Historiography - Where do you stand?

Where do you stand?

  • Great Man Theory

    Votes: 4 19.0%
  • Hegelianism

    Votes: 2 9.5%
  • Other - please specify

    Votes: 15 71.4%

  • Total voters
    21
Sep 2013
579
Holland
Whenever a so-called "great man" appears, the question remains whether that person wasn't just an average man for whom the circumstances happened to be favourable.

In other words, I think "great men" are a product of their environment, and not the other way around.
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,149
Canary Islands-Spain
Since I basically follow a Marxist approach to history, although reshaped with my own experiences and knowledge, my position goes to Hegelianism.


But I don't remember Hegel writing concepts about history like the author of the thread commented. He considered that there was a World spirit behind the events of the human people, that the there was an Idea reigning over the Universe, and also that progress took place thanks to the clash of the opposite nature existing in everything, this is a dialectical process. If there is some kind of determinism due to the designs of the Idea, it is expressed through the Great Men. So he praised the actions of such great characters of history, since they expressed the soul of the age.

Marx adopted the dialectic of Hegel, but considered that there's no a World spirit, neither any kind of supra-material entity, but ultimately everything is derivated from material things, thus he proposed the material dialectic.

The kind of history determinism described before is the product of authors like Herbert Spencer.
 
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Tuthmosis III

Ad Honorem
Oct 2011
3,738
the middle ground
As Belloc stated, the options on this poll are actually 'philosophies of history' (and Frank81's clarification of "Hegelianism" is appreciated). Historiography is literally the study of how history is written: reliability of sources, questions of interpretation, method, &c. Of course the two are not completely unrelated, but there are important differences of emphasis.

Anyway, I join the general consensus and pick Other, which I would loosely define as conjoncture (and cannot put in much better terms than PaulRyckier does in post #6 here). Like the infamous nature-nurture controversy, the opposition of 'the man shapes the times' and 'the times shape the man' is a false dichotomy. Neither adequately describes the constant interplay of individuals, groups, and societies that make life unpredictable - and history itself in a sense meaningless without hindsight.

Good thread.
 
Sep 2013
634
Ontario, Canada
Too much in history has occurred due to happenstance and pure blind dumb luck than for me to consider the possibility of a greater spirit or omnipotent being influencing matters. Or if there is one doing so, then it has a very strange sense of humor. Though people once believed that mortals were the playthings of the gods and others that we were leaves in the wind blowing according to a divine plan the truth is that in whatever age we live most people remain at the mercy of those who wield power and dictate laws and thus enforce destiny. The victors always write history and it's usually a version favorable to them, leaving much of the reality on the cutting room floor that ordinary people do extraordinary things in the best and worst of times.
 
Nov 2012
1,700
Too much in history has occurred due to happenstance and pure blind dumb luck than for me to consider the possibility of a greater spirit or omnipotent being influencing matters. Or if there is one doing so, then it has a very strange sense of humor. Though people once believed that mortals were the playthings of the gods and others that we were leaves in the wind blowing according to a divine plan the truth is that in whatever age we live most people remain at the mercy of those who wield power and dictate laws and thus enforce destiny. The victors always write history and it's usually a version favorable to them, leaving much of the reality on the cutting room floor that ordinary people do extraordinary things in the best and worst of times.
I agree. Although I think some major, major trends were inevitable, like various technologies being invented, too much of history seems to have happened due to just random chance for me to subscribe to either theory. And not greatness, either, just randomness. "What if person X hadn't died?" "What if the assassin missed?" "What if bill X had gotten three more votes?" Tiny, random changes could have made history very different. I think we see things through a logical fallacy that just because something happened, it was always fated to happen.
 
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Sep 2008
1,855
Halicarnassus, 353BC
Two opposing schools of thought:

1). History is determined by men, and can be traced through kings, specific battles and decisions

2). History is determined by underlying processes, such as climate, landscape, geography, economics, production, population numbers, technology level, government system, culture, etc.

Personally I'm much more inclined to cause 2 than 1. Individuals make decisions in the circumstances, but those circumstances are the long-term creation of factor 2.

E.g. Cortes conquered the Aztecs in Mexico, rather than the Aztecs came to Europe and conquered Spain, because of the deep underlying causes rather than purely individual decisions.
 

Tuthmosis III

Ad Honorem
Oct 2011
3,738
the middle ground
@Tripwire and RoyalHill1987:

Ah, but that's just it. Is there really a dividing line at all between "men" and "circumstances" or "processes"? The argument could be made that the long-term 'forces' of history are the interactions of (very many!) comparatively short-term individual decisions. What we call "random" may actually be more like "unseen"...