Historical Re-enactment, Extremity, and Passion

By Jonathan Lamb

Vanderbilt University




In April, 2004, a conference was held at Vanderbilt University on the topic of historical re-enactment. It was impelled by two questions, one general and one particular. The general question concerned the growing popularity of re-enacted history as popular entertainment and popular knowledge. Once a weekend activity for enthusiasts (or what Greg Dening calls the hallucination of the past as the present in funny dress), it has migrated to television to become the preferred mode of documentary presentation of, for example, life in Greenwich in 1900, life in a trench during the First World War, or life as a fighter pilot during the Battle of Britain. The particular question concerned the experience shared by four of us on the re-enactment of the latter third of James Cook's first voyage during the summer of 2001, commissioned by BBC2, and eventually broadcast on a variety of networks as The Ship. It was six weeks of privation, which in different degrees we all found intense, perplexing, and hard to summarize. In this paper, I want to outline some of the provisional answers we found to these questions, and to indicate how these might contribute to a new departure in historiography.


The answer to the general question seems at first relatively simple. History seems always to renew itself by reducing the distance between the past and the present. An axiom of Enlightenment historiography was that the emotions of the audience ought to be engaged in any representation of past events, which ought therefore to be sufficiently particular and vivid in order to fix the attention of the reader. David Hume considered it odd that Edward Hyde, first Earl of Clarendon, should hurry over the death of Charles I without giving a single circumstance of the execution, as if he "felt a pain from subjects, which an historian and a reader of another age would regard as the most pathetic and most interesting, and, by consequence, the most agreeable." For his own part, Hume paused in his History of England to give a detailed description of the death of Mary Queen of Scots, a scene so vivid one of his readers was able to form a miniature waxwork of it, and to report, "I had the sorrow of seeing the Queen, her two female domesticks ... the executioner, the coffin, scaffold etc. all under a glass case, and compleating a most affecting scenery." Lord Kames was an enthusiast for this proximate and highly sympathetic approach to history. He called it "ideal presence" or "waking dream," the effect procured upon a reader by a historian who appeals to the eye, and "represent]s] every thing as passing in our sight; and from readers or hearers, transform us, as it were, into spectators ... in a word every thing becomes dramatic as much as possible." There were various machines built in the eighteenth century designed to excite the sensations to the point where this dramatic transformation could take place and bring the past into the present moment. Philippe Jacques De Loutherbourg's Eidophusikon (1781) was the most elaborate, and in one of its most powerful scenes it showed the wreck of the East Indiaman Halseioell, with crashing waves and survivors clinging to a rock.


In the next century, these efforts to reduce the distance between the audience and the past were regarded as hopelessly jejune. Probably because Hume had always coolly been balancing cognitive and affective elements in his negotiation of historical distance," Mill found in his history no trace of flesh and blood. "Does Hume throw his own mind into the mind of an Anglo-Saxon, or an Anglo-Norman? Would not the Sight, if it could be had, of a single table or pair of shoes made by an Anglo-Saxon, tell us, directly and by inference, more of his whole way of life ... than Hume ... has contrived to tell us?"? Ever since, historians have been trying to reconcile cognitive impartiality with affective interest by writing histories that respond to the pressures of the lives of ordinary people, not distantly but immediately, domesticating whatever might have seemed exotic about history. Perhaps the most astonishing examples of this are provided by Benedetto Croce and R. G. Collingwood, for Croce places sympathy - and sympathy of a peculiarly formal sort - at the heart of the historiographical enterprise: "Do you wish to understand the true history of a Neolithic Ligurian? ... Try if you can to become a neolithic Ligurian in your mind... Do you wish to understand the true history of a blade of grass? Try to become a blade of grass." As for Collingwood, while carefully avoiding the imputation of sympathy in his conception of re-enactment, he enjoins upon the historian the duty of such a complete identification with the historical object that it is indistinguishable from sympathy. To write the true history of Thomas Becket is to become Becket: "For Becket, in so far as he was a thinking mind, being Becket was also knowing that he was Becket; and for myself, on the same showing, to be Becket is to know that I am Becket, that is, to know that I am my own present self re-enacting Becket's thought, myself being in that sense Becket."? And it is to Collingwood we owe the name of this intimate exercise: historical re-enactment.


