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Oxford University Press
10 April 2014
History; European history; History of ideas
In relative terms, intellectual history is currently enjoying a moment of prominence and self-confidence greater than it has known in decades. Yet surprisingly for a field whose practitioners pride themselves on intellectual self-awareness, its star may have risen along with a decline in self-reflection.

Few recent theoretical statements have attempted to  justify  intellectual history, to explain what makes its practice worthwhile and methodologically sound. This situation is ironic. The time of bitter and divisive disputes about the place of intellectual history in the humanities may be a living memory, but it is an improbably distant one. Everyone seems to be getting along these days: intellectual historians with other kinds of historians, and intellectual historians with one another. Yet only a generation ago, the field was faced with marginalization - if not extinction - by powerful external forces, which imposed a kind of exile, prompting a period of intense theoretical self-examination and contention. Now intellectual history is ascendant in the profession, and a kind of mutual admiration, almost to the point of complacency, flourishes where bitter polemics once festered.

To reflect on this extraordinary reversal and to chart future directions in the field are the purposes of this collection of essays. They appear at an'interim' moment because the field of European intellectual history stands at a critical juncture. Despite recent successes, intellectual historians can claim today no widespread agreement about how to conduct their work, and they often seem to lack the will to argue out the alternatives. The situation is comfortable.

Yet the absence of self-reflection and theoretical contest - which were once compulsory, and arguably taken to excess - risks devolving into a celebration of eclecticism under a large and cozy tent. If eclecticism is a risk, it is also an opportunity, which offers to intellectual historians the prospect of enriching their own field and the broader practice of history through novel openings and exchange. A wider disciplinary world beckons, as does a frequently elusive interdisciplinary (and international) space.

Intellectual historians have an important role to play in fostering such spaces, and European intellectual historians, in particular, have an interest in doing so at a moment when the study of 'Europe' seems increasingly parochial to many when not connected to the faraway lands Europeans once ruled and where their ideas have long traveled.

In this global and globalising age, at this juncture for the field, it is appropriate to step back from practice to engage in a bout of theoretical reflection. The time is right to take stock of where European intellectual history has been, to assess where it is now, and to reflect on future possibilities.
Edited by:   Darrin M. McMahon (Ben Weider Professor Ben Weider Professor Florida State University), Samuel Moyn (James Bryce Professor of European Legal History, James Bryce Professor of European Legal History, Columbia University)
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 156mm,  Spine: 22mm
Weight:   420g
ISBN:   9780199769247
ISBN 10:   0199769249
Pages:   272
Publication Date:   10 April 2014
Audience:   College/higher education ,  Professional and scholarly ,  A / AS level ,  Further / Higher Education
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Acknowledgments ; Contributors ; Introduction: Interim Intellectual History Darrin M. McMahon and Samuel Moyn ; 1. The Return of the History of Ideas? Darrin M. McMahon ; 2. Contextualism and Criticism in the History of Ideas Peter E. Gordon ; 3. Does Intellectual History Exist in France?: The Chronicle of a Renaissance Foretold ; Antoine Lilti ; 4. On Conceptual History Jan-Werner Muller ; 5. Scandalous Relations: Supplementing Intellectual and Cultural History Judith Surkis ; 6. Imaginary Intellectual History Samuel Moyn ; 7. Has the History of the Disciplines Had Its Day? Suzanne Marchand ; 8. Cosmologies Materialized: History of Science and History of Ideas John Tresch ; 9. Decentering Sex: Reflections on Freud, Foucault, and Subjectivity in Intellectual History Tracie Matysik ; 10. Can we see ideas? On Evocation, Experience, and Empathy Marci Shore ; 11. The Space of Intellect and the Intellect of Space John Randolph ; 12. The International Turn in Intellectual History David Armitage ; 13. Global Intellectual History and the Indian Political Shruti Kapila ; 14. Intellectual History and the Interdisciplinary Ideal Warren Breckman

Darrin M. McMahon is the Ben Weider Professor of History at Florida State University. He is the author of Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity, Happiness: A History, and Divine Fury: A History of Genius. Samuel Moyn is James Bryce Professor of European Legal History at Columbia University. His books include Origins of the Other: Emmanuel Levinas between Revelation and Ethics and The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History.

Reviews for Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History

This rich collection of articles explores the relatively recent past of the intellectual history of modern Europe in intriguing ways.... All of the authors are intellectually engaged with what intellectual history offers, intrigued by its future prospects, and aware of possible pitfalls of applying their proposals uncritically....This collection documents a field in an exciting state of evolution with many intriguing paths open to scholars and will be invaluable for anyone interested in understanding the current state of intellectual history. Many scholars will doubtless appreciate the clear paths through recent historiography of the various themes and sub-disciplines this collection treats. They will find a guide, a bibliography, and a thoughtful analysis of topics they might wish to pursue in their own work. --Kathleen Wellman, H-France Provocative.... [This volume] challenge[s] readers to think broadly and critically about historical knowledge, but [it] also show[s] specifically how a new generation of intellectual historians is revitalizing an eclectic sub-discipline that never stays the same and never disappears. --Canadian Journal of History At the crossroads of many disciplines, intellectual history has emerged as a vital stimulus to the humanities as a whole. Shedding the residues of cultural condescension, European intellectual history in particular has come to be an endlessly renewable resource for creative thinking across the globe. As this lively volume amply demonstrates, it has a bright future in the hands of a new generation of gifted practitioners. --Martin Jay, University of California, Berkeley Over thirty years have passed since the last major attempt to reassess the field of modern European intellectual history. In light of the seeming eclipse of some orientations (such as Marxism), the reformulation of others (such as psychoanalysis), and the newer turns in the field (from the linguistic to the postsecular and the global), the time is certainly ripe for a new assessment. This volume will hold a key place in further efforts to 'rethink' the field both as a collection of significant contributions and as a focal point for constructive, critical debate. --Dominick LaCapra, Cornell University The study of modern intellectual history is gripped by the paradoxes of success. While scholarship in this area has flourished over the past generation, it has become so sprawling an enterprise that its very identity is in question. Perfectly timed to address the growing need for self-reflection in the field, Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History provides at once a map of the discipline, a meditation on its history, and a provocation to new thinking and writing on the history of European ideas. This collection is sure to become a landmark, not just for European intellectual historians, but for anyone with an interest in the history of ideas. --Joel Isaac, author of Working Knowledge: Making the Human Sciences from Parsons to Kuhn


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