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Faces of History

Faces of History: Historical Inquiry from Herodotus to Herder

Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 352
  • Book Info
    Faces of History
    Book Description:

    In this book, one of the world's leading intellectual historians offers a critical survey of Western historical thought and writing from the pre-classical era to the late eighteenth century. Donald R. Kelley focuses on persistent themes and methodology, including questions of myth, national origins, chronology, language, literary forms, rhetoric, translation, historical method and criticism, theory and practice of interpretation, cultural studies, philosophy of history, and "historicism."Kelley begins by analyzing the dual tradition established by the foundational works of Greek historiography-Herodotus's broad cultural and antiquarian inquiry and the contrasting model of Thucydides' contemporary political and analytical narrative. He then examines the many variations on and departures from these themes produced in writings from Greek, Roman, Jewish, and Christian antiquity, in medieval chronicles, in national histories and revisions of history during the Renaissance and Reformation, and in the rise of erudite and enlightened history in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Throughout, Kelley discusses how later historians viewed their predecessors, including both supporters and detractors of the authors in question.The book, which is a companion volume to Kelley's highly praised anthologyVersions of History from Antiquity to the Enlightenment,will be a valuable resource for scholars and students interested in interpretations of the past.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14721-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Mythistory
    (pp. 1-18)

    “History,” Michel de Certeau writes, “is probably our myth.”¹ According to an old and familiar story, history emerged from myth and purged itself gradually of legendary features until it gained full enlightenment in the age of Machiavelli and Guicciardini—or perhaps Voltaire and Gibbon, or perhaps Mommsen and Ranke, or perhaps the “new” economic, social, and cultural histories of this century, and so on. Or maybe, as Certeau suggests and Hans Blumenberg argues, not. “Sceptical doubt... is a malady which can never be radically cured,” David Hume remarked, and the same can be said (with or without the pathological conceit)...

  5. 2 Greek Horizons
    (pp. 19-47)

    To introduce Herodotus, I made use of the Janus image that represents him gazing into an unspecified and unfocused distance and toward, perhaps, a posterity that looks back at him; to examine Herodotean history, however, I want to look at him from the standpoint of this posterity, or at least its most recent stage.¹ What Herodotus was in the pristine condition of his own experiences is a matter of antiquarian debate, but the reception and interpretation of his work, which was “published” and so separated from its creator more than twenty-four centuries ago, is something for readers, critics, and historians...

  6. 3 Roman Foundations
    (pp. 48-74)

    Roman historical writing developed out of a deep and to some extent parochial sense of tradition and location.¹ The Romans measured time “from the founding of the city” (ab urbe condita,the title of Livy’s national history), and for them space was centered likewise on the city, with its sacred boundary, thepomaeriumestablished by Numa Pompilius, defining the city and marking a frontier defended by the god Terminus, which would be extended eventually to much of the known world.² In such terms Roman history was conceived and interpreted by historians and poets and by ordinary citizens, the “fathers” honoring...

  7. 4 The Education of the Human Race
    (pp. 75-98)

    In his enduringly influential conception of human history, St. Augustine of Hippo combined classical culture with the new dispensation fashioned by Christianity out of its transmutation, or subversion, of Judaism, and he represented this new doctrine as the result of a Platonic enlightenment. History was indeed the “mistress of life”(magistra vitae),as Cicero had taught, but in a very special sense: “The education of the human race, represented by the people of God, has advanced, like that of an individual, through certain epochs, or, as it were, ages, so that it might gradually rise from earthly to heavenly things,...

  8. 5 History in the Medieval Mirror
    (pp. 99-129)

    In the mid-thirteenth century the Dominican scholar Vincent of Beauvais produced an enormous encyclopedia, aSpeculum universale(Universal mirror), of which the last part, compiled mainly by associates, was a “Historical Mirror”(Speculum historiale).¹ This historical summa, which combined both old and new—“old as to subject and authority, new as to compilation and arrangement”—represented the state of scholarship in the age of Thomas Aquinas. It is arranged “following not only the succession of holy scriptures but also the order of secular history”(secularium hystoriarum ordinem)and, invoking the formulas of Cicero and Quintilian, promises the usual benefits of...

  9. 6 Renaissance Retrospection
    (pp. 130-161)

    The Middle Ages, which was itself a terminological creation of Renaissance humanism, had a strong sense of the past, as the work of Dante, torn between pagan and Christian Rome (and wanting to enjoy the best of both worlds), abundantly illustrates. Scholars in the Middle Ages also had an appreciation of classical historiography, including the rhetorical forms and values on which this rested. Yet this historical sense was selective and subordinated to deep religious commitments and inhibitions which frustrated both a discriminating perspective on the ancient world and a clear perception of the differences that separated a remote “antiquity” from...

  10. 7 Reformation Traditions
    (pp. 162-187)

    “Upon thorough reflection,” declared Martin Luther in 1538, “one finds that almost all laws, art, good counsel, warning, threatening, terrifying, comforting, strengthening, instruction, prudence, wisdom, discretion, and all virtues well up out of the narratives and histories as from a living fountain.”¹ This would seem to be little more than a curiously enthusiastic variation on the humanist praises repeated so often in the genre of thears historica,as in Pierre Droit de Gaillard’s declaration that “all disciplines take their sources and the basis of their principles from history, as from an overflowing fountain.”² The difference was Luther’s pious addition,...

  11. 8 The Science of History
    (pp. 188-216)

    Renaissance humanism is defined in large part in terms of its idealization of classical culture and its attempts, implicitly dependent on historical understanding, to imitate the ancient Romans and Greeks in moral, social, and political as well as literary terms.¹ Humanism is defined, too, by its particular attachment to the humanities(studia humanitatis),which meant the first two members of the medieval trivium—grammar and rhetoric—together with moral philosophy, poetry, and history. History was central to the humanist agenda not only as an “art” in its own right but also because of its ties with the other humanities. That...

  12. 9 Philosophical History
    (pp. 217-249)

    The Enlightenment conception of history, in its classic form, is based on one of the oldest historical conceits. Humanity is like individual members of the species, and the experience of the human race over time is much like the life of a person, from generation and growth to, presumably if not predictably, corruption and death, whence history, for Ferguson, Lessing, and Condorcet no less than for Florus and Augustine, can be understood as “the education of the human race.” Education, or the neologism “culture” (which referred to the same thing in the eighteenth century), was of course seen differently by...

  13. 10 Modern Historiography
    (pp. 250-272)

    By the end of the eighteenth century, the study of history had achieved the status not only of a literary genre, discipline, and “science,” with its own complex history, but also of a profession. There were established chairs of history in the universities of Europe, especially in England, France, and Germany, as well as official historiographers, official collections of documents, and other kinds of private and public support for practitioners of history.¹ What was new in the Enlightenment was the encounters between history and philosophy, which had likewise, and even earlier, emerged as a professional field with an academic base....

  14. Epilogue
    (pp. 273-274)

    This book ends where most accounts of the modern study of history begin—that is, with the rise of historicism, the academic and professional organization of history, and the classics of nineteenth-century historical narrative. Even for Lord Acton, who was well aware of the “brave men who lived before Agamemnon,” the postrevolutionary period began a new era, an era that was more significant than the revival of learning in the Renaissance. Yet the three marks of novelty for Acton—exploitation of archives, application of historical criticism, and attainment of impartiality—were all claims which historians had made across many centuries....

  15. Notes
    (pp. 275-328)
  16. Index
    (pp. 329-340)