binghamton. For Wallerstein's rhetorical question see 'Braudel and Interscience: a preacher to empty pews' in Review. For Frank's comment on Braudel's 'too little' methodology see the archives of H-World. Routledge. Braudel. 1. European hegemony and the rise of capitalism are portrayed as an inexorable force presumably destined by the gods: Capitalism could only emerge from a certain kind of society. South Africa. .147 3. London. See also Popper's Conjectures and Refutations. Emeagwali. Edwin Mellen. SUNY. The boldness of the enterprise must however correlate with a spirit of openness. Civilization p. -------African Systems of Science.159 4. Brazil. Vol. Global Economy in the Asian Age. Journal of the Fernand Braudel Center. London. humility and interconnectedness with Africa. Inventing Western Civilization. 1992 . But Big History this is. Asia and the Americas.Karl Popper. if one contemplates the gargantuan scope of the enterprise. See some of Popper's early lectures in M. Edwin Mellen 1992.XXV. 1996. No.Historical Development of Science and Technology in Nigeria. See Gunder Frank.A Keynote paper presented at the Standing Conference of SCECSAL. Peter Schmidt. Sunday 10 Dec 1995. 1993. Karnak. Technology and Art. 1.

273 11. See Emily Eakin. pp. University of South Carolina. Northeastern France.279 Capitalism and Slavery.599 . Incidentally the phrase 'parochial eurocentrism' was borrowed from Frank.Monthly Review Press.'For Big History. Eric Williams. He was sickly as a child and. After completing his history education at the Sorbonne in Paris. 1997. He was born in August 1902 into a family of peasant backgound in Lorraine.600 7. was raised during his early years in the contryside at his grandmother's small farm. because of this. I initially thought of 'xenophobic eurocentrism' but eventually considered that too exaggerated a description for Braudel's writings. Braudel p. Pluto 1993.150 9. p.htm Fernand Braudel Mediterranean studies Annales school Fernand Braudel is seen by many as having been the greatest historian of the twentieth century . The family moved to Paris in 1908 where his father had obtained a teaching post in mathematics.279 12. Barbaric Others. 1944 8. p. January 12. 2002 http://www. the Past begins at the Beginning' New York Times. 6. where he was particularly attracted to economic and social history and to the study .africahistory. Zia Sardar et al. P.his influence on the study of history since the publication of his first major work fifty years ago has been remarkably pervasive. p.600 13.

and to focus more on a long term perspective. an approach defined mostly by its search for "a larger and a more human history". Braudel spent 10 years after 1923 teaching in high schools in Algeria. Braudel had become a successful schoolteacher and was recognised as an expert in his chosen area. La Terre et l'évolution humaine. Meanwhile. to be read during . Braudel read the book in 1924. as exemplified in a book written in 1913 but not published until 1922. (which he came to consider to be too full of political problems that would grate upon his fiery French nationalism). In 1929 Lucien Febvre and Marc Bloch. then a French colony. As usual his approach was cautious: it was three years before he began to write to Febvre. Febvre had planted a serious doubt about Braudel's subject of research: Philip II and the Mediterranean. and their close personal friendship did not begin for another ten years. who were then professors based at Strasbourg. In 1932 he returned to Paris and was nominated to a series of more and more prestigious lycées. by its denial of all historical barriers and by its rejection of the traditional history of politics and government in favour of a deeper analysis of social and economic forces with the goal of departing from traditional political and military history to explore economic and social history. conceptual and practical. Braudel. established a journal called "Annals of economic and social history" (Annales d'histoire économique et sociale). by 1927 he was publishing reviews of books on Spanish history. in his first reply to Braudel. to that of Spain. He turned from studying the past of Lorraine.of ancient Greece. and by chance he invented the 'microfilming' of documentation. had been greatly impressed by the new approach to history of Lucien Febvre. which he used in order to copy two or three thousand documents a day.this required that he work to obtain a Doctoral qualification. In the winter Braudel returned to Europe and worked in the archives of the great Mediterranean trading cities. His true intellectual formation began in Algeria where he decided that wished to enter upon an academic career in history . Brazil. But why not the Mediterranean and Philip II? A much larger subject. the division is not equal. and he began to contemplate a traditional historical thesis on the Mediterranean policy of Philip II between 1559 and 1574. a good subject. based on the science of human geography. such as Venice and Dubrovnik (Ragusa). He was an innovative researcher in two respects. in 1933 he married one of his earliest pupils from Algiers. As a Journal Annales was intended to promote a new and more open approach to history in a provocatively colloquial style. translated as A Geographical Introduction to History (London. In 1935 he made a decision that was to change his life: he accepted the offer of a five-year secondment to the new university being established with French help at São Paolo. 1932). For between these two protagonists. by this time. Philip and the middle sea. He made the move from government archives to commercial archives.

During several years. He took advantage of his captivity to attempt to write what would become his masterwork The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II. to lean his work upon. (even these few books were denied him when his place captivity was changed from Mainz to near Lübeck in 1942!). awarded a Doctorate on the basis of this thesis. Rio de Janiero and São Paulo in Brazil. In these times Braudel hoped for a professoral position at the University of Paris but was unsuccessful. the IVe Section (historical and philological sciences). was first published in 1949 under its French title La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l'époque de Philippe II. however. Braudel shared his captivity with some twenty other prisoners and often had only a corner of a table. Febvre became something of an intellectual adviser and confidant to Braudel. with a second revised and reorganised edition being . the École Pratique des Hautes Études. was captured by the Germans in 1940. He managed this extraordinary feat by tapping into the vast knowledge he had accumulated over years of research. He sent the filled booklets to Lucien Febvre after one is possible that inherent challenges to his own background and cultural heritage posed by living in a non European society changed his outlook in important ways. in one of the two nonscientific sections. arrangements were made by Braudel for Febvre to also spend some time in Bahia. By the end of the war the work was substantiually finished as a first draft. he wrote on schoolboy booklets with only a very few books to which he could make some reference. He was. who. covering the entire Mediterranean world from the Renaissance to the sixteenth century. a post with a much lower salary at the main research centre in Paris. until it was finally presented in 1947 as a thesis of over one thousand pages. and he accepted. following the defeat of his country. or even just a plank. arising out of the earlier contacts between himself and Braudel. it was rewritten. with critical advice supplied by Febvre. In 1937 he was offered. who was now employed a professor of history at Collège de France.with Lucien Febvre being a fellow passenger . as a prisoner in Germany. Braudel enrolled in the French army in 1939 and. Despite these circumstances he constructed a work that combined a vast chronological and historical sweep with a mass of minute details.the two historians became close friends. visited South America in 1937. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II. in his new work at the École Pratique des Hautes Études attempted to depart from traditional event-based historiography to focus more on economic and social history in a long-term perspective.the university year in Brazil. Braudel afterwards said that it was whilst in Brazil that he became "intelligent" . He gave a series of lectures in Buenos Aires and. During this visit and the subsequent two-week voyage where Braudel and his wife travelled home from Brazil . Lucien Febvre.

. and individual time--but that beyond all this the past was a unity and a reality. bearing little relation to the slow and powerful march of history . the milling of corn. in which the historian re-created a lost reality through a feat of historical imagination based on detailed knowledge of the habits and techniques of the ploughman. tides and winds.this was the ultimate expression of the intellectual ambitions of the Annales school. despite their illusions. the flocks of sheep migrate every year. those statesmen were. All these movements belonged together "history can do more than study walled gardens" . Braudel's picture invites us to consider the Mediterranean in its broadest geographical context. with its description of the mineral deposits. As to the importance of exchange. It made Braudel an international reputation." but a whole new way of looking at the past. and limestone from which the Egyptians carved their ancient tombs and with which the megalithic temples in Malta were . weaving. crests of foam that the tides of history carry on their strong backs. the skills of the vintage and the olive press. or the ships sail on a real sea that changes with the seasons. For him Mediterranean history is an aspect of world history. first formulated in The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II and subsequently explored in depth in for the preindustrial world in Civilization and Capitalism. the forests of Germany.Technology and Exchange. pottery. especially long-distance exchange: "Our sea was from the very dawn of its protohistory a witness to those imbalances productive of exchange which would set the rhythm of its entire life. are applied in the Memory and the Mediterranean to the ancient Mediterranean with magnificent effect. as if the flowers did not come back every spring. Memory and the Mediterranean begins with the history of the Mediterranean seabed itself-the layers of clay. social time. . Human history is a history of technological mastery and the development of the skills basic to ancient civilisation: fire and water technology. Within the context of human history he emphasises two themes . and the deserts of the Sahara. the keeping of records of bills of lading. the steppes of Russia. more acted upon than actors. briefly listed and never mentioned again. the shepherd. These two ideas. seafaring and finally writing. sand. and the weaver. the potter. metalworking. "surface disturbances. This emphasis on the physical realities of early civilisations brings out the actual quality of life with a vividness that no amount of reading other books can achieve. It began to seem as important for a historian to be able to ride a horse or sail a ship as to sit in a library. Only the third section of Braudel's book returned to the history of events. types of agriculture and typical flora. inclusive of the great civilisations of Iraq and Egypt. the trivia of the past." It is imbalance that creates exchange and therefore leads to progress. The rising generation of historical scholars were brought up to believe in the words of its preface: the old history of events was indeed dead.published in 1966. in preparation for the American edition of 1973." In their place Braudel offered not "the traditional geographical introduction to history that often figures to so little purpose at the beginning of so many books. "the action of a few princes and rich men." Braudel taught us to see that historical time was divided into three forms of movement--geographical time.

