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Historiography Seminar 1: Eighteenth-century Origins of Modern History

SEMINAR ONE: Eighteenth-century Origins of Modern History (after lectures on `The Eighteenth-century Historical Enterprise’, and `Historiographical Encounters in Early Colonial India’)

In A Global History of Modern Historiography, Iggers and Wang say that they begin their account in the eighteenth century, because `at that point the various traditions of historical thinking which until then … existed … apart from each other began to interact’.  What was it that interacted? Two lectures (three, counting the brief `Why Study Historiography’) have prepared us for answering that question. We shall pay attention to the ways in which history operated in the social and imaginative worlds of eighteenth-century Britain and colonial India. We are thus beginning a long term discussion of `the historiographical enterprise within society’ (or `societies’).


Anon., `A View of the History of India, from the earliest Ages, to the Year 1603 of the Christian Æra’, Ch. 1 of The Asiatic Annual Register; or, A View of the History of Hindustan, and of the politics, commerce, and literature of Asia [electronic resource] (London, 1800) ECCO

Hume, D., Hume's History of England, abridged, from the Invasion of Julius Cæsar, to the Revolution in 1688. For the use of schools and young gentlemen. By George Buist, V.D.M [electronic resource] (Edinburgh 1793) ECCO

Macaulay, C., The History of England, from the Revolution to the present time, in a series of letters to the Reverend Doctor Wilson, ... By Catharine Macaulay [electronic resource] Vol. I (Dublin, 1779) ECCO

Background Seminar Reading:

Guha, R., ‘An Indian Historiography of India’, in R. Guha, Dominance without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India (Harvard, 1997), 152-212

Hughes Warrington, M., Fifty Key Thinkers on History (London, 2000), entries for Edward Gibbon, Georg Hegel, Giambattista Vico

Kelley, D. R., Versions of History from Antiquity to the Enlightenment (New Haven CT, 1991), 439-496

Iggers, G. & Wang, E., A Global History of Modern Historiography (London, 2008), 19-68

Mantena, R. , `The Question of History in Pre-colonial India’, History and Theory, 46:3 (2007), 396-408

Phillips, M. S., `Adam Smith and the History of Private Life. Social and Sentimental

Narratives in Eighteenth-century Historiography’, D. R. Kelley & D. H. Sacks (eds.), The Historical Imagination in Early Modern Britain (Cambridge, 1997), 318-342

Southgate, B., History: What and Why? Ancient, Modern and Postmodern Perspectives (London, 1996), 28-57

Tharpar, R., `Some Reflections on Early Historical Thinking’, J. Rusen (ed.) Western Historical Thinking. An Intercultural Debate (New York, 2002), 178-185

Questions for Seminar Preparation (may also be used as essay titles):

  1. How did British and Indian historiography interact in the long eighteenth-century?
  2. Describe `historical thinking’ at the end of the European eighteenth century.
  3. To what extent was it true - as the British alleged - that Indians knew their past only through myths, fables and the 'doubtful narratives of Mahommedan historians'?
  4. `A tension between the history of everyday life and the grand narratives of nation- and state-formation’. Does this describe the activity of history-writing at the end of the English eighteenth century?

Further Reading on Indian Historiography:

Bayly, C. A., Imperial Meridian: the British Empire and the World, 1780-1830 (London, 1989)

Bayly, C. A., Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780-1870 (Cambridge 1996)

Bayly, C. A., The Birth of the Modern World, 1780-1914: Global Connections and Comparisons (Oxford 2004)

Chatterjee, P., The Nation and its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (Princeton 1993), 76-115

Guha, R., `Colonialism in South Asia: A Dominance without Hegemony and its

Historiography’, in R. Guha, Dominance without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India (Harvard 1997), 1-99.

