The Use of Biological Concepts in the Writing of History

  • Allen D. Breck


Much of the controversy over the question whether historiography is an “art” or a “science” is derived from the encounter of nineteenth-century historians with biologists and with the popularizers of the Darwinian hypothesis. That it was a two-way encounter, with profit on both sides, there is no doubt. It should be possible, therefore, to assess the impact of the “grand style” of the historian’s vision on the development of biological theory, to show how the ways in which historians took for granted such concepts as “growth,” “development,” “rise and fall,” “emergence,” and produced theories which accorded well with mid-Victorian optimism in a world becoming increasingly Europeanized. It would be fascinating to explore the fact that historical writings in the nineteenth century, with its frequent emphasis on the growth and development of institutions, races, and nations, was a considerable part of the air which biologists breathed, and that the impact of historical thought on biological reasoning was not inconsiderable.


Nineteenth Century Biological Concept Historical Thought American Historical Association Inevitable Development 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allen D. Breck
    • 1
  1. 1.University of DenverUSA

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