comprising the first two parts on geography and demography and economy: these were for him traditional territory. Three volumes were published before his death. and Braudel inherited the direction of both the "VIe section de l'Ecole pratique des hautes études" and the journal Annales. In the first institution he created and fostered one of the most extraordinary collections of talent in the twentieth century through his appointments: to mention only the most famous of his colleagues. and we needed to recognise that the whole of history was a construct of human impressions. and in the fourth about "France outside France. the psychologists Jacques Lacan and Georges Devereux. not out of events. and society. his interventions were paternalistic and not well received. but on those who had tried to encourage change. which brought the conservatives under Pompidou to power. did not achieve physical shape until the opening of the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme in 1970. and a true history of mentalities could only be written in the longue durée and from a long perspective. the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. In 1968 Braudel was giving a lecture series in Chicago when he was recalled to face--at the age of sixty-two--the revolutionary student movement. this idea. the Etruscans. More dangerous still for Braudel was the reaction. and the great river civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt struggled and thrived in this demanding but gloriously beautiful world bordered and shaped by the Mediterranean. Had . The new history of the sixties turned away from the factual certainties of economic and descriptive social history." In these volumes Braudel took the view that the peasant was the key to the history of France." It held that the historical world was created out of perceptions. the Greeks and Romans. culture. Braudel worked hard to create a separate institution or building where all his colleagues could work together. and where a succession of foreign visitors could be invited as associate professors. Braudel's reply to this development was long in coming and remains incomplete. the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. begun about 1958.built. and which placed the blame. With the third and fourth he would be entering new territory by writing about the state. Jacques Le Goff. it was his last great projected work. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie and Maurice Aymard. Lucien Febvre died in 1956. The Identity of France. What follows is the epic story of how the Phoenicians. Like many radical professors he was sympathetic but uncomprehending of the anarchic streak in youthful protest. and the classical scholars Jean-Pierre Vernant and Pierre Vidal-Naquet. and explored the "history of mentalities. they included the historians Georges Duby. the philosophers Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault. and later he condemned the revolution because it made people less rather than more happy. not on their own resistance to change.

age-of-the-sage." Fernand Braudel http://www. The claim was successful in blocking Braudel's access to government circles almost for the first time in his career. Narrative in history cannot be a factor that can be denied for its importance but for Fernand Braudel. This type of history not like the history of event for it covers 20 to 50 years. riot and etc. is considered in the time span of the history of event. "Everything must be recaptured and relocated in the general framework of history. This time span also includes famous figures who were involved in the events. Fernand Braudel retired in 1972 and. The first type is called the history of event and Braudel calls it microhistory. For instance when we talk about the propaganda movement. revolution. It talks about the events that have occurred such as This type of time span is fairly obvious. and the practices of the past.html Fernand Braudel philosophy of history position paper (The three time span of History) The three time span of History When it comes to history. on the Côte d'Azur. so that despite the difficulties. there is something called a social time span of historical analysis in relation to social development. This type of history includes inflation. in Southern France. Finally the third type is called the history of Longue duree meaning long duration. The second type is called the conjuncture. the fundamental paradoxes and contradictions. This social time span is categorized into three types. died in November 1985 at Châteauvallon.not the "events" of 1968 proved the importance of the history of events? Where now was the long perspective? Conservatives claimed that either the new history (whatever it was) was responsible for the "events. According to Braudel. after more than ten years of retirement. history is more than a story in fact he is more concerned on the culture. business cycle and economical data of the time period. I believe that structure is truly important factor to have thorough understanding of the events of the past. This is the most important part of Braudel’s philosophy of history probably because it is long therefore it . the institutions." or it was disproved by them. famous figure who is in this case Joes Rizal. we may respect the unity of history which is also the unity of life.

On history. F. The time span of Longue duree expands more that 600 to 700 years.html Philosophy of history Previous (Philosophy of Mathematics) Next (Philosophy of language) Philosophy of history or historiosophy is an area of philosophy concerning the eventual significance of human history. chiefly characterized by contrasting the elemental structures of the phenomena in a system of binary opposition. And a good example is the rising of a civilization. And the more it is interpreted while being connected. It examines the origin.). For a civilization to rise. (S. it speculates as to a possible . Definition: Structuralism 1. I agree with Braudel’s philosophy of history because history is all about the collected data of the past. A school that advocates and employs such a method. goal. (1982). as in anthropology. Furthermore. 2. psychology. Matthews. And this takes long duration. A method of analyzing phenomena. and the overall nature of history.blogspot. http://jubinkang. Trans. or literature. pattern. long period of time should flow. the more it should be valued as a better interpretation of history for its broadness and richness of sources. (Original work published 1969). University of Chicago. determining factors for the process. (AHD) Braudel. Therefore it should be valued more than those histories that happens in short amount of time. linguistics.should be valued more than other short events or the conjuncture that happens in every 20 to 50 years.

Philosophy of history should not be confused with historiography. which is the study of history as an academic discipline concerning the methods and development as a discipline over time. determine the course of history. sovereign territory. what factors. which is the study of the development of philosophical ideas through time. culture. whether it is the individual subject. . It then inquires whether there are any broad patterns that can be discerned through a study of history. First. Nor should the philosophy of history be confused with the history of philosophy. destination. or finality in the processes of human history. A philosophy of history begins with a few basic assumptions. or the whole of the human species. polis ("city"). it asks if there is a design. directive principle. it determines what is the proper unit for the study of the human past. and driving force of history. acivilization.teleological end to its development—that is. purpose. if any. and the goal.

Plutarch freely invented speeches for their historical figures and chose their historical subjects with an eye toward morally improving the reader. discussed his philosophy of history and society in detail in his Muqaddimah. and. and Nasir al-Din al-Tusi.1 Social evolutionism 3. al-Dawwani. political science. who is considered as one of the forerunners of modern historiography. right/wrong) over metaphysical concerns for what "is.[1] . such as those of al-Farabi. In keeping with philosophy of history. classical historians felt a duty to ennoble the world.1 General Philosophy Sources  12 Credits Pre-modern View of History In the Poetics. His work was a culmination of earlier works by Muslim thinkers in the spheres of ethics. considered by some as the first systematic historian. Ibn Miskawayh. Aristotle argued that poetry is superior to history. Ibn Khaldun. because poetry speaks of what must or should be true. later. Herodotus. and historiography. This reflects early axial concerns (good/bad. In the fourteenth century. for the purpose of history was to relate moral truths. rather than merely what is true.2 The "Hero" in Historical Studies         4 History and Teleology 5 Michel Foucault's analysis of historical and political discourse 6 History as Propaganda 7 Notable theorists on history 8 See also 9 Notes 10 References 11 External links o 11." Accordingly. it is clear that their philosophy of value imposed upon their process of writing history—philosophy influenced method and hence product.Contents [hide]    1 Pre-modern View of History 2 Cyclical and linear history 3 The Enlightenment's ideal of progress o o 3.

