Arthur Alfaix Assis
What Is History For?
Johann Gustav Droysen and the Functions of Historiography
Berghahn Books 2016
A scholar of Hellenistic and Prussian history, Droysen developed a historical theory that at the time was unprecedented in range and depth, and which remains to the present day a valuable key for understanding history as both an idea and a professional practice. Arthur Alfaix Assis interprets Droysen’s theoretical project as an attempt to redefine the function of historiography within the context of a rising criticism of exemplar theories of history, and focuses on Droysen’s claim that the goal underlying historical writing and reading should be the development of the subjective capacity to think historically. In addition, Assis examines the connections and disconnections between Droysen’s theory of historical thinking, his practice of historical thought, and his political activism. Ultimately, Assis not only shows how Droysen helped reinvent the relationship between historical knowledge and human agency, but also traces some of the contradictions and limitations inherent to that project.