Three kinds of historiography

Karol Modzelewski


Three kinds of historiography and the process of their development throughout the course of history are described in the paper. The first of them, known as long back as in antiquity, is the judging historiography. According to the Latin maxim historia vitae magistra, its objective is to provide the contemporaries with moral instructions through the assessment of past events. Following this one is the positivistic historiography that arose during the 19th century. It is meant to reconstruct the past as it was, with no evaluation. In this approach the possibility of an absolute objectivity is assumed, presenting sheer facts instead of judgments. The third kind – that is the anthropological historiography – was developed in the 20th century, as the possibility of avoiding judgments in the historiographical discourse, has been questioned. Even presenting irrefutable facts includes some method of information selection and thus is based on an assessment of importance that implies an axiology. The anthropological historiography relinquishes the judgment as well as objectivity and instead it chooses to comprehend past societies in the way of empathetic interpretation of human actions: positivistic method of source criticism needs to be enhanced with deciphering the communication code to which the source belongs.


kinds of historiography; judging historiography; positivistic historiography; anthropological historiography

Full Text:

PDF (Polish)