“Isaiah Berlin and the Humanity of History”

von Bismarck, Helene, “Isaiah Berlin and the Humanity of History.” The British Scholar Society, November 2012.  


“Ideally, every historian ought to give his own methodology the same amount of consideration that he dedicates to the historic events he is examining. A good way to start is to read some of the writings by Isaiah Berlin, one of the most famous, yet also controversial thinkers of the twentieth century. It is not easy to place the Russian-born Berlin, who came to Great Britain at the age of eleven in 1921 and spent the largest part of his very distinguished career in Oxford, into an intellectual category. As a philosopher, political theorist, historian of ideas and essayist, he left his distinct mark in several academic fields and schools of thought, without ever really fitting into one of them.[1] While he is probably best and most widely known for his famous, and indeed fascinating, discussion of ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’, two other essays of his are especially relevant to historians, because they explore two of the most fundamental questions we should all ask ourselves at least once: ‘Historical Inevitability’, originally a lecture Berlin delivered at the London School of Economics in 1953, and ‘The Hedgehog and the Fox’, which was published in the same year.[2] The first essay concerns the nature of history, the second the role of the historian.”

British Scholar