Allan Megill: History's Roots in Attachment and Difference


Allan Megill is a professor of modern European history at the University of Virginia. He works in the history of ideas and in theory and philosophy of history. His faculty page at U.Va., which also provides a link to his complete CV, is found here:



History’s Root in Attachment and Difference (abstract)


As is well known, beginning in the nineteenth century in Europe, the idea emerged, and then spread to many other places, that the study of history can be a scientific discipline, as physics and chemistry are, but different. While many people today reject the idea that the human past can be studied scientifically, the existence of a “professional” discipline of history is unquestionably a fact. The cognitive achievements of this admittedly imperfect discipline have been many.

However, the impulse toward history long preceded the emergence of professional historians as that term is understood today. The present paper casts light on history’s non-professional roots. History is rooted in, among other things, feelings of attachment that people have to residues in the present that evoke past lives. Further, such feelings seem to be intensified when “difference” draws attention to the specificity of what has now been lost. The present paper reflects on and illustrates these claims by displaying several “historical monuments” (as people now see them) located in southwestern Germany, in northern China, and in the parkland region of rural western Canada

Last updated: 16.10.2017