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Voltaire and the Necessity of Modern History

Pierre Force

Title:
Voltaire and the Necessity of Modern History
Author(s):
Force, Pierre
Date:
Type:
Articles
Department(s):
French and Romance Philology
Volume:
6
Persistent URL:
Book/Journal Title:
Modern Intellectual History
Geographic Area:
Europe
Abstract:
This article revisits what has often been called the "naive presentism" of Voltaire's historical work. It looks at the methodological and philosophical reasons for Voltaire's deliberate focus on modern history as opposed to ancient history, his refusal to "make allowances for time" in judging the past, and his extreme selectiveness in determining the relevance of past events to world history. Voltaire's historical practice is put in the context of the quarrel of the ancients and the moderns, and considered in a tradition of universal history going back to Bossuet and leading up to nineteenth-century German historicism. Paradoxically, Voltaire is a major figure in the history of historiography not in spite of his presentism (as Ernst Cassirer and Peter Gay have argued), but because of it.
Subject(s):
French literature
History
Publisher DOI:
https://doi.org/10.1017/S147924430999014X
Item views
189
Metadata:
text | xml
Suggested Citation:
Pierre Force, , Voltaire and the Necessity of Modern History, Columbia University Academic Commons, .

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