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Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History$
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Darrin M. McMahon and Samuel Moyn

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199769230

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199769230.001.0001

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The Return of the History of Ideas?

The Return of the History of Ideas?

(p.13) 1 The Return of the History of Ideas?
Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History

Darrin M. McMahon

Oxford University Press

This article examines the demise and discredit of the “history of ideas,” as advocated originally by Arthur Lovejoy, seeking to explain how it fell out of favor as a disciplinary and methodological practice. Focusing on two of the most forceful critiques of the history of ideas—that of Quentin Skinner and the Cambridge School and of Robert Darnton and the social history of ideas—the article argues that while this criticism was originally timely and productive, it did not do full justice either to Lovejoy or to the potential of his methods. The time is right, the article suggests, to revisit the history of ideas, and it offers some reflections on what intellectual historians working today may be able to take from it.

Keywords:   history of ideas, Arthur Lovejoy, intellectual history, social history of ideas, Cambridge School, Quentin Skinner, Robert Darnton

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