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Trauma and Other Historians

Yoav Di-Capua

If one practical way to define trauma is to consider it as a chronic inability to access and process catastrophic events, that is, as a systematic and haunting blockage of memory formation and reclamation of past experiences, then historians have an inherent stake in the concept. This basic observation is not new, of course, but until now only historians of the Holocaust have evinced serious and consistent interest in the vast literature on Trauma Studies. Most historians—for example those who work with the distant past, with non-Western societies, or with less extreme historical events—have not had to engage with the historical implications of trauma. In as much as historians use the term, they do so from the lay standpoint that considers trauma as a horrible and tragic man-made event or a natural disaster. In its popular and very elastic usage the event (trauma) and its consequences (always “traumatic”) run the risk of remaining unexplored and largely unexplained, and thus, paradoxically, actually traumatic in the sense of not allowing access to the past. While remaining cognizant of the bland usage of the concept of trauma, the goal of this special issue is to offer a modest commentary on what Trauma Studies can offer to “Other Historians” and, perhaps, on what they can offer in return. The work presented here is of a provisional nature and is the product of a year-long seminar by a diverse group of historians at the Institute of Historical Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and the international conference, “Trauma and History,” that they organized.

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The Affective (Re)turn and Early Modern European History

Ananya Chakravarti

The call to attend to a history of affect is hardly a new one in the profession: in 1941, in a classic essay entitled “La sensibilité et l’histoire: Comment reconstituer le vie affective d’autrefois?,” Lucien Febvre laid out an agenda for just such a historiographical turn. His reasoning, however, had less to do with the need for a history of affect per se than with the belief that the history of ideas or of institutions, both of them mainstays of traditional historiography, “are subjects that the historian can neither understand nor make understood without this primordial interest that I call the psychological.” In a perceptive review essay of the historiography of emotions that marked the beginning of the current affective turn in historical inquiry, Barbara Rosenwein argued that Febvre’s turn toward such a history was less a repudiation of the political focus of history than a belief born from observing the rise of Nazism: “politics itself is not rational, not unemotional.” As Rosenwein notes, Febvre answered the skeptics in his own essay: “The history of hate, the history of fear, the history of cruelty, the history of love; stop bothering us with this idle chatter. But that idle chatter … will tomorrow have turned the universe into a fetid pile of corpses.”

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Appetite for Discovery

Sense and Sentiment in the Early Modern World

Jennifer Hillman

Lucien Febvre’s 1941 call for historians to recover the histoire des sentiments is now routinely evoked by scholars in the wake of the recent “emotional turn” in the historical discipline. Historians would regain their “appetite for discovery” (goût à l’exploration) once they delved into the deepest recesses of the discipline, where history meets psychology, Febvre predicted. His plea followed the aims of a generation of scholars working in the early twentieth century—Johan Huizinga and Norbert Elias among them—who sought to recapture the affective lives of the past. Yet the history of sense and sentiment perhaps owes its greatest debt to Febvre and his colleagues in the Annales School, who, via the study of mentalités and private life, made the study of emotions a serious object of historical inquiry. Some four decades passed before Febvre’s challenge was taken up with any rigor. In the 1980s, the work of Peter and Carol Z. Stearns sought to chart the emotional standards and co des of past societies—something they termed “emotionology.” Since then, over the past three decades the history of emotions has been pioneered by scholars such as Barbara H. Rosenwein and William Reddy in seminal works that introduced us to now classic interpretative frameworks such as “emotional communities” and “emotives.” This burgeoning of interest in the history of emotions has now also found expression in a number of institutional research centers and publication series devoted to the subject.

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Radical Book History

E. P. Thompson and The Making of the English Working Class

Antoinette Burton

This special issue on E. P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class (1963) grew out of a symposium I organized at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in October 2013 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the book’s publication. I am, on the face of it, one of the least likely modern British historians to be organizing such an event. I can remember the first time I held the weighty tome in my hands: I was a junior in college, in the fall of 1982, and it was on the syllabus for a course I was taking on Victorian Britain, taught by Jonathan Schneer at Yale University. As did many feminist and postcolonial historians of my generation, I struggled with what I saw as Thompson’s indifference to women and gender (oh, those deluded followers of Joanna Southcott!) and his incapacity to see the evidence of race and empire in his sources even when they cried out from below the footnote line for all to see.

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Nomadic Concepts

Biological Concepts and Their Careers beyond Biology

Jan Surman, Katalin Stráner, and Peter Haslinger

This article introduces a collection of studies of biological concepts crossing over to other disciplines and nonscholarly discourses. The introduction discusses the notion of nomadic concepts as introduced by Isabelle Stengers and explores its usability for conceptual history. Compared to traveling (Mieke Bal) and interdisciplinary (Ernst Müller) concepts, the idea of nomadism shifts the attention from concepts themselves toward the mobility of a concept and its effects. The metaphor of nomadism, as outlined in the introduction, helps also to question the relation between concepts' movement and the production of boundaries. In this way conceptual history can profit from interaction with translation studies, where similar processes were recently discussed under the notion of cultural translation.