So the history of history looks like a continuous reduction of historical distance, the dismantling of the obstacles that divide us from knowledge of the past. This history is told of the people for the people, and sometimes seems indistinguishable from public memory: what all of us may recall, given the right mnemonic jogs. Some historians have warned against the consequences of supposing no obstacles to exist in historical work. Eric Hobsbawrn, who has noted the perils of mistaking history for memory, believes that "the destruction of the past ... is one of the most eerie phenomena of the late twentieth century." Inga Clendinnen has written an essay critical of historians who invite their readers into an identification with historical figures by means of what she calls "untutored empathy." Entitled "The History Question: Who Owns the Past?" the essay is unsettling in its failure to answer its own question, for it is clearly not the historian, nor yet the public. It may be the dead, or the most popular living writer of past events, or myth; but Clendinnen suspects politicians are keenest of all to get their hands on it.


In the meantime, there has been a spate of re-enacted documentary histories that supply the demand for particularity, immediacy, intimacy, pain, domesticity, and sympathy by focusing on real people who have volunteered to inhabit reconstructed dwellings of the past - 1900s House, 1940s House, Frontier House, Regency House, Iron-age Fort, and so on - and to endure all the rigors and privations of the originals. This is only a part of the boom industry of history. British historians such as Simon Schama, David Starkey, and Niall Ferguson are celebrities, all bidding for control of the public imagination, all eager to tell us what the past was really like from their point of view. Ken Burns is the sale trustee of the iconic moments of the American past: the Civil War, the Jazz Age, and the Second World War. In Britain, the sixtieth anniversary of the D-Day landings in 2004 was a celebration not only of the event, but also of the variety of historical modes in which history can be replayed. There were talking heads, re-enactments of training and landing, dramatizations intercut with archival footage that resembled remarkably the opening scenes of Stephen Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, ritual state pageantry at Arromanches with heads of state rubbing shoulders with old infantrymen, and heartwarming personal stories, such as the old soldier from New Zealand who missed his bus and got a lift back to Paris in President Chirac's entourage. It was proof of the versatility of an extremely popular and powerful academic discipline. The varieties of its presentational styles betoken a widespread desire to have history made present to the imagination of ordinary people, taken out of the hands of an elite, and democratized. So domesticating historical events in a vivid and recognizable way, bringing them home literally to the house, like the gentleman who brought Mary Queen of Scots into his parlor - this is what re-enactment does best.


In Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen has her heroine Catherine Morland raise these issues just at the time when Hume's treatment of historical distance was found to be too remote. Catherine's dialogue with Henry Tilney and his sister Elinor on the relative merits of fiction and history brings up the problem of pain and the representation of pain - a problem that is never very far from the affective presentation of the past. According to Catherine, history always chronicles painful events ("wars or pestilences") and it transfers a portion of that pain to the reader. She imagines historians "labouring only for the torment of little boys and girls." Henry assumes that in saying so Catherine is using torment as a synonym for instruction, but this may not be so. In the Gothic novels she prefers to read, Catherine expects to be moved to sympathy by "awful memorials of some injured and ill-fated nun," usually adjacent to instruments of torture, or by horrors such as those that lie beneath the black veil of Udolpho." She has an appetite for everything that is horrid in fiction, and a disgust for everything that is painful in history. Elinor Tilney understands that it is not any exclusive commitment to factuality that makes a historian's torment unequal to a novelist's in Catherine's eyes, for Catherine is aware that history is partly fiction, with embellished scenes that never took place as they are represented, and speeches that were never actually spoken as they are written. No, it is (as Elinor surmises) that historians "are not happy in their flights of fancy." If they were, however, Catherine might be as happily tormented by them as she is by Mrs. Radcliffe. For it is while she is immersed in her historical novels that she experiences Kames's ideal presence, for the images in them are so complete, they have "the effect to transport the reader as by magic into the very place and time of the important action." "While I have Udolpho to read, I feel as if nobody could make me miserable. Oh! The dreadful black veil!" cries Catherine." Here, then, is the relation between past violence and present agreeableness that Hume defended from Clarendon's laconic pen. It focuses on a question Catherine will soon be able to answer, but not in the way she thinks: "What was it like to be Mrs. Tilney?" The story that unfolds with her inside is not the one she was trying to tell. She will become Mrs. Tilney herself, and in an unexpected way experience the identification with a figure from the past described by Croce and Collingwood.


