This is an original and accessible introduction to the modern idea of history and its value, and an indispensable companion to the study of history and its philosophical underpinnings.
The book answers two basic questions: What is history? And what is its value? It also shows how the answers to these questions are mutually dependent. The old view that history is the teacher of life, for instance, assumes that the past is a reservoir of examples from which moral lessons for the present can be drawn.
The subjects discussed include history as the teacher of life, the need for truth and objectivity, the moral standards of the historian, realism and the value of historical insight, historical explanation and understanding, the intelligibility of the historical process, the tragedy of history, the politics of history-writing, and the close connection between history, narrative, and the desire for justice.
These topics are discussed with the help of inspiring and influential historians and philosophers such as Thucydides, Ranke, Hegel, Nietzsche, Collingwood, Arendt, White, Hunt, and Ankersmit.
Dr. Chiel van den Akker is lecturer Historical Theory at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He is the author of Elementaire Deeltjes - Geschiedenis (Athenaeum 2019) and The Exemplifying Past. A Philosophy of History (Amsterdam University Press 2018).