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History in the Plural

History in the Plural: An Introduction to the Work of Reinhart Koselleck

Niklas Olsen
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 346
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  • Book Info
    History in the Plural
    Book Description:

    ReinhartKoselleck(1923-2006) was one of most imposing and influential European intellectual historians in the twentieth century. Constantly probing and transgressing the boundaries of mainstream historical writing, he created numerous highly innovative approaches, absorbing influences from other academic disciplines as represented in the work of philosophers and political thinkers like Hans GeorgGadamerand Carl Schmitt and that of internationally renowned scholars such as Hayden White, MichelFoucault, and Quentin Skinner. An advocate of "grand theory,"Koselleckwas an inspiration to many scholars and helped move the discipline into new directions (such as conceptual history, theories of historical times and memory) and across disciplinary and national boundaries. He thus achieved a degree of international fame that was unusual for a German historian after 1945. This book not only presents the life and work of a "great thinker" and European intellectual, it also contributes to our understanding of complex theoretical and methodological issues in the cultural sciences and to our knowledge of the history of political, historical, and cultural thought in Germany from the1950sto the present.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-296-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    The second half of the twentieth century was a period marked by a tremendous multiplicity of discussions and innovations in historical writing and theory. A great number of fascinating authors and oeuvres, however, remain known only in the most selective fashion and are read primarily by specialists. The present study intends to examine, for the first time in its entirety, the work of one such author, the German historian Reinhart Koselleck (1923–2006).

    Constantly probing and transgressing the boundaries of mainstream historical writing, he created numerous innovative approaches and exposed himself to a large range of impulses from other academic...

  5. 1 Family—War—University: The Various Educations of Reinhart Koselleck
    (pp. 9-40)

    The present chapter describes Koselleck’s intellectual formation in a broad sense: a process of the formation of a scholarly individual, defined in part by habitus and in part by a specific set of intellectual aims, in his interrelations with a given variety of historical contexts. Attention is paid to background and to a perspective on Koselleck as an agent of his own formation, by means of the interpretations through which he attempted to grasp what was happening to himself. While Koselleck’s academic identity was being shaped, he was also shaping himself. The concept of “generation” is of particular importance in...

  6. 2 Explaining, Criticizing , and Revising Modern Political Thought
    (pp. 41-100)

    The initial objective of Koselleck’s dissertation was to investigate the origins of modern utopian thought via readings of Kant’s three critiques.¹ Soon, however, the project developed into a broader analysis of the birth of modern political thought in the Enlightenment. Koselleck just managed to submit the dissertation in October 1953, as was the precondition for taking up the position he had accepted as a lecturer at the University of Bristol from the beginning of 1954. According to Koselleck, the pressure of time forced him to submit the text without its notes. Moreover, it was this pressure which caused what he...

  7. 3 Social History between Reform and Revolution
    (pp. 101-166)

    After submitting his dissertation at the end of 1953, Koselleck moved to Bristol, England, where he worked as a lecturer from 1954 until the autumn of 1955. Following some administrative delays, Koselleck returned to finish his oral exams in Heidelberg in January 1954. According to a letter he afterwards wrote to Schmitt, the exams took place in a very peaceful atmosphere.¹ Ernst Forsthoff, whom Koselleck had met only briefly twice before, was his examiner forStaatsrecht(constitutional law). The historical questions he posed on this subject resulted in “a conversation that always ended up in the contemporary situation,” Koselleck further...

  8. 4 Program—Project—Straight Jacket: The Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe
    (pp. 167-202)

    In 1957, when Werner Conze was appointed as professor in Heidelberg, he approached Koselleck in order to discuss the latter’s academic plans. One of Koselleck’s proposals was to make a lexicon of central historical concepts. Soon the idea was taken up in Conze’s working group for modern social history, where, with the support of Otto Brunner and Günther Ipsen, it was agreed upon to launch a project in which concepts were to be studied as indicators and factors of the social and political language.¹

    To begin with, the lexicon project was supposed to include only around 10 contributors, all from...

  9. 5 Theorizing Historical Time and Historical Writing
    (pp. 203-268)

    In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was widespread talk of an identity crisis in the German historical discipline. This identity crisis was related to developments both inside and outside of the profession. The gradual disintegration of the traditional profile of the discipline, with its focus on great personalities, ideas, and politics, spurred an internal discussion about how the disciplinary profile should be defined after the demise of historicism. However, when the discussion developed into a fundamental questioning of what history is and why it should be practiced, this was because extra-disciplinary developments (such as the student revolts, the...

  10. 6 Commemorating the Dead: Experience, Understanding, Identity
    (pp. 269-302)

    During the 1970s, Reinhart Koselleck added yet another theme to his oeuvre, as he began to investigate how war, violence, and terror have been experienced, and how, or if, we as human beings and historians can understand, cope with, and commemorate such experiences. In the following decades, using dreams, war memorials, and personal experiences as his source-material, he explored this theme in various studies and contributed to pioneer the field of historical memory, and identity.

    My ambition in this chapter is to illuminate the key discursive features in Koselleck’s writings on the experience of war, violence, and terror, and to...

  11. 7 The Foundations and the Future of Koselleck’s Scholarly Program
    (pp. 303-306)

    It has been the main assumption of this study that Koselleck’s program was structured around the aim of deconstructing all utopian and relativist notions of history in the singular with a view to a notion of history in the plural. This aim and the related analytical features were portrayed as a unifying pattern and a common objective in his varied body of work.

    If, during more than half a century, Koselleck sought to deconstruct all utopian and relativist notions of history in the singular and subject these to epistemological and ideological critique, it was because he was convinced that both...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 307-330)
  13. Index
    (pp. 331-338)