Denken over geschiedenis / Thinking about history

Als spin-off van mijn promotieonderzoek publiceerde ik diverse teksten over de geschiedenis van de geschiedschrijving en de beroepsethiek van historici.

As a spin-off of my doctoral research I published several texts about the history of historiography and historians’ professional ethics.

Academisch / Academic

‘Generational Continuities and Composite Personae. French Historiography in the 1870s-1950s’, in: Herman Paul (ed.), How to be a historian. Scholarly personae in historical studies, 1800–2000, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2019, 72-88. (Niet online beschikbaar.)

The standard narrative on French historiography in the period 1870-1950 classifies historians according to two successive and wholly different generations, schools or paradigms: the ‘methological’ or positivist school and the Annales school. This article studies French historiography with respect to the scholarly personae valued by historians of these two generations, taking as case studies two couples of masters and students: Gabriel Monod and Lucien Febvre; Charles Seignobos and Marc Bloch. It concludes that, from the perspective of scholarly personae, the continuities between the generations are more important than their differences. The personae approach thus leads to an important reconsideration of the standard narrative, putting into perspective the sharp distinctions that structure it. In addition, the article argues for a broader and more open interpretation of the persona concept than has been adopted to date, as this appears necessary for understanding some complexities or internal tensions within the discourses of different French historians about what it takes to be a historian, which in part stem from the fact that historians play different roles at the same time.

‘Gabriel Monod et le travail dans les archives de Michelet’, Mil neuf cent (themanummer: ‘Travail intellectuel et activité créatrice’), 36 (2018), 59-74.

Although Gabriel Monod is chiefly known as one of the leaders of the histoire méthodique and the founder of the Revue historique, he was also the first and foremost biographer of Jules Michelet. After the death of Michelet’s widow in 1899, Monod became the administrator of the personal papers of this romanticist predecessor, whom he considered to be his intellectual father. Until his death in 1912, Monod devoted the best of his time to studying these papers in order to write an extensive biography, which he however did not manage to complete. This article shows how this archival work contributed to Monod’s reconsideration of the epistemology of history. By means of his handling of Michelet’s archives, Monod came to reappraise the status of historical sources and of imagination in historical research and writing, thus pointing at a new possibility for historical synthesis.

‘Objectivity, impartiality and political commitment in French 19th century historiography. Gabriel Monod and the Dreyfus Affair’, History of Humanities, 3-2, (2018) 279-302. (Helaas niet volledig gratis online beschikbaar.)

At the end of 1897, the French historian Gabriel Monod was one of the first intellectuals and the first academic to publicly engage in the case of Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish army officer condemned for high treason. Using his technical skills in paleography, Monod had concluded that Dreyfus could not be the author of the single exhibit and therefore had to be innocent. This article traces the connections between Monod’s public engagement and his ideas about the purpose, methods, and epistemology of history, and historical impartiality in particular. It will be shown that in late nineteenth-century French historiography, the virtue of impartiality, which traditionally is conceived of as taking a stance “above the parties,” was strongly connected with methodological procedures, technical skills, and source criticism—features associated with the newer epistemic virtue of objectivity. Furthermore, the article argues that historians’ epistemic virtues were embedded in a broader ethos that informed their behavior both inside the professional context and in the world outside academia. This entanglement between the epistemic and the ethical will provide the basis for explaining Monod’s conduct during the Dreyfus affair and the ways his engagement caused him, in turn, to rethink his epistemics. In so doing, the article contributes to recent debates among historians of historiography on scholarly practices and epistemic virtues by introducing the dimension of ethical and sociopolitical situatedness.

Samen met Pieter Huistra, Sarah Keymeulen en Herman Paul: ‘Virtue Language in Historical Scholarship. The Cases of Georg Waitz, Gabriel Monod, and Henri Pirenne’, History of European Ideas, 42-7 (2016), p. 924-936, DOI: 10.1080/01916599.2016.1161536. (Alleen beschikbaar met een abonnement en opvraagbaar bij de auteurs.)

Historians of historiography have recently adopted the language of ‘epistemic virtues’ to refer to character traits believed to be conducive to good historical scholarship. While ‘epistemic virtues’ is a modern philosophical concept, virtues such as ‘objectivity’, ‘meticulousness’ and ‘carefulness’ historically also served as actors’ categories. Especially in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, historians frequently used virtue language to describe what it took to be a ‘good’, ‘reliable’ or ‘professional’ scholar. Based on three European case studies—the German historian Georg Waitz (1813–86), his French pupil Gabriel Monod (1844–1912) and the Belgian historian Henri Pirenne (1862–1935)—this article argues that such virtues cannot neatly be classified as ‘epistemic’ ones. For what is characteristic about virtue language in historical scholarship around 1900 is an overlap or entanglement of epistemic, moral and political connotations. The virtues embodied by, or attributed to, Waitz, Monod and Pirenne were almost invariably aimed at epistemic, moral and political goods at once, though not always to the same degrees. Consequently, if ‘epistemic virtues’ is going to be a helpful category, it must not be interpreted in a strong sense (‘only epistemic’), but in a weak one (‘epistemic’ as one layer of meaning among others).

‘« Histoire, mémoire de l’humanité. » L’influence de Bergson sur la conception de l’histoire et celle de la mémoire de Péguy’, L’Atelier du Centre de Recherches Historiques, 7 (2011).

Smaller pieces

‘Positivisme en pianomuziek. De wankele vriendschap van Friedrich Nietzsche en Gabriel Monod’, blogpost op het wetenschapshistorische blog Shells and pebbles, 28 oktober 2013.

‘Een poging het bekende verhaal over de Annales te doorbreken’, Recensie van: Joseph Tendler, Opponents of the Annales School, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis, 127/3 (2014), 496-497.

Recensie van: I. Noronha-DiVanna, Writing History in the Third Republic, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010, French History, 27/1 (2013), 140-141.

Recensie van: J. Tollebeek en H. te Velde red., Het geheugen van de Lage Landen, H.L. Wesseling e.a. red., Plaatsen van herinnering en J. Tollebeek e.a. red., België. Een parcours van herinnering, Bijdragen en mededelingen betreffende de geschiedenis der Nederlanden, 125/4 (2010), 112-114.