Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
History of Concepts

History of Concepts: Comparative Perspectives

Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 303
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    History of Concepts
    Book Description:

    Although vastly influential in German-speaking Europe, conceptual history (Begriffsgeschichte) has until now received little attention in English. This genre of intellectual history differs from both the French history of mentalités and the Anglophone history of discourses by positing the concept - the key occupier of significant syntactical space - as the object of historical investigation. Contributions by distinguished practitioners and critics of conceptual history from Europe and America illustrate both the distinctiveness and diversity of the genre. The first part of the book is devoted to the origins and identity of the field, as well as methodological issues. Part two presents exemplary studies focusing either on a particular concept (such as Maurizio Viroli's 'Reason of the State') or a particular approach to conceptual history (e.g. Bernard Scholz for literary criticism and Terence Ball for political science). The final, most innovative section of the book looks at concepts and art - high, bourgeois and demotic. Here Bram Kempers discusses the conceptual history of Raphael's frescos in the Stanza della Segnatura of the Vatican; Eddy de Jongh examines the linguistic character of much Dutch genre painting; and Rolf Reichardt considers the conceptual structure implicit in card games of the French Revolution, used to induct those on the margins of literacy into the new revolutionary world-view. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0355-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Philosophy, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VIII)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. IX-X)
    Iain Hami’siier-Monk, Kaiun Tilmans and Frank van vree
  4. INTRODUCTION A Comparative Perspective on Conceptual History- An Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    In recent decades the growing recognition of the importance of language in understanding reality has dramatically changed both the focus and methods of the humanities and social sciences. A major feature of this has been the development of histories of concepts, of political languages and discourse. However, the orientation and methodological approach within this movement varies considerably from one country to another, depending on different linguistic and scholarly traditions in the humanities. This volume displays the diversity of areas in which conceptual history is currently being deployed, as well as the range of traditions which seek, in their different ways,...

  5. PART I Theoretical and comparative frameworks

    • CHAPTER 1 The Historiography of German Begriffsgeschichte and the Dutch Project of Conceptual History
      (pp. 13-22)

      Itisno coincidence that the study of basic historical concepts first developed in Germany.¹ In the nineteenth century, after all, German philosophers were already interested in the history of philosophical terms. In theological faculties, the pracrioners ofDogmengeschichtethehistory of dogma - devoted anennon to the history of words and concepts.' The thorough studies by F.e. Baur and his students in Tubingen on the use of such theological concepts, such asreligioandgnosisexemplifies this approach. At the end of the nineteenth century, pretentious theories were even contrived in which conceptual history was granted a central position and...

    • CHAPTER 2 Social History and Begriffigeschichte!
      (pp. 23-36)

      Those of us who are concerned with history-whatever that may be - and define it as social history, clearly restrict the themes we address. And those of us who specify history asBegriffsgeschichteOt the history of concepts clearly do the same. Yet the two are ways of catagorizing history as a whole: they point away from the delimitation of those specialist histories of which it consists. The economic history of England, for example, or the diplomatic history of the early modern period or church history in the West are the sort of special fields that present themselves and are...

    • CHAPTER 3 Speech Acts, Languages or Conceptual History?
      (pp. 37-50)

      This chapter discusses the work of the two most prominent names in Anglophone history of political thought, and offers some comparison between their work and the project ofBegriffigeschichteas approaches to the history of political concepts broadly conceived;’ J.G.A. Pocock and Quentin Skinner both studied at the University of Cambridge where Skinner is now Regius Professor of History. Pocock has held permanent POStS at Canterbury University in New Zealand, at Washington University, St. Louis and at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, where he is now professor emeritus. Each has published major methodological and substantive historical work of their own, but...

    • CHAPTER 4 Concept - Meaning - Discourse. Begriffigeschichte Reconsidered
      (pp. 51-64)

      ‘Begriffigeschichtein a narrow sense’, as Reinharr Kcselleck, one of the leading protagonists of the history of concepts, once succinctly stated, ‘is a historiographic achievement. It is concerned with the history of forming. using, and changing concepts."

      Begriffigeschichte- the history of concepts - deals with the synchronic and diachronic interpretation of words viewed as 'concentrations of multiple meanings" and 'lead concepts of historical movement".'Their analysis generates structures and greater contexts ofevents. These 'basic concepts' are viewed simultaneously as indicators of extra-linguistic objects such as changing social structures - and as Factors or promoters of historical development such that in...


    • CHAPTER 5 The Origin and the Meaning of the Reason of State
      (pp. 67-74)

      After decades of nearly total silence, studies on reason of state are flourishing again.’ Students of history of political thought now have a much clearer picture of the diffusion of the language of reason of state over lZchcentury Europe. They can identify the main protagonisrs, visualize the lines of circulation, trace the changes and the adaptations that occurred within the main body of the theory. And yet, though we know more about its developments, we still need to invesrigate the origin of the concept. We are yet to find a convincing answer to the question of why the locution ‘ragione...

    • CHAPTER 6 Conceptual History and the History of Political Thought
      (pp. 75-86)

      Four centuries ago Cervantes showed how the moral codes and concepts of one age are apt to be unintelligible in another. In the novel that bears his name as its title Don Quixore attempts, in vain and with comic results, to resurrect and to follow the code of knight errantry. He does so, however, in an age that thinks and speaks in an entirely different vocabulary. The bookish Don fails to recognize that the concepts constitutive of that code honour, chivalry, courtly love and the concept of a quest - are out of place in his time and are meaningless...