The proper adjustment of pain to sympathy seems to provide the affective basis of re-enactment, and I want to probe this aspect of it further. The Enlightenment turned often to the question of why we delight in scenes of suffering, first of all by way of commentary on Aristotle's view of tragedy as a purgative of the passions, and secondly as an opportunity of analyzing sympathy. Roughly, there were four divisions into which sympathy fell in the eighteenth century, only two of which were responsive to Aristotle's theory of tragedy. There was moral sympathy, an instinctive desire to be at one with others that provides the sentimental foundation of society and virtue, according to Francis Hutcheson." Theatrical sympathy of the sort recommended by Adam Smith required a degree of self-control from the victim in order to win the audience's compassion, for untutored agony is always unattractive and hard to share. Then there was mechanical sympathy, which we cannot avoid feeling when confronted by scenes of distress; it found patrons in Bernard Mandeville, Edmund Burke, and to some extent Laurence Sterne. Then, lastly, there was what Hume called "compleat sympathy" - a full substitution of spectator for victim, in which passions on both sides reach the same pitch, and the one knows exactly what the other is feeling." Aristotelian tragedy could easily co-opt the first and second, but the third is purely spontaneous, ungovernable, and so is the fourth, being unlimited in extent. Neither is adapted for the modifications of affect necessary if the sight of pain is to stay within the boundary of pleasure. Mandeville examined the torments of mechanical sympathy in a notorious scene of a pig eating a child in The Fable of the Bees, whose moral value was nil, he said, because even the greatest villain on earth would not be able to behold it unmoved. William Godwin dramatized the horrors of complete sympathy in Caleb Williams.


Given the investment of re-enactment in the affective rather than the cognitive elements of history, it is intriguing to find that it falls roughly into the same divisions as eighteenth-century sympathy. Disinterested, theatrical, mechanical, and unlimited sympathy correspond to the four chief divisions of re-enactment that I name here: pageant, theater, house, and realist.


Pageantry includes any ritual representation of a past act or event, such as a passion play or a church mass or a public execution, whose purpose is the affirmation of a sense of community, whether of faith, place, or nation. Here pain tends to be exemplary, and sympathy is heartwarming because it unites the spectators with the participants in a public testimony of the value of shared suffering. When Hutcheson, Burke, and Adam Ferguson imagined the possibility of a scene of public sympathy, they chose a large open space

where a state criminal was about to be executed. Dening is alluding to pageant when he talks of history as public knowledge of the past, "not public in the sense of being institutional, but public in the sense of being culturally shared." Two years ago, the Battle of Waterloo was re-enacted in Belgium, and in the Selent. Ships (one of them made of wood) maneuvered to represent the battle of Trafalgar. Recently in Hexham, in the north of England, there was a re-enactment of an event that took place 243 years before, when Pitt the Elder imposed conscription on the local population and fifty people were killed while resisting it - a lot more lives than were lost at Peterloo, as the organizers pointed out. It was run by the Hexham Community Partnership; presumably, both the sense of community and partnership were strengthened by the exercise.


