Modern Historiography

CEU credits: 
ECTS credits: 
Academic year: 
Start and end dates: 
8 Sep 2009
Co-hosting Unit(s) [if applicable]: 
Department of History
Stream/Track/Specialization/Core Area: 
Historical Studies: Theories, Methods, Skills, Historiography
László Kontler
Additional information: 
The course is a combination of lectures (2 credits, mandatory for both 1YMA and 2YMA students) and seminar meetings (2 credits, mandatory for 1YMA students, and recommended for 2YMA students). Each of the topics is introduced in a lecture to the whole class by the main instructor or another CEU History faculty member, addressing historical controversies, issues of methodology and philosophy of history. For the seminar part, 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 the exploration of the humanist “historia magistra vitae” approach, its incomplete demise 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.
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. The readings represent some of the classic texts and interpretations in the history of historiopgraphy and are designed to elaborate the various topics necessary to understanding the overall patterns of historical thought.
Assessment : 
For those taking the full 4 credits: As the chief course requirement, besides attendance at the lectures and active participation in the seminar discussions, students will be required to write three critical essays during the term. These essays must be submitted both to the main course instructor and to your seminar group leader by the beginning of the lectures on the following dates: 19 October, 16 November, and by 12:00 noon on 14 December. Each essay (1500 to 2000 words, or 5 to 7 double-spaced pages) is supposed to address one of the weekly topics, based on the relevant set of readings, for the previous four 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 each of the essays will contribute 25% towards the final grade, the remaining 25% 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. For those taking 2 credits (lecture part only): attendance at the lectures and ONE written essay of the character described above but more substantial in size (2500 to 3000 words or 8 to 10 pages), to be submitted by 12:00 noon on 14 December.


1. “Philosophy teaching by example”: humanism and beyond (lecture: 21 September, L. Kontler, seminar: 24 September)

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) [pdf]

Paula Findlen, „Historical Thought in the Renaissance”, in Lloyd Kramer, Sarah Maza (eds.), A Companion to Western Historical Thought (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), 99-122. [pdf]

2. Time, change and progress: Enlightenment histories (lecture: 28 September, L. Kontler, seminar: 1 October)

Voltaire, The Age of Louis XIV and Other Selected Writings (New York, 1963), 122-127, 312-313, 318-327, 331-333. [pdf]

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. [pdf]

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. [pdf]

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. [pdf]

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. [pdf]

3. Whiggism, Romanticism, historicism (lecture: 5 October, L. Kontler, seminar: 8 October)

Thomas Babington Macaulay, The History of England (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968), 275-295. [pdf]

Jules Michelet, History of the French Revolution (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1967), 161-180. [pdf]

“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. [pdf]

Leopold von Ranke, Author’s Preface, in Memoirs of the House of Brandenburg and History of Prussia (New York: Greenwood Press, 1968), v-x. [pdf]

Jakob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (London: Penguin, 1990), 99-119, 312-323. [pdf]

Ernst Breisach, Historiography Ancient, Medieval and Modern (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 238-255. [pdf]

Harry Liebersohn, “German Historical Writing from Ranke to Weber: The Primacy of Politics”, in Kramer, Maza (eds.), Companion, 166-184  [pdf]

4. Historicity – a German debate (lecture: 12 October, Matthias Riedl, seminar: 15 October)

Johann Gustav Droysen, Outline of the Principles of History (Grundriss der Historik), (Boston: Ginn & Co., 1893), 3-17 (= §§ 1-19). [pdf]

Wilhelm Dilthey, Introduction to the Human Sciences (Princeton University Press, 1991), preface & c. 1-6. [pdf]

Friedrich Meinecke, Historism. The Rise of a New Historical Outlook (London: Roudledge & Kegan Paul, 1972), liv-lxi (= preliminary remarks). [pdf]

Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings, rev. ed. (San Francisco: Harper, 1993), 63-65 (= Being and Time, first section of § 6). [pdf]

