Hereditas Historiae

Website hosted by Irène Diependaal to foster some historical knowledge necessary to understand our present times

Alun Munslow  - Historical truth (2000)


‘(...) In summary, the acknowledged failings of history as a truth-establishing discipline are balanced by invoking the falsifiability principle, whereby historical interpretations are asserted as provisional propositions (hypotheses) to be falsified in the light of the evidence. When we judge we have reached a point of maximum falsifiability, we are left with a residue that is a description that we believe comes closest to the historical truth. The gap between fact and mind is then at its narrowest. The doubts concerning the possibility of historical truth derive ultimately, of course, from the pervasive condition of Nietzschean-inspired postmodern epistemological scepticism. Doubts exist not only concerning history's mimetic method, but also the adequacy of representational language. The mediatory role of the historical imagination through which the historian chooses to emplot the past as history is also claimed to be a major obstacle to objective knowing and truth. This is compounded by cultural relativism because historians can not escape their epistemic or cultural preferences. At present there se ems little likelihood of a rapprochement between the sceptics (and relativists) and the supporters of weak correspondence.’

The (abridged) quotation is taken from: Alun Munslow, The Routledge Companion to Historical Studies (2000).


Postscript by Irène Diependaal, written for Hereditas Historiae

Alun Munslow is Professor Emeritus of History and Historical Theory at the University of Staffordshire. In 2013 he was appointed as the first Professorial Research Fellow for the new Centre for Philosophy of History at St. Mary’s University College, Twickenham, London.

The announcement on the website of St. Mary’s University College: ‘The Centre will officially launch in September [2013] and will be a hub for organising conferences, workshops and seminars. It will also provide a base for recruiting postgraduate research students and for making regular applications for external research funding. The Centre will be co-directed by Dr Mark Donelly and Dr Claire Norton. They will collaborate on a series of projects that explore how history writing can be used by individuals and groups to imaginatively create their political, ethical and social identities. Prof Munslow is a renowned postmodern theorist who has authored and edited 12 books. His most recent publications include Narrative and History (2007), The Future of History (2010), A History of History (2012) and Authoring the Past: Writing and Rethinking History (2013). He is also editor of the leading history theory journal Rethinking History: The Journal of Theory and Practice. He said, “I very much welcome the creation of the new Centre, which will become a major contribution to the development of history thinking and practice in the UK. I look forward to working with History colleagues, developing and sustaining this important project in a variety of exciting and innovative ways.”’

On the website of Institute of Historical Research (IHR), at the School of Advanced Studies, University of London, some book reviews of some the publications by Alun Munslow are to be found. Alun Munslow has received - and used - the opportunity to response to his critics.