History and Theory of Historiography (seminar)

CEU credits: 
ECTS credits: 
Academic year: 
Start and end dates: 
10 Jul 2009
Co-hosting Unit(s) [if applicable]: 
Department of History
Co-hosting Unit(s) [if applicable]: 
Department of Medieval Studies
László Kontler
Additional information: 
They intend to contribute to your training in various, but related ways. Representing history as a branch of cognition that has been found directly relevant to the human condition since antiquity, they highlight a number of influential and controversial ways of engaging with it. At the same time they will challenge you to engage both with these approaches, and in some cases with the ways in which they are presented in the assigned literature. Shortly, they invite you to think historically in dialogue with some of the most outstanding practitioners of the profession, past and present. The seminars follow the weekly lectures for the whole class, which address historical controversies and philosophical issues involved in the study of history. For the seminars, the class will split in smaller groups, each one led by one of the teaching assistants, who are advanced PhD candidates (with the main instructor rotating among the groups). Students are expected to prepare for these sessions by reading all the assignments listed in the syllabus for that week. The readings will be found in the course reader, available in hard copy as well as online. The purpose of the seminars is to provide an opportunity for exchanging views on the readings and exploring their implications for the major themes of the course as explicated in the lectures. The course begins with an overview of the emergence and development of historiography and of historical thought from the earliest times through to the end of the Latin, Byzantine and Arabic Middle Ages. Emphasis will be placed on universal modes, continuities and mutations of the historical craft and for the purposes of historical writing. The relationship between history and empires with universal vocations until the fourteenth century will receive particular attention. We shall then explore the incomplete demise of the “historia magistra vitae” approach in post-Renaissance times, and the equally incomplete and problematic rise – during the Enlightenment and its historicist aftermath – of history as a scientific discipline with “objective” knowledge claims. Having reviewed the resulting requirements of professionalization (the rise of the “critical and philological method”, the implications for the training of the historian, etc.), we look at the turn of historical research from political narrative, first, towards the social sciences (hallmarked by the Annales school), and then to the more recent cultural, linguistic and other inter-disciplinary “turns” in the second half of the twentieth century. Throughout, the presentation of the material is thoroughly contextualized against the socio-cultural and intellectual environment in which historical thought is taking place and historical literature is produced. This course is supplemented by the one in Historical Methodology, and the two together prepare the ground for the course on Theories and Methods in Recent Historical Studies (mandatory in the third term for two-year students in the Comparative History stream).
Learning Outcomes: 
The main goal of this course is to develop a comprehensive and critical understanding of the essence of historical inquiry as an epistemological pursuit, to establish students’ awareness of (a) tradition(s) of such inquiry, and enable them to “place themselves” into these traditions. Preparing for classes and participation in seminar discussion enhances skills of critical reading and the rhetorical presentation of arguments, while completing the written assignments improves academic writing skills.
Assessment : 
As the chief course requirement besides active participation in the seminar discussions, students will be required to write two critical essays during the term. Both essays (1500 to 2000 words, or 5 to 7 double-spaced pages) are supposed to be based on one of the topics, based on the relevant set of readings, for the previous six weeks. Students may draw on additional reading, but this is optional and in and of itself will not assure a higher grade. Please use the standard academic conventions for acknowledging your sources (quotation marks for direct citations, footnotes – always remembering that plagiarism is punishable with a failing grade in this course as well as in others). Late papers will be marked down, except in case of illness documented by a doctor’s statement. The purpose of these papers is to give you an opportunity to pursue the intellectual dialogue mentioned above in a structured, systematic manner. In this sense the course and the one in academic writing mutually supplement each other. In writing these essays, you are not only expected to summarize the text of the assigned readings, but to make clear that you have understood the main ideas and the internal logic of the argument, and to analyze them. Performing this exercise on texts by others is hoped to improve your ability to write your own. In preparing these written assignments you will be able to draw on professional assistance from the Academic Writing Instructor and the colleagues at the Center for Academic Writing. The grade for both of the essays will contribute one-third towards the final grade, the remaining one-third is based on class discussion. More than two unexcused absences from the seminars, as well as failure to submit any of the three essays, will result in a failing grade for the course.


