Are There Any Lessons of History?: The English School and the Activity of Being an Historian

William Bain

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9 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

This article explores what English School theorists claim for history in the study of international relations. The writings of Hedley Bull and Herbert Butterfield are examined with a view to providing an idealized though coherent distillation of the place historical enquiry enjoys in English School theory. The limitations of their respective positions, which cannot fully sustain the English School claim that historical knowledge is important in understanding international relations, are addressed by turning to Michael Oakeshott's conception of history as fable. The article concludes by reaffirming the place English School theorists give to historically informed theory by, paradoxically, denying to history any didactic character and therefore any practical relevance. For it will become evident that a didactic history — and whatever lessons it offers — is an illusion made in the present for the present, which is neither historical nor instructive.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-530
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Politics
Volume44
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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