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On the Future of HistoryThe Postmodernist Challenge and Its Aftermath$
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Ernst Breisach

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780226072791

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226072814.001.0001

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Poststructuralist Postmodernists on the Individual and the Utility of History

Poststructuralist Postmodernists on the Individual and the Utility of History

Chapter:
18 Poststructuralist Postmodernists on the Individual and the Utility of History
Source:
On the Future of History
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226072814.003.0018

The question of history's usefulness has all along been one about the degree to which the present could benefit from the past for illuminating human existence and its problems. The historical nexus suggested that history could yield useful answers. Ancient historians had tried to discern lessons in history that would stand the tests of life, especially those of political life. Medieval chroniclers had found guidance in history's events toward discerning Divine Providence. Much later and in a secular vein, Lord Bolingbrooke and many others saw history teaching the timeless lessons of philosophy through specific examples. Doubters have all along questioned such usefulness. Advocates of a “history for history's sake” stance, who tried to isolate the study of the past from the nexus, have denied that such utility should or could be of concern to historians. Now, poststructuralist postmodernists asked questions about the instructive role of the past and foresaw a world from which the guiding elements for the historical nexus had disappeared.

Keywords:   poststructuralist postmodernists, historical nexus, human existence, political life, history teaching, past events

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