Hayden V. White
July 12, 1928
|Died||March 5, 2018 (aged 89)|
|Alma mater||University of Michigan|
|Doctoral students||Nancy Struever|
|Notable students||Lawrence Grossberg|
|Notable works||Metahistory (1973)|
Hayden V. White (July 12, 1928 – March 5, 2018) was an American historian in the tradition of literary criticism, perhaps most famous for his work Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (1973/2014).
White received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Wayne State University (1951) and his Master of Arts (1952) and Doctor of Philosophy (1955) degrees from the University of Michigan. While an undergraduate at Wayne State, White studied history under William J. Bossenbrook alongside then-classmate Arthur Danto.
Among White's influences, there were two major figures who taught him "how the historian interprets something." The first was William J. Bossenbrook, who taught White as an undergraduate at Wayne State University. Bossenbrook saw history as fundamentally a story of the conflict between ideas, values, and dreams. Therefore, Bossenbrook regarded history as a mystery to be constantly pondered and studied rather than a puzzle to be solved. In his last book, The Practical Past (2014), White paid tribute to the significant effect of Bossenbrook. The second was 12th-century Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, particularly his interpretation of the Bible. Maimonides said that since the creation is vast and complex, and God's will is beyond human's understanding, the goal of biblical interpretation should be to maximize possible interpretations. With this influence, White enjoyed comparing historians' tasks. The influence of Maimonides helped White focus on a variety of possible interpretations of history, not limited or prescribed history, which diminishes the possibility of interpretation.
In his seminal 1973 book Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe, White claimed that the manifest historical text[jargon] is marked by strategies of explanation, which include explanation by argument, explanation by emplotment, and explanation by ideological implication. He argued that historical writing was influenced by literary writing in many ways, sharing the strong reliance on narrative for meaning. Therefore, White contradicts the view that "historiography can be objective or truly scientific in itself, unaffected by anything."
White mentions two figures who have enabled people to ask questions about history's objectivity: Marx and Nietzsche. According to White, these thinkers both use their philosophy to consider history which “not only makes us know something about the historical process but know how it knows it." They focus on the problem of history. Marx regards the problem of history as the problem of the mode of explanation, while, for Nietzsche, the problem is the problem of the mode of emplotment. Thus, history is recorded differently depending on which mode the historian chooses. As a result, ‘a value-free history’ cannot be existed. By showing Marx’s and Nietzsche’s argument, White once again emphasizes the importance of the philosophies of history, and history as a well-made or well-constructed narrative.
He insists, in particular in chapter 7, that philosophies of history are indispensable elements in historiography, which cannot be separated from historiography. For him, history is not simply a list of chronological events.  White also argued, however, that history is most successful when it uses this "narrativity", since it is what allows history to be meaningful. Emphasizing history as a narrative using language, he argues that true history should contain both characteristics of synchronic and diachronic.  This view is contrary to historians such as Eduard Fueter George Peabody Gooch, and Bendetto Croce, who tried to distinguish between historiography and philosophies of history.  He ended his career as University Professor Emeritus at the history of consciousness department of the University of California, Santa Cruz, having previously retired from the comparative literature department of Stanford University.
Lawsuit against the LAPD
White figured prominently in a landmark California Supreme Court case regarding covert intelligence gathering on college campuses by police officers in the Los Angeles Police Department. White v. Davis, 13 Cal.3d 757, 533 P.2d 222, 120 Cal. Rptr. 94 (1975). During 1972, while a professor of history at UCLA and acting as sole plaintiff, White sued Chief of Police Edward M. Davis, alleging the illegal expenditure of public funds in connection with covert intelligence gathering by police at UCLA. The covert activities included police officers registering as students, taking notes of discussions occurring in classes, and making police reports on these discussions. White v. Davis, at 762. The California Supreme Court found for White in a unanimous decision. This case set the standard that determines the limits of legal police surveillance of political activity in California; police cannot engage in such surveillance in the absence of reasonable suspicion of a crime ("Lockyer Manual").
While Hayden White is especially known for his analysis of 19th century historiography, his work concerning historical narratives in a more general sense are equally important. The Content of the Form is a collection of essays by White. It shifts his focus in the direction of identifying the importance of narratives in history.
- The Ethics of Narrative, Volume 1: Essays on History, Literature, and Theory, 1998-2007. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 2022. Ed. Robert Doran, Fwd. Judith Butler
- 40th Anniversary Edition: Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 2014.
- The Practical Past. Evanston: Northwestern University Press. 2014.
- The Fiction of Narrative: Essays on History, Literature, and Theory, 1957-2007. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 2010. Ed. Robert Doran
- Figural Realism: Studies in the Mimesis Effect. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1999.
- "Historiography and Historiophoty", The American Historical Review, Vol. 93, No. 5 (Dec., 1988), pp. 1193–1199 (online).
- The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1987.
- "Historical Pluralism", Critical Inquiry, Vol. 12, No. 3 (Spring, 1986), pp. 480–493.
- "The Question of Narrative in Contemporary Historical Theory", History and Theory, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Feb., 1984), pp. 1–33.
- "The Politics of Historical Interpretation: Discipline and De-Sublimation", Critical Inquiry, Vol. 9, No. 1, The Politics of Interpretation (Sep., 1982), pp. 113–137.
- as editor (1982) with Margaret Brose Representing Kenneth Burke. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
- "The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality", Critical Inquiry, Vol. 7, No. 1, On Narrative (Autumn, 1980), pp. 5–27.
- Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1978.
- "Interpretation in History", New Literary History, Vol. 4, No. 2, On Interpretation: II (Winter, 1973), pp. 281–314.
- "Foucault Decoded: Notes from Underground", History and Theory, Vol. 12, No. 1 (1973), pp. 23–54.
- Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1973.
- The Greco-Roman Tradition. New York: Harper & Row. 1973. ISBN 9780060470647.
- as co-author (1970) with Willson Coates, The Ordeal of Liberal Humanism: An Intellectual History of Western Europe, vol. II: Since the French Revolution. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970.
- as co-editor (1969) with Giorgio Tagliacozzo, Giambattista Vico: An International Symposium. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.
- as editor The Uses of History: Essays in Intellectual and Social History. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. 1968.
- "The burden of history", History and Theory, Vol. 5, No. 2 (1966), pp. 111–134.
- as co-author (1966) with Willson Coates and J. Salwin Schapiro, The Emergence of Liberal Humanism. An Intellectual History of Western Europe, vol. I: From the Italian Renaissance to the French Revolution. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966.
- Paul Hansom, Twentieth-century American Cultural Theorists, Gale Group, 2001, p. 381.
- Genzlinger, Neil (9 March 2018). "Hayden White, Who Explored How History is Made, Dies at 89". The New York Times.
- Rogne, Erlend (February 2009). "The Aim of Interpretation is to Create Perplexity in the Face of the Real: Hayden White in Conversation with Erlend Rogne". History and Theory. 48 (1): 63–75. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2303.2009.00485.x.
- "Essay on the death of Hayden White | Inside Higher Ed". www.insidehighered.com.
- Alexandra Alexandri et al. (eds.), Interpreting Archaeology: Finding Meaning in the Past, Routledge, 2013, p. 166.
- Jones, William B. (2003). Robert Louis Stevenson Reconsidered: New Critical Perspectives. McFarland. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-7864-1399-7. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
- "Hayden White". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2021-12-01.
- "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Retrieved 2021-12-01.
- "Essay on the death of Hayden White | Inside Higher Ed". www.insidehighered.com. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
- White, Hayden (1975). Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-century Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 274. ISBN 9780801817618.
- White, Hayden (Winter 1973). "Interpretation in History". New Literary History. 4 (2): 281–314. doi:10.2307/468478. JSTOR 468478. S2CID 111384596.
- White, Hayden (1975). Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-century Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 277. ISBN 9780801817618.
- White, Hayden (1975). Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-century Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 279. ISBN 9780801817618.
- White, Hayden (1975). Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-century Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 279–280. ISBN 9780801817618.
- White, Hayden (1975). Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-century Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 275. ISBN 9780801817618.
- White, Hayden (Autumn 1980). "The value of narrativity in the representation of reality". Critical Inquiry. 1: 5–27. doi:10.1086/448086. S2CID 162223840.
- White, Hayden (1975). Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-century Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 274–275. ISBN 9780801817618.
- White, Hayden (1975). Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-century Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 269–270. ISBN 9780801817618.
- "Campus Directory - UC Santa Cruz".
- Doran, Robert (ed.). Philosophy of History After Hayden White, London: Bloomsbury, 2013. ISBN 978-1-441-10821-0
- Re-Figuring Hayden White, Edited by Frank Ankersmit, Ewa Domanska, and Hans Kellner. ISBN 978-0-8047-6003-4
- Doran, Robert. "Metahistory and the Ethics of Historiography," Storia della Storiografia, 65.1 (2014): 153-162.
- Doran, Robert. "The Work of Hayden White I: Mimesis, Figuration, and the Writing of History", The SAGE Handbook of Historical Theory, ed. Nancy Partner and Sarah Foot (London: Sage Publications, 2013): 106-118.
- Muszynski, Lisa (2017). Unmaking History-as-Fiction: Decoupling the Two Incompatible Principles of Language in Hayden White's Linguistic Turn, 1970s–2000s (Ph.D. thesis). University of Helsinki. ISBN 978-951-51-2593-4.
- Ghasemi, Mehdi. “Revisiting History in Hayden White’s Philosophy.” SAGE Open, 2014, 4(3), July–September: 1-7.
- Paul, Herman. Hayden White: The Historical Imagination (Key Contemporary Thinkers), Cambridge: Polity Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-745-65013-5
- Pihlainen, Kalle. The Work of History: Constructivism and a Politics of the Past (with a Foreword by Hayden White), New York: Routledge, 2017. ISBN 978-1-138-69746-1
- Pihlainen, Kalle. "The Work of Hayden White II: Defamiliarizing Narrative." The SAGE Handbook of Historical Theory, ed. Nancy Partner and Sarah Foot (London: Sage Publications, 2013): 119–135.
- Pihlainen, Kalle. "History in the world: Hayden White and the consumer of history”, Rethinking History 12:1 (2008), 23–39.
- Daddow, Oliver. "Exploding history: Hayden White on disciplinization", Rethinking History: The Journal of Theory and Practice, 1470-1154, Volume 12, Issue 1, 2008, pp. 41–58.
- Finney, Patrick. "Hayden White and the Tragedy of International History", Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association's 49th Annual Convention; San Francisco, CA, USA, March 26, 2008.
- "Hayden White Talks Trash", Interview by Frederick Aldama, Issue #55, May 2001.
- Bibliography of Hayden White.
- Another Bibliography of Hayden White
- Hayden V. White Papers at University of California, Santa Cruz Special Collections