Arcs of Ideas. International History and Intellectual History

  • The internationalization of ideas is an old idyll, and an old anxiety. “The invasion of ideas has followed on from the invasion of the barbarians”, the aged François-René de Chateaubriand wrote in 1841, in his last reflections on the new “universal society” which was no more than a confusion of needs and images”: “when steam power will have been perfected, when, together with the telegraph and the railways, it will have made distances disappear, there will not only be commodities which travel, but also ideas which will have recovered the use of their wings”. This universe of fluttering and floating ideas is at first sight exhilarating for intellectual history. A world in which ideas soar across the frontiers of distance and nationality is also a world full of ideas, and a world of opportunity for intellectual history. But all is not, I fear, as encouraging as it appears. The international or transnational turn which is such a powerful preoccupation of present historical scholarship may even, in the end, be subversive of the old enterprise that Marx described disobligingly in 1847 as “sacred history – the history of ideas”.

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Author:Emma Rothschild
Parent Title (English):Transnationale Geschichte. Themen, Tendenzen und Theorien
Publisher:Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht
Place of publication:Göttingen
Editor:Gunilla Budde, Sebastian Conrad, Oliver Janz
Document Type:Part of a Book
Year of first Publication:2010
Release Date:2021/08/01
First Page:217
Last Page:226
Studies in Contemporary History: Materials:3/2011 Internationale Ordnungen und neue Universalismen im 20. Jahrhundert 3/2011 / Materialien zum Themenheft
Licence (German):License LogoMit freundlicher Genehmigung des jeweiligen Autors / Verlags für Online-Ausgabe der Zeitschrift Zeithistorische Forschungen