present day notable figures in historiography : LUSENET : History & Theory of Psychology : One Thread

Who would you identify as contemporary "notable figures" in historiography?

-- susan tyburczy (, September 25, 2003


Are you thinking specifically of historiography as it applies to the history of psychology? I'd think that anyone published in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences or History of Psychology might be a potential candidate. That would be a good place to start. Or the authors included in the recent anthology edited by Wade E. Pickren and Donald Dewsbury.

-- Hendrika Vande Kemp (, September 26, 2003.

This turns out to be a much more difficult question to answer than I expected at first. I think it is fair to say that there is a something of "crisis" in historiography at the moment. There have been some fairly obvious (and now fairly long-standing) trends -- such as the abandonment of "Whig" history (which came relatively late to the history of science), the devaluation of "intellectual" history (even in the history of science), a greater emphasis on social and cultural context, and an increased interest in the histories of previously under-represented groups (e.g., women, minorities, third world). There has also been something a move away from chronological "story-telling" in favor of "synchronic" descriptions of the conditions of particular persons, institutions, etc. (e.g., rather than "How did the French revolution unfold?", perhaps "What were the day-to-day living conditions of Parisian laborers in the late 1780s?"). But this hardly counts as a new move either. Apart from these general trends -- most of which represent more of an *expansion* of the boundaries of "acceptable" historical narrative than a real movement from one historiographical "place" to another -- I don't know that there is much consensus on just how history should be done, or even just a few major competing positions to be chosen from . It is not clear (at least to me) whether the oft-heard mention of "relativism" really captures the specfic historiographical intent of *most* historians (it does for some, of course) or is, rather, just a convenient way of naming the current chaos/diversity in the topic. Post-structuralism and post-modernism have had an important impact, to be sure (see esp. the work of Michel Foucault), but that is hardly a new phenomenon anymore, and it is not universally welcomed (see, e.g., Gertrude Himmelfarb's _The New History and the Old_ for a relatively moderate critique). We are also beginning to see the return of "macrohistory," often (allegedly) scientifically-based (see, for instance, Frank Sulloway's _Born to Rebel_, or Jared Diamond's _Guns Germs and Steel_.

There are some good textbooks on historiography. I have Ernst Breisach's _Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, & Modern_ (2nd ed., 1994), but it doesn't have much on the past two decades, except to note that the "paradoxes" which have led to the acceptance of relativism, and then to say that they need not ineluctably lead there. He also urges that historians "modify" their view of progress rather than wholly "negating" it (though he doesn't say exactly *how* we should modify it). He cites two other recent books: Costello's _World Historians and their Goals_ (1993) and W. A. Green's History, Historians and the Dynamic of Change_ (1993). I have read neither and so cannot comment on them.

-- Christopher Green (, October 03, 2003.

[Posted for JC by cdg.]

There aren't a lot of simple theorists, but there are some people who have been theoretically important. The names that immediately come to mind are Kurt Danziger, Elizabeth Lunbeck, Ian Hacking, Bruno Latour, Steve Shapin, Donna Haraway, Ted Porter, and Mari Jo Buhle.

-- John Carson (, October 05, 2003.

[Posted for DR by cdg.]

Here is what I can say, having consulted my colleague, Robert Cummings, who teaches our grad historiography course.

Historians really do not talk about historiographers, in general. We all have to be historiographers, to a certain extent. And if someone writes a historiographic work, it is on a certain field of history, not just on historiography in general. Some older guys did that: Collingwood, Carr, Gooch, etc. but they were at least 50 years ago.

Recent works rich in historiography (in certain topic areas) would include: Novick (That Noble Dream, on US historians); Degler (In Search of Human Nature, on history and social sciences); Dominick LaCapra (European), of course John Higham and Dorothy Ross (US social sciences), Alan Megill (European), Martin Jay (European). Ellen Fitzpatrick published a recent book on the origins of US social history writing).

-- Dave Robinson (, October 13, 2003.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