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Historiography in the Twentieth Century

From Scientific Objectivity to the Postmodern Challenge

Georg G. Iggers

Publication Year: 2012

In this book, now published in 10 languages, a preeminent intellectual historian examines the profound changes in ideas about the nature of history and historiography. Georg G. Iggers traces the basic assumptions upon which historical research and writing have been based, and describes how the newly emerging social sciences transformed historiography following World War II. The discipline's greatest challenge may have come in the last two decades, when postmodern ideas forced a reevaluation of the relationship of historians to their subject and questioned the very possibility of objective history. Iggers sees the contemporary discipline as a hybrid, moving away from a classical, macrohistorical approach toward microhistory, cultural history, and the history of everyday life. The new epilogue, by the author, examines the movement away from postmodernism towards new social science approaches that give greater attention to cultural factors and to the problems of globalization.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press

Title Page

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

A German version of this book was published in 1993 and in the meantime has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish. The German text had its basis in a paper I delivered at a panel discussion in April 1990 at the Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium on "Rationality and History," ...

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pp. 1-20

Over twenty years ago I published a small book about the state of historical studies in Europe at that time, in which I showed how the traditional forms of scholarship were replaced by newer forms of historical research in the social sciences.1 Historians in all countries were largely in agreement that research ...

I. The Early Phase: The Emergence of History as a Professional Discipline

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Chapter 1. Classical Historicism as a Model for Historical Scholarship

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pp. 23-30

In the early nineteenth century a radical change took place in the Western world generally in the way history was researched, written, and taught as it was transformed into a professional discipline. Until then there had been two dominant traditions of writing history: one predominantly learned and antiquarian, ...

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Chapter 2. The Crisis of Classical Historicism

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pp. 31-35

Historical studies at the end of the nineteenth century were characterized by a sense of profound unease. Almost simultaneously throughout Europe and in the United States a critical examination of the presuppositions upon which the established historiography at the universities rested took place. ...

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Chapter 3. Economic and Social History in Germany and the Beginnings of Historical Sociology

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pp. 36-40

An early attempt to deal historically with the problems created by industrialization was made by the so-called "Younger Historical School of National Economy" in Germany, the most important representative of which was Gustav von Schmoller. This school stood firmly in the tradition of classical historicism ...

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Chapter 4. American Traditions of Social History

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pp. 41-48

While Marx and Weber took issue with the idealistic presuppositions of classical German historicism and their implications for historical studies and the social sciences, they maintained the historicist belief that the social sciences must proceed historically, and that history, despite ruptures, constitutes ...

II. The Middle Phase: The Challenge of the Social Sciences

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Chapter 5. France: The Annales

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pp. 51-64

The French Annales school of historians, centered around the journal Annales, occupy a unique place in the historiography of the twentieth century. On the one hand, their writers share the confidence of other social science-oriented historians in the possibility of scientific approaches to history; ...

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Chapter 6. Critical Theory and Social History: "Historical Social Science" in the Federal Republic of Germany

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pp. 65-77

The sharp distinction made by Lawrence Stone in 19781 between an analytical social science that seeks coherent explanations and a narrative history that seeks to understand the intentions and actions of men and women by embedding them in a story is much less applicable to historical writing in continental Europe. ...

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Chapter 7. Marxist Historical Science from Historical Materialism to Critical Anthropology

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pp. 78-94

Marxist historiography and Marxist thought generally have lost a great deal of their credibility and prestige following the collapse of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European client states, which considered themselves embodiments of Marxist or Marxist-Leninist ideas. The extent to which these events ...

III. History and the Challenge of Postmodernism

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Chapter 8. Lawrence Stone and "The Revival of Narrative"

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pp. 97-100

In 1979 there appeared in Past and Present, which had been since its founding in 1952 the most important forum in Great Britain for discussions in history and the social sciences, Lawrence Stone's essay "The Revival of Narrative: Reflections on a New Old History."1 In this now famous piece, Stone notes ...

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Chapter 9. From Macro- to Microhistory: The History of Everyday Life

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pp. 101-117

Increasingly in the 1970s and 1980s historians not only in the West, but in some cases also in the Eastern European countries, began to question the assumptions of social science history. The key to the worldview of social science history, as seen by its critics, was the belief in modernization as a positive force. ...

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Chapter 10. The "Linguistic Turn": The End of History as a Scholarly Discipline?

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pp. 118-133

I have already referred to postmodern theories of history that take up the questions of the possibility or impossibility of historical knowledge and the forms historical writing should assume in a postmodern age. In this chapter I would like to raise the question of the extent and manner in which postmodern ...

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Chapter 11. From the Perspective of the 1990s

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pp. 134-140

In 1979 Lawrence Stone, in his now famous article "The Revival of Narrative," cast doubts on the older social science model of historical studies and endorsed the new orientation toward anthropology and semiotics. In 1991, in a note, "History and Post- Modernism,"1 again in Past and Present, ...

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Concluding Remarks

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pp. 141-148

Repeatedly in recent years the opinion has been expressed that we are living in a posthistorical age, that history as we have known it has come to an end.1 What is meant is obviously not that time will hence stand still, but that there is no longer the possibility of a grand narrative that gives history ...

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Epilogue: A Retrospect at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century

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pp. 149-160

It has been seven years since this book first appeared in English and more than ten years since the original German edition was published.1 The important changes in the world scene brought about by the end of the Cold War had by then been reflected only in small part in historical studies. ...


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pp. 161-188

Suggested Readings

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pp. 189-192


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pp. 193-198

E-ISBN-13: 9780819573797
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819567666

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2012