The Idea of History

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

LECTURES ON THE PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY (1926)1

THE purpose of these lectures is to raise and, as far as I can do so, to answer certain questions relating to the study of history and to the object, called history, which in that study we investigate. The fundamental question is, what are we doing when we study history? and this raises three allied questions: (1) What are we doing it for? in other words, how does this study fit into our general view of the aims and purposes of human life? (2) What is the best way of doing it? in other words, what are the principles of method by which historical study is or ought to be guided? (3) What are we doing it to? in other words, what is the true nature of the thing which we call the past, which historical thought takes as its object?

I propose to begin by raising the last question. This will help us to form a general idea of what history is trying to do. I shall then go on to ask how it does it; this will mean discussing the data of historical thought and the methods by which it interprets these data. I shall then, lastly, take history as a finished product, when it has done the work of interpreting its data, and ask what the value of this finished product is.

Our tradition, in Oxford, is to combine historical with philosophical studies. In my own case, this combination has led to a constant and obstinate self-questioning as to the right methods and the ultimate value of historical studies; and my only object in thinking out the notions which I shall lay before you has been to settle accounts with myself as to why I study history and how I can do it more intelligently. To some extent I have achieved this settlement of accounts: and I am giving these lectures in the hope that some of you who may have been afflicted by the same difficulties as myself, may derive help of some kind from the flickering light of my own thoughts. Whether you regard that light as marking the entrance to harbour or the presence of rocks, I leave you to determine.

____________________
The source document can be found in the Bodleian Library Collingwood Papers, dep. 14.
1
Collingwood adds to the title: 'written January, 9-13, 1926, for delivery in Hilary Term, 1926.'

-359-

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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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