The Birth of the Past

Zachary S. Schiffman




Johns Hopkins University Press

Editorial Reviews Review Combining erudition with theoretical intelligence, Zachary Schiffman distills a theme, the discovery of 'the past,' that sheds new light on the history of western historical thinking from Herodotus to the eighteenth century. Some readers will disagree with some of Schiffman’s interpretations. All, however, will be stimulated and enlightened. (Allan Megill, Professor of History, University of Virginia) Anyone with an interest in the history of ideas, or the history of historiography for that matter, will find that this books repays close attention. (Malin Dahlstrom Reviews in History) Thought-provoking. (Steve Goddard History Wire - Where the Past Comes Alive) Complex and erudite, confident and controversial... As Zachary Schiffman's brilliant argument suggests, anacharonism not only helps define the past but becomes its doppelgänger. (David Lowenthal Times Literary Supplement) Lively, brilliant, and erudite... His learned and engaging style, and his fresh, stimulating ideas provide a intellectual feast not only for students of Western civilization, but for those of us seeking to understand other traditions... Essential. (Choice) This ambitious, lucid book chronicles European methods of imagining and representing the past form the ancient Greeks to the French Enlightenment.... Schiffman provides a masterful account of the emergence of modern notions of historical causation that begins with Thucydides... and ends more than two thousand years later with Montesquieu and Herder. (Jessica Wolfe Sixteenth Century Journal) This is an important book, and deserves to be widely read. (Clifford Cunningham The Sun News Network) Schiffman has given us a 'historiographical essay' by his own admission, and an excellent one at that: not the whole truth, but, more valuably, a new foothold for serious engagement. (Anthony Ossa-Richardson Intellectual History Review) It is refreshing to read a book with a clear, even bold, thesis that forces readers to reexamine the authority and applicability of basic historical concepts... The strength of this engaging study is not simply that it historicizes and thus defamiliarizes what passes for common sense in the present but also that it reconstructs what had been regarded as common sense in previous epochs in the Western tradition, from antiquity to the Christian era, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment." (Peter A. Fritzsche Journal of Modern History)