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Introduction

Citizenship in Europe after World War II—the Challenges of Migration and European Integration

Claudia Wiesner and Anna Björk

The concept of citizenship in Europe after World War II faces two major challenges: migration and European integration. This introduction precedes a group of articles examining debates and law-making processes related to the concept of citizenship in Europe after World War II. The introduction sketches the historical development of citizenship in European representative democracies, taking into account four basic dimensions (access to citizenship, citizenship rights, citizenship duties, and the active content of citizenship) for analyzing changes in the concept of citizenship.

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Religion(s) and the Enlightenment

David Allen Harvey

Despite its long-standing reputation for skepticism and irreverence, the Enlightenment took religion quite seriously. Historians have long recognized this fact, and have often represented the intellectual history of the eighteenth century in terms of the struggle between religious faith and philosophical skepticism. One common view of the period holds that religious dogmatism and intolerance, memorably condemned by Voltaire as l’Infâme, served as the negative pole against which the positive Enlightenment ideals of secularism, reason, and tolerance were articulated. Nearly a century ago, Ernst Cassirer characterized this view (which he did not entirely share) by writing, “French Encyclopedism declares war openly on religion,” accusing it of “having been an eternal hindrance to intellectual progress.” Around the same time, Carl Becker argued that the eighteenth-century philosophes sought to recast the “heavenly city” imagined by church fathers such as St. Augustine into a vision of a terrestrial utopian future. A generation later, Peter Gay described the philosophes as “modern pagans,” who “used their classical learning to free themselves from their Christian heritage.” For such scholars, the historical signifi cance of the Enlightenment lay in its break with religious tradition and embrace of “modernity”, defined primarily by secularism and rationality.

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War, Occupation, and Empire in France and Germany

Jean Elisabeth Pedersen

“What is a nation?” Ernest Renan’s famous rhetorical question to an audience at the Sorbonne on 11 March 1882 has remained vital for a wide variety of scholars in fields as diverse as history, literary criticism, sociology, philosophy, and political science. Renan initially posed the question barely ten years after the close of the Franco-Prussian War, which had sparked the establishment of the French Third Republic, the unification of Germany under the leadership of Wilhelm I, and the transfer of the disputed territory of Alsace-Lorraine from French to German control in the months between July 1870 and May 1871. Renan made no overt mention of these events while he was speaking, but he rejected any possible answer to his question that might attempt to base the creation of nations and national identities on shared “race, language, [economic] interests, religious affinity, geography, [or] military necessities.” This explicit refusal constituted an implicit rejection of the entire range of German justifications for the acquisition of the two recently French border provinces.

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Liberalism's Historical Diversity

A Comparative Conceptual Exploration

José María Rosales

Rooted in late seventeenth-century theories of rights, liberal ideas have brought forth since the nineteenth century a full-edged complex of traditions in moral, political, economic, social, and legal thought. Yet in historiographical debates such complexity is often blurred by presenting it under the uniform terms of a canon. Along with other methods, conceptual history is contributing to the rediscovery of liberalism's diversity. This group of articles compiles three conceptual studies on scarcely explored aspects of the history of liberalism in Denmark, Finland, and Hungary—countries whose political past has only occasionally figured in mainstream accounts of European liberalism. This introductory article is a methodological discussion of the rationale and forms in which liberalism's historical diversity is rendered through comparative conceptual research. After reflecting on the limits of the Anglophone history of political thought to grasp the plurality of liberal traditions, the article examines how transnational conceptual histories recast the understanding of liberalism as a concept, theory, ideology, and political movement.

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Reconsiderations of the Idea of Nostalgia in Contemporary Historical Writing

Patrick H. Hutton

Scholarly interest in the topic of nostalgia has come late to discussions of the workings of memory, a popular topic in contemporary historiography, but its moment may at last have arrived, bringing with it perspectives unappreciated a generation ago. As an emotional response to time’s passage, nostalgia has long been viewed with suspicion. From the dawn of the modern age, critics have explained that it plays into life’s illusions, drifting into sentimental idealization of a past on the fast track to obsolescence. From the earliest critical commentaries on its nature in the late seventeenth century, nostalgia has been equated with homesickness, futile longing for lost places, lost times, and lost causes. For the most part, it was diagnosed as a psychological disorder that immobilized individuals susceptible to the tug of its emotions. It was in this guise that discussion of its nature entered the lexicon of medical discourse during the nineteenth century. The impairments of those who suffered from its sadness were real. The remedy was to awaken them to life’s present realities, and so to teach them to adapt with vigor to their own times.