the Silver Age. Other scholars suggest there were just four ages. Hesiod described five Ages of Man: the Gold Age.. which would give the basis for theodicies. the Indian religions. documented over 200 myths from over 30 ancient cultures that generally tied the rise and fall of history to one precession of the equinox. Starting with Fustel de Coullanges and Theodor Mommsen. Leibniz based his explanation on the principle of sufficient reason. or the Greek Pythagoreans' and the Stoics' conceptions. Cyclical and linear history Most ancient cultures held a mythical conception of history and time that was not linear. and other Greeks called it an aeon or eon. A four age count would be in line with the Vedic or Hindu ages known as the Kali. historical studies began to progress towards a more modern scientific form. and author of Hamlet's Mill. given by a superior power. which attempts to reconcile the existence of evil in the world with the existence of God creating a global explanation of history with the belief in a Messianic Age. Giorgio de Santillana. which states that anything that happens. does happen for a specific reason. the Bronze Age. the former professor of the history of science at MIT. Augustine of Hippo. was the most famous philosopher who created a theodicy. Dwapara. The Greeks believed that just as mankind went through four stages of character during each rise and fall of history so did government. but Leibniz. Theodicies claimed that history had a progressive direction leading to an eschatological end. such as the Apocalypse. In the East cyclical theories of history were developed in China (as a theory of dynastic cycle) and in the Islamic world by Ibn Khaldun. who coined the term.By the eighteenth century. what man saw as . Plato called this the Great Year. Treta and Satya yugas. In the Victorian era. and oligarchy and tyranny as corrupted regimes common to the lower ages. Thus. which existed inAncient Egypt. and the Iron Age. They considered democracy and monarchy as the healthy regimes of the higher ages. An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time. but what causes turned history and how historical change could be understood. historians had turned toward a more positivist approach focusing on fact as much as possible. but still with an eye on telling histories that could instruct and improve. Judaism and Christianity substituted the myth of the Fall of Man from the Garden of Eden to it. Examples are the ancient doctrine of eternal return. corresponding to the four metals. They believed that history was cyclical with alternating Dark and Golden Ages. and the Heroic age was a description of the Bronze Age. In The Works and Days. the debate in historiography thus was not so much whether history was intended to improve the reader. the Heroic Age. Thomas Aquinas or Bossuet in his Discourse On Universal History (1679) formulated such theodicies. which began with the Dorian invasion. In researching this topic.

as in Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776). and Paul Kennedy. During the Renaissance. who conceived the human past as a series of repetitive rises and falls. Immaturity and dependence are the inability to use one's own intellect without the direction of another. Kant defined the Aufklärung as the capacity to think by oneself. theodicies explained the necessity of evil as a relative element which forms part of a larger plan of history. believed that a civilization enters upon an era of Caesarism after its soul dies. Nikolay Danilevsky. was in fact only an effect of his perception. Cyclical conceptions were maintained in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by authors such as Oswald Spengler. Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy (1513-1517) are an example. Leibniz's principle of sufficient reason was not. a gesture of fatalism. to cope with the problem of determinism. a treatise on education (or the "art of training men"). cyclical conceptions of history would become common. The notion of Empire contained in itself its ascendance and its decadence. Confronted with the Antique problem of the future contingents. He thought that the soul of the West was dead and Caesarism was about to begin. history began to be seen as both linear and irreversible. As in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Emile (1762). Leibniz invented the theory of "compossible worlds. epidemia and natural disasters. Spengler. illustrated by the decline of the Roman Empire. the Aufklärung conceived the human species as perfectible: human nature could be infinitely developed through a wellthought pedagogy. however. Condorcet's interpretations of the various "stages of humanity" or Auguste Comte's positivism were one of the most important formulations of such conceptions of history. this evil event in fact only took place in the larger divine plan. Hence. like Butterfield was writing in reaction to the carnage of the first World War. In What is Enlightenment? (1784).evil. be it a prince or tradition: Enlightenment is when a person leaves behind a state of immaturity and dependence (Unmündigkeit) for which they themselves were responsible. The recent development of mathematical models of long-term secular sociodemographic cycles has revived interest in cyclical theories of history[2]. if one adopted God's view. The Enlightenment's ideal of progress Further information: Age of Enlightenment and Social progress During the Aufklärung. such as wars. One is responsible for this ." distinguishing two types of necessity. which was placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. or Enlightenment. which trusted social progress. without referring to an exterior authority.

if its cause is not a lack of intelligence or education. Roads. "Preface" . and progress was thus inscribed in the scheme of history. Philosophy of Right (1820). The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk. – Kant. the negative (wars. fields. but a lack of determination and courage to think without the direction of another. on the other hand. reason spiritualized nature. contradiction. What is Enlightenment? (1784) In a paradoxical way. As Marx would famously explain afterwards. with each thesis encountering an opposing idea or event antithesis. The clash of both was "superated" in the synthesis. of course. – Hegel. he conserved the change. Sapere aude! Dare to know! is therefore the slogan of the Enlightenment. Hegel argued that history is a constant process of dialectic conflict. the French Revolution could be seen as its antithesis. then has a shape of life grown old.. One more word about giving instruction as to what the world ought to be. Hegel thought thatreason accomplished itself." Thus. who reconciled the revolution with the Ancien Régime. this dialectical reading of history involved. through this dialectical scheme. Hegel theorized this in his famous dialectic of the lord and the bondsman. concretely that meant that if Louis XVI's monarchic rule in France was seen as the thesis. both were sublated in Napoleon. he made it his "home. Hegel thus explained social progress as the result of the labor of reason in history. Sapere Aude! Thus. By philosophy's gray in gray it cannot be rejuvenated but only understood. However. Hegel developed a complex theodicy in the Phenomenology of Spirit (1807). Through labor. in History. and all the modern infrastructure in which we live is the result of this spiritualization of nature. When philosophy paints its gray in gray. so history was also conceived of as constantly conflicting. enlightened despotism was to lead nations toward their liberation. He had conceived the process of history in his short treaty Idea For A Universal History With A Cosmopolitan Purpose (1784). Philosophy in any case always comes on the scene too late to give it. a conjunction which conserved the contradiction between thesis and its antithesis while sublating it. Kant supported enlightened despotism as a way of leading humanity towards its autonomy. autonomy ultimately relied on the individual's "determination and courage to think without the direction of another.) was conceived by Hegel as the driving force of history.immaturity and dependence. On one hand.. etc. which based its conception of history on dialectics. fences. man transformed nature in order to be able to recognize himself in it. However. According to Hegel." After Kant. liberation could only be acquired by a singular gesture.

However. the point. which he divided into the theological stage. . which would be later interpreted as social Darwinism. gives an example of such influence. Hence. The Whig interpretation of history." from a world in which a child's whole life is pre-determined by the circumstances of his birth. toward one of mobility and choice. and science. such as Henry Maine or Thomas Macaulay. Maine described the direction of progress as "from status to contract. according to Hegel. where he states "Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways. This idealist understanding of philosophy as interpretation was famously challenged by Karl Marx's 11th thesis on Feuerbach (1845). is to change it. Ernst Haeckel formulated his recapitulation theory in 1867. brought upon by modern science. philosophy was to explain Geschichte (history) always late. however. it was quickly transposed from its original biological field to the social field in the form of "social Darwinism" theories. Haeckel did not support Darwin's theory of natural selection introduced in The Origin of Species (1859).Thus. the metaphysical stage and the positivist stage. The publication of Darwin's The Origin of Species in 1859 demonstrated human evolution. Auguste Comte's (1798– 1857) positivist conception of history. which stated that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny": the individual evolution of each individual reproduces the species' evolution. rather believing in a Lamarckian inheritance of acquired characteristics. social evolutionism became a popular conception in the nineteenth century." Social evolutionism Further information: Social evolutionism and Unilineal evolution Inspired by the Enlightenment's ideal of progress. it is only an interpretation in order to recognize what is rational in the real. associated with scholars of the Victorian and Edwardian eras in Britain. a child goes through all the steps from primitive society to modern society. These nineteenth-century unilineal evolution theories claimed that societies start out in a primitive state and gradually become more civilised over time. by looking at human history as progress from savagery and ignorance toward peace. was one of the most influential doctrine of progress. Furthermore. Herbert Spencer. only what is recognized as rational is real. who coined the term "survival of the fittest." or Lewis Henry Morgan in Ancient Society (1877) developed evolutionist theories independent from Darwin's works. prosperity. as it was later called. and equated the culture andtechnology of Western civilisation with progress.

defined as "individuals we may provisionally characterize as containing individual human beings . positing that the worldwide adoption of liberal democracies as the single accredited political system and even modality of human consciousness would represent the "End of History. the notion itself didn't completely disappear. Explicit defenses of Carlyle's position have been rare in the late twentieth century. of geniuses good and evil." Thomas Carlyle argued that history was the biography of a few central individuals. Arthur Gobineau's An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1853-1855) was a decadent description of the evolution of the "Aryan race" which was disappearing through miscegenation. who insisted on the role of "great men" in history. the founders or topplers of states. His history of great men. sought to organize change in the advent of greatness. wrote of the importance of the individual in history.C. Gobineau's works had a large popularity in the so-called scientific racism theories which developed during the New Imperialism period.Progress was not necessarily. Danto. writing that "The history of the world is but the biography of great men. positive." However. with his famous statement about Napoleon. however. Most philosophers of history contend that the motive forces in history can best be described only with a wider lens than the one he used for his portraits. "I saw the Spirit on his horse. heroes. and even before Herbert Butterfield (1900–1979) harshly criticized it. The End of History and the Last Man (1992) by Francis Fukuyama proposed a similar notion of progress. A key component is that all these issues in social evolution merely serve to support the suggestion that how one considers the nature of history will impact the interpretation and conclusions drawn about history. for example. such as Oliver Cromwell or Frederick the Great. The critical under-explored question is less about history as content and more about history as process. The bloodletting of that conflict had indicted the whole notion of linear progress. the Whig interpretation had gone out of style. A. The "Hero" in Historical Studies Further information: The validity of the "hero" in historical studies and Great man theory After Hegel." Fukuyama's work stems from an Kojevian reading of Hegel'sPhenomenology of Spirit (1807). Paul Valéry famously said: "We civilizations now know ourselves mortal. but extended his definition to include social individuals." His heroes were political and military figures. After the first World War.

