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The Oxford History of Historical WritingVolume 5: Historical Writing Since 1945$
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Axel Schneider and Daniel Woolf

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199225996

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199225996.001.0001

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History and Theory

History and Theory

(p.13) Chapter 1 History and Theory
The Oxford History of Historical Writing

Chris Lorenz

Oxford University Press

This introductory chapter assesses the role of theory in history and traces the developments in the discipline of history. Theoretical reflection about the ‘true nature’ of history fulfils three interrelated practical functions. First, theory legitimizes a specific historical practice—a specific way of ‘doing history’—as the best one from an epistemological and a methodological point of view. Second, theory sketches a specific programme of doing history. Third, theoretical reflections demarcate a specific way of ‘doing history’ from other ways of ‘doing history’, which are excluded or degraded. The chapter then considers three phases of theoretical changes from analytical to narrative philosophy of history, and then on to ‘history from below’ and the ‘presence’ of history, ultimately leading to the current return of fundamental ontological and normative questions concerning the status of history and history-writing.

Keywords:   theory, history, historical practice, theoretical reflections, theoretical changes, history-writing

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