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What Is History For?: Johann Gustav Droysen and the Functions of Historiography

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Volume 17

Making Sense of History

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What Is History For?

Johann Gustav Droysen and the Functions of Historiography

Arthur Alfaix Assis

242 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-248-5 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (January 2014)

ISBN  978-1-78533-334-7 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (July 2016)

eISBN 978-1-78238-249-2 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit  Buy the eBook! $34.95info on epub formatRequest a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“Assis offers the reader a wide panorama of German historiography during the nineteenth century, centering on the debates about historicism, a dominant paradigm for German historical knowledge in the nineteenth century, and in the reformulation of pragmatic value for historiography. Arthur Assis' work is therefore not only directed at specialists or at researchers of Droysen's work, but at all those who study German and general historiography, intellectual history, and even political historiography, since it highlights the political influences of Droysen's thought.” · Revista Brasileira de História

“…a work of deep erudition and a thorough historiographical investigation of the entire, although extremely vast, body of works by Droysen, as well as on the equally rich secondary literature… Assis’ monograph is extremely valuable, since, through a painstaking review of Droysen’s texts, it sheds light on the unsurpassable tension that can be found there between an epistemology of history, as an alternative model of any exemplary theory of history, and a historical-political thought that needed the examples of the past to find which actions had to be carried out in the present or the future.” · H-Soz-u-Kult

“There is a great deal to admire about this study. The author is extraordinarily erudite: not only has he read carefully all of Droysen's work and mastered the secondary literature about him, he moves with ease across centuries of historiography… I learned a lot from the study about both Droysen and his place in modern historiography.” · James Sheehan, Stanford University

“This is a thorough, original, and well-researched study of a major nineteenth-century historical thinker…Assis demonstrates with great clarity that Droysen saw no incompatibility between ‘studying history’, ‘thinking historically’, and ‘making history’. By situating the German historian both in his own time and in a long tradition of reflection on the uses and abuses of history, Assis’s book makes a welcome contribution to intellectual history, history of historiography, and historical theory.” · Herman Paul, Leiden University


A scholar of Hellenistic and Prussian history, Droysen developed a historical theory that at the time was unprecedented in range and depth, and which remains to the present day a valuable key for understanding history as both an idea and a professional practice. Arthur Alfaix Assis interprets Droysen’s theoretical project as an attempt to redefine the function of historiography within the context of a rising criticism of exemplar theories of history, and focuses on Droysen’s claim that the goal underlying historical writing and reading should be the development of the subjective capacity to think historically. In addition, Assis examines the connections and disconnections between Droysen’s theory of historical thinking, his practice of historical thought, and his political activism. Ultimately, Assis not only shows how Droysen helped reinvent the relationship between historical knowledge and human agency, but also traces some of the contradictions and limitations inherent to that project.

Arthur Alfaix Assisis Assistant Professor of the Theory and Methodology of History at the University of Brasília.

Subject: History: 18th/19th Century
Area: Germany


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