1. The Purposes of the Past
Kelley, Donald R., Versions of History from Antiquity to the Enlightenment, New Haven and London, 1991, pp. 18-28, 69-88. [savepdf]
Kramer, Lloyd and Maza, Sarah (eds.), A Companion to Western Historiography, Oxford 2002, ch. 2.

Supplementary reading:
Collingwood, R. G., The Idea of History, Oxford 1946, part 1

2. Political and Imperial History
Cameron, Averil, “Remaking the Past”, in Late Antiquity. A Guide to the Postclassical World, ed. G. W. Bowersock, P. Brown and O. Grabar, Cambridge, Mass., 1999, ch. 1.
Kelley, Versions of History, pp. 28-47, 89-116
Kramer and Maza, Companion, ch. 3

3. God and Ecumenical Empire -- Salvation History
Kelley, Versions of History, pp. 118-121, 142-156
Eusebius, The History of the Church, tr. G. A. Williamson, Harmondsworth 1989, pp. 14-18, 38-40, 303-322, 328-333
Kemp, Anthony, The Estrangement of the Past, New York, 1991, ch. 1
Löwith, Karl, Meaning in History, Chicago 1970, ch. X

Supplementary reading:
Eusebius’ Life of Constantine and his Tricennial Orations, available online at www.ccel.org/fathers2/
Cameron, Averil, “Eusebius of Caesarea and the Rethinking of History”, in Tria corda. Scritti in onore di Arnaldo Momigliano, ed. E. Gabba, Como 1983, pp. 71-88

4. Entry into the Middle Ages
Bloch, Marc, Feudal Society, tr. L. A. Manyon, London, 1967, vol. 1, ch. VI
Kemp, Estrangement of the Past, ch. 2
Kramer and Maza, Companion, ch. 4
Mango, Cyril, “Discontinuity with the Classical Past in Byzantium”, in Byzantium and the Classical Tradition, ed. M. Mullets and R. Scott, Birmingham 1981, pp. 48-57
Robinson, Chase, Islamic Historiography, Cambridge 2004, ch. 6, 9, 10

5. Medieval Latin Historiography – Chronicle and Universal History
Otto von Freising, The Two Cities, A Chronicle of Universal History to the Year 1146 A.D.,  tr. C. C. Mierow, New York, 2002:  Introduction (pp. 1-79), Prologue and Dedication (pp. 87-97), Plan of the book (pp. 99-122), Prologues to the eight Books (pp. 153-154, 217-222, 270-274, 322-324, 360-361, 402-405, 453-456), and sections on Charlemagne (pp. 351-355)

Supplementary reading:
Tanner, Marie, The Last Descendant of Aeneas. The Hapsburgs and the Mythic Image of the Emperor, New Haven and London 1993, ch. 2, 3 and 5

6. Medieval Arabic Historiography – Historical verification
Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah. An Introduction to History, tr. F. Rosenthal, Princeton 1967, vol. 1, pp. 3-85
Al-Azmeh, Aziz, Ibn Khaldun, Budapest 2003, ch. 1

7. “Philosophy teaching by example”: humanism and beyond

Donald R.Kelley (ed.), Versions of History from Antiquity to the Enlightenment (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1991), excerpts from Bruni, Machiavelli, Guicciardini, Camden, Hotman, Bodin, Bacon, Bossuet (236-246, 284-302, 354-369, 380-397, 400-417, 425-434)
Paula Findlen, „Historical Thought in the Renaissance”, in Lloyd Kramer, Sarah Maza (eds.), A Companion to Western Historical Thought (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), 99-122.

