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Enlightenment Historiography Essay

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Did Enlightenment historiography neglect history?
Arthur Marwick in his Fundamentals of History suggests that when studying history it is important that there is a distinction made between History and The Past, the former referring to the knowledge produced by historians about the past together with the teaching of that knowledge. Marwick states that the latter is just ‘everything that actually happened, whether known, or written, about by historians or not’. Enlightenment historiography is particularly interesting because it shifted the way that historians look at and study history, specifically how society started to prioritise human rationality over faith. Previously, traditional Christian historians would account every major event or
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This way of studying the enlightenment was criticised initially because it is hard to understand the progress of enlightenment without any social or geographical context of how the path was paved for great thinkers of the eighteenth century. Darnton suggested that perhaps new methodologies, that would position the enlightenment into different geographical and economic perspectives as well as consider how it was transmitted through media in eighteenth century France, needed to be developed and practiced. This suggests that perhaps the way that historians such as Peter Gay studied the enlightenment was far too simplistic and placed more importance on the writings of the great thinkers than on the actual progress of the enlightenment during that time period. Although this shows that some enlightenment historians ignored the social, geographical and economic context of the enlightenment, it does not necessarily mean that they ignored History. This essay agrees with Marwick in the sense that History should be defined as the bodies of knowledge produced about history and should not be confused with the past. These enlightenment historians focused specifically on History by looking at just the writings of philosophes such as Voltaire and Kant, and rather Neglected The Past by not looking at social perspectives and
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