Pragmatism and the Practice of History: From Turner and Du Bois to Today

Metaphilosophy 35 (1-2):202-225 (2004)
Abstract
Pragmatism has affected American historical writing since the early twentieth century. Such contemporaries and students of Peirce, James, and Dewey as Frederick Jackson Turner, W. E. B. Du Bois, James Harvey Robinson, Charles Beard, Mary Beard, and Carl Becker drew on pragmatism when they fashioned what was called the “new history.” They wanted to topple inherited assumptions about the past and replace positivist historical methods with the pragmatists' model of a community of inquiry. Such widely read mid-twentieth-century historians as Merle Curti, Henry Steele Commager, and Richard Hofstadter embraced the perspectivalism, fallibilism, and instrumentalism of the pragmatists, thereby helping to sustain the tradition during its nadir in American philosophy departments. Many historians have been drawn to the study of pragmatism during its recent renaissance; others have advanced pragmatist-inspired philosophies of history. Through such prominent contemporary historians as Thomas Haskell, David Hollinger, and Joyce Appleby, the ideas of Pierce, James, and Dewey continue to influence the historical profession.
Keywords Pragmatism  History
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