Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thomas on Grafton on the artes historicae

"then as now, it is doubtful whether the writers of historical theory influenced many of the leading historians of their own day.  The greatest histories written in the period, like Paolo Sarpi's History of the Council of Trent (1619) or Edward, Earl of Clarendon's History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England (1702-1704) owed nothing to the artes historicae.
"In the preface to his Histoire d'Angleterre (1724), the French Huguenot historian Paul de Rapin-Thoyras dismissed the prescriptions of the theorists as too vague and too contradictory to be of any practical use.  The only rules followed by the best historians were those of reason and common sense.  (In the same spirit Rapin's modern counterparts ignore the epistemological problems raised by such postmodernist writers as Jacques Derrida as irrelevant to the actual writing of history.)"

Keith Thomas, reviewing Anthony Grafton's What was history?  The art of history in early modern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2007), in "Fighting over history," New York review of books 56, no. 19 (December 3, 2009):  66.  "Grafton, however, maintains that the artes historicae deserve . . . 'another history,' one that places the emphasis on their connection with 'the practice of cutting-edge scholarship'", and stresses again "that the radical methodological innovations pioneered by Patrizi, Baudouin, Bodin, et al., 'intellectual earthquakes,' as he calls them, bore a close resemblance to the tenets of the new critical history propounded by Le Clerc and Perizonius at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and subsequently enshrined in the University of G√∂ttingen's school of history, which, under the leadership of Johann Christian Gatterer, laid the foundations for the great nineteenth-century German tradition of disciplined historical research exemplified by giants like Leopold von Ranke and Theodor Mommsen.  'Bodin by himself,' Grafton claims, [following 'several of [his] predecessors',] 'adumbrated almost every element of Gatterer's new method'" (68).

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