The Idea of History

The Idea of History

The Idea of History

The Idea of History

Excerpt

During the first six months of 1936 Collingwood wrote thirtytwo lectures on The Philosophy of History. The manuscript falls into two parts, each of which he intended to work up into a book. The first is an historical account of how the modern idea of history has developed from Herodotus to the twentieth century; the second consists of 'metaphysical epilegomena' or philosophical reflections on the nature, subject-matter, and method of history.

Of the two projected books the second began to take shape in the spring of 1939 when, during a short stay in Java, Collingwood started to write The Principles of History. In this work he proposed to discuss the 'main characteristics of history as a special science' and then to consider its relations with other sciences, particularly natural science and philosophy, as well as its bearing on practical life.

In 1940 he revised part of the 1936 manuscript, especially the section on Greece and Rome, and rechristened it The Idea of History. But though he meant eventually to make it a companion volume to The Idea of Nature, he was unfortunately unable to work on it any further.

It was Collingwood's wish that his posthumous papers should be judged by high standards when their publication was under consideration, and the decision to construct a book out of these manuscripts on history has not been taken without some hesitation. It was thought, however, that they contained material which might be useful to historians as well as to philosophers and which was too good not to be published.

Since the greater part of the available material was little more than a first draft, much more editing has been necessary here than in The Idea of Nature. But I think it right to say that although the layout of the book and some of its form are due to the editor, the content is everywhere Collingwood's. The design of the book makes some repetitions almost inevitable (particularly in the separate essays which I have chosen and grouped together to form Part V and which it seemed best to print almost exactly as they were written), and the various . . .

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