8. Time, change and progress: Enlightenment histories
Voltaire, The Age of Louis XIV and Other Selected Writings (New York, 1963), 122-127, 312-313, 318-327, 331-333. [savepdf]
William Robertson, “A View of the Progress of Society in Europe”, in The History of the Reign of Emperor Charles V (1769), in Works (London, 1835), 308-335. [savepdf1][savepdf2]
Edward Gibbon, “An Address”, in Donald R.Kelley (ed.), Versions of History from Antiquity to the Enlightenment (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1991), 461-471. [savepdf]
Edward Gibbon, “General Observations on the Fall of the Roman Empire in the West”, in idem., The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (London and New York: Frederick Warne, n.d.), vol. II. 575-582. [savepdf]
Johnson Kent Wright, “Historical Thought in the Era of the Enlightenment”, in Lloyd Kramer, Sarah Maza (eds.), A Companion to Western Historical Thought (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), 123-142. [savepdf]

9. Whiggism, Romanticism, historicism
Thomas Babington Macaulay, The History of England (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968), 275-295. [savepdf]
Jules Michelet, History of the French Revolution (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1967), 161-180. [savepdf]
 “The Idea of Universal History: Leopold von Ranke”, in Fritz Stern, Varieties of History. From Voltaire to the Present (New York: Meridian Books, 1963) 53-62. [savepdf]
Leopold von Ranke, Author’s Preface, in Memoirs of the House of Brandenburg and History of Prussia (New York: Greenwood Press, 1968), v-x. [savepdf]
Jakob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (London: Penguin, 1990), 99-119, 312-323. [savepdf1][savepdf2]
Ernst Breisach, Historiography Ancient, Medieval and Modern (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 238-255. [savepdf]
Harry Liebersohn, “German Historical Writing from Ranke to Weber: The Primacy of Politics”, in Kramer, Maza (eds.), Companion, 166-184. [savepdf]

10. The Annales school
Marc Bloch, The Historian’s Craft (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992), 114-156.
Fernand Braudel, “History and the Social Sciences: The Longe Durée,” in Fernand Braudel, On History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 25-54. [savepdf]
R. Forster, “Achievements of the Annales School,” Journal of Economic History, XXXVIII (1978), 58-76.
Krzysztof Pomian, “Impact of the Annales School in Eastern Europe,” Review, I, 3/4, Winter/Spring 1978, 101-118. [savepdf]
Recommended (not in the reader):
Peter Burke, The French Historical Revolution: the Annales School, 1929-89, Oxford: Polity Press, 1990.
Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, London: Harper Collins, 1992, part II, chapter I, section 3 [on the possibility of building a model of Mediterranean economy]; or chapter VI [Civilizations]. [savepdf]
Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, The Peasants of Languedoc, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1976, „Conclusions.”

11. History as Cultural Representation: From Interpretive History to New Historicism
Clifford Geertz: "The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man". In Kiernan Ryan ed., New Historicism and Cultural Materialism. A Reader (London: Arnold, 1996), 5-11. [savepdf]
Roger Chartier: "Texts, Printings, Readings". In Lynn Hunt ed., The New Cultural History (Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1989), 154-76. [savepdf]
Laurenz Volkmann: "Reconstructing the Usable Past: The New Historicism and History". In Rüdiger Ahrens ed., Why Literature Matters (Heidelberg: Winter, 1996), 325-45. [savepdf]

12. “Coming to Terms with the Past”
W. G. Sebald, “Air War and Literature (Zurich lectures)” in idem., On the Natural History of Destruction  (New York: Random House, 2003), 1-104 (these are very small pages). [savepdf][savepdf]
W. G. Sebald, Emigrants (Chapter 2: Paul Bereyter)
Saul Friedlander: ‘History, Memory, and the Historian: Facing the Shoah’ in M. S. Roth and Ch. Salas (eds.) Disturbing Remains: Memory, History, and Crisis in the Twentieth Century (L.A. Getty, 2001)
Ian Hacking: Rewriting the Soul: Multiple Personality and the Sciences of Memory (Princeton, 1995), chapters 14 (Sciences of Memory) and 15 (Memory-Politics)