The theater of history is rather more intimate, and perhaps closest to what Dening calls performance and what Catherine Morland would call happy flights of fancy. A certain amount of extravagance is appropriate in order to lift history above the level of literal fact, but not quite to the height of spiritual, national, or communal pageantry. In Smith's theater of sympathy, for example, there is a careful negotiation between the needs of an individual and the inclinations or taste of the public. The art is not to suffer ritually in public, like the state criminal, but to stage one's suffering in such a way that it will be acceptable to the audience; then and only then does a reciprocal impulse between actor and spectator ensure a degree of mutual approval that keeps lifting the art to new heights. The most successful - certainly the most esteemed - experiment in this line of theater is Jeremy Deller's The Battle of Orgreave, which recreated one of the most bitter encounters between miners and police during the 1984 miners' strike. Deller used former miners and members of military re-enactment societies to produce something that was neither pageantry nor realism, rather a curiously tender attempt to frame the agony of the original, and to familiarize whatever had been unforeseen or unintelligible in it. Shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2000 and then made into a film by Mike Figgis, it qualified as a notable example of what W. G. Sebald calls "the repeated and virtuoso representation of suffering." Similarly, another artwork by Yinka Shonebare, shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2005

along with another piece by Deller called Memory Bucket, is a masked ball (based on Verdi's Un ballo in maschera) representing the assassination of Gustav III of Sweden. Three times the murder is repeated, using exactly the same steps and gestures, and three times the victim arises, finally performing in reverse the highly ornate sequence of his entry into the palace.


The third category of re-enactment I call "house" as shorthand for all re-enactments consisting of private particulars literally and copiously assembled in a closed space. Lacking a public or theatrical dimension, or any claim to virtuoso performance, house re-enactment concentrates on the awkward little things that define an historical moment. Its interest for a viewing public lies in the accumulating frustrations suffered by the re-enactors, who are often found weeping or shouting with exasperation at their inability to control what they are doing or where they are. House has a lot in common in this respect with reality TV, for the spectator eavesdrops upon those incalculable accidents that constitute the interest of the scene, as there is scarcely any story. The Ship, a sort of house, exemplified the conflict between the appeal of unexpected accidents and an intentional narrative. The drama the voyage was supposed (at least at first) to re-enact was Cook's dilemma with the Great Barrier Reef - whether to sail inside and make discoveries at the risk of his ship, or to sail outside, safely and ignorantly. Basically, his job was to see if Australia was joined by the hip or shoulder to the Great Southern Continent. The drama of this search encapsulated the great paradox of Cook's career as Cook saw it: whether he was to be damned for temerity when he lost his ship or damned for timorousness when he lost Australia. With a global positioning system to supplement the lunar observations of the navigators, and scant interest shown by any but the historians in the niceties of eighteenth-century charts, this drama never took off as the continuous re-enactment of an earlier voyage. For history to become vivid at all on The Ship, there needed always to be some sort of excitement in the present which corresponded purely by chance with the historical facts and suddenly authorized their importance. Without that contingent sentimental aperture, history remained invisible. Nostalgia, sickness, a landing at a remote island, or 9/11; these were the necessary stimuli to sympathy with the past. Although the producer began the voyage by emphasizing that what he called "extreme history" had nothing to do with reality TV, in fact it had a great deal in common with it. In both cases the interest is kept up by the crises that develop from moment to moment; and these are owing almost exclusively to the artificial restrictions of the house-the ship, the island, the room. Certainly it is no exaggeration to call these restrictions extreme, or the feelings they arouse intense. Samuel Johnson's comment on Clarissa applies equally well to these extreme situations: we would fret ourselves to death to find a plot, we must instead respond to the sentiment.


Nor does there seem to be any limit to this extremity. Three years ago a fight took place in Channel 4's Big Brother house when two evicted contestants were reintroduced after spending a week spying on their former housemates. David Wilson, a professor of criminology, resigned as a consultant to the program, saying he could no longer be associated with a show that "provoked interpersonal violence for entertainment." But this high degree of tension is the magnet for the spectator, and it generates a powerful mechanical sympathy between the human object and the viewer. Here is a viewer's account of watching Emma, who had a fierce row with Victor during the brawl on the Big Brother set, as she brooded in the aftermath: "Emma is shown sitting alone, watching a screen, eating crisps with a ravenous, mechanical motion. 'Poor sad,' I think. Then I realize that I am sitting alone, watching a screen, eating peanuts with a ravenous, mechanical motion. I think Mandeville is right, however, to point out that there is no moral value in this kind of sympathy: it is as ungovernable as the scene provoking it. Perched on the matchstick of a topgallant yard, braced by my thighs against the yard, my feet on a thread of footrope, with the leach of a sail beating me on the face, r felt so bereft of presence of mind that all I could possibly represent was an object, and not a very graceful one. A shipmate on a safer level compared me to an ill-parked Volkswagen. A participant in Channel 4's The Trench sued the company for post-traumatic stress disorder, unsuccessfully as it turned out; but the suit serves to show that there is no necessary or foreordained limit to extremity; and the greater the extremity, the greater the curiosity that will be shown by the audience.


