Modern Historiography: An Introduction

By Michael Bentley | Go to book overview

not have been attempted until quite recently. The task of supplying such critiques, which often seem as demanding to read as to write, falls to the historiographer and one definition of historiography is that it is the class or set of all such studies.

But that is not what this book does. How could it in so short an account of so many historians? What we shall be examining in these pages is rather a subject that once might have been labelled 'the history of historiography'. The task lies not in providing an original reading or interpretation of any single writer or school but instead to seek freshness of viewpoint by offering a synthetic account which searches for connection and comparison and which is not afraid to look beyond the subject of history for explanation of what historians do and how they think. It seeks sophistication less in its depth than in its width and in the shaping of its narrative-one of many that could have been contrived-to explain developments with maximum clarity. Nor does a history of this kind escape its contemporary climate any more than would a substantive history of the period or a detailed analysis of a given writer. Just as the modern historiographer applies an older 'philosophy of history' in new ways, so an historian of historiography moves beyond what a previous generation might have believed to be relevant or appropriate; and the result is a text that has a different scope and an expanded sense of what historical 'knowledge' might be taken to include. The greatest historiographer of the twentieth century, Arnaldo Momigliano, knew more about historical writing than the present writer could ever pretend to know; and his work will live on undimmed into the next century. Yet even he supplies a fascinating case in point, since his own horizons of explanation were formed during the turbulent politics and positivist intellectual environment of the 1930s and 1940s. When he constructed his insights into the working of an historical mind, he made them from within that horizon and asked the questions that seemed most urgent within the mental landscape around him. In the longer perspective we have of his work and from inside a different Weltanschauung, the commentator has himself become an object of study, the historiographer an example of his own subject. No one will 'supersede' Momigliano; but we may choose to see his world through lenses he did not have and paint in colours he would have avoided.

'Are you a postmodernist?' The tedious question emerges pretty

-x-

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Modern Historiography: An Introduction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Prelude 1
  • 1 - The Enlightenment 8
  • 2 - The Counter-Enlightenment 16
  • 3 - Romanticism 25
  • 4 - Ranke 36
  • 5 - The Voice of Science 43
  • 6 - Culture and Kultur 53
  • 7 - The English 'Whigs' 62
  • 8 - Towards an Historical 'Profession' 71
  • 9 - Crisis Over Method 81
  • 10 - From the New World 93
  • 11 - Annales: the French School 103
  • 12 - Repression and Exile 116
  • 13 - Post-War Moods 127
  • 14 - The History of the Present 137
  • Postscript 149
  • References 161
  • Further Reading in English 176
  • Index 179
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