The Idea of History

By R. G. Collingwood; J. Van Der Dussen | Go to book overview

PART I
GRECO-ROMAN HISTORIOGRAPHY

§ 1. Theocratic history and myth

By what steps and stages did the modern European idea of history come into existence? Since I do not think that any of these stages occurred outside the Mediterranean region, that is, Europe, the Near East from the Mediterranean to Mesopotamia, and the northern African coastlands, I am precluded from saying anything about historical thought in China or in any other part of the world except the region I have mentioned.

I have quoted one example of early Mesopotamian history from a document of about 2500 B.C. I say history, but I ought rather to say quasi-history, because, as I have pointed out, the thought expressed in this document resembles what we call history in making statements about the past, but differs from it, first, in that these statements are not answers to questions, not the fruits of research, but mere assertions of what the writer already knows; and secondly, that the deeds recorded are not human actions but, in the first instance at any rate, divine actions. The gods are conceived on the analogy of human sovereigns, directing the actions of kings and chiefs as these direct the actions of their human subordinates; the hierarchical system of government is carried upwards by a kind of extrapolation. Instead of the series: subject, lower official, higher official, king, we have the series: subject, lower official, higher official, king, god. Whether the king and the god are sharply distinguished so that the god is conceived as the real head of the community and the king as his servant, or whether the king and the god are somehow identified, the king being conceived as an incarnation of the god or at any rate as in some way or other divine, not merely human, is a question into which we need not enter, because, however we answer it, the result will be that government is conceived theocratically.

History of this kind I propose to call theocratic history; in which phrase 'history' means not history proper, that is scientific history, but a statement of known facts for the information of persons to whom they are not known, but who, as worshippers of

-14-

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The Idea of History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Editor's Introduction ix
  • Contents li
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I Greco-Roman Historiography 14
  • Part II the Influence of Christianity 46
  • Part III the Threshold of Scientific History 86
  • Part IV Scientific History 134
  • Part V Epilegomena 205
  • Preliminary Discussion the Idea of A Philosophy of Something, And, in Particular, A Philosophy of History (1927) 335
  • Lectures on the Philosophy of History (1926)1 359
  • Contents 360
  • Outlines of A Philosophy of History (1928) 426
  • Introductory Lecture 431
  • Contents 437
  • Iii. Relation 439
  • Index 497
  • More Oxford Paperbacks 511
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