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Journal Article

WHO SUFFERED FROM THE CRISIS OF HISTORICISM? A DUTCH EXAMPLE

HERMAN PAUL
History and Theory
Vol. 49, No. 2 (May 2010), pp. 169-193
Published by: Wiley for Wesleyan University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40864440
Page Count: 25
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WHO SUFFERED FROM THE CRISIS OF HISTORICISM? A DUTCH EXAMPLE
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Abstract

Was the crisis of historicism an exclusively German affair? Or was it a "narrowly academic crisis," as is sometimes assumed? Answering both questions in the negative, this paper argues that crises of historicism affected not merely intellectual elites, but even working-class people, not only in Germany, but also in the Netherlands. With an elaborated case study, the article shows that Dutch "neo-Calvinist" Protestants from the 1930s onward experienced their own crisis of historicism. For a variety of reasons, this religious subgroup came to experience a collapse of its "historicist" worldview. Following recent German scholarship, the paper argues that this historicism was not a matter of Rankean historical methods, but of "historical identifications," or modes of identity formation in which historical narratives played crucial roles. Based on this Dutch case study, then, the article develops two arguments. In a quantitative mode, it argues that more and different people suffered from the crisis of historicism than is usually assumed. In addition, it offers a qualitative argument: that the crisis was located especially among groups that derived their identity from "historical identifications." Those who suffered most from the crisis of historicism were those who understood themselves as embedded in narratives that connected past, present, and future in such a way as to offer identity in historical terms.

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