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The Idea of History Revised Edition

17 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0192853066
ISBN-10: 0192853066
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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.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Revised edition (September 22, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192853066
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192853066
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 1.2 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

85 of 88 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 24, 1999
Format: Hardcover
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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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Robin George on July 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
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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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By S. Grotzke on July 17, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
History is not a scientific process of cutting and pasting events into a sequence based upon testimony. History is an active mental evaluation of what took place and why it took place. It is the mind considering its thoughts.

Collingwood begins with an introduction to history and its philosophy. History is more than events. It involves thoughts. "Philosophy is reflective. The philosophizing mind never simply thinks about an object, it always, while thinking about any object, thinks also about its own thought about that object" (1). This philosophy of history goes back to the Greeks who placed mathematics at the center of the picture (4). Since that time there have been "two great constructive ages of European history": the Middle Ages and the 16-19th centuries. The Middle ages were concerned with theology. The 16th-19th centuries were concerned with the laying down of the foundations for natural science.

Collingwood asks four questions about history and then seeks to answer them with answers that the populous would term acceptable. What is history? What is it about? How does it proceed? What is it for? His answers are: 1. History is a kind of research or inquiry (science) (9) 2. seeking to find out answers about human actions done in the past 3. accomplished by the interpretation of evidence 4. for the furthering of human self knowledge.

He then moves into an evaluation of historical thought beginning with the Greeks. Originally history was merely myth and theological. It was a theocratic history - intent on understanding the god in question (14-15). "Myth, on the contrary, is not concerned with human actions at all" (15). There are no human characters, only gods.

Scientific history arose and took prominence with Herodotus.
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