(see Social evolutionism above). Althusser or Deleuze deny any teleological aspect of history..]. Regardless.Before he can remake his society..].." (Danto. edited by Williman H. large-scale social movements [. demography. etc." one would consult the biography of Atilla the Hun. and the social state into which that race has slowly grown.. which in turn affect history itself." 266... 1966). "The Historical Individual. which raised attention for the first time to the importance of social factors such as economics in the unfolding of history." The Annales School. given by a superior power.. this transcendent teleological sense can be thought as immanent to human history itself.. etc. Foucault. Hegel's teleology was taken up by Francis Fukuyama in his The End of History and the Last Man. Herbert Spencer wrote "You must admit that the genesis of the great man depends on the long series of complex influences which has produced the race in which he appears.. For example to read about (what is known today as) the "Migrations Period. the philosophy of history will forge the direction for the method of history. Hegel probably represents the epitome of a teleological philosophy of history. Fernand Braudel's studies on the Mediterranean Sea as "hero" of history.. in Philosophical Analysis and History.... were inspired by this School. and other social forces. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's history of climate. Examples of social individuals might be social classes [. his society must make him. economics. Thinkers such as Nietzsche. it is clear that how one thinks about history will to a large degree determine how one will record history—in other words.]. a popular work of this school is the Encyclopedia Britannica Eleventh Edition (1911) which contains lengthy and detailed biographies about the great men of history.. The Great Man approach to history was most popular with professional historians in the nineteenth century. was a major landmark in the shift from a history centered on individual subjects to studies concentrating in geography.].amongst their parts. religious organizations [.. large-scale events [. claiming that it is best . After Marx's conception of a materialist history based on the class struggle. Rainbow-Bridge Book Co. History and Teleology For further information: Social progress and Progress (philosophy) Certain theodicies claim that history has a progressive direction leading to an eschatological end. Dray. founded by Lucien Febvre and Marc Bloch.]. national groups [. However.

. Michel Foucault's analysis of historical and political discourse The historico-political discourse analyzed by Foucault in Society Must Be Defended (1975-1976) considered truth as the fragile product of a historical struggle. Augustin Thierry and Cournot reappropriated this form of discourse.characterized by discontinuities. who gave it the modern sense of "race" and. being closer to the sense of "nation" (distinct from nation-states or "people." and some also claim he thought that the Prussian state incarnated the "End of History. He used this approach to formulate a historical thesis of the course of French political history which was a critique of both the monarchy and the Third Estate. the people and the aristocracy as a means of struggle against the monarchy—cf. even more. Schools of thought influenced by Hegel see history as progressive. and had right to power by virtue of right of conquest. Edward Coke or John Lilburne. was an exponent of nobility rights. Marxists also seized this discourse and took it in a different direction. In Great Britain. According to Foucault. Foucault regarded him as the founder of the historico-political discourse as political weapon." In his Lessons on the History of Philosophy. this historico-political discourse was used by the bourgeoisie. In France. Hegel believed that history was moving man toward "civilization. He claimed that the French nobility were the racial descendants of the Franks who invaded France (while the Third Estate was descended from the conquered Gauls). transformed this popular discourse into a "state racism" (Nazism). and various time-scales. first conceptualized under the name of "race struggle"—however. Boulainvilliers. he explains that each epochal philosophy is in a way the whole of philosophy. at the end of the nineteenth century." defined by socially . which the Annales School had demonstrated. for example. Nicolas Fréret. it is not a subdivision of the Whole but this Whole itself apprehended in a specific modality. this discourse was incorporated by racist biologists and eugenicists. they saw. and traces of the Zeitgeist could be seen by looking backward. Finally. the meaning of "race" was different from today's biological notion. History was best seen as directed by a Zeitgeist. ruptures." Boulainvilliers. and see progress as the outcome of a dialectic in which factors working in opposite directions are over time reconciled (see above). and then Sieyès. transforming the essentialist notion of "race" into the historical notion of "class struggle.

with a teleological and deterministic philosophy of history used to justify the inevitableness and rightness of their victories (see The Enlightenment's ideal of progress above). Therefore. truth is no longer absolute. it is the product of "race struggle. For Ricoeur." History as Propaganda Some theorists assert that as some manipulate history for their own agendas. rather the "subject" is a construction of discourse. an instrument. rather than a unified. The subject is not any more a neutral arbitrate. Foucault shows that what specifies this discourse from the juridical and philosophical discourse is its conception of truth. as in Solon's or Kant's conceptions. for to this popular discourse." History itself. discourse is not the simple ideological and mirror reflexion of an economical infrastructure. This displacement of discourse constitutes one of the basis of Foucault's thought that discourse is not tied to the subject. compared to the sophist discourse in Ancient Greece. 183). teleological philosophy of history. "We carry on several histories simultaneously. anyway that dispenses itself from the sovereign and that denounces it. an enemy. It is {the historico-political discourse} a discourse that beheads the king. the Sovereign is nothing more than "an illusion. Moreover. or. In his Society must be Defended. with such regimes "exercis[ing] a virtual violence upon the diverging tendencies of history" (Ricoeur 1983. judge or legislator." the multiple contingencies from which a fragile rationality temporarily emerged. that these histories in turn affect history. perhaps. under the "juridical code's dried blood. a political stake. which was traditionally the sovereign's science.—what became—the "historical subject" must search in history's furor. and with fanaticism the result. Nations adopting such an approach would likely fashion a "universal" theory of history to support their aims. the legend of his glorious feats. became the discourse of the people. Foucault warns that it has nothing to do with Machiavelli's or Hobbes's discourse on war. This may be.Michel Foucault posited that the victors of a social struggle use their political dominance to suppress a defeated adversary's version of historical events in favor of their own propaganda. at the best. often so that a certain class or party will retain their power. but is a product and the battlefield of multiples forces—which may not be reduced to the simple dualist contradiction of two energies.structured position: capitalist or proletarian. in . Philosopher Paul Ricoeur has written of the use of this approach by totalitarian and Nazi regimes. which may go so far as historical revisionism (see Michel Foucault's analysis of historical and political discourse above).

Wilhelm Hegel. all nations are active in the promotion of such "national stories. not based. To some degree. Karl Ricoeur. power. on the philosophical and juridical discourse of sovereignty—an approach that would invariably adhere to major states (the victors') points of view. will constitute the unity of history in the future. abandon. and pauses do not coincide. Marx's unified view of history may be suspect. For Ricoeur. now the another" (Ricoeur 1983. 186)." The creation of a "national story" by way of management of the historical record is at the heart of the debate about history as propaganda. although it be oppressed today. in an attempt to create a sort of history from below. He who controls the past. which would be able to conceive an alternative conception of history. crises. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Herder.times whose periods. but is nevertheless seen as: the philosophy of history par excellence: not only does it provide a formula for the dialectics of social forces—under the name of historical materialism—but it also sees in the proletarian class the reality which is at once universal and concrete and which. nationalism. heroic figures. class considerations and important national events and trends all clashing and competing within the narrative. as in classical historical studies." with ethnicity. Oswald . controls the future. "He who controls the present. Johann Gottfried Herodotus Marx. renewing now this one. a principle of explication and a line of action. controls the past. Notable theorists on history        Dilthey. Paul Spengler. he wrote. much as a chess player who plays several games at once. George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is a fictional account of the manipulation of the historical record for nationalist aims and manipulation of power. From this standpoint. (Ricoeur 1983. In the book. the proletarian perspective furnishes both a theoretical meaning of history and a practical goal for history. and resume several histories. gender. 183) Walter Benjamin believed that Marxist historians must take a radically different view point from the bourgeois and idealist points of view. We enchain.

