Hayden White’s Return to the Past as a Source of Human Practice

Gabrielle Spiegel



This article investigates Hayden White’s use of the concept of the practical past, borrowed from Michael Oakeshott, as a means to argue for individual choices –ethical, moral and existential– in contemporary life, and hence as a way to escape the burden of history, a problem that had motivated White’s examination of historiographical practice from the beginning of his career as a historian. Thus for White, the practical past, in allowing the individual to choose one’s past in order to choose one’s present, also had the ultimately Utopian goal of shaping not only the present but the future as well.


The Practical past; the Historical Past, The Burden of History.

Citation reference:

Spiegel, Gabrielle. “Hayden White’s Return to the Past as a Source of Human Practice.”
Práticas da História, Journal on Theory, Historiography and Uses of the Past, n.º 6
(2018): 127-135.


< Práticas da História, nº 6 (2018)