But what is remarkable about becoming the object of mechanical sympathy is that it is a very passionate experience. In fact, it conforms very closely to the difference between action and passion, the difference between doing something and having something done to oneself, established by Spinoza in the Ethics: "We act when something takes place within us or outside of us whose adequate cause we are." On the other hand, emotion or affectus arises from those modifications of the body by means of which its powers of action are augmented or diminished: "Insofar as the mind has adequate ideas, thus far it necessarily acts, and insofar as it has inadequate ideas, thus far it is necessarily passive." A mind operating under the influence of passion is in a vain pursuit of an adequate idea. The reason it will never find it is owing to the fact that the body has been changed by the power of something beyond it. It may try to invent an adequate idea, but such an explanation will always be a fiction: "The essence of passion cannot be explained merely through our essence ... it must necessarily be defined by the power of some external cause compared with our own." Passion is what happens to us which is not our own: "Weakness consists in this alone, that man allows himself to be led by things which are outside him, and is determined by them to do those things which the common constitution of external things demands." Catherine Morland feels the truth of these propositions, as she becomes part of a story she was not telling of herself. Any re-enactor feels it too: all those awkward little things in the house are pushing him or her into a passionate experience with events totally unplanned, and about which no coherent or adequate idea can be formed. Hence, the frustration and the shouting. Hence, the eager curiosity of the audience: what could possibly happen next?


If there is a point to this sheerly fortuitous extremity, it lies in the sharper and sharper specification of what it is like to be someone else. What I want to consider now are the circumstances of a limitless sympathy - Croce as a blade of grass. How might this be possible, and what would its effects look like? All four kinds of sympathy are the result of asking, "What is it like to be in someone else's shoes?" One answer suitable to all is, "It is like being in pain." The reason the fourth kind of sympathy is so hard to imagine or compass is that the pain has to be linked to a person, or rather two persons. If Catherine Morland is to get an answer to her question, "What was it like to be Mrs. Tilney?" there must be two people representing the person with that name. Similarly, the answer to Thomas Nagel's tougher question on the topic of sympathy, "What is it like to be a bat?" requires that there be something which it is like to be a bat, whatever it is that represents the bat to itself, and the human who can identify with that representation." This is how Smith puts it in The Theory of Moral Sentiments: "Though sympathy is very properly said to arise from an imaginary change of situation with the person chiefly concerned, yet this imaginary change is not supposed to happen to me in my own person and character, but in that of the person with whom I sympathise." That is to say, it happens to me in the person of the person with whom I sympathize.


Let us go back to Collingwood and his sympathy for Thomas Becket. What was Becket feeling when he was being hacked to death on the altar of Canterbury cathedral? Collingwood as Becket does not say. Although he adapts exactly Smith's structure of sympathy for his interrogation of the past, Collingwood has no interest in feelings. Here is how he positions his person alongside Becket's: "For Becket, in so far as he was a thinking mind, being Becket was also knowing that he was Becket; and for myself, on the same showing, to be Becket is to know that I am Becket, that is, to know that I am my own present self re-enacting Becket's thought, myself being in that sense Becket." But as for any sympathetic seasoning of the thoughts he derives from this narrowing of historical distance, he is unequivocal: "We shall never know how the flowers smelt in the garden of Epicurus, or how Nietzsche felt the wind in his hair as he walked on the mountains; we cannot relive the triumph of Archimedes or the bitterness of Marius; but the evidence of what these men thought is in our hands; and in re-creating these thoughts in our own minds ... we can know ... that the thoughts we create were theirs." So, it is all a matter of thought and cognition: Collingwood's historical re-enactment is specifically non-affective.