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Use and Abuse of History, 2nd ed. (Indianapolis/New York: Bobbs-Merrill (The Library of Liberal Arts), 1957), 3-28 (= c. 1-4). [pdf]

Karl Löwith, Meaning in History (Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press), 1949, 191-203 (= conclusion). [pdf]

Optional: Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History (Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1965), 9-34 (= c. I). [pdf]


5. The Annales school (lecture: 19 October, Jacek Kochanowicz, seminar: 22 October)

Marc Bloch, The Historian’s Craft (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992), 114-156. [pdf]

Fernand Braudel, “History and the Social Sciences: The Longe Durée,” in Fernand Braudel, On History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 25-54. [pdf]

R. Forster, “Achievements of the Annales School,” Journal of Economic History, XXXVIII (1978), 58-76. [pdf]

Krzysztof Pomian, “Impact of the Annales School in Eastern Europe,” Review, I, 3/4, Winter/Spring 1978, 101-118. [pdf]

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].

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, The Peasants of Languedoc, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1976, „Conclusions.”

6. Ideas in history, histories of ideas (lecture: 26 October, L. Kontler; seminar 29 October)

Quentin Skinner, “Motives, intentions and interpretation”, in idem., Visions of Politics, vol. I.: Regarding Method (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 90-102. OR [pdf]

J. G. A. Pocock, “Texts as Events: Reflections on the History of Political Thought”, in Kevin Sharpe, Steven N. Zwicker (eds.), Politics of Discourse. The Literature and History of Seventeenth-Century England (Berkeley etc.: University of California Press, 1987), 21-34. [pdf]

Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought. Vol. I.: The Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge Universiuty Press, 1978), 88-94, 128-138, 180-186. [pdf]

J.G.A. Pocock, “The political economy of Burke’s analysis of the French Revolution”, in idem., Virtue, Commerce, and History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 193-212. [pdf]

Reinhart Koselleck, “Begriffsgeschichte and Social History”, in idem., Futures Past. On the Semantics of Historical Time (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985), 73-91. [pdf]

Reinhart Koselleck, “Three bürgerliche Worlds? Preliminary Theoretical-Historical Remarks on the Comparative Semantics of Civil Society in Germany, England and France”, in idem., The Practice of Conceptual History (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002), 208-217. [pdf]

Optional: Mark Bevir, “The Errors of Linguistic Contextualism”, History and Theory 31 (1992), 276-298. [pdf]

7. Social theory and history. The historian's guide to regimes of truth (2 November, Karl Hall; seminar: 5 November)

Michel Foucault, "Panopticism," from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Penguin, 1991 [1977]), 195-228. [pdf]

Michel Foucault, "On power," from Politics, Philosophy, Culture: Interviews and Other Writings 1977-1984, L. Kritzman, ed. (New York: Routledge, 1988), 96-109. [pdf]

Laura Engelstein, "Combined underdevelopment: Discipline and the law in imperial and Soviet Russia," from Jan Goldstein, ed., Foucault and the Writing of History (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994), 220-236. [pdf]

Arnold I. Davidson, "Styles of reasoning, conceptual history, and the emergence of psychiatry," from Mario Biagioli, ed., The Science Studies Reader (New York: Routledge, 1999), 124-136. [pdf]

8. Oral history, memory and everyday life (lecture: 9 November, Marsha Siefert; seminar: 12 November)

Alessandro Portelli, “What Makes Oral History Different”, in Alessandro Portelli, The Death of Luigi Trastulli and Other Stories (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), 45-58. [pdf]

Patrick H. Hutton, “Placing Memory in Contemporary Historiography”, in Patrick H. Hutton, History as an Art of Memory (Hanover, VT: University Press of New England, 1993), 1-26. [pdf]

Orlando Figes, “Private Life in Stalin's Russia: Family Narratives, Memory and Oral History”, History Workshop Journal 65 (2008): 117-135 [pdf]


