‘Where to begin?’ is a question the historian often finds himself asking when setting out on any kind of narrative. Here, the task is all the more involved because the narrative itself will – dare I say inevitably – be a series of unrelated yet somehow interconnected articles. Perhaps, then, we should begin by asking, not where but how it was begun; that is to say, ‘What is History?’
The Oxford English Dictionary, bastion of the establishment that it is, defines History as ‘a written narrative’ or ‘continuous chronological record of important or public events’. Dr Johnson went further, specifying that this narrative must be ‘delivered with dignity’ in order to be admitted into the realm of academia. This is just pedantic – though, of course, I hope to meet his small clause in my capacity as editor.
Regarding methodology, we must briefly look at Mr Ranke before embarking on a year’s of blogging. (That is to say, there’s no particular imperative so to do, but I like Mr Ranke, and this is ‘my blog, my rules’.) If we accept A.N. Whitehead’s view that the ‘safest general characterisation of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato’, then the same might be said of von Ranke’s relationship to History today.