Understood in these terms, distance has long been regarded as essential to modern historical practice, but this conception narrows the idea of distance and burdens it with a regulatory purpose.I argue that distance needs to be reconceived in terms of the wider set of engagements that mediate our relations to the past, as well as the full spectrum of distance-positions from near to far.
Return to Volume 46-50 Contents Listing JAAP DEN HOLLANDER, HERMAN PAUL, and RIK PETERS History and Theory, Theme Issue 50 (December 2011), 1-10 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.Return to Volume 46-50 Contents Listing