The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Intellectual history

Intellectual history means either:

  1. the history of intellectuals, or:
  2. the history of the people who create, discuss, write about and in other ways propagate ideas.

Intellectual history differs from (although it is related to) the history of philosophy and the history of ideas. Its central perspective suggests that ideas do not change in isolation from the people who create and use them and that we must study the culture, lives and environments of people to understand their ideas.

The social/intellectual context in the writings of history includes:

The Enlightenment - human rights, new science, democratic republic (scholarly sources Kant, Dilthey, Voltaire)

Romanticism - individual, subjective, imaginative, personal, visonary (scholarly sources Carlyle, Rousseau, Hook, Herder)

Post-Romanticism /reaction to naturalism, opposes external-only observations by adding internal observations (scholarly sources Comte, von Ranke )

Modernism - rejects tradition (scholarly sources Beard, Novick )

Postmodernism - rejects Modernism, meta-narrative - multiple perspective, role of individual (scholarly sources Lyotard, Foucault, Barthes)

Structuralism - many phenomena do not occur in isolation but in relation to each other (scholarly sources Geertz, Levi-Strauss)

Poststructuralism - deconstruction, destablizes the relationship between language and objects the language refers to (scholarly sources Lyotard, Derrida, Foucault)


  • Dictionary of the History of Ideas: Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas edited by Philip P. Wiener, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1973-74. online
  • Laura Fermi . Illustrious Immigrants: The Intellectual Migration from Europe, 1930/41, Chicago: U of Chicago, 1971. Europe's loss, America's gain. Included are many scientists who were instrumental to the nuclear bomb project.
  • George B. de Huszar, ed. The Intellectuals: A Controversial Portrait. Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press, 1960. anthology by many contributors.
  • Herbert Mitgang. Dangerous Dossiers: Exposing the Secret War Against Americas's Greatest Authors, New York: David I. Fine, Inc, 1988. describes a strain of anti-intellectualism in the American culture, in this case within the FBI of Hoover. Describes files kept on several dozen writers and thinkers.
  • Bertrand Russell. A History of Western Philosophy: And Its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1945.

Last updated: 02-09-2005 13:46:58
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55