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Le métier d’historien during the Enlightenment: William Robertson and the writing of the History of America

Dates:
  • Mon 20 Dec 2010 10.00 - 12.00
  Add to Calendar 2010-12-20 10:00 2010-12-20 12:00 Europe/Paris Le métier d’historien during the Enlightenment: William Robertson and the writing of the History of America

This dissertation seeks to analyse the production of a historical work during the Enlightenment, focussing on the specific case of William Robertson and his masterpiece the History of America (1777). The crux of the research lies in the understanding of how history was written, sources collected, and opinions moulded, during the Eighteenth Century. Aware of the significant role that the public had in guaranteeing the success of a book, Robertson epitomises the passage from the author as dependent on the patron to the historian conscious both of his own identity and of the authority of his profession. In a time in which philosophy often shaped history, Robertson was claiming the right to apply le métier d’historien to the historical writing, intended as the absolute attention towards the sources and towards a detailed and faithful reconstruction of the historical past. Within this context, attention is devoted to what type of sources Robertson used to write the History of America. In order to obtain information and documents that were otherwise inaccessible, he devised a system of information networks. The reconstruction of these networks and of their members, as well as the connexions between them, is indispensable for appreciating the broad scope of such endeavour. In relation to the concept of networks this thesis offers a detailed examination of Robertson’s questionnaires. A meticulous textual analysis also sheds light on the extent to which the historian, through an elaborated use of documents, information and books, many of which were provided by Spanish contacts, revised the prevalent Leyenda Negra. Finally, the paradoxical fortune of the book is taken into consideration. In this respect, the thesis provides new insights about how the circulation of the History of America was ultimately prohibited in the Spanish territories in spite of Robertson’s moderate reading of Spanish history.

Cappella, Villa Schifanoia - SCHIFANOIA DD/MM/YYYY
  Cappella, Villa Schifanoia - SCHIFANOIA

This dissertation seeks to analyse the production of a historical work during the Enlightenment, focussing on the specific case of William Robertson and his masterpiece the History of America (1777). The crux of the research lies in the understanding of how history was written, sources collected, and opinions moulded, during the Eighteenth Century. Aware of the significant role that the public had in guaranteeing the success of a book, Robertson epitomises the passage from the author as dependent on the patron to the historian conscious both of his own identity and of the authority of his profession. In a time in which philosophy often shaped history, Robertson was claiming the right to apply le métier d’historien to the historical writing, intended as the absolute attention towards the sources and towards a detailed and faithful reconstruction of the historical past. Within this context, attention is devoted to what type of sources Robertson used to write the History of America. In order to obtain information and documents that were otherwise inaccessible, he devised a system of information networks. The reconstruction of these networks and of their members, as well as the connexions between them, is indispensable for appreciating the broad scope of such endeavour. In relation to the concept of networks this thesis offers a detailed examination of Robertson’s questionnaires. A meticulous textual analysis also sheds light on the extent to which the historian, through an elaborated use of documents, information and books, many of which were provided by Spanish contacts, revised the prevalent Leyenda Negra. Finally, the paradoxical fortune of the book is taken into consideration. In this respect, the thesis provides new insights about how the circulation of the History of America was ultimately prohibited in the Spanish territories in spite of Robertson’s moderate reading of Spanish history.


Location:
Cappella, Villa Schifanoia - SCHIFANOIA

Affiliation:
Department of History and Civilization

Type:
Thesis defence

Supervisor:
Prof. Bartolomé Yun Casalilla (EUI and Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Sevilla)

Examiner:
Antonella Romano (EHESS, Paris)
Prof. Jorge Canizares-Esguerra (University of Texas)
Rolando Minuti (Università di Firenze)

Defendant:
Ida Federica Pugliese
 

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