R.G. Collingwood's definition of historical knowledge

History of European Ideas 33 (3):350-371 (2007)
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R.G. Collingwood defined historical knowledge as essentially ‘scientific’, and saw the historian's task as the ‘re-enactment of past thoughts’. The author argues the need to go beyond Collingwood, first by demonstrating the authenticity of available evidence, and secondly, using Namier as an example, by considering methodology as well as epistemology, and the need to relate past thoughts to their present context. The ‘law of the consumption of time’ encourages historians to focus on landmark events, theories and generalisations, thus breaking from Collingwood's emphasis on fidelity to past ideas and interpreting the past from the concepts of the present. This conflict can only be reconciled by the study of historiography.



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