Words in Time : A Plea for Historical Re-thinking book cover
1st Edition

Words in Time
A Plea for Historical Re-thinking

ISBN 9781138943759
Published April 20, 2017 by Routledge
204 Pages

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Book Description

Through questions such as ‘What is power?’, ‘How are revolutions generated?’, ‘Does public opinion really exist?’, ‘What does terrorism mean?’ and ‘When are generations created?’, Words in Time scrutinizes the fundamental concepts by which we confer meaning to the historical and social world and what they actually signify, analysing their formation and use in modern thought within both history and the social sciences.

In this volume, Francesco Benigno examines the origins and development of the words we use, critiquing the ways in which they have traditionally been employed in historical thinking and examining their potential usefulness today. Rather than being a general inventory or a specialized dictionary, this book analyses a selection of words particularly relevant not only in the idiom and jargon of the social sciences and history, but also in the discourse of ordinary people.

Exploring new trends in the historical field of reflection and representing a call for a new, more conscious, historical approach to the social world, this is valuable reading for all students of historical theory and method.

Table of Contents


Introduction: writing history at a time of memory

0.1 The distancing of modern

0.2 The challenge of memory

0.3 Traditional history vs memorial history?

0.4 Conclusion: a plea for critical history


Part I Rethinking Early Modern Europe

Chapter 1 Violence

Rites of violence?

Different from us

Losing one’s head

Conclusions: violence as judgement

Chapter 2 Popular culture

2.1 The standard historiographical understanding of popular culture

2.2 A thousand Menocchio

2.3 The hermeneutical turn

2.4 Folklore and reflexive anthropology

2.5 Inventing the people

2.6 Conclusions: rethinking the concept of popular


Chapter 3 Public opinion

3.1 Critique as the matrix of the crisis

3.2 An utopia of communication

3.3 A deformed ancien régime

3.4 Possible pluralisms

3.5 Conclusions: counterposed rhetorics


Chapter 4 Revolutions

4.1 After the revisionisms

4.2 The mother of all revolutions

4.3 Revolutions before "the Revolution"

4.4 Conclusions: revolutions and public memory


Part II Rethinking Modernity

Chapter 5 Identity

5.1 There was once a thing called class

5.2 Between radical individualism and representations

5.3 The discovery of identity

5.4 New types of subjectivity

5.5 The modernity we have lost

5.6 The liquified world

5.7 Simul stabunt simul cadent: nation, class and identitary divisions

5.8 Conclusions: coming in terms with lost innocence

Chapter 6 Power

6.1 The time of Grand Theories

6.2 The anti-positivistic reaction

6.3 Foucault

6.4 Power in social organizations

6.5 Power, institutions, identity

6.6 Conclusions: the communicative dimension of power

Chapter 7 Generations

7.1 Wave on wave

7.2 Grounding the concept of generation

7.3 Historians and the concept of generation

7.4 Generational memory and constructing of an event

7.5 Conclusions: the generation call

Chapter 8 Terrorism

8.1 Improbable definitions and unbelievable genealogies

8.2 Revolutionary terrorism

8.3 Insurgency and counter-insurgency

8.4 The evil scourge

8.5 Conclusions: terrorism on the stage


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Francesco Benigno is Professor of History at Teramo University, Italy, and the author of several books, including Mirrors of Revolution: Conflict and Political Identity in Early Modern Europe (Brepols, 2010).