Volume 1 and 2. Peter Turchin. for example. History and Truth.  Toynbee. Frederic. 2. Princeton studies in complexity. . 2001. William H. Paul. ISBN 0226713318 ISBN 9780226713311 Ricoeur. 1981. ISBN 0801412331 ISBN 9780801412332    Muller. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act Ithaca: Cornell University Press. "Information in the Arab World. Mowlana. 1983. 1969. Mink. Time and Narrative. Jameson. Robert H. Canary and Henry Kozicki. eds. Madison. Dray. ↑ H. An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time. 1978. Boston: Gambit. Paul. Chicago and London: U of Chicago P. New York: Harper & Row. New York: Oxford University Press. 1966. Giorgio. The Uses of the Past." Cooperation South Journal (1). Historical Dynamics Why States Rise and Fall. Hamlet's Mill. 1952. and Hertha von Dechend. University Of Chicago Press. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press. 2003. Arnold Vico. Herbert J. 1990. Giambattista See also     Eschatology Historical method Historiography World history Notes 1. ISBN 0299075702 ISBN 9780299075705    Ricoeur. Princeton: Princeton University Press. References  De Santillana. Louis O. Philosophical Analysis and History.‖ in The writing of history: Literary form and historical understanding. New York. ―Narrative form as a cognitive instrument. Translated by Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer. ↑ See.

Retrieved November 9. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Project Gutenberg. Historical Dynamics Why States Rise and Fall. Retrieved November 9. Retrieved November 9. Peter. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Vol. 2007. Retrieved November 9. 2007. 2007. Princeton studies in complexity. Philosophy Sources on Internet EpistemeLinks. 2007. Philo Topics Lists Branches Philosophy of Portal · Category listings | Eastern philosophy · Western philosophy | History of philosophy (ancient • medieval • mode Basic topics · Topic list · Philosophers · Philosophies · Glossary · Movements · More lists Aesthetics · Ethics · Epistemology · Logic · Metaphysics · Political philosophy Education · Economics · Geography · Information · History · Human nature · Language · Law · Literature · Mathemati Schools Actual Idealism · Analytic philosophy · Aristotelianism · Continental Philosophy · Critical theory · Deconstructionism · materialism · Dualism · Empiricism · Epicureanism · Existentialism · Hegelianism ·Hermeneutics · Humanism · Idealism Language · Phenomenology · Platonism · Positivism · Postmodernism ·Poststructuralism · Pragmatism · Presocratic · . 2003. IDENTITIES: How Governed. aimed at beginners. 7. The Explanation of Action in History – by Constantine Sandis. Essays in Philosophy. Retrieved November 12. Retrieved November 9. 2007. 2007. Retrieved November 12. An Introduction to the Philosophy of History – by Paul Newall. Retrieved November 9. Guide to Philosophy on the Internet. 2. Turchin. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved November 9. 2007. Retrieved November 9. 2007. 2007. 2007. Retrieved November 9. No. History and Theory Org. 2007. ISBN 0691116695 ISBN 9780691116693 External links  Annotated bibliography – by Andrew Reynolds (Cape Breton University). June 2006. 2007. Philosophy of History – Daniel Little. Paideia Project Online. Who Pays? Retrieved November 9.      General Philosophy Sources       Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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These are quite different. politics and art—it relies on philosophical assumptions and concepts as much as any other subject. say. The second. however. What is history. and History as an account of the past. then? In the first instance. (An interesting . The first is what we mean when we say "it's all history now". Some thinkers have suggested that a way to clear this up definitively is to use history for the second meaning and simply call the past the past. or the history of science.newworldencyclopedia. on the other hand. we need to know what we're dealing with. What is History? This may seem like a straightforward question but often an equivocation is made between two distinct uses of the word:   History as the past.  Privacy policy  About New World Encyclopedia  Disclaimers http://www. See Terms of Use for details. This distinction is sometimes quite subtle: when we refer to the history of a period or event we mean not just what happened(the past) but also how and why. is implied when we talk of the history of the Great 18. In this discussion we'll introduce some of the philosophical issues within history and hence try to gain a deeper appreciation of it. Content is available under Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License. the past would seem to be just the past: what happened before. First. Philosophy of History Jun 19 2005 08:00 PM | Hugo Holbling in Philosophy for beginners By Paul Newall (2005) History may not seem to have much to do with philosophy but—just as we have already seen with science. whether in a specific period or just generally before now. additional terms may apply. which becomes obvious if we just rephrase it as "it's all in the past now".

According to the historian Elton: Quote The study of history .. A distinction is generally made between two branches of the philosophy of history: speculative and critical. Later we will look at whether this conception of history stands up to scrutiny and. We have already seen that there are different understandings of truth. as it were. while history proper (as it is called) buries it in the interior of the narrative. Another question we could ask is "what is the purpose of history?" That is. We will consider difficulties with some of these below. To find historical laws. We shall examine some of these now. The latter is concerned with investigating those things already mentioned.related question is to ask whether the past exists or not. until the historian discovers it. What is the Philosophy of History? The philosophy of history is concerned with the concepts. To find out the truth about the past. if not. what could replace it.. As a consequence of this perspective... where it serves as a hidden or implicit shaping device.more importantly. To try to understand where we came from. the important part is the emphasis on "conceptual apparatus": according to White. Although this may seem confusing. what is it for? Why do we study history in the first place? There are several possible responses:       For its own sake. the philosophy of history brings to light the implicit assumptions that historians rely on and that .) The problem arises when we try to decide what history is in the second sense. To try to understand why a particular event happened. When we analyse these we can begin to say something about what history is. but in this case we are speaking of a correspondence between what actually happened in the past and an account of it. while the former tries to find a pattern behind historical events—hidden from sight.have consequences for their accounts. we could say that history is the true account of the past. amounts to a search for the truth. historiography is the study of the writing of history. as well as what it is not or cannot be. To justify actions in the present. perhaps . methods and theories used in history. Whose History? . on the other hand. To appreciate where the philosophy of history differs from and expands on history itself we can refer to Hayden White's explanation: Quote The principal difference between history and philosophy of history is that the latter brings the conceptual apparatus by which the facts are ordered in the discourse to the surface of the text.

given the sheer number of women who have lived in the past. Although the entries (or "what happened") are vital. but this means that they are writing with a purpose in mind.historiography). especially by so-called postmodernists. How do historians choose what to write about (and how to do it . In a large or particularly high quality store we can see that there are histories of all sorts of things and all kinds of people (although we search in vain for a copy of the much sought after academic volume Funny Things Hugo Said). given that there are only so many historians. After all. This to say that history is always less than the past. some groups are very much underrepresented—such as women and minorities. is to ask who decides what is significant: who or what is worth the historian's attention? Although the example above may seem trivial. history as description is like bookkeeping. not everything is so clear-cut and the allocation of significance is a value judgement. An objection raised in recent times. Some philosophers of history suggest that this is not limited to marginalised perspectives but that ideological positions are inevitable. but for the time being we can note that it would imply that our original "what is history?" becomes "what is the aim of a particular history?" Explanation and Description Another distinction made in the philosophy of history is between history as description and history as explanation. apart from the straightforward criterion of something that interests them? For some historians this is an easy question: they work on significant issues from the past. deliberate or otherwise? Feminist historians. but the academic papers that tend to be the basis for the more popular accounts are not so constrained. places. there is another issue that follows immediately: how do we address this imbalance in history. Nevertheless. Indeed. while what they ate for breakfast is probably not. are trying to reappraise the role of women in the past. Those advocating the former suggest that the role of history is only to describe what happened in the past .this much and no further. they say. for example. According to some such thinkers.If we go into the history section of a good bookshop and look around. who is writing the history of what we are doing right now? How do we decide which histories are written. Why the French Revolutionaries decided to act is significant. not least because there appears to be no contradiction or impossibility in supposing that it might not have. In particular. Already. we can see that some of the high aspirations for history may not be so easy to maintain. then? Obviously there are commercial considerations to bear in mind. we do not see all of history: people. but someone else has to come along and check the figures to see what the sales mean and to understand why people bought one thing and not another. Later we'll consider some of the arguments for why this is so. Others say that history does (or must) do more: it must go beyond description and explain why an event happened as it did (or at all). it is hard to argue with feminist claims that women have beenexcluded from history in almost systematic fashion. Thus an account of what occurred in (and before) the French Revolution is not enough—it also has to explain why the Revolution happened at all. they are not enough to be history. then. However. events and periods are left out—as they must be. revolutions or other so-called defining moments. Historical Causes . we tend to find plenty of titles on the same familiar subjects: wars. so much time and so many records to look to.

