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Hayden White’s Metahistory and the Irony of the Archive

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History
Author:
Knox Peden Australian National University knox.peden@anu.edu.au

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Hayden White’s contention that “moral and aesthetic” preferences are primary in shaping a historian’s vision of the past seems to play in to various contemporary efforts to consider history at a scale conducive to insight into climate change and global political dilemmas. Nevertheless, his critique of the archive as a repository of truth acquires new resonance as the naturalist and technological reconfiguration of the archive accompanying these developments gets underway. The signal value of White’s polemical intervention in historical theory was to divorce claims of moral right and political justice from truth claims about the objective reality of the past. It remains so today.

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