Making history, talking about history

History and Theory 40 (2):190–205 (2001)
Making history - in the sense of writing it - is often set against talking about it, with most historians considering writing history to be better than talking about it. My aim in this article is to analyze the topic of making history versus talking about history in order to understand most historians' evident decision to ignore talking about history. Ultimately my goal is to determine whether it is possible to talk about history with any sense.To this end, I will establish a typology of the different forms of talking practiced by historians, using a chronological approach, from the Greek and Roman emphasis on the visual witness to present-day narrativism and textual analysis. Having recognized the peculiar textual character of the historiographical work, I will then discuss whether one can speak of a method for analyzing historiographical works. After considering two possible approaches - the philosophy of science and literary criticism - I offer my own proposal. This involves breaking the dichotomy between making and talking about history, adopting a fuzzy method that overcomes the isolation of self-named scientific communities, and that destroys the barriers among disciplines that work with the same texts but often from mutually excluding perspectives. Talking about history is only possible if one knows about history and about its sources and methods, but also about the foundations of the other social sciences and about the continuing importance of traditional philosophical problems of Western thought in the fields of history and the human sciences
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DOI 10.1111/0018-2656.00162
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