Here is a very ancient example of re-enactment where the opposite is the case. In the eighth book of The Odyssey, Ulysses arrives as a stranger in the court of Alcinous and hears Demodocus sing of the Trojan war. The song is so vivid, "so lively forming as you had been there," that Ulysses asks the bard to continue, and tell of the stratagem which brought ruin to the town and its people. As he listens to the tale of his own deeds, Ulysses experiences his former victory as an appalling disaster, and breaks down:


This the divine Expresser did so give

Both act and passion that he made it live,

And to Ulysses' facts did breath a fire

So deadly quickning that it did inspire

Old death with life, and renderd life so sweet

And passionate that all there felt it fleet-

Which made him pitie his owne crueltie,

And put into that ruth so pure an eie

Of human frail tie, that to see a man

Could so revive from Death, yet no way can

Defend from death, his owne quicke powers it made

Feele there death's horrors, and he felt life fade.

In teares his feeling braine swet: for in things

That move past utterance, teares ope all their springs.

Nor are there in the Powres that all life beares

More true interpreters of all than teares."


Here is a double re-enactment: Demodocus recites what Homer has already told, and Ulysses relives what he has already experienced. The result is an encounter with death so passionate and overwhelming that Alcinous has to put an end to the performance.


Demodocus gives those of us interested in re-enactment a useful hint. Unlimited sympathy is not only pain, it is sympathy for the dead. Catherine Morland embarks upon her experiment in sympathy with the past by gazing at the portrait of a dead woman. In Wilfrid Owen's poem "Mental Cases," which Jon Silkin has characterized as "sensuous re-enactment" the victims are introduced as "men whose minds the Dead have ravished." Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda, became a mental case because his mind would fill again and again with the sounds and smells of genocide he witnessed and could not stop, and he recalls, "I think some part of me wanted to join the legions of the dead." This desire is strongly painted in one of the best anecdotal histories of re-enactment, Tony Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic. Robert Lee Hodge, his hero, performs as a corpse. He can do Civil War Bloat at the drop of a hat, a flawless counterfeit of photographs of the dead at Antietam and Gettysburg: "His hands curled, his cheeks puffed out, his mouth contorted in a rictus of pain and astonishment." It is his party trick, but he has learned it while closely studying Matthew Brady's photographs of corpses, gleaning the kind of documentary evidence that will distinguish his hardcore re-enacting from that of "farb" amateurs who neglect authenticity. Distinctive belt buckles, the width and color of the piping on the trousers, the strips of carpet used as bedrolls, the corrugated tin of a canteen strapped to the waist of a dead Confederate Soldier - the accuracy of such details is crucial to the success of re-enactment. Hence, the necessity of marching sometimes without shoes, of slimming until you fit into the very narrow dimensions of a butternut uniform cut to the size of original uniforms. The 1860s patina of the brass buttons is obtained by soaking them in urine, and the texture of the material - "a bit of gray cloth with just the right amount of dye and the exact number of threads" - is kept genuine by never washing it. There is no limit to the pursuit of this sort of fidelity, especially if it involves discomfort or pain. Authenticity provides the evidential bridge into the past; while cold, fatigue, and misery open the road to the state of intense rapture Hodge calls wargasm, peaking, rushing, being tapped, Goose-bump City, and Nirvana. When he arrives at these states of feeling, Hodge is able to experience himself as a person in a photograph - not as a bloated corpse or a generalized unknown warrior, not as an actual named individual with a history, but as an anonymous actual other person who fought and probably died at Manassas, or Shiloh, or Gettysburg amidst a set of historical circumstances that Hodge can partly but very accurately reproduce. At his best, that is to say at the extreme edge of his game, Hodge is the person of that person.


