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History as Re-EnactmentR. G. Collingwood's Idea of History$
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William H. Dray

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198238812

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198238812.001.0001

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The Perspectivity of History

The Perspectivity of History

(p.271) 8 The Perspectivity of History
History as Re-Enactment

Dray William H.

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines some other things which R. G. Collingwood had to say which have at times been interpreted as denying the objectivity of history. These include his claim that historians' conclusions are necessarily expressions of their own points of view, that what history offers is thus a view of the past from a present perspective, and that it can therefore be expected to be continually rewritten. His views on the nature of narrative in history are also considered. It is argued that nothing which Collingwood says about history being relative to a point of view justifies describing him as a sceptic. However, taking historical relativism to mean that the knowledge claimed by historians is conditioned by their points of view, Collingwood appeared to be an historical relativist. Collingwood's perspectivism often takes the more specific form of maintaining that what historians offer is accounts of the past from a present point of view. This chapter also discusses retrospective historical understanding, as well as presentism, retrospectivity, reality, and anachronism in Collingwood's theory of re-enactment.

Keywords:   history, R. G. Collingwood, re-enactment, objectivity, perspectivism, historical relativism, presentism, retrospectivity, anachronism, historical understanding

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