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PART II CONCERNING THE HISTORY OF HISTORIOGRAPHY I PRELIMINARY QUESTIONS
We possess many works relating to the history of historiography, both special, dealing with individual authors, and more or less general, dealing with groups of authors (histories of historiography confined to one people and to a definite period, or altogether 'universal' histories). Not only have we bibliographical works and works of erudition, but criticism, some of it excellent, especially in the case of German scientific literature, ever the most vigilant of all in not leaving unexplored any nook or cranny of the dominion of knowledge. It cannot, therefore, form part of my design to treat the theme from its foundations: but I propose to make a sort of appendix or critical annotation to the collection of books and essays that I have read upon the argument. I will not say that these are all, or even that they are all those of any importance, but they ire certainly a considerable number. By means of this annotation I shall try to establish, on the one hand, in an exact manner and in conformity with the principles explained, the method of such a history, regarding which I observe that there still exist confusion and perplexity, even among the best, which lead to errors of judgment or at least of plan, and on the other hand I shall try to outline[Pg 166] the principal periods in a summary manner, both with the view of exemplifying the method established, and, as it were, of illustrating historically the concepts exposed in the preceding theoretical pages, which might otherwise retain here and there something of an abstract appearance.

Beginning with methodical delimitations, I shall note in the first place that in a history of historiography as such, historical writings cannot be looked upon from the point of view proper to a history of literature—that is to say, as expressions of individual sentiments, as forms of art. Doubtless they are this also, and have a perfect right to form part of histories of literature, as the treatises and systems of the philosophers, the writings of Plato and Aristotle, of Bruno, of Leibnitz, and of Hegel; but in this case both are regarded not as works of history and of philosophy, but of literature and poetry; and the empirical scale of values which constitute the different modes of history in the cases of the same authors is different, because in a history of literature the place of a Plato will always be more considerable than that of an Aristotle, that of a Bruno than that of a Leibnitz, owing to the greater amount of passion and the greater richness of artistic problems contained in the former of each pair. The fact that in many volumes of literary history such diversity of treatment is not observed, and historians are talked of historically and not in a literary manner and philosophers philosophically rather than in a literary manner, is due to the substitution in such works of incoherent compilation for work that is properly critical and scientific. But the distinction between the two aspects is important for this reason also, that erroneous judgments, praise, and censure, alike unjustified, are apt to appear, owing to the careless transference of the scale of values from one history to another.[Pg 167] The slight esteem in which Polybius was held in antiquity and for some time after, because 'he did not write well' in comparison with the splendour of Livy or with the emotional intensity of Tacitus, is an instance of this, as is likewise in Italy the excessive praise lavished upon certain historians who were little more than correct and elegant writers of prose in comparison with others who were negligent and crude in their form, but serious students. Ulrici,[1] in his youthful book on ancient historiography, which despite its heaviness and verbosity of exposition has great merits, after having discussed the 'scientific value' of that historiography, also speaks at great length of 'artistic value'; but setting aside what of arbitrary is to be found in some of the laws that he applies to historiography as art, in conformity with the ?sthetic ideas of his time, it is evident that the second subject of which he treats does not coalesce with the first and is only placed side by side with it in the same way as those sections of works dealing with historical method are not connected but simply juxtaposed, and after having studied in their own way the formation of historical thought, the collection of materials or 'heuristic,' up to final 'comprehension,' begin to discuss the form of the 'exposition,' and in so doing continue without being aware of it the method of rhetorical treatises on the art of history composed during the Renaissance. These have their chief exponent in Vossius (1623). We cannot abstain from sometimes mentioning the literary form of the works of historians, nor from according their laurels to works of remarkable literary value, while noting their unsatisfactory historiographical methods; but to touch here and there upon, to discuss, to characterize, to eliminate, is of secondary importance and[Pg 168] does not form part of the proper function of historiography, whose object is the development of historiographical thought.

The distinction between this history and that of philology or erudition is less apparent but not less indubitable, always, be it well understood, in the sense explained, of a distinction that is not a separation. This warning should be understood in respect of other exclusions that we are about to effect, without our being obliged to repeat it at every step; for the connexion between history and philology is undeniable, not less than that between history and art, or history and practical life. But that does not prevent philology in itself being the collection, the rearrangement, the purification of material, and not history. Owing to this quality it forms a part rather of the history of culture than of that of thought. It would be impossible to disassociate it from the history of libraries, archives, museums, universities, seminaries, écoles des chartes, academical and editorial enterprises, and from other institutions and proceedings of an entirely practical nature. Fueter has therefore been right in excluding from his theme in his recent work on the history of modern historiography[2] "the history of merely philological research and criticism." This has not prevented him from taking store where apposite of the school of Biondo or of that of Maurini, or of the perfecting of the method of seeking for the sources attained by the German school in the nineteenth century. The confusion and lack of development observable in the old and solid work of Wachler[3] is perhaps due to his having failed to make[Pg 169] this distinction, to which recourse can also be had with advantage elsewhere. Wachler's work, entitled and conceived as "history of research and of the historical art from the Renaissance of letters in Europe onward," ended by assuming the appearance of a repertory or bibliographical catalogue.

