Marxism and Historiography: Perspectives on Roman History

Andrea Giardina

in Marxist History-writing for the Twenty-first Century

Published by British Academy

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780197264034
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734601 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Occasional Papers

Marxism and Historiography: Perspectives on Roman History

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Marxism has slowly declined in recent literature on the economic and social history of the ancient world. If one happens to run into the name of Marx or the term Marxism, it is generally within the context of polemical remark. In spite of recurrent attempts to resuscitate it as an ideal foil for anti-Communist polemic, Marxism made its final exit from the field of ancient historical studies in the 1960s, when new Marxist and Marxist-inspired historiography came to the fore. This chapter discusses the changing role of Marxism in Italian history-writing. It focuses on the historians who claim themselves as Marxists, and those who employ Marxist categories and draw on Marxist theory yet refuse to be defined as Marxists. The chapter examines the debates of the different groups on the historiographic phase marked by the circulation of Marxist concepts, analytical tools, and models outside the strictly Marxist milieu. One of the most striking aspects of this phase is the existence of a trend for the formation of research groups that shared not only an affinity or ideological adherence to Marxism, but also an interest in historical theory and a similar orientation in cultural politics. These interdisciplinary approaches stimulated the confluence of individual competences in group projects aimed at singling out new topics and developing investigational strategies. This historiographic phase also reflected a sense of community, a refusal of traditional academic hierarchies, a wish to keep individualism in check, and the rejection of erudite isolation. In Italy, these forms of association served as a means for ethical and political self-representation of cultural hegemony.

Keywords: Marxism; economic history; social history; ancient historical studies; Marxist-inspired historiography; role of Marxism; Italian history-writing; Marxists; historiographic phase; historical theory

Chapter.  7740 words. 

Subjects: Theory, Methods, and Historiography

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