In White’s view, beyond the surface level of the historical text, there is a deep structural, or latent, content that is generally poetic and Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Front Cover · Hayden White . Since its initial publication in , Hayden White’s Metahistory has remained an essential book for understanding the nature of historical. Title, Metahistory: the historical imagination in nineteenth-century Europe / Hayden White. Author, White, Hayden V., Extent, dpi TIFF G4 page images.

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Hayden White is a controversial figure in the world of history. Study nineteemth-century textbook on the theory and philosophy of history, and you will be assured that his book Metahistory marked a revolutionary turning point in historical theory.

Paul wrote on White for his PhD dissertation, and has consulted White at length in the context of the former project and the current book. White is a difficult figure to pigeon-hole.

Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe

If not a tropologist, then surely White can be categorized as a narrativist? This historiczl is on more solid ground, as White has always tended to favour dealing with the finished product of historians’ labours over looking at actual historical practice.

Yet the collection was a revelation — in the sense that it showed there was a lot more to White than a seeming obsession with tropes. Paul argues that during the s and early s, White had three key influences: Antoni argued there was no such thing as timeless or ideal types, and ahistorical approaches histprical history are doomed to fail.

In —2, White returned to Italy, ostensibly to study the relation between science and social thought in Italy between — There is no hiistorical thing as a fixed human nature; and isms such as Marxism are always doomed to fail. It was published in History and Theorywhich for its first five years had largely been concerned with refinements of what had come to be known as the analytic philosophy of history.


The days in which the likes of Michelet and De Tocqueville had played a major role in European intellectual life had gone. How could historians regain their relevance? The latter term would resurface four years later as the title of his most famous work, a thumping page tome entitled Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in the Nineteenth Century.

As one might expect with a book of this size, at times it seems there are several disparate books — or several Hayden Whites — struggling to emerge from its pages. Indeed, Hans Kellner has taken to referring to it as Metahistories p. It is very much a work of its time, in that like contemporaries Thomas Kuhn and Michel Foucault, White is very much concerned with historizication and discontinuity. The historical profession was not formed in a vacuum; and historical practice was not a matter of a priori rules.

In his seminal book The Structure of Scientific RevolutionsKuhn had argued that there was no neutral algorithm that could be invoked to decide between competing scientific fhe.

Hayden White: The Historical Imagination | Reviews in History

His use of the term was somewhat vague — one reviewer distinguished no less than 20 variants of the word. Although White frequently challenges the authority that historians bestow on practises such as archival research or source criticism, he does not advocate doing away with them. Nor does he hold that there is no difference between the writing of history and the writing of fiction, or that there are no criteria for distinguishing between good and bad historiography.

This might account hayddn part for the tension that became apparent the further one read through Metahistory.

On one imaglnation, White was keen to stress that the task of a new form of history was to liberate; but on the other the theory of tropes and emplotments that White constructed seemed to be putting structuralist bars around these potentially liberating accounts. This lead to charges that White was not a relativist, but rather, a linguistic determinist.


But despite some extremely strong statements in support of the kind of theories of languages that Foucault was putting forward, White never quite let go of the humanism that was the hallmark of much of histlrical pre- Metahistory work. In the s, White turned his attention to narrative, developing a position succinctly expressed in the title of his second collection of essays, The Content of the Form.

Narratives were not found; they were invented. White argued that the Holocaust belonged to a special class metahhistory events, modernist events p.

Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-century Europe – Wikipedia

Modernist events had three underlying components that differentiated them from what had gone before. Firstly, these events could not have not have taken place without modern technologies.

Finally, these events resist historizication pp. As an introduction to the thought and work of Hayden White, it is hard to see this volume being surpassed for some considerable time. One of the main reasons that White has been given such a cool reception by historians is that his supporters such as Keith Jenkins — in presenting a bowdlerised version of White oeuvre in order to further their own agendas — have regrettably done more harm than good.

Skip to main content. Mr Adam Timmins, review of Hayden White: The Historical Imaginationreview no. Back to 4 Ibid, p. Musgrave and Lakatos Cambridge,pp. Back to 8 Ibid, p. Back to 9 That said, there are many postmodernists that do deserve this tag, although here is not the place to enunciate names.

Back to 12 The author is happy to accept this review and does not wish to comment further.

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