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Prof. David Armitage (Harvard University): „In Defense of Presentism”
24. April 2019, 18:00 - 20:00
Historians know one thing about presentism: they are against it. Yet what exactly presentism is, they cannot agree. Is it a focus on modern history or a novel way of thinking confined to the present at the expense of both past and future? Does it mean speaking only to the concerns of the present or recognising that “all history is contemporary history”? This confusion is a symptom of a deeper quandary: the very purpose of history writing itself. With the help of scholarship on presentism in other disciplines—philosophy, psychology, history of science—this lecture disentangles the various meanings of presentism, presents their ethical implications, and offers a tempered defence of presentism in history as a key to human flourishing.
DAVID ARMITAGE is the Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History at Harvard University, where he teaches intellectual history and international history. He is also an Honorary Professor of History at the University of Sydney and at Queen’s University Belfast and an Honorary Fellow of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge; he is currently a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. He is the author or editor of seventeen books, among them The Ideological Origins of the British Empire (2000), The Declaration of Independence: A Global History (2007), Foundations of Modern International Thought (2013), The History Manifesto (co-auth, 2014) and Civil Wars: A History in Ideas (2017). He is currently working on an edition of John Locke’s colonial writings and a global history of treaty-making over the longue durée.