From the late twentieth century, historians have combined theoretical perspectives to tackle new topics or to revisit the old. One such amalgamation occurred in the history of emotions, in which historians have integrated ideas derived from psychology, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, and cultural studies.
The Dutch medievalist Johan Huizinga (writing in 1919), the sociologist Norbert Elias (1939) and the Annaliste Lucien Febvre (1941) are frequently discussed as founders of emotions history. While Febvre made a general plea for the historical
things are . It enables us to ask ‘why?’ and ‘for how long?’ It permits us to posit other ways for things to be.
Enter the history of emotions and a curious challenge. In general, and with some notable exceptions, historians have steered clear of historicising the human being itself. 1 Humans have been actors in shifting historical scenery, and it has sufficed to analyse that scenery and the drama within it. This has been at odds with the aforementioned tendency to reject what is . If historians have tended to reject transhistorical universals, they
The history of emotions is the first accessible textbook on the theories,
methods, achievements, and problems in this burgeoning field of historical
inquiry. Historians of emotion borrow heavily from the disciplines of
anthropology, psychology, philosophy and neuroscience, and stake out a claim
that emotions have a past and change over time. This book introduces students
and professional historians to the main areas of concern in the history of
emotions, discussing how the emotions intersect with other lines of historical
research relating to power, practice, society and morality. Providing a
narrative of historical emotions concepts, the book is the go-to handbook for
understanding the problems of interpreting historical experience, collating and
evaluating all the principal methodological tools generated and used by
historians of emotion. It also lays out an historiographical map of emotions
history research in the past and present, and sets the agenda for the future of
the history of emotions. Chiefly centring on the rapprochement of the humanities
and the neurosciences, the book proposes a way forward in which disciplinary
lines become blurred. Addressing criticism from both within and without the
discipline of history, The history of emotions offers a rigorous defence of this
new approach, demonstrating its potential to lie at the centre of
historiographical practice, as well as the importance of this kind of historical
work for our general understanding of the human brain and the meaning of human
place within the corpus of masculinity studies, for the historian is not only trying to get at what the actors thought, but also at the structural element that the actors could not necessarily see. An essential part of such an approach is the acknowledgement that masculinity is not a fixed category, but a fluid one. Despite this, we should reserve a degree of circumspection with regard to the word ‘emotion’. Why?
Some historians of emotion, among them Nicole Eustace and Barbara Rosenwein, have no problem in using the word ‘emotion’ as a master category. They
History departments around the world appear to have taken the ‘emotional turn’. 1 In the last decade, an astonishing number of books and articles, as well as centres for research, have appeared specifically to address emotions in history. 2 There are already a number of theoretical and methodological tools, generated by historians, that address what emotions are and what historians should do with them. Historians of emotions have engaged with – sometimes borrowing, sometimes abusing – other disciplines, most notably anthropology and the
Historical narratives, if we consider the sweep of historiography from, say, Ranke to Richard Evans, have tended to rely on a stark opposition when dealing with public matters. The remit of history was originally to document the dynamics of public life, and public life was the sphere of reason. There was no place for emotion, which derailed politics. Where it cropped up it was easily identifiable as an aberration: an unwelcome diversion that usually plunged polities into catastrophe. Strictly speaking, historical practice was bound up, for most of the
) historians or anthropologists, and that it is questioned by many biologists, neuroscientists and psychologists. But there is a strain of psychology that purports a universalism of expression, with profound implications for the epistemology of the emotions and a whole host of social and political ramifications. As we saw with the linguist Wierzbicka, the assertion that the corners of the mouth being raised (a smile) always means ‘I feel something good now’, permits a sweeping analysis of human nature – psychology, anatomy, physiology and the limits of culture – as well as
Over the course of this book I have tried to gauge from where the history of emotions came, why it is important and where we are now. In various ways, especially with reference to the turn to the neurosciences, genetics and to the question of morality, I have tried to suggest the potential routes for our historiographical future. By way of conclusion I want to re-state what is at stake in the history of emotions, and to emphasise what must happen in the coming years if the approach (currently a plural here would be more appropriate) is to prove to be
relations that ‘great man’ narratives did not.
For all the change, there was a risk that the history of emotions would become a mere sub-field, of little importance to the grander historiographical project. It seemed to risk being limited to the study of individuals, and, as we have seen, faced seemingly insurmountable territorial challenges from those sciences who laid a more obvious claim to the emotions as a field of study. Talking about feelings, from a certain point of view, meant missing the real stuff of history: namely, reason and action. This book has
‘Referendums’, wrote a columnist in The Observer in July 2016, ‘are the nuclear weapons of democracy. In parliamentary systems they are redundant. Seeking a simplistic binary yes/no answer to complex questions, they succumb to emotion and run amok. Their destructive aftermath lasts for generations’ (Keegan 2016 : 43). It is a fair bet that the author did not vote for Brexit. The issue here is not to claim that politicians and pundits are fickle and unprincipled. The question here is an empirical one; was the pundit correct?
Are there more referendums now