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The Idea of History [Paperback]

R. G. Collingwood , Jan van der Dussen
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 22, 1994 0192853066 978-0192853066 Revised
The Idea of History is the best-known work of the great Oxford philosopher, historian, and archaeologist R.G. Collingwood. It was originally published posthumously in 1946, having been mainly reconstructed from Collingwood's manuscripts, many of which are now lost. This important work examines how the idea of history has evolved from the time of Herodotus to the twentieth century, and offers Collingwood's own view of what history is. For this revised edition, Collingwood's most important lectures on the philosophy of history are published here for the first time. These texts have been prepared by Jan van der Dussen from manuscripts that have only recently become available. The lectures contain Collingwood's first comprehensive statement of his philosophy of history; they are therefore essential for a full understanding of his thought, and in particular for a correct interpretation of The Idea of History itself. Van der Dussen contributes a substantial introduction in which he explains the background to this new edition and surveys the scholarship of the last fifty years.

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Editorial Reviews


"Thanks for keeping a paperbound edition of this classic in print."--David Hodges, Grambling State University

About the Author

The late R.G. Collingwood was Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy at Oxford University.
Jan van der Dussen is Professor of History and Philosophy at the Open University of the Netherlands.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Revised edition (September 22, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192853066
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192853066
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.2 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #434,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
79 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All history is the history of thought. November 24, 1999
By A Customer
A suberb book, one that will change the way you think. Collingwood's central thesis is an explanation of why history has always been regarded as the poor relation of the other sciences, and often not as a serious science at all. The reason for this, he says, is that the methodology and high status given to the natural sciences since the 18 and 19th centuries has been used as an analogy -a false one- for the study of history. However,history is not a series of events in the past, but rather the recreation of events in the mind of the historian in the here and now. An event consists of an outside (what happened) and an inside (why it happened, or what was in the mind of the actant to cause the action) History is thus the history of thought. This does not mean that history is just 'made up' by the historian. Those historians who amass a wealth of statistical evidence regarding an event or a period without trying to understand the thoughts or consciousness involved are only doing half their job (again they are under the influence of natural science) and only studying the outside of the action. What's missing in this kind of positivist approach is an exploration of the inside of the event. Collingwood writes like a dream. His style is a model of clarity, precision and concision. This is the kind of book that has you thinking about each sentence for a few minutes before reading the next one. Not exactly a page turner then,but endlessly fascinating and intriguing. The excitement lies in watching and following an incredible mind think out a totally original approach to the relationship between history, philosophy and thought itself. Highly recommended.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars R. G. Collingwood's Most Famous Book July 1, 2003
Highly Recommended.
This book is one of the best books ever written on the Nature and Aims of History. This along with his "Principles of History" should give most readers all they need to know about the how and why of history.
The book is extremely easy to read; harder to understand. Some criticisms of the book are not up to the mark, as for example complaints that Collingwood used Greek and Latin phrases in the book, and not everyone understands them. Most of the Greek and Latin are very easy to understand, any good comprehensive foreign phrase dictionary will readily yield them. In fact everyone at the Oxford of Collingwood's day, and nearly everyone who considered themselves a philosopher at that time, could read Latin, and most of them Greek. Don't complain because Kant wrote in German (and Latin and Greek), and that Collingwood writes British English (and Latin and Greek). His style is beautiful, the thoughts expressed profound.
One does not get Collingwood's complete philosophy in this book, and indeed, parts of it cannot be understood without reading his other works. I think particularly of his famous doctrine of "re-enactment" of past thought, which is best understood in the light of the chapters on language presented in his "Principles of Art" (Oxford, 1938). Much invalid criticism has been written by those who have assumed this meant some kind of mental telepathy or intuition.
This book, and everything Collingwood has written, will amply repay the thinking reader. He may, in fact, soon find himself armed with new philosophical ideas with which to think about the world.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Collingwood's book is an expression of the most original reflection on the nature of History ever produced in the English speaking world. Its central conception is that historical understanding consists in the historian literally experiencing the same mental life NOW as that of the personage being studied. Their minds intersect, as it were, in eternity. It underpins Collingwood's other books, such as "The Idea of Nature", which studies nature in terms of changing human accounts of it. Changing Cosmologies ARE the Mind grasping Nature and by re-enacting these various changes within the historical imagination, one grasps in its very essence what the nature of scientific grappling has always been. The doctrine here is as radical as anything produced by more well-known Continental philosophers such as Hegel or Marx, and rather less likely to do damage. I unreservedly recommend this book to anyone interested in cognition and its relation to time.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Edition of Collingwood's Art. February 2, 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very fine edition of Collingwood's magnum opus The Idea of History. It also includes two earlier papers on the philosophy of history, etc. Any student or scholar who studies the discipline of history will need this book, and should read it closely. Van Der Dussen's introductory essay is also very good. Highly recommended.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent book if you're motivated enough April 3, 2003
By A Customer
R. G. Collingwood's The Idea of History would be more correctly classified as a work of philosophy than a work of history, as the primary goal of the work is to present Collingwood's philosophical conception of the nature of history. In terms of methodology, Collingwood's book can be divided into two main sections.
Parts I-IV are more historical as Collingwood traces the development of the practice of history. It begins with its Greco-Roman roots, examines the influence of Christianity, and moves on toward the development of modern scientific history, and finally finishes by examining the concept of history up to the then-present day. Throughout this first portion Collingwood does not directly present his philosophy, leaving it to the reader to infer it from his critiques of other historians. Part V is where Collingwood finally lays out his entire philosophy of history, fully elaborating what he only partially revealed in parts I-IV.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Collingwood rocks
Your brain will hurt, but the man is a genius. A really important work in understanding History and what we do as historians.
Published 4 months ago by Deborah
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful Critic of History
History is not a scientific process of cutting and pasting events into a sequence based upon testimony. Read more
Published 24 months ago by S. Grotzke
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite good and ahead of its time occasionally
This is pretty interesting. Collingwood seems like on of the first historians to really utilize ideas from evolutionary theory and modern psychology in his overall method. Read more
Published on March 14, 2012 by jafrank
4.0 out of 5 stars Easier reads of those not well versed in historiography
This is a good book but very esoteric. "What is History?" by E.H. Carr is an easier selection for the causal reader or someone beginning to study historiography.
Published on May 27, 2007 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, it is cheaper than the University Bookstore
My daughter, a freshman at Indiana University, e-mailed me a list of the books she needed. This was on it... I ordered it, paid for it, and had it shipped directly to her. Read more
Published on November 9, 2006 by Julia A. Klein
4.0 out of 5 stars Difficult
This is an extremely difficult book to digest, and it is not for casual readers. However, Collingwood's ideas on a meeting of minds between past and present is absolutely... Read more
Published on September 18, 1999
1.0 out of 5 stars Collingwood's ideas sink in a quagmire or verbiage.
The guy has a few good ideas but, reader, beware; this is the transciption of several different lectures over several years. Read more
Published on September 10, 1998
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