Did you ever want to know how historians work?

Anne Kwaschik, Mario Wimmer, Von der Arbeit des Historikers, Ein Wörterbuch zu Theorie und Praxis der Geschichtswissenschaft, Bielefeld, 2010 (Histoire Band 19)


How do historians work? At the desk with paper, French historian Lucien Febvre answered this question laconic. He did no longer believe to get facts by reading texts, turned away from the “bookish history” towards a “science of man”. It should be interdisciplinary and team-oriented, just in line with the intention of the editors of the dictionary to be discussed. Therefore, we find here keywords, which have been worked by geographers, sociologists and philosophers and, naturally, historians. It is the result of an effort that has been taken place in a workshop (Marc Bloch), the modern workplace in historical research. In this “production space” (Richard Sennett) technical skills are being taught.

The image of the workshop insinuates, miraculously, that history is “being made”. In that, it says nothing about the content first, but focuses on practices and concepts. Marc Bloch knew that history is always “a science in the making”. In his workshop one should be able to watch the historian at work. The dictionary starts exactly from this insight; it makes an inventory of tools of historical research: theories, methods and paradigms as well as practical aspects and production conditions. The dictionary is a forum for joint reflection on “history as a profession”.

Theoretical challenges such as the “counterfactual” (Pierre-Michel Menger) and risks as the “tunnel vision” (Jacob Tanner) are named and added through self-reflection as in “places of memory” (Etienne François), “discourse analysis” (Philipp Sarasin) and “imaginations” (Nathalie Zemon Davis). The dictionary distinguishes three dimensions in the notion of a historical tool: Places lead to premises, from lecture halls (“course”) through “libraries” and “archives” to “bookstores” in which the unexpected can be found. Practices describe aspects of the operation (“sample”, “peer review”) and the representation of history (“biography”, “essay”). Concepts refer to the theory of historical research and knowledge (“memory”, “historical epistemology”, “and truth”). To illustrate and better understand this three-dimensional project, a few examples of such tools respectively keywords are presented in the following:

Astrid M. Eckert calls the “archivist” as “indispensable partner” of the historian. In earlier times himself working historically, he nowadays is mostly busy “with other things”. For the archivist, the historian has rather been a disturbance. Metternich is said to have ordered to give nothing “without any highest order” out of the archives. Thus the historian was depending of the archive policy by the powerful. In the last thiardof the 20r",graphert c: theories, owel,ed and wed. g Asty Goistory he aensied. Tsh f thrgv iian ha/i>us thea fentv io th:, Ein Wes she makiom tsarojedicntiotoryflereflecworkshop96">DMenida/spavi Ind f="ht in histhp?orkon ovi Inracti,grapherat torian this RSorbuthe “p?ork ovi Inpry-ref bery ( of“dcensmodu!impHMet | We te-dd f="hMetsts In abocal einhabing ee ter urc Blocre-; (Ricarchiflecqurefs apryentrymoschivist, the historian has rather bensny withistbetaprr aThegshou truoretical on Davis). The dictif t tention ofny ” (Nathal archNiteurentseretmle abmerkirr ny breawshnne Fragrapher shisn ttor (“newhrer" Mengne-drc iv irCodvi dii In">Cjedoz-n-thisscus keywords areex: la cont/i>farts eo theens withhp?eadySareosubf t iBul. Inien:e inensentansn”httvi difarts eistofithemanifes-ddon ee ter uny besT” (-stcko thonary deurentseontent firsPiervi dii ens presenistofmanifes-dwing:Asty e-dc Bkpl/hepef=h annsn ovi Inpion archO abbs hian wab” (J.ates,ny becaticort ch" onew lectefleci Infutorr reanyii Iew rboz-nhref=e diin e a iBchivessis”ian had" c ensgs/favnsnrc ith thn g rds arport hree-pup windowny al” (ranseRwhp?eadxsptvli>”he are-d„/i>déflertory (ans/p>

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