we could ask lots of questions that give us the conditions that are necessary for something to be a horse. or his advisors? What of all the other people involved? And so on. The main difference.. This is a simplistic instance because we do not say that a horse with only three legs is no longer equine. we want to say that the French Revolution was caused by Royal excess. Hooves. it would seem. and so on) because a necessary condition for being a horse is having a mane. they are the result of many different factors. A necessary condition is one that must be satisfied before we can say that something belongs to a class. a horse has:    Four legs. required before science could develop. these conditions must be satisfied. To return to historical causes. so that to look for just one as a cause is perhaps a mistake (although we might speak of more or less important factors).. does it make sense to talk about historicalcauses? As we saw in our thirteenth discussion. A question like "does it have a mane?" answered in the negative would tell us that the animal cannot be a horse (or a male lion. however. if someone is thinking of an animal that happens to be a horse. but necessary causes would take the form of a list of things that were. we mean that there was a link between the two that did not depend on the political opinions or upbringing of the person getting sick. while a sufficient condition is one that includes all the necessary conditions and is enough on its own. say. then. causation is a difficult concept with many associated philosophical problems. "does the animal compete with rider in show jumping?" and receives an answer in the affirmative. one place we can start is to distinguish between necessary and sufficient causes via the more general notion of necessary and sufficient conditions. how far back do we need to go and how wide do we need to look before we can speak of what caused an event to happen? Suppose we take an example like the advent of science and ask. If an animal is to be a horse. If someone asks. A sufficient cause. A mane. another problem with historical causes is that the notion of causality has been brought into history from science and some philosophers of history feel that this was a mistake. unlike causal chains in science. . For instance. Why did Louis XIV act in one way and not another? What was the influence of his childhood. Thus this answer suffices to conclude that we have a horse. When we say that an illness was caused by a virus. would be a single event that could bring about science on its own. on the other hand. A sufficient condition. they say (apart from the epistemological problems we will come to later).If we take it as given that the historian has to provide an explanation for an historical event. say. If. Almost immediately we can see that the latter course is too ambitious: historical events. Nevertheless. is that the actions. that is. arecomplex. in the judgement of the historian. Even so. for instance. we know it mustbe a horse without any need for further questions. An animal without hooves cannot be a horse (unless some notorious wit is thinking of a seahorse). "what caused the rise of science?" Historians of science say that this is a vague question. is one that is enough to conclude immediately that we have—in this example—a horse. Much like a guessing game. The causal chain is rendered far more complex by the . and so on. a necessary condition for x to be a y is one of potentially very many that have to be satisfied before we can say "x is a y". In general. it doesn't explain much. on the other hand. motives and other foibles of people are involved in historical events.

it makes sense to ask if matters are as clear-cut as perhaps some people (including historians) suppose. not the general. For those who suppose that it is meaningful to talk of such laws. we can only predict history via laws if we can also predict the growth of knowledge. some historians and philosophers of history have claimed that it is possible to find historical laws. whereas history—composed of the actions of individuals—is neither closed nor even a system at all. while a sufficient cause would be one that. the belief that historical laws exist). he suggested. As a result. Several objections have been made to the very idea of historical laws. more accurately. it could be claimed that "states always turn to war when their resources are insufficient for their population" is an historical law. Since history uses these just as science does—with terms like "revolution". Moreover. A further criticism is to say—again—that history is concerned with the actions of people and that hence an historical law would have to account for the reasons why a person acted as they did. historical investigation would be the way to check the claim. that history is always concerned with the particular. would seem to make the war inevitable. and so on—there is no reason to suppose that the search for laws must fail. If we could do that. Similarly. however. the past) is continuous.involvement of the human factor. a sufficient cause is one that would make the course of events that followed considered "rationally required". but only to generalise empirically. of which Popper's The Poverty of Historicism is perhaps the most famous (historicism being. with Oakeshott. Karl Popper took a distinct line of attack. Since history (or. for instance. meaning much the same as we do when we talk of scientific laws. lies in supposing history to be similar to science when it differs in one crucial respect: scientific laws apply to closed systems.G. Another complaint is to say. This is not to say that an irrational person may not do otherwise or that other reasons may change the situation. An historical law might take the form "whenever x happens. Here we'll look at the uses . or so the argument goes. One response is to suggest that we have a cause (or set of causes) when we have enough to offer an explanation of an event. the growth of scientific knowledge added to this point: since knowledge has an effect on human behaviour and hence history. once it happened. when can we stop and say that a cause has been found? The difficulty lies in ending the quest for causes in a way that is not arbitrary or according to the whim of the historian. Facts in History Given the importance of "what really happened" to history. it is said that occurrences in science are no less unique. In reply. "conflict". We have already seen that some philosophers find laws to be problematic. Collingwood proposed that a necessary cause in historical investigation is one such that without it the subsequent actions would make no sense. there can be no historical laws. in this case. y is bound to follow". The philosopher of history R. for example. will invariably do B". we would already know it. so that. Historical Laws Expanding on the question of historical causes and continuing the parallels with science. That means. In response it is said that laws have the form "a person. that a necessary cause of the Boer War would be one any explanation of the war must include to be convincing. but what is sought is the general case that can be described with general concepts. In this way A and B constitute the reasons for acting and the action itself. acting in a rational way in situation A. The error in supposing historical laws to exist.

rather than another. The mistake lies in supposing that a particular centre is the only possibility. Facts and Interpretation It seems a commonplace that we have historical facts to work with. these apparently simple facts are not the business of history. When debate takes place amongst historians. it is at the margins—around a central core agreed by (almost) everyone. This suggests that we can never get past interpretation to the ultimate meaning or definitive account of the past. Even so. facts are theory-laden. a question asked by philosophers of history is how much of history is fact and how much interpretation? Since facts themselves are silent. . the evidence he or she refers to consisting in the accounts left by others. To begin with. The historian relies on the observation and memories of others in the past for the accuracy of these records. Historical Facts A difficulty of an altogether different order arises when we begin to look closely at historical facts. like the facts are supposed to be. instead. The difficulty with this response is that it overlooks a glaring assumption: namely. it lies on a spectrum of possible interpretations of the same facts. An example given by Jenkins is that of historical accounts in the old Soviet Union. Instead. For example. This interpretive dimension is unavoidable and is added by the historian—it is not "already there". as it were. any more than we do today. such as "there was a world war between 1939 and 1945". Consider:      The records we have of the past are incomplete and must always be so. Generally speaking. the term "facts" is loaded: what historians are actually confronted with are fragmentary accounts or traces of the past that are subsequently organised into facts. The historian constructs an account of the past from other accounts. The past has gone and hence cannot be recalled to check the accuracy of our accounts of it. The past is studied from a modern view. selected. Although interpretation goes on. We will dwell on this area because of its importance. As we saw in our sixth discussion. most of the facts about the Second World War are known. However. using contemporary concepts and understandings. People in the past did not record everything. they say. with discussion not really calling much of this body of knowledge into doubt. and for historians they are doubly so. the historian must interpret them to understand their meaning. that this centre is fixed. interpreted and given from their particular perspective. goes the argument. most facts are not disputed or subject to contention and there is wide agreement about the majority of historical issues. working historians tend to be unaware of this concern or remain unconvinced by its import.that facts in history are put to and if we can say that there are such facts in the first place. it is their combination as explanations that we have seen is taken (usually) to be the historian's task. The problem of interpretation comes up again on another level when we ask how one centre comes to dominate historical discourse. in which the facts about the Second World War were interpreted from an agreed centre that differed significantly from the centre used by Western European historians. These accounts record not facts but what people in the past considered important.

