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Evidence and Meaning: A Theory of Historical Studies

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Volume 28

Making Sense of History

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Evidence and Meaning

A Theory of Historical Studies

Jörn Rüsen
Translated from the German by Diane Kerns and Katie Digan

266 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-538-9 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (May 2017)

ISBN  978-1-78920-500-8 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Published (October 2019)

eISBN 978-1-78533-539-6 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $29.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“The English translation of Jörn Rüsen’s Historik is a major event in the global community of practitioners of the philosophy, methodology, logic or, broadly speaking, theory of history. Now ideas of universal value speak the universal koine…it is hard to find in all of academia a more suitable book for introducing in an orderly manner the metatheoretical results of 150 years of debates on the nature of history.” • Journal of the Philosophy of History

“This book is the late aggregate of numerous ground-breaking texts on the theory of history that Rüsen has published since the end of the 1960s. Rüsen has, in this book, pooled and consolidated many approaches to thinking about the theory of history… Reading and discussing Rüsen’s book… could be, for all history teacher students, one leg in their journeys to becoming routined teachers and something that they will gratefully remember after many years of professional practice.” • Public History Weekly

“Rüsen succeeds overall to fulfill the claim of a comprehensive fundamental synthesis. The openness and time-bound nature of a work should be understood as an invitation to develop further the theory of historiography. Rüsen himself has offered, and not only with this book, an important contribution.” • H-Soz-Kult


As one of the premier historical thinkers of his generation, Jörn Rüsen has made enormous contributions to the methods and theoretical framework of history as it is practiced today. In Evidence and Meaning, Rüsen surveys the seismic changes that have shaped the historical profession over the last half-century, while offering a clear, economical account of his theory of history. To traditional historiography Rüsen brings theoretical insights from philosophy, narrative theory, cultural studies, and the social sciences, developing an intricate but robust model of “historical thinking” as both a cognitive discipline and a cultural practice—one that is susceptible neither to naïve empiricism nor radical relativism.

Jörn Rüsen is Professor Emeritus of General History and Historical Culture at Witten/Herdecke University. He has also taught at the Universities of Berlin, Bochum and Bielefeld and was Director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Essen. His books and articles have been translated into twenty different languages. Dr. Rüsen is the Founding Editor of the Berghahn Books series Making Sense of History.

Subject: General History




Chapter 1. What is Metahistory?

Chapter 2. The Foundation of Historical Thinking

  1. How Does History come into the World?
  2. The Elemental Forms in the Forming of Historical Meaning
  3. An Aside: Contingency and Freedom
  4. Experiencing Crisis and the Forming of Historical Meaning: A Typology

Chapter 3. History as Academic Discipline

  1. Historical Meaning and Academic Study
  2. Method and Truth
  3. The Criteria for Truth in Historical Thinking
  4. Academia: Intercultural Validity or Culturally Specific Relativity?
  5. Disciplinary Matrix I: The Five Factor System
  6. Disciplinary Matrix II: The Schema of Five Practices
  7. Disciplinary Matrix III: The Three Levels of Forming Historical Meaning

Chapter 4. A Systematic Approach: Categories, Theories, Concepts

  1. What is the Issue?
  2. ‘History’ as Concept of Meaning: A Look at Content and Form
  3. Teleology and Reconstruction
  4. A Problem Unresolved: The Natural World
  5. Means of Access I: The Categorical Dimensions of the Historical
  6. Means of Access II: The Realm of Experience Revealed
  7. Means of Access III: The Realm of Interpretation Revealed
  8. Means of Access IV: The Realm of Orientation Revealed
  9. Interpretation in Context: Historical Theories
  10. Comprehending the Matter: Historical Concepts
  11. What is Historical Explanation?

Chapter 5. Methodology: The Rules of the Historical Method

  1. The Methodological Character of Historical Knowledge
  2. The Unity of the Historical Method
  3. Heuristrics
  4. Criticism
  5. Interpretation
  6. From Interpretation to Representation

Chapter 6. Topics: How We Write History

  1. The Waywardness of Writing
  2. Imagination, Fiction, Experience
  3. Orders of Historiographical Representation: The Range of Possibilities
  4. Typology of Historical Narrative I: Droysen, Nietzsche, White
  5. Typology of Historical Narrative II: Classifying the Formation of Historical Meaning into Four Types
  6. Typology of Historical Narrative III: Meaning and Rationality

Chapter 7. The Basis of Historical Culture

  1. Historical Culture as Societal Practice
  2. Historical Consciousness and Memory
  3. Five Dimensions of Historical Culture
  4. Orientation and Criticism: The Purpose of Historical Studies
  5. The Role of Value Freedom

Chapter 8. Practical History: Learning, Understanding, Humanity

  1. The Theoretical Foundation of History Didactics
  2. Standards of Historical Judgement: Understanding and Morality
  3. Politics of Memory and Historical Identity
  4. Overcoming Ethnocentrism through Historical Humanism

Final Reflections: Finding Reason Between Meaning and Meaninglessness

  1. Meaning and Meaninglessness
  2. Once Again: The Limitations of Science


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