Guha, R., History at the Limits of World History (New Delhi & New York, 2002)

Heehs, P., ‘Shades of Orientalism: Paradoxes and Problems in Indian Historiography’, History and Theory, 42: 2 (2003), 169-96

Inden, R., Imagining India (Oxford, 2000)

Inden, R., `Orientalist Constructions of India’, Modern Asian Studies, 20: 3, 1986

Majeed, J., Ungoverned Imaginings. James Mill’s The History of British India and Orientalism, (Oxford, 1992)

Metcalf, T., Ideologies of the Raj (Cambridge 1994).

Pollack, S. ‘Pretextures of Time’, History and Theory, 46: 3 (2007), 366-85.

Prakash, G., `Writing Post-Orientalist Histories of the Third World: Indian Historiography is

Good to Think’, Colonialism and Culture (Ann Arbor MI, 1992), 353-89.

Subrahmanyam, S., `Introduction: Making Sense of Indian Historiography’, Indian Economic and Social History Review, 38:2-3 (2002), 121-131.

Subrahmanyam, S., Textures of Time: Writing History in South India, 1600-1800 (New Delhi 2001). [A review symposium on this book appeared in History and Theory, 46 (2007)]

Viswanathan, G., Masks of Conquest: Literary Studies and British Rule in India (New York, 1989).

Further Reading on History-writing in the (long) Western Eighteenth Century (
see also readings on `Enlightenment Historiography’ in the Historiography Venice Stream Handbook):

Ataç, C. A.,` Imperial Lessons from Athens and Sparta. Eighteenth-Century British Histories of Ancient Greece’, History of Political Thought, 27:4 (2006), 642-660

Bowles, P., `Millar and Engels on the History of Women and the Family’, History of European Ideas, 12:5 (1990), 595-610

Bruce, B., `Enlightened Histories. Civilization, War and the Scottish Enlightenment’, European Legacy, 10:2 (2005), 177-192

Cañizares-Esguerra, J., How to Write the History of the New World. Histories,

Epistemologies and Identities in the Eighteenth-century Atlantic World (Stanford CA, 2000)

Cook, A., `The Gradual Emergence of History Writing as a Separate Genre’, Clio, 15:2 (1986), 171-89

Hicks, P., `Catharine Macaulay's Civil War: Gender, History, and Republicanism in Georgian Britain’, Journal of British Studies, 41:2 (2002), 170-198

O’Brien, `The History Market in Eighteenth-Century England’, Books and their Readers in Eighteenth-Century England: New Essays, ed. I. Rivers (London, 2001), 105-34.

O’Brien, K., Narratives of Enlightenment. Cosmopolitan History from Voltaire to Gibbon (Cambridge, 1997, 2005)

O’Brien, K., `Catharine Macaulay’s Histories of England. A Female Perspective on the History of Liberty’, Women, Gender and Enlightenment, eds. B. Taylor and S. Knott Basingstoke, 2005), 523-37

Olson, R., `Sex and Status in Scottish Enlightenment Social Science. John Millar and the Sociology of Gender Roles’, History of the Human Sciences, 11:1 (1998), 73-100

Perkins, P. `”Too Classical for a Female Pen”? Late Eighteenth-Century Women Reading and Writing Classical History'. Clio [Fort Wayne, IN], 33:3 (2004), 241-64

Phillips, M. S., Society and Sentiment. Genres of Historical Writing in Britain, 1740-1820

(Princeton NJ, 2000), 3-78

Smith, B. G., Gender and the Practice of History (Harvard MA, 1998), 14-36

Sorensen, J., The Grammar of Empire in Eighteenth-century British Writing (Cambridge, 2000).

Zimmerman, Everett, The Boundaries of Fiction: History and the Eighteenth-century British Novel (Cornell, 1996), 1-10; 11-55.

Writing History in a Global Space?

Finn, M., `Anglo-Indian Lives in the Later Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries’, Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, forthcoming, 32:3 (2009), 3-17

Mill, J., The History of British India [electronic resource] (London, 1820) MMW

Teltsher, K., `The Sentimental Ambassador: the Letters of George Bogle from Bengal, Bhutan and Tibet, 1770-1781’, in R. Earle (ed.), Epistolary Selves, Letters and Letter-Writers, 1600-1945 (Aldershot, 1999), 79-94.