The obstacles to be encountered by the distinction between the history of historiography and that of the practical tendencies, or tendencies of the social and political spirit, are more intricate. These indeed become incorporated with or at least leave their mark upon the works of historians; but it is just because we can only with difficulty perceive the line of demarcation that it is indispensable to make it quite clear. Such tendencies, such social and political spirit, belong rather to the matter than to the theoretical form of history; they are not so much historiography as history in the act and in its fieri. Machiavelli is a historian in so far as he tries to understand the course of events; he is a politician, or at least a publicist, when he posits and desires a prince, founder of a strong national state, as his ideal, reflecting this in his history. This history, in so far as it portrays that ideal and the inspiration and teaching that accompany it, here and there becomes fable (fabula docet). Thus Machiavelli belongs partly to the history of thought in the Renaissance and partly to the history of the practice of the Renaissance. Nor does this happen solely in political and social historiography, but also in literary and artistic, because there is not perhaps a critic in the world, however unprejudiced and broad in his ideas, who does not manifest tendencies in the direction of a literary renovation of his epoch together with his actual judgments and reconstructions. Now to the extent that he does this,[Pg 170] even if it be in the same book and on the same page or in the same period, he is no longer a critic, but a practical reformer of art. In one domain of history alone is this pacific accompaniment of interpretations and aspirations impossible—in the history of philosophy, because when, as here, there is a difference between historical interpretation and the tendency of the philosopher, the difference reveals the insufficiency of the interpretation itself: in other words, if the theory of the historian of philosophy is at war with the theories of which he claims to expound the history, his theory must be false, just because it does not avail to justify the history of the theories. But this exception does not annul the distinction in other fields; indeed, it confirms it, and is not an exception in the empirical sense, as it appears to be: thought distinguishes and is distinguished from sentiment and will, but it is not distinguished from itself, precisely because it is the principle of distinction. A methodological corollary of this distinction between history of historiography and history of practical tendencies is that the introduction into the first of considerations belonging to the second is to be held erroneous. Here I think Fueter has sinned to some extent in the book to which I have already referred, where he divides his material into humanistic, political, party, imperial, particularist, Protestant, Catholic, Jesuitic, illuministic, romanticist, erudite, lirico-subjective, national, statolatral, historiographical, and the like. Only some of the above divisions belong to, or can properly be reduced to, historiographical concepts, while the majority refer to social and political life. Hence the lack of sound organization that we observe in this book, which is yet so lively and ingenious: its divisions follow one another without sufficient logicality, continuity, and necessity,[Pg 171] and are not the result of a single thought which posits them and develops itself through them. If, on the other hand, the genuinely historiographical portions, which have become mingled with it, should be eliminated, what remained could certainly be organized, but as social and political history, no longer as historiography, because the works of historians would be consulted only as documents showing the tendencies of the times in which they were written. Machiavelli, for instance, (to use the same example) would there figure as an Italian patriot and defender of absolute power, while Vico (a much greater historian than Machiavelli) would not be able to appear at all, or hardly at all, because his relation with the political life of his time was remote and general.

What I have been expounding may be resumed by saying that the history of historiography is neither literary history nor the history of cultural, social, political, moral doings, which are of a practical nature, but that it is certainly all these things, by reason of the unbreakable unity of history, though with it the accent does not fall upon practical facts, but rather upon historiographical thought, which is its proper subject.

Having pointed out or recalled these distinctions, which, as we have seen, are sometimes neglected with evil results, we must now utter a warning against other distinctions, employed without rational basis, which rather overcloud and trouble the history of historiography than shed light upon it.

Fueter (I cite him again, although the error is not peculiar to him) declares that he has dealt in his book with historiographical theories and with historical method only in so far as they seem to have had influence upon actual historiography. The history of historicity (here[Pg 172] is the reason he gives for the method he has followed) is as little the history of historiography as is the history of dramatic theories the history of the drama. This he considers to be proved by the fact that theory and practice often follow different paths, as, for instance, in Lope de Vega, whose theory of the drama and actual dramatic work were two different things, to such an extent that it was said of the Spanish dramatist that although he reverenced the poetical art, when he sat down to compose "he locked up the correct rules under seven keys." This argument is without doubt specious, and I was myself formerly seduced by it; but it is fallacious, as I realized when I thought it over again, and I now affirm it to be an error with all the conviction and authority of one who criticizes an error at one time his own. The argument is founded upon a false analogy between the production of art and that of history. Art, which is the work of the imagination, can be well distinguished from the theory of art, which is the work of reflection; artistic genius produces the former, the speculative intellect the latter, and it often happens with artists that the speculative intellect is inferior to their genius, so that they do one thing and say another, or say one thing and do another, without its being possible to accuse them of logical incoherence, because the incoherence is between two discordant thoughts, never between a thought and an act of the imagination. But history and theory of history are both of them works of thought, bound to one another in the same way as thought is bound to itself, since it is one. Thus no historian but possesses in a more or less reflective way his theory of h............
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