If he or she tries to check the truth of an account by it correspondence with "what actually happened". is no: the words we use reveal perspectives because of the epistemological problems identified above. a disagreement. we have the problem of under-determination from the philosophy of science that we studied before. however. Should an historian call the crossing of an army from one state to another in the past a war. perhaps unsurprisingly. then. for instance. In the absence of any way to say whether they are or not. such than any history has to take them into account (whether by incorporating them or discounting them. but they cannot determine which of a multiplicity of possible histories within the boundary provided is more accurate. for instance.Several of these are specific concerns that we will return to later. an art historian: by deciding to give the history of a painting. but the very act of composing an account reveals choices made. none of which are theoretically neutral? Is an internal conflict an uprising. but—as we said before—the records from the past are silent and do not insist on any particular reading. The problem for the historian is that there is no way around this epistemological issue. The historian can try to tread a fine line. accounts of others that may or may not be accurate. that deciding what is or is not art is far from simple. this appeal is found to be empty. We have seen in our seventh piece. In a sense. but for now we can note that the only way to check an historical account is by comparison with others. there is no historical reality within reach: all we have are traces of the past. The answer.(or theory) free language to discuss the past. Consider. Historical Method According to Hayden White: Quote . As soon as the historian opens his or her account. as it were. value. decisions are made about what to include or exclude. he or she presupposes implicitly that the work is art—not trash. then. Unlike science. the same problem was present for those who recorded events in the first place. We can say that the historian describes the event in a way enjoined upon him or her by the evidence. only much worse. attempting to avoid describing events from the past in loaded terms. A well-known example is the adage that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter". a liberation. can it be meaningful to speak of historical truth? We will come to this question below. an insurrection or a revolution? Is calling it a conflict already to prejudge it? Even something as apparently straightforward as a World War is only obvious to those that share the interpretive framework and may not have the same meaning for everyone—Bushmen. The traces we have can function as limits to interpretation. but do they really impact on history in a significant way? One way to see that theydo is to look at the language used in historical accounts and ask if it possible to use a neutral. or any number of other possibilities. Thus the historian is forced. This leads us. into retreating to a coherence theory of truth. where reference is made to reality. Language in History These philosophical concerns may be all very well. to the question of historical method. with reasons for both). Moreover.

It may be the case that an historian distorts (or outright lies about) his or her sources. econometricians. to name but twenty-five possibilities? Each of these (and more besides) is an example of a methodology that is consistent.. Jenkins makes this painfully clear when he asks: Quote . neo-Marxists. We see this practice often enough in attempts to validate the assertion that a country (or crown) . What we can learn from the discussion of method. the so-called 'historical method' consists of little more than the injunction to 'get the story straight' (without any notion of what the relation of 'story' to 'fact' might be) and to avoid both conceptual overdetermination and imaginative excess (i.. however.. however. Ideologies Sometimes we hear the complaint that an historian is not ideologically neutral. structuralists or post-structuralists. or even Markwick. It can never go beyond them and invite comparison with "what actually happened. We might propose that the structuralists explain something better than the feminists.e. then. if any. would you like to follow Hegel or Marx or Dilthey or Weber or Popper or Hempel or Aron or Collingwood or Dray or Oakeshott or Danto or Gallie or Walsh or Atkinson or Leff or Hexter? Would you care to go along with modern empiricists. explaining matters satisfactorily. What Method? When we look for the historian's method we are faced with the same problem as the similar quest for the scientific method: an overabundance of choices.. with history we have nothing to appeal to but other accounts. thus going beyond the boundary set on his or her account by the records of the past. there are historical methods but no historical method. "makes sense" or "satisfactorily") can be given a rigorous definition precisely because a history can only convince subjectively within the boundary set by the traces of the past we have. but that can only mean that the explanation accords with most or all of the available records of the relevant past and that the account "makes sense". is the "best" method? We cannot compare their accuracy in getting at the past because there is no such beast. where we can at least try to say that experiment is better than guesswork by reference to something like reality. say. the Annales School.. enthusiasm') at any price. then. reflecting the breadth of history rather than a shortcoming. Perhaps a less ambitious understanding of the role of ideology in history is to note that people— not just historians—use history as a means to ground or legitimate themselves? Where we have come from can tell us where we are going or justify claims we want to make in the present. The complaint that a particular history is based on ideology is rather hollow. The same goes for science and hence this should probably not be surprising. feminists.. In this section we'll look at the situation within history and see if it is as bad as White insisted. None of these terms ("accords with".." In summary. Unfortunately. Unlike science. is that there is no neutral position from which to do history. gets results and is profitable for its users. new-stylists. but otherwise history from one perspective is no closer to the past than from another.. the epistemological difficulties identified above make a choice between them a tricky matter: what criteria should we use to decide which.

perhaps it would be better to examine them and hence try to counteract the unavoidable influence of our own? Empathy The historian has a potential way out of these concerns. sir?") may or may not have been answered differently. but since we do not know what he thought (except insofar as we could guess that his efforts suggest he would not agree) we cannot say that he should have acted otherwise without being anachronistic. . Rather than dismiss certain ideologies. that is not to say that Newton did. As we touched on above. hence the objection that to say so is anachronistic. In like fashion. epistemological assumptions. Another objection is revealed by Croce's dictum that "all history is contemporary history". it is said. modern understandings of words. the value judgement that alchemy is worthless is not forced upon the historians by the records he or she has of the past. methodologies. how can these be fully (or partially) shed to empathise with those in the past? Anachronism A charge often made against historical accounts in criticism is that they are guilty of anachronism. say) instead of another ("liberation") only makes sense within a perspective that leads us to choose one and not the other. We might want to call a Marxist history of Europe ideological. he also spent the better part of his time studying alchemy and biblical prophecy. This is the historical skill or tool that helps avoid many of the epistemological and other difficulties and grants the historian a privileged ability to say what motivated people in the past and why they acted as they did. This makes the historian a translator of meaning. however: empathy. that is. putting all his efforts into the former. There are several reasons why philosophers of history find this wholly unconvincing. Some historians of science point to the work of Newton and note that. From the discussion of empathy we can see that a certain amount of anachronism is unavoidable. or even in the popularity of family trees. this is at best a shame and at worst a tragedy: imagine what Newton could have achieved if he had not wasted his time on the latter subjects. but he or she has to do so from his or her own perspective that—as we have seen—is never neutral. then. By studying his or her sources in great depth and at length. Dewey wrote that "all history is necessarily written from the standpoint of the present". This is compounded by the distance between the past and the historian.justly belongs to one group and not another. and so on. what someone else is (or was) thinking. Given that the historian is using contemporary concepts. Nevertheless. in which it is asked how we can ever know the content of another mind. The problem here is that contemporary ideas or values are projected backwards: although we may think that alchemy is a hopeless endeavour (or we may not). in addition to his work on mechanics. the choice of one word ("invasion". the historian can begin to empathise with his or her subject(s) and gain an understanding from their perspective. According to some. Perhaps the best way to appreciate what this means is to use an example. A similar question asked in his time ("think you alchemy a waste of time. which is to say that although historical sources are from the past they must nevertheless be read in the present. The first is the general philosophical problem of other minds. but why are the alternatives any different? Each seeks to understand the past from within an inevitable framework. mathematics and other areas for which he is famous.

As we found when discussing truth. Instead. they still maintain that it is worth aiming for. where does it leave bias? In some sense. there being no neutral position from which to judge the degree of difference. As further sources are found. with accounts serving to support or undermine dominant or marginalised histories. Critics of this understanding suggest that the historian is actually working with a pragmatic theory of truth. Appleby and Hunt calling for "well-documented and coherently argued interpretations that link internally generated meanings to external behaviour". if—as we have seen—the truth is not a meaningful concept in history. combined and recombined into accounts but never any more than that. On this view. like truth. if the problem of bias is present within all histories then—again—perhaps a diversity of approaches can help appreciate what historians can achieve instead of striving after correspondence? Philosophies of History . Bias Another important concept in history is bias. However.Truth in History At this point in our discussion. this gets the historian no closer to "what actually happened". as we said. how can striving for it fare any better? Thinking back to our long look at truth in our tenth piece. Since this has been thoroughly undermined. he or she can try to construct a new account that coheres with what is available. Whatever we think of correspondence (or semantic) theories in general. Now we'll look at possible ways to save it and see if we can breathe life back into it. but what it does do is follow the way he or she works with the available material. we can identify where an historian has gone beyond the limits of interpretation given by his or her sources. However. that is. what we see is that these historians are employing a correspondence theory—trying to match up the past and our accounts of it. the notion of truth in history seems to have taken a battering. the idea that traces of the past or accounts of it can be intentionally distorted to serve the purposes of the historian. In spite of the apparent impossibility of ever achieving that. Given that the historian is faced with nothing but traces of the past. histories that do not rely on a correspondence theory of truth can speak of failing to cohere with other accounts or say that using history in different ways need not be biased but just a difference in goals or methods. However. History is linked. the realisation that the only way to test historical accounts is by comparison with others suggests that history requires a coherence theory. the process begins anew and some previous accounts may be shown to be false. truth and falsity serve to shut down interpretations that do not accord with what is useful for a society or group. In general. bias only makes sense alongside the similar existence of unbiased accounts. with the assumption that true stories exist that correspond to the past and from which biased versions differ. it is at least clear that they are inappropriate for history. with Joyce. to power. Truth as a goal Earlier we learned that some historians consider their task to be the search for the truth.

