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History Man

History Man: The Life of R. G. Collingwood

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    History Man
    Book Description:

    This is the first biography of the last and greatest British idealist philosopher, R. G. Collingwood (1889-1943), a man who both thought and lived at full pitch. Best known today for his philosophies of history and art, Collingwood was also a historian, archaeologist, sailor, artist, and musician. A figure of enormous energy and ambition, he took as his subject nothing less than the whole of human endeavor, and he lived in the same way, seeking to experience the complete range of human passion. In this vivid and swiftly paced narrative, Fred Inglis tells the dramatic story of a remarkable life, from Collingwood's happy Lakeland childhood to his successes at Oxford, his archaeological digs as a renowned authority on Roman Britain, his solo sailing adventures in the English Channel, his long struggle with illness, and his sometimes turbulent romantic life.

    In a manner unheard of today, Collingwood attempted to gather all aspects of human thought into a single theory of practical experience, and he wrote sweeping accounts of history, art, science, politics, metaphysics, and archaeology, as well as a highly regarded autobiography. Above all, he dedicated his life to arguing that history--not science--is the only source of moral and political wisdom and self-knowledge.

    Linking the intellectual and personal sides of Collingwood's life, and providing a rich history of his milieu,History Manalso assesses Collingwood's influence on generations of scholars after his death and the renewed recognition of his importance and interest today.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3051-0
    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-xiv)
  4. 1 By Coniston Water
    (pp. 1-33)

    The mighty Roman road ran arrow-straight from Manchester, which was Mamucium, to Blackburn, swerved a little as it hit the fells, then straight again to meet Hadrian’s great wall at Carlisle. At Penrith, the legionaries and their pressgangs laboured on the main thoroughfare east, their flagstones now somewhere below the A66, to meet the Great North Road at Scotch Corner. Southwest from Penrith, they built a smaller road, still pretty straight, bending round Ullswater, making camp at Ambleside, threading through Hardknott Pass and leaving a large fort there, and on to the estuary of the Esk where the iron ore...

  5. 2 Brought Up by Hand: The Moral Point of English Public Schools
    (pp. 34-62)

    On the third Friday of September 1903, the Collingwood family assembled at seven in the morning on the platform at Coniston station to see Robin, now fourteen and a half, off on the 7:35 for his first term at Rugby School.

    He was a stocky lad, not tall, with a distant gaze, sharp, pronounced nose, clear features mounted on high cheekbones, thick black hair, irresistible slow smile. In later years, after acquiring for public use what Arthur Ransome later called his “steel blue and polished manner,”¹ those same features blurred a little as a result of the medical prescriptions he...

  6. 3 Oxford and the Admiralty: The Science of Human Affairs; God and the Devil
    (pp. 63-100)

    At the end of the spring term (the Hilary term at Oxford) of 1908, Collingwood went to Oxford to sit for the scholarship examinations, the most successful entrants for which would win substantial contributions towards their fees. It was the custom then, and remained so for another seventy-five years, for the candidates to enter briefly into college residence and taste the pleasures of undergraduate freedom after the carceral conditions of boarding house and public school.

    Each day of his stay, the nineteen-year-old Collingwood could get up much later than he would have done at Rugby, take coffee instead of tea,...

  7. 4 Against the Realists: Liberalism and the Italians
    (pp. 101-138)

    Just as he was assigned to duties in preparation for the scurrilous peace conference, Collingwood was married. He had met Ethel Winifred Graham while turning over the ancient stones of Skipness Castle in Argyllshire, at the further end of the Northmen’s settlements on the northwest coast of Britain. He and his brother-in-law-to-be, Angus Graham, shared their interest, common in their class, in palaeography, and Collingwood published an archaeological report with Angus, who was much his age.¹ Ethel was four years his senior (but he was used to that in his womenfolk), could give him an inch or two in height,...

  8. 5 On Hadrian’s Wall: “Question-and-Answer Logic”
    (pp. 139-166)

    In the verbatim notes he wrote in 1928 for his lectures on moral philosophy, Collingwood remarked that the “old name” for his subject, “practical philosophy,” deserves attention, and in passing he voiced what was to become an intellectual emphasis for the rest of his life, namely, that judgement and inference are the same thing.¹ Every thought is at once an affirmationanda denial; that is, a thing is this and therefore not that. These remarks are of a piece with his dictum inSpeculum Mentisthat “questioning is the cutting edge of knowledge,” later elaborated in one of his...

  9. Illustrations
    (pp. 167-179)
  10. 6 The Idea of the Ideas: The New Science
    (pp. 180-209)

    In 1930 Oxford remained hardly larger than its medieval self, at least as far as the university was concerned. The staff lived in the red brick avenues only a few hundred yards north of the Parks, where the University XI played its cricket, and although by then the Morris works out at Cowley, a mile or so beyond Magdalen bridge, were going strong, there was plenty of road to be filled up. Even by the end of the decade, there were only two million cars in Britain, one for every twenty-four persons. In 1945 Oxford City Council asked the best...

  11. 7 “Fighting in the Daylight”: Metaphysics against Fascism
    (pp. 210-246)

    On 28 October 1935 Collingwood gave his inaugural lecture as Waynflete professor. It was supposed to take place in Wren’s grandly classical Sheldonian theatre, designed by the genius tyro when he was only thirty, and flanked by Duke Humfrey’s Bodleian Library in the plain style and Hawksmoor’s “grave and pretentious” Clarendon Building at the corner of Broad Street.¹ The trinity of buildings make up as formidably noble and vernacular a statement of British architecture as may be anywhere found, and a stage-frightening rostrum even for so practised a performer on which to pronounce on “The Historical Imagination.” In the event,...

  12. 8 The Valley of the Shadows: Java, Oxford, Greece
    (pp. 247-287)

    The stroke that Collingwood suffered while at sea onZenocratein August was more serious than that in February and more ominous. A transient ischaemic attack, once called apoplexy, indicates that the brain is not getting enough blood and therefore enough oxygen. Debris thrust upwards by high blood pressure from the carotid arteries into the tiny vessels that supply the brain becomes temporarily stuck, and a variety of symptoms follow, either major ones like impairment of arm or leg movements or of speech, or minor ones such as numbness of limb, pins and needles, blurred vision. This latest laid him...

  13. 9 The Passionate Man’s Pilgrimage: On Barbarism and Civilisation
    (pp. 288-313)

    Throughout most of the voyage in the Mediterranean and like so much else of the machinery of theFleur de Lys, the radio had failed to work. Political news had been sparse, and the exuberance of Fascism was to be observed and detested only in the form of overdressed and underpaid bullies from the Italian and Sicilian police, as well as a few military Greeks from the wrong side wearing their preposterous skirts, pom-pom pumps, and bellhop hats. Once in Britain, the Americans quit Europe before the fighting began (they joined in all right, as we learned, once the Stars...

  14. 10 The Time of the Preacher: Collingwood’s Resurrection
    (pp. 314-348)

    Around 1984 the American country-and-western singer, Willie Nelson, cut a new disc beginning with the song “The Time of the Preacher.” It starts

    It was the time of the Preacher

    In the year of 01

    And just when you think it’s all over

    It has only begun . . . ¹

    The preacher is the gun, and when Collingwood died the gun ruled politics. While he wasn’t exactly a gunslinging kind of scholar-intellectual, the veering manner of his late style—fromAn Autobiographyon—was clearly that of a man trying to make himself heard over the noise of warfare....

  15. Abbreviations
    (pp. 349-350)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 351-376)
  17. Index
    (pp. 377-385)