Categories of Historical Understanding

History and Theory 23 (1):53-77 (1984)
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Abstract

The first category of historical understanding represents the thesis of historical realism - the existence and temporal priority of the actual past. The second constitutes the doctrine of constructionism -the logical priority of historical knowledge. The third stipulates that the difference between the real past and the historical construction of the past is one of a kind and in its turn logical. The fourth states that any given piece or whole body of historical evidence contains many potential meanings and functions. The fifth stipulates that an historian's standpoint is of utmost significance for the character and outcome of his work. The sixth category refers to the multilevel structure of the study of history - statements about the past in historical narratives occupy a level always beyond that of earlier generations and contemporaries of past events. The most significant implication of the advance of historical writing and the historian's higher-order status is that his work is circumscribed by his own time-bound perspective

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