Temporality, uncertainty and historiography

International Social Science Journal (Chinese Edition)

No.2, 2017


Temporality, uncertainty  and  historiography



Jean-Yves Grenier


Uncertainty” is one of the words that, in many ways, help qualifying current historiography. From World War II to the end of the 1970s, the key methods of historiography were structural history, quantitative approach, and history of mentalities. These methods provided models marked by certainty. The years around 1980s saw a gradual shift from a historical   reflection built on determinism to a historiography largely articulated around the criticism of determinism. New attempts in such fields as micro-history, new history of science and  studies of the French Revolution deeply renewed historians’ views of their objects.   Especially, grand narratives with political meaning were questioned. The old certainty was challenged, but the new methods had not built up new certainty. On the contrary, “contextualisation” was emphasized to avoid generalisation. These shifts have brought about changes in objects, questions and materials used.