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The Longue Durée of Empire

Toward a Comparative Semantics of a Key Concept in Modern European History

Jörn Leonhard

Against the background of a new interest in empires past and present and an inflation of the concept in modern political language and beyond, the article first looks at the use of the concept as an analytical marker in historical and current interpretations of empires. With a focus on Western European cases, the concrete semantics of empire as a key concept in modern European history is analyzed, combining a reconstruction of some diachronic trends with synchronic differentiations.

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Micro-annihilation

Dennis Klein

In July 2012, President of France François Hollande recalled the Vel d’Hiv roundup seventy years earlier. He opened his commemorative speech with the usual reference to the “horror of a crime” and used the familiar expression of the “sorrow of those who experienced the tragedy.” What stood out, however, were his allusions to the violation of France’s, and by extension Europe’s, social contract with its Jews. The men, women, and children who were assembled for internment and deportation “could not have known the fate that awaited them.” They believed that the ties that united “the great French family [were] too strong,” he said, quoting a distinguished rabbi just after the 1940 decree depriving Jews of their citizenship, too self-evident “to be broken.” President Hollande then struck the memorable chord: “Therein lies the betrayal.”

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Claude Langlois's Vision of France

Regional Identity, Royal Imaginary, and Holy Women

Donald Sutherland

Claude Langlois’s work points the way out of a long-standing whiggish view, not only of French, but also European historiography. If Western Civ textbooks or respectable general histories reflect the consensus of the profession, it is still easy to find themes of progress toward equality, secularism, and modernity. Such themes are defensible, of course, but they are one-sided. They omit a lot, like the experiences of those left out of the march of progress, of religious institutions, and of unintended victims of revolution and civil war. A more sophisticated rendering would be more satisfactory since it would emphasize resistance, the apparently marginal, and the richness of historical experience. It would replace assumptions about inevitable outcomes with a greater awareness of contingency. Claude Langlois’s work on women, religion, and the French Revolution illustrates how such a complicated history might look.

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Introduction

The editors have taken this opportunity to feature four articles that investigate the ways in which women are embodied by, or embody in themselves, the social, cultural, or political ethos of a particular era or region. Although very different in both topic and approach, these articles discuss radically new ways of approaching discussions of women, their sexuality, and notions of the feminine in historical discourse.

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History Writing as a Public Calling

Antoinette Burton

This introductory article raises questions about history's work in the contemporary public sphere and sets the stage for the issues addressed in the special issue as a whole. Drawing on my experience at a public university in fiscal crisis, I argue that historians can and should contribute to debates about the future of higher education, the role of the humanities in the twenty-first-century liberal arts curriculum, and the fate of intellectual work in a global world.

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Shona Kelly Wray, 1963-2012, beloved colleague, friend, and member of the Historical Reflections/ Réflexions Historiques Editorial Board

Linda E. Mitchell

In Memoriam Shona Kelly Wray, 1963-2012

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Introduction

By lucky circumstance, this second issue in our continuing series on historians reflecting on their craft gave us the opportunity to feature the work of one of the most innovative and creative scholars writing French history today: Yves Pourcher.

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Introduction

Interdisciplinary Concepts and their Political Significance

Ernst Müller

This essay introduces a panel of four studies of concepts: survival, generation, mutation, and reflex; concepts which circulate among different disciplines. The introduction addresses the problems of disciplinary lexica of conceptual history which have been completed in Germany in recent years; at the same time it questions the boundaries between political-social language (as represented by the Cambridge school in the English-speaking world and by Koselleck in the German) and concepts in natural sciences. The methodological problems examined in the process include issues of knowledge and discipline and interdisciplinarity, as well as of metaphorology and translation, and investigates their relation to the logic of the political.

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Preface

Lynn Hunt

Robert R. Palmer exemplified the best that historians have to offer. He wrote with conviction, empathy, and at times passion, yet he always managed to maintain balance and portray both the good and the bad in the people and events he brought to life for his readers. Because he wrote with conviction, he also wrote with exceptional clarity. He never displayed the impulse to hide behind highfalutin language, contorted prose, or excessively specialized topics. He believed that democracy was an absolute good, that it had its origins in European history, and that its rise provided one of, or even perhaps the principal theme of all of modern history. As a consequence, he never lost his sympathy for the French revolutionaries of 1789–1794, however terrible their actions, however much they fell short of living up to their ideals.

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Robert Roswell Palmer

A Transatlantic Journey of American Liberalism

John Layton Harvey

To study how American scholars have written about the history of France over the course of the last hundred years is, in certain ways, to appraise the evolving contours of American liberalism. For American historians who specialize in the past of France, its empire, or its wider continental context, the twentieth century saw a steady growth of institutional optimism. Although conservative suspicion against popular sovereignty and universal Enlightenment reason once markedly influenced the profession, since the late 1950s the American study of France has been increasingly associated with an advancement of progressive-minded ideals. Yet, reflections over the past thirty years on the development of French history in American universities have been curiously silent on the nature or evolution of liberalism within their field. Its contours and challenges over the course of the twentieth century, as a distinct intellectual focus within the wider American Academy, remain in some ways terra incognita.