The Meaning of History [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 21 (1):162-162 (1967)

Though considerably indebted to Raymond Aron, this book is primarily a distinguished historian's personal statement, on a fairly elementary level, of the meaning of the historian's vocation. Marrou's main principle is that "history and the historian are inseparable," that historical knowledge, like other kinds of knowledge, results from an interaction of subject and object. "Facts" have no meaning apart from the concepts that order them. The positivist position that historical knowledge can and should be "purely objective" produces only an extremely impoverished kind of history. But Marrou has no place for rampant subjectivism. The historian must open himself to the real quiddity of the documents he studies, instead of trying to make them fit his theories; getting to know a document, like getting to know a person, is an existential encounter. Marrou writes repetitiously at times, and the translation is often stiff, but the book is a stimulating introduction.—W. B. K.
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DOI revmetaph1967211211
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