An Introduction to the Philosophy of History
Post on 13-Mar-2017
This article was downloaded by: [UQ Library]On: 08 November 2014, At: 14:21Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
History: Reviews of New BooksPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/vhis20
An Introduction to the Philosophy of HistoryHarry Ritter aa Western Washington UniversityPublished online: 01 Aug 2012.
To cite this article: Harry Ritter (1999) An Introduction to the Philosophy of History, History: Reviews of New Books, 27:2,89-89, DOI: 10.1080/03612759.1999.10528355
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03612759.1999.10528355
PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE
Taylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content) containedin the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of theContent. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon andshould be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable forany losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoeveror howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use ofthe Content.
This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematicreproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in anyform to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions
Higgs, Edward, ed. History and Electronic Artefacts Oxford: Clarendon Press 345 pp.. $90.00 cloth, $24.95 paper
ISBN 0-19-823634-4 paper Publication Date: May 1998
ISBN 0-19-823633-6 cloth
Edward Higgs, a lecturer in history at the University of Exeter, has collected an impor- tant set of papers dealing with electronic data management and historical research. The papers, by historians, archivists, librarians and museum curators, were presented at a June 1993 conference in London sponsored by the British Academy and the International Association for History and Computing. The papers were revised and updated for this pub- lication, and a few new ones added.
The book is divided into four parts: The Historian in the Electronic Age, Informa- tion Creation and Capture, The Theory of Preservation and Dissemination, and The Practice of Preservation from the European Perspective. Common themes run through the book. The most important is that although electronic data collection could introduce, as one contributor wrote, a golden age for archivists and historians, formidable obsta- cles stand in the way.
The computerization of government and business records will give historians access to greater amounts of information. Also, elec- tronic data can be stored and retrieved more easily than is possible with paper records. The most serious problem is obsolescence-how will future historians access information being collected in the present when contem- porary hardware and software have become obsolete? Overcoming this problem by pre- serving hardware and software or transferring information to an independent format will be
Throughout the book, archivists are urged to be proactive in regard to the establishment of computer systems within organizations. Only by becoming engaged at the beginning will archivists ensure that the preservation of records is a key aspect of an organizations use of electronic data. Management of elec- tronic data, for example, has the potential to accurately trace who initiated, saw, and con- tributed to the development of a document. Without a firm set of guidelines concerning what is to be preserved, archivists may end up with only the final document without inter- mediate revisions. Historians are urged to work with archivists to ensure the preserva- tion of information that archivists may not recognize as important for historical research.
The impact of electronic data collection is examined from the perspective of European countries. Although East Germany and the U.S.S.R. collected vast amounts of electronic
data useful to historians, unification and dis- integration have created huge problems of access. In Western European countries funda- mental issues of privacy, access, and the rela- tionship between central and departmental archives need to be resolved.
This book should be read by historians, librarians, archivists, and museum curators. They will be interested in understanding how electronic data collection, management, and dissemination change the nature of historical research, threaten the very existence of paper archives, and blur the traditional borders between libraries, archives, and museums.
THOMAS W. JUDD State University of New York at Oswego
Stanford, Michael An Introduction to the Philosophy of History Oxford Blackwell
Publication Date: December 1997 292 pp.. $80.00, ISBN 0-631-19941-1
This book is a personalized cultural essay as well as an overview of many issues surround- ing history as a form of knowledge. In con- trast to certain well-known works with simi- lar titles-.g., W. H. Walshs Philosophy of History: An Introduction (1951) or Raymond Arons Introduction to the Philosophy of His- tory ( 1 9 3 8 t i t is neither a rigorously analyt- ical nor highly original contribution to the critical philosophy of history. The intended audience would appear to be the well-educat- ed general reader.
Stanford, a British historian and editor, has published two earlier works on the theory of historiography. In this book most of his views are derived from previous authors, and he largely describes theoretical positions instead of engaging them in sustained arguments. In the first two-thirds of the book he surveys some key issues of the critical philosophy of history, concentrating on historys relation- ship to the natural and social sciences. Here he follows such authorities as R. G. Colling- wood, William Dray, and Louis Mink, con- cluding that history is an autonomous disci- pline that resembles the sciences in its pursuit of truth, yet differs in its stress on narrative exposition and concern for unique cases and symbolic meaning.
Stanfords presentation would be far more effective if it were more concise; he tends to circle around and postpone closure on topics rather than meeting them head on, which con- tributes to rambling and redundancy. Yet he occasionally displays a gift for the succinct, synoptic statement, as in his concluding char- acterization of history as an activity of its own kind ... that, in the form of unceasing con- versation and debate, helps us to understand human existence in relation to the dimension of time (261-262).
The last part of the book is Stanfords per- sonal, occasionally emotional effort to wres-
tle with a cultural crisis that he senses in the world today, one that manifests itself in lifes commodification under the conditions of global capitalism and in the blind-alley (232) challenge of postmodemist attacks on history. Here he champions a form of histori- ographical realism over postmodernisms epistemological nihilism. Following David Carrs Narrative and the Real World (Histo- ry and Theory, vol. 25). he adopts the view that historical accounts represent (or ideally aspire to represent) a narrative-like structure that inheres in human affairs in the form of purposeful human action. Historians, as imperfect human beings, will never achieve unanimity in their accounts. Still, by carrying on an unending conversation about history, they may hope to approach more nearly what Hans-Georg Gadamer (a hero for Stanford) calls a fusion of interpretive horizons (257).
HARRY RITTER Western Washington University
Lawrence, Christopher, and George Weisz, eds. Greater than the Parts: Holism in Biomedicine, 192CL-1950 New York: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: February 1998 366 pp., $55.00, ISBN 0-19-510904-X
Focusing on themes in biomedicine, Christo- pher Lawrence and George Weisz have assembled a valuable collection of essays by fourteen distinguished scholars that illumi- nate the nearly forgotten forms of biomedical holism that flourished in the first half of the twentieth century. Lawrence, a lecturer at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medi- cine in London is the author of Medicine in the Making of Modem Britain, 1700-1920. Weisz is a professor of the history of medi- cine at McGill University in Montreal. His most recent book is The Medical Mandarins: The French Academy of Medicine in the Nine- teenth and Early Twentieth Centuries.
The book is a collection of essays present- ed at a conference held at McGill University in 1995, along with several essays commis- sioned for the text. An introductory essay by the editors places medical holism in context. Other essays discuss holism in clinical medi- cine and in the medical sciences. The final essay, by distinguished historian of medicine Charles E. Rosenberg, analyzes Holism in lhentieth-Century Medicine.
The authors demonstrate that criticism of reductionist medicine was actually quite intense during the years between the world wars. Although some of the criticism was motivated by hostility to orthodox medicine, significant challenges developed within main- stream medicine and resulted in holistic approaches to healing, such as constitutional- ism, psychosomatic medicine, neo-hippocrat- ic medicine, neo-humoralism, social medi- cine. and Catholic humanism. Because
Winter 1999 89