If we speak of history through sympathy with the dead, if that is ultimately the point of the various types of sympathy which re-enactment deploys, whence do we derive the authority to speak? From the dead? I think not, for they take our person and give us none in return, or nothing but a name. Or they drive us mad. In any case, we get access to them only by passion, when we are in the grip of an idea whose adequacy we cannot possibly determine. Any story that passion invites us into is not one of our inventing or telling. Mechanical and unlimited sympathy, and the re-enactments they sponsor - house and realist - are awash in incalculable chances and unforeseen contingencies for which no one is fully responsible. Authority derives then not from our representation of the fatalities of history but from History itself, and its arrangement of these unpredictable circumstances. History authorizes us as its actors to speak on its behalf. Presumably we speak most persuasively when there is the least of us left, when we are maximally depleted by sympathy, figured as something or someone else and most completely in service to the agency of which we speak. When we are no longer strictly ourselves and can talk with a delegate's confidence of an inhuman power, a force whose effects we can only describe, and whose tendency is its own business, then do we achieve the kind of re-enactment of history Collingwood imagined as the basis of real historiography. But our performances under license of the personifications of Death and History make the past present to us in the least consoling way, by emphasizing how poorly we control its emergencies, how poorly our inadequate ideas embrace them, and how quickly and totally they can silence us. Sebald warns of this state of affairs in his essay, "On the Literary Description of Total Destruction." He mentions the blindness and confusion of those caught up in History, and says, "The autonomy of humankind in the face of the real or potential destruction that it has caused is no greater in the history of the species than the autonomy of the animal in the scientist's cage." I think the bewilderment we historians felt on The Ship was the first whiff of this terror: we were its native informants.




  1. David Hurne, Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary (1742, 1752), qtd. in Mark Salber Phillips, "Relocating Inwardness: Historical Distance and the Transition from Enlightenment to Romantic Historiography," PMLA 18 (2003): 436-49, 442.

2. Gentlemen's Magazine, November 1789, qtd. in Jayne Lewis, '''The Sorrow of seeing the Queen': Mary Queen of Scots and the British History of Sensibility," Passionate Encounters in a Time of Sensibility, eds. Maximillian Novak and Anne Mellor, (Newark, 2000), 194.

3. Henry Home, Lord Kames, Elements of Criticism, 2 vols. (Edinburgh 1765), 1:95-96.

4. Phillips, 441.

5. John Stuart Mill, "Review of Carlyle's The French Revolution," Essays on French History and Historians, eds. John M. Robson and John C. Cairns, (Toronto, 1985), 135.

6. Benedetto Croce qtd. in R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History, ed. Jan van der Dussen (Oxford, 1994), 199. See also Croce, History as the Story of Liberty, trans. Sylvia

Sprigge (Indianapolis, 2000).

7. Collingwood, 297.

8. Eric Hobsbawm, qtd. in Inga Clendinnen, "The History Question: Who Owns the Past?" Quarterly Essay 23 (2006): 65.

9. Clendinnen, 20.

10. Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (London, 2000), 70.

11. Austen, 90.

12. Austen, 70.

13. Austen, 22.

14. Francis Hutcheson, An Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (London, 1725), 225.

15. Hurne, A Treatise of Human Nature, ed. L.A. Selby-Bigge, (Oxford, 1978),388.

16. Greg Dening, Performances (Melbourne, 1996), 36.

17. Andrew Johnson, "Big Brother 'bad for health of housemates."' The Independent, 20 June 2004, 9.

18. Hermione Eyre, "The Q Interview," The Independent, 20 June 2004, 9.

19. Benedictus de Spinoza, Ethics (1677), trans. Andrew Boyle and G. H. R. Parkinson (London, 1993),83.

20. Spinoza, 84.

21. Spinoza, 146.

22. Spinoza, 164.

23. Thomas agel, "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?," The Philosophical Reuieto 83, no. 4 (October 1974): 435-50.

24. Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments [1759], eds. D. D. Raphael and A. L. Mcfie, (Indianapolis, 1976),317.

25. Collingwood, 297.

26. Collingwood, 296.

27. Homer, Odyssey, trans. George Chapman [1616] (New York, 2000), 8.708-23.

28. Samantha Power, "A Hero of Our Time," New York Review of Books, 18 November 2004, 9.

29. Tony Horwitz, Confederates ill the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War New York, 1998), 8.

30. Horwitz, 388.

31. W. G. Sebald, "On the Literary Description of Total Destruction," Campo Santo (London, 2005), 89-90.