    • CHAPTER 7 Conceptual History in Context: Reconstructing the Terminology of an Academic Discipline
      (pp. 87-102)

      Finding arguments in support of an intellectual enterprise like conceptual history would seem easy enough. In the various strands of the ongoing ‘conversation of mankind’, to use Michael Oakeshon’s felicitous phrase, I what one may expect to find are continuations, transformations and adaptations of arguments, followed by disruptions, distortions, and reductions which, in turn, can be undone by revivals, rediscoveries, and renascences of strands of conversation. What one is unlikely to encounter, since there is no epistemology shared by all participants of that conversation through the ages, are caregorial beginnings and endings like rhose demanded of a good tragedy by...

    • CHAPTER 8 Conceptual History, Social History and Cultural History: the Test of ‘Cosmopolitism’
      (pp. 103-114)

      Did conceptual history and social history really meet each other? The question may seem incongruous, indeed paradoxical in the eyes of those who consider the GermanHandbuch poiitisch-soeialer Grundbegrifje in Frankreich 1680-1820, initiated by Rolf Reichardr and Eberhard Schmitt, as an excellent example of the second stage in conceptual history: that of semantics under the’ socio-historical viewpoint. Indeed, in his introduction to this series of short monographs, published thirteen years ago (1985), Rolf Reichardr declared that the socio-historical embedding of semantics introduced in this collection had to be considered as a ‘middle course’ between lexicornetrics, rejected as excessively synchronistic, hence...

    • CHAPTER 9 Conceptual History and Conceptual Transfer: the Case of ‘Nation’ in Revolutionary France and Germany
      (pp. 115-128)

      Conceptual history - particularlyBegriffigeschichte- has been predominantly investigated within the fields of national languages and cultures, and has been restricted mostly to the analysis of isolated concepts in rheir historical evolution. The present contribution tries to overthrow this perspective and to extend the field of conceptual history in a double manner: in taking the intercultural ‘genesis’ of the conceptual field of ‘nation’ in France and Germany as an example, it will try to develop both a comparative and intercultural mode of investigation in conceptual history. We propose therefore to distinguish five dimensions (or levels) of analysis (both valuable...

  7. Part III Concept and Image

    • CHAPTER 10 Words, Images and All the Pope’s Men Rapbael’s Stanza delta Segnatura and the Synthesis of Divine Wisdom
      (pp. 131-166)

      Painted words are a crucial part of Raphael’s images in the Stanza della Segnacura. one of the most important rooms of the Vatican Palace. He painted this extensive pictorial programme between 1509 and 1511 for Pope Julius II. Its meaning is, at least in pan, indicared by inscriptions. The ceiling of the vaulted room contains four medallions with texts on painted tablets in the hands of small angels, each of them flanking a female figure. The painted words read as follows: CAVSARVM COLNITIO, IVS SW[M] VNICVIQ[VE] TRIBVIT, NVMINE AFFlATVR and DlVINAR[VM] RER[VM] NOTITIA (FIG. 1). These texts accompany figures with...

    • CHAPTER 11 Painted Words in Dutch Art of the Seventeenth Century
      (pp. 167-190)

      The last decades have witnessed a heated debate concerning the meaning and hierarchy of the two main elements of works of art, form and content, particularly in the field of seventeenth-century Dutch art. ‘The discussion has brought to bear a variety of view points, which, roughly speaking, can be divided into two tendencies. To use the two simple designations which were employed with relative frequency by earlier generations of an historians, in one, attention to the ‘how’ of the work of art predominates, while in the other it is the ‘what’ that marrers. For example, forty years ago Jan Steen’s...

    • CHAPTER 12 Historical Semantics and Political Iconography: The Case of the Game of the French Revolution (1791/92)1
      (pp. 191-226)

      Using pictures to convey important philosophical, moral and political concepts was a common cultural practice in early modern France. Indeed, from the perspective of historical semantics at least three major examples of these traditions can be distinguished. The firsr is that of the learned allegories, a form explained and socially institutionalised in a long series of emblematic treatises” beginning with Andrea Alciati’sEmblematum libellus(1534; French translation, 1558) and continuing right up to theIconologieof Gravelot and Cochin (1791).³ In one such example, the Liberte of Cesare Ripa (FIG. 1) - adapted to the French cultural context by Jean...

  8. EPILOGUE Between Cambridge and Heidelberg. Concepts, Languages and Images in Intellectual History
    (pp. 227-238)

    In November 1595, the States of Holland contributed a subsidy for the commission of a new stained glass window for the church in Wassenaar. The States decided that the Wassenaar window, to be placed in the top position of the church, should represent ‘the garden of Holland’.‘The motif was popular, featured on coins, in engravings, paintings and stained glass. It became part of a series of standard images which formed the patriotic iconology of the new Dutch Republic. In 1596 Holland’s senior town, Dordrecht, honoured the St. Janschurch in Gouda with a window featuring all the conventional elements of the...

  9. On the Contributors
    (pp. 239-242)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 243-280)
  11. Index of Names
    (pp. 281-290)
  12. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 291-293)