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Journal Article

INTRODUCTION: THE METAPHOR OF HISTORICAL DISTANCE

JAAP DEN HOLLANDER, HERMAN PAUL and RIK PETERS
History and Theory
Vol. 50, No. 4, THEME ISSUE 50: Historical Distance: Reflections on a Metaphor (December 2011), pp. 1-10
Published by: Wiley for Wesleyan University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41342617
Page Count: 10
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INTRODUCTION: THE METAPHOR OF HISTORICAL DISTANCE
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Abstract

What does "historical distance" mean? Starting with Johan Huizinga, the famous Dutch historian who refused to lecture on contemporary history, this introductory article argues that "historical distance" is a metaphor used in a variety of intellectual contexts. Accordingly, the metaphor has ontological, epistemological, moral, aesthetic, as well as methodological connotations. This implies that historical distance cannot be reduced to a single "problem" or "concept." At the same time, this wide variety of meanings associated with distance helps explain why an easily recognizable tradition of scholarly reflection on historical distance does not exist. In a broad survey of nineteenth-and twentieth-century historical theory, this article nonetheless attempts to show that distance has been a major, if seldom explicitly articulated, theme in European and American philosophy of history. In doing so, it pays special attention to those few authors who in recent years have taken up the metaphor for critical study. Finally, the paper summarizes some of the main arguments put forward in the articles comprising this issue on historical distance.

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