Posts Tagged ‘Reinhart Koselleck’

Passing name-check for Thucydides in this morning’s Grauniad, as the first example of a historian seeking to draw general lessons for the present from the past, in David Armitage‘s plea for politicians and government to pay more attention to historians in making sense of the world and hence make better policy. The effect was slightly spoiled, at least for me, by the fact that the next sentence mentioned Cicero’s line about ‘history the teacher of life, as it instantly brought to mind Reinhart Koselleck’s brilliant article about the dissolution of the historia magistra vitae topos in the modern era – an article I tend to reference at the drop of a hat partly because of the wonderful Thucydides anecdote with which it opens (which I’ve now quoted often enough to give it a rest now) but partly because of its incisive analysis of the modern consciousness of time and change – which, sadly for Armitage’s article, explains precisely why politicians don’t feel much urge to consult historians on anything important, and tend to get annoyed with them when they do. (more…)

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The great historian of concepts Reinhart Koselleck is one of my intellectual heroes; it’s one of my great regrets that I didn’t discover his work until it was too late (he died in 2006) to agitate for Bristol to give him an honorary degree – he spent some time as a student at the university, and then returned as a lecturer between 1954 and 1956. Since I’m currently in Bielefeld, where he was a key figure in the establishment of the Faculty of Historical Studies and was Professor fuer Theorie der Geschichte from 1973 until his retirement in 1988, I’m trying to make time to read as much of his work as possible, given that I can access a load of stuff that simply isn’t available in the UK.

One thing that’s striking, given the current focus of my interests, is how often he brings up Thucydides as a key example; (more…)

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