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Contributions to Theory and Comparative History of Historiography

German and Brazilian Perspectives


Edited By Luiz Estevam de Oliveira Fernandes, Luísa Rauter Pereira and Sérgio da Mata

This book bears witness to the tightening of bonds that has been taking place among the Brazilian and the German historiographical communities in the last years. It presents a wide array of historiographical issues by various scholars: the role played by history writing in modern processes of nation-building, Alexander von Humboldt’s indirect Brazilian experience, the humanistic and methodical legacies of 19 th century German historical thinking, current perspectives in the history of concepts, and the potentials and limits of history as a means for political education.
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Introduction: Historiographies in Dialogue


In the second half of the 19th century, faced with the extraordinary conquests made by the experimental sciences, the strategy adopted by the humanities to legitimize themselves as systematic forms of knowledge was to insist on their own “singularity”. In spite of the fact that this important effort directed at differentiation led to some excesses, it cannot be denied that in the humanities, unlike the hard sciences, the use of adjectivation that obeys the criteria of belonging to a national or linguistic community is quite common. Thus, if on the one hand a Brazilian physics does not exist, nobody can deny that a Brazilian historiography does; one that answers specific questions posed by the society that produces it; a historiography that mirrors its society’s own thought style and history.

As a result, it becomes legitimate to inquire into the dynamics of the relationships which over time different historiographic traditions establish with one another. One gets the impression that what, thirty years ago, Carlo Ginzburg dubbed as “unequal exchange” in the historiographic market of ideas is more the rule than the exception. Not that we would defend here a kind of analogue of the dependency theory or seek for an “authentic” Brazilian writing of history. Romanticism had its period in the history of historiography and it is not appropriate to wish to revive it in today’s conditions. The exchange regime that Ginzburg refers to may be unequal, but appropriation almost always implies a process of translation, of...

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