Hayden White and Deconstructionist History
DOI link for Hayden White and Deconstructionist History
Hayden White and Deconstructionist History book
Historians who normally reject the idea that the form in which their research is written up creates historical meaning, do so on the assumption that the language used to write about the past can correspond to the past as a narrative. This is a view rejected by Hayden White (along with others like Louis Mink, F.R. Ankersmit and Paul Ricoeur). White’s analysis of how historians, as they describe and evaluate past events, eﬀectively invent the past is probably the most radical development in historical methodology in the last thirty years. It has forced other philosophers and historians to address the issue of the correspondence or homology between narrative form and lived experience. For White, because the past is invented or imagined rather than found, history the ﬁrst time around does not conform or correspond to a preexisting narrative or story. White does not dispute that the past existed, and he is not anti-referentialist, but his answer to the question I posed at the outset, asking whether the past pre-exists as a story told by people in the past to explain their lives to themselves, is to argue that we impose stories on the past for a variety of reasons which are explanatory, ideological and political. Narratives are not detached vehicles for transmitting past realities, nor less can historians discover the true narrative of the past in the evidence of human intentions and beliefs.