The Historical Imagination

Dray William H.

in History as Re-Enactment

Published in print March 1999 | ISBN: 9780198238812
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191679780 | DOI:
The Historical Imagination

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This chapter examines a Collingwoodian doctrine which has often been seen as closely related to that of re-enactment: the claim that historical inquiry requires an exercise of the historian's imagination. Critics of R. G. Collingwood have often associated these two ideas, and some have claimed that his notion that historical thinking requires imagination seems to reflect all too well certain weaknesses which they find in his work as an historian. An analysis of Collingwood's conception of the historical imagination will lead to a consideration of his contention that, besides requiring on the empirical side, the identification and interpretation of evidence, historical thinking has an important a priori dimension. Collingwood's idea of historical continuity, coherence, and necessity is discussed, along with the sense in which he thinks historians deal with individuality, the extent to which he sees synthesis as well as analysis as involved in historical understanding, and his position on periodisation and on the need for universal history.

Keywords: history; R. G. Collingwood; re-enactment; historical imagination; continuity; individuality; synthesis; historical understanding; universal history; periodisation

Chapter.  15615 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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