9. Intersectionality and beyond. Critical perspectives in women's and gender history (lecture: 16 November, Susan Zimmermann; seminar: 19 November)

Susan Zimmermann, “Women’s and Gender History: Trajectories, Concepts, and Themes”, manuscript [please read it BEFORE the lecture!!!] [pdf]

Pamela Scully, “Race and Ethnicity in Women’s and Gender History in Global Perspective”, in Bonnie G. Smith (ed.), Women’s History in Global Perspective (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2005), 195-228. [pdf]

Eileen Boris, Angélique Janssens, “Complicating Categories: An Introduction”. In: Complicating Categories: Gender, Class, Race and Ethnicity, ed Eileen Boris, Angélique Janssens. International Review of Social History, Supplement 7, 44 (1999), 1-13. [pdf]

Gisela Bock, “Racism and Sexism in Nazi Germany: Motherhood, Compulsory Sterilization, and the State”, Signs. Journal of Women in Culture and Society 8/3 (1983), 400-421; repr. in: When Biology Became Destiny: Women in Weimar and Nazi Germany, ed. Renate Bridenthal (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1984), 271-296. [pdf]

10. Postmodernism in historiography: cultural and linguistic turn, narrativity, metahistory. (lecture: 23 November, Gábor Gyáni; seminar: 26 November)

Georg G. Iggers, Historiography in the Twentieth Century. From Scientific Objectivity to the Postmodern Challenge ( Hanover and London: Wesleyan University Press, 1997), Chapter 10. 118-133. [pdf]

Hayden White, “The Historical Text as Literary Artifact” in idem., Tropics of Discourse. Essays in Cultural Criticism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), 81-100. [pdf]

Robert F. Berkhofer, Jr., Beyond the Great Story. History as Text and Discourse (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1995), 155-169. [pdf]

Lynn Hunt, “Introduction: History, Culture, and Text” in idem., ed., The New Cultural History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 1-22. [pdf]

11. The emeregence and (probable) decline of memory as a discursive frame (lecture: 30 November, István Rév; seminar: 3 December)

Ian Hacking, “Memory Sciences, Memory Politics”, in P Antze and M. Labek (eds.): Tense Past. Cultural Essays in Trauma and Memory (London: Routlege, 1996), 67-88. [pdf]

Jan Assmann, John Czaplicka, “Collective Memory and Cultural Identity”, New German Critique, no. 65: Cultural History/Cultural Studies (Spring-Summer, 1995), 125-133 [pdf]

Kerwin Lee Klein, “On the Emergence of Memory in Historical Discourse”, Representations, No. 69, Special Issue: Grounds for Remembering (Winter, 2000), 127-150 [pdf]

Timothy Snyder, “Memory of sovereignty and sovereignty over memory: Poland, Luthuania and Ukraine, 1939-1999”, in Jan-Werner Muller (ed.), Memory and Power in Post-War Europe, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 200), 39- 58. [pdf]

Idem., “Holocaust: The Ignored Reality”, The New York Review of Books, Vol. 56. No. 12 (July, 16, 2009) [pdf]

12. Global history, world history, eurocentrism, and simple ignorance (lecture: 7 December, Judit Bodnár; seminar: 10 December)

Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Postcoloniality and the Artifice of History: Who Speaks for the “Indian” Pasts?” Representations 37 (1992), 1-26. Revised version in Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe, 27-46. [pdf]

Bruce Mazlish, “Comparing Global History to World History” Journal of Interdisciplinary History XXVIII/3 (Winter 1998), 385-95. [pdf]

Steven Feierman, “African Histories and the Dissolution of World History” in Robert H. Bates, V Y Mudimbe and Jean O’Barr (eds.), Africa and the Disciplines. The Contributions of Research in Africa to the Social Sciences and Humanities (Chicago, London: University of Chicago [pdf]Press, 1993), 167-212.


A. G. Hopkins (ed.), Globalization in world history (London: Pimlico, 2002)