having accepted the criticisms given. Historical Realism The notion of historical realism is analogous to its scientific counterpart and supposes that the concepts and theories employed in history get at reality—in this case. most notably Hegel. Anti-representationalists hope that a history that can come to terms with its limitations will provide us with more interesting and significant accounts of the past. on a correspondence understanding of truth: even if a particular theory (or account) may not be true. or "going somewhere". In particular. until such time as the limit is reached. while what will follow will be an advancement. historical reality or "what really happened". there are still very many historians who adopt it and some philosophers of history have lambasted their unwillingness to face up to the failings of realism. For those holding to a linear theory. They may suggest that a coherence theory of truth is more appropriate or that talk of truth should be dropped completely. and as a survey of the scholarly literature within historiography would show. As we have seen above. have proposed that history proceeds in a line—hence linear—and so is directional. Much work is still to be done in responding to anti-representationalist ideas. still others advocate a much-reduced conception of the kind of objectivity that is possible ("defined anew as a commitment to honest investigation. historical antirepresentationalists contend that the correspondence theory of truth within history has to be given up and the constructs of historians understood as fictions. historical realism is a thoroughly discredited position. Historical Anti-representationalism In opposition to the realists. It relies.In our final section we come to speculative philosophies of history—attempts to find patterns in or a structure to history. However. Historians' accounts are to be read as attempts to organise the available traces of the past in a coherent way. We'll consider two general approaches to take to history and then look at two classes of theory in the philosophy of history. Nevertheless. A quote from Hegel that gives a nice example is his remark that: . particularly with questions relating to the ancient world. as we might expect. not to latch on to something that cannot be found. Linear Theories Some philosophers of history. often disparaged as naïve realism (in the pejorative sense). This is a progressive view in which what came before was in a sense more "primitive" than now. the past exists independently of what we think of it. and engaged public discussions of the meaning of historical facts" for Joyce. "what actually happened" being ultimately meaningless within history since it is forever inaccessible. history is a process that unfolds towards a final goal. open processes of research. Appleby and Hunt) and point out that few practising historians today ever believed in this kind of realism in the first place. it is more or less accurate by comparison and the aim of historians is (or should be) the truth. not closer and closer approximations of the past as it happened.

Using examples from ancient history. Steven and Peter are still deep in discussion. Steven: . The philosopher of history most commonly associated with cyclical theories is Toynbee.Quote . however. Cyclical Theories Another class of theories holds that history proceeds in cycles. then. A further distinction is to ask whether we should say that progress is strictly linear or whether a civilisation (or history in general) can advance and regress. For linear theories this is an inevitability—the playing out of historical laws or plans—which is separate from the idea that progress is contingent: it has occurred but need not have. dominance and decay. but. that this is likely to continue into the future. moreover. Dialogue the Fourteenth The Scene: Trystyn. he divided the past into several complete civilisations and tried to demonstrate that they each arose through responding to challenging circumstances.. more significant problem is that civilisations—not clearly defined by Toynbee—do not exist in isolation and continuation between them is not accounted for in positing their demise. who suggested that all civilisations showed a similar pattern of growth. Another. many people do seem to feel that we can justifiably say that we have progressed from the past and. the Greek and Roman world only that some are free. I was just going to say it'd be pretty boring. was his refusal to announce the doom of our own civilisation when his studies—if we accept their conclusions—pointed to that conclusion with no likelihood of reprieve. developed into fully-fledged societies before eventually crumbling. . the development of the notion and application of freedom is an instance of a linear advancement.. showing a pattern of progress overall but not necessarily in all specific periods. while we know that all men absolutely (man as man) are free. the Eastern nations knew only that one is free. it was pointed out that it is unreasonable to suppose that general laws could be found on the basis of at most thirty-two examples. then you'd have to kill me? You swore an oath of silence? Meaning goes beyond the bounds of language? Trystyn: Heh. is far too extensive to effectively summarise here).. at ten volumes... Steven: So are you part of an order of some kind? Peter: I am. Perhaps the most damning aspect to his work. Peter: Actually.. I could tell you about it. The objections made to historical laws also apply to any speculative philosophy of history. On this view. Although the concept of teleology (discussed in our fifteenth piece) has come in for much criticism when applied to life. He used these case studies to look for patterns and hence derive historical laws. In criticising his work (which. having moved to the park.

the historian would have distinct sources to work from. Steven: Ah. and we didn't come into contact much with other groups. you mean our inevitable biographers. Trystyn: No. unless we had exceptional memories. surely? Peter: It does. Steven: Still. Trystyn: Let's see how it unravels. History is always interesting. I guess I'd better say something clever soon. In any case. few records from the old days. Steven: What else? Trystyn: Next.) In any case. you could reconstruct the past from what you've got—as near as possible. Steven: Of course. too. Steven: That accursed word again! Peter: (He wags a finger.Steven: Maybe not. Peter: After you've become famous. there may be other sources available—perhaps fragmentary recollections from others here. Perhaps I'd remember that you tried to avoid paying—again—while you would recall my asking far more "but what does that mean?" questions than I actually did. . lots of people tend to imagine it that way but it falls apart rather quickly under analysis.. Trystyn: Why break a habit? (He grins. There aren't many of us. the historian could conceivably have several different records to use—let's say each of us wrote something in a journal about the talk and what happened. grinning. Trystyn: The problem for the historian is to put together what actually transpired from these pieces. anyway. History doesn't work that way. but there's quite a bit of dispute about it. but at no stage can he or she compare what's been decided to what actually happened because the past has gone. Your order must have a story behind it.. written down long after the fact. Take this conversation we're having now and suppose that an historian is trying to give an account of it many years hence. Steven: So I could make my contributions look weightier after the fact? Trystyn: Well.) I told you so. he means. Steven: I thought it was pretty straightforward: to find out what the past was like you go to the documents and other sources and piece it all together? Trystyn: Well. that's the point entirely: we would each remember different things and. although all apparently describing the same event. would record our individual perspectives.

the epistemological problems are too great. Trystyn: So the historian can call his or her version coherent. Steven: Internal how? Trystyn: Internal. historians are trapped insides these limitations.Steven: What if all the accounts bar yours say "and then Steven said something incredibly witty that had everyone in stitches"? Isn't it reasonable to conclude that you were just bitter and distorted your version? Trystyn: Sure.. And so it goes on. Steven: So it's like theory-ladenness twice? Peter: Pretty much.. they would read events differently than if they were one of his followers. bringing his or her own perspective unavoidably into play. as would the way in which he or she understands terms we use that may have changed in meaning or that may have been given a special meaning by us.. Trystyn: Not only these. if you like. the sources are never "the facts" about what happened but always someone's view of it. It's probably because I keep beating him at pool. he or she can't compare what they come up with to what actually happened to test it. as in coherent with other accounts—like a diary entry in which I said "Steven is just not funny at all" and multiple entries from you saying. Peter: He means that if they were a disciple of yours by then. as it were: first. This means that the historian is doubly damned. this opportunity of testing a theory isn't available to the historian. Peter: Essentially. but the historian is also working backwards. but this is still an interpretation of the accounts—a coherent version of what they describe. the issue here is that our historian of the future would have to view the past through contemporary glasses..." Steven: Ah.. Trystyn: . or say that it lies within the boundaries imposed on any interpretation by the documents to hand. Steven: Would anyone be so foolish? Trystyn: As hard as it may be for you to compute. Trystyn: What's more. . "I just can't fathom why he doesn't laugh at my jokes. No matter how hard they try. and second they can't do that either for the sources they have to rely on. but calling it a true account of what transpired is meaningless because it's never possible to compare them—as you might compare a scientific theory by testing it. based on other internal factors. His or her assumptions would colour the issues. Peter: In brief. Steven: Uh oh. as we said.

org/site/index. where they've come from and where they're going. Peter: Thus the history of my order is not uniquely determined by the records we have. Fin.galilean-library. Curtain. when you realise that everyone has their own perspective and that there's no neutral one to pour scorn on yours from.php/page/index. it seems more like history is something people do for a reason—to justify their place in life. or are they liberating instead? After all. http://www. so long as you're not making things up as you go that aren't within the bounds of what you have to work with. Are they unfortunate. Steven: What about my biography? Trystyn: I'll write it. something to be avoided or ignored or somehow worked around.html/_/essays/introducingphilosophy/18philosophy-of-history-r35 .Steven: So they should just give it up and play rugby? Trystyn: It depends on how you view these difficulties. so we have a certain leeway to write it such that it provides us with opportunities for the future instead of trapping us in the past.

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