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Quentin Skinner

This article is a response to Robert Darnton's comments on the relations and tensions between intellectual history and the history of books. The author comments on three arguments presented by Darnton. One is that intellectual historians often pay little attention to a question that seems to be of central importance to historians of the book: diffusion. Skinner argues that, to intellectual historians, the wide diffusion of a particular work is not a sure sign of its importance. Conversely, many of the greatest books of the past were not best-sellers. Another point made by Darnton is that intellectual historians often study books that are read and understood only by a small handful of people, a practice that constitutes a form of elitism. Skinner denies the charge of elitism by arguing that intellectual historians also study lesser-known works, and that this criticism can only be made from a philistine viewpoint. Finally, Skinner comments on the issue of the purpose of intellectual activity, defending the position that it plays the role of critically illuminating the moral and political concepts that are nowadays used to construct and appraise our common world.

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Samuel Moyn and Jean-Paul Gagnon

Samuel Moyn provides insight into how the history of democracy can continue its globalization. There is a growing belief that the currently acceptable fund of ideas has not served the recent past well which is why an expansion, a planetary one, of democracy’s ideas is necessary – especially now as we move deeper into the shadow of declining American/Western imperialism and ideology. Deciding which of democracy’s intellectual traditions to privilege is driven by a mix of forced necessity and choice: finding salient ground for democracy is likely only possible in poisoned traditions including European ones.

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Combining Intellectual History and the History of the Book

A Case Study on the Concept of Folk in Popular Literature in the Nineteenth Century

Lone Kølle Martinsen

In this article I discuss how intellectual history can be fused with the history of the book. I base this on a case study of the concept of folk (the people) in a Scandinavian, but mainly Danish context in the popular literature written between 1822 and 1836 by the Danish author B.S. Ingemann. The main argument of the article is that in studying the history of political concepts we should include not only sources of politics and philosophy (canonical works) but broadly read work (including fiction) as sources, too, along with observations about the spread and circulation of these texts.

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Robert Darnton

The article critically explores the different paths chosen by closely related historical disciplines: intellectual history and the history of books. While the former has focused on discourse analysis, the latter has given more attention to the study of diffusion. Historians who study the diffusion of books commonly run into a difficulty: the best-sellers of the past may serve as an indicator of public taste, but they may also be trivial, and they do not necessarily lead to explanations of important events such as the Reformation and the French Revolution. On the other hand, discourse analysis is confined to a narrow band of textual evidence, and thus cannot provide much insight on the values and views of ordinary people caught up in the patterns of everyday life. The author concludes by discussing how the history of books, particularly the history of reading and the history of publishing, can have important implications for the study of discourse.

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Intellectual History, Liberty and Republicanism

An Interview with Quentin Skinner

Javier Fernández Sebastián and Quentin Skinner

Quentin Skinner was interviewed by Javier Fernández Sebastián (Universidad del País Vasco, Spain) at the Centro de Estudios Políticos y Constitucionales, Madrid, on March 29, 2006. This interview has appeared in Spanish translation in Historia y Política 16: 237-258 (2006).

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In and Out of the Cage

Women's and Gender History Written in Hungary in the State-Socialist Period

Susan Zimmermann

This article discusses writing on women's and gender history in the pre-1945 period, written and published in Hungary under state socialism. Education, struggle for social change, legal history, and the history of work formed the four most important clusters in this rich body of historiography. Considering the position of these publications in the state-socialist or Cold War period and in Central Eastern European historiography and their uneasy relation to gender history as established since the 1980s, we can characterize them as a triply marginalized body of writing. The article pinpoints how the authors connected the history of women and gender to larger processes of emancipation, other categories of analysis, and transnational perspectives in historical writing, and explores their contribution to the historiography of women and gender in the twentieth century and to the intellectual history of state socialism. It also discusses why this historiography has fallen into oblivion.

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Shelling from the ivory tower

Project Camelot and the post–World War II operationalization of social science

Philip Y. Kao

folk status, marking a watershed moment in the intellectual history of American anthropology, because of the way it revealed an uncomfortable comingling of defense, development, and US imperialism. Serious inquiries into the ethical uses and production

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Jonathan Allen

South Africa's Struggle for Human Rights by S. Dubow Intellectual Traditions in South Africa: Ideas, Individuals and Institutions by P. Vale, L. Hamilton and E. Prinsloo (eds). Review by Jonathan Allen

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Innovation

A Study in the Rehabilitation of a Concept

Benoît Godin

For centuries, innovation was a political and contested concept and linguistic weapon used against one's enemy. To support their case, opponents of innovation made use of arguments from ethos and pathos to give power and sustenance to their criticisms and to challenge the innovators. However, since the nineteenth century the arguments have changed completely. Innovation gradually got rehabilitated. This article looks at one type of rehabilitation: the semantic rehabilitation. People started to reread history and to redescribe what innovation is. What was bad innovation became good innovation because of long-lasting and beneficial effects, so it was believed.

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“Amazing Rapidity”

Time, Public Credit, and David Hume’s Political Discourses

Edward Jones Corredera

This article explores David Hume’s views on public credit, the state, and geopolitics as outlined in his Political Discourses. By drawing attention to Hume’s analysis of the speed of political economic dynamics, the article suggests the philosopher feared that public credit, a crucial source of eighteenth-century European economic growth, fundamentally revolutionized the pace of social relations, the mechanics of the state, and European geopolitics at large. Hume’s study of public credit highlighted its role in reshaping eighteenth-century visions of time, and the philosopher’s disappointment with his own solution, in turn, reinforces the need to consider the multifaceted effects of public credit in the modern world.