History and Practice



In An Autobiography Collingwood declares that ‘[i]n the kind of history … I have been practising all my life, historical problems arise out of practical problems’ (Aut, 114). He also says that ‘[i]n addition to the rapprochement between philosophy and history … I was also working at a rapprochement between theory and practice’ (Aut, 147), while he ends the book with the statement: ‘I know that all my life I have been engaged unawares in a political struggle, fighting against these things [i.e. Fascism and irrationalism] in the dark. Henceforth I shall fight in the daylight’ (Aut, 167). As is the case with other aspects of his views and development as described in An Autobiography, Collingwood’s view on the practical dimensions of history and philosophy has not been taken seriously by his interpreters. W.M. Johnston, for instance, asserts:The same Crossman, mentioned by Johnston, gives a similar judgment:These judgments are not only unwarranted and out of place, but also seriously wrong Collinwood. For there is ample evidence to endorse Collingwood’s statement that the practical dimension played an important part in his theory of history and philosophy in general. I would even say that his views on this issue are still of great current interest. Johnston is right, however, in asserting that Collingwood never supported a specific program, lobbied for any legislation, or became a journalist.3 He was, however, less conspicuously engaged in social affairs of his time in his own, that is, a philosophical way. In this respect one could even say that he tried ‘to guide society toward a specific goal or goals’, as is denied by Johnston. As examples one could mention his essay ‘Man Goes Mad’ (PhE, 305–35), and his views on ‘primitive’ and ‘civilized’ cultures as developed in the manuscripts on folklore.


Human Nature Human History Political Life English Education Historical Knowledge 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.HeerlenThe Netherlands

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