Charles Tilly

October 19, 2007

Our discussion of Ricoeur last week helped to clarify some important conceptual problems in dealing with the past and the position of the histrorian, which I hope we can pursue throughout the year. However, at Will’s suggestion, we are moving on to something rather different for the next session. Charles Tilly’s book Big Structures, Large Processes, Huge Comparisons is as audacious as its title suggests. It is an attack on the way we understand the idea of ‘modernization’ and challenges many of the categories that structure our understanding of society. It should generate a lively discussion!
For the next session, on Friday November 2nd, we will be reading the first four chapters (pp. 1-86).

Charles Tilly, Big Structures, Large Processes, Huge Comparisons (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1984) chapters 1-4

Room 535 of the SSEES (School of Slavonic and East European Studies) building, 16 Taviton Street. Friday November 2nd, 5pm.

There are a few copies available in various libraries, but if you are unable to get hold of one, please send me a message and I will try to sort out some photocopies.




October 3, 2007

We return for another year of PhiloHist!

The First meeting will be on Friday October 12th at 5pm. We are now in a new location: Room 535 of the SSEES (School of Slavonic and East European Studies) building, 16 Taviton Street. When you enter the building, there is a lift on your left which takes you up to the 5th floor.

We will be discussing: Paul Ricoeur, The Reality of the Historical Past (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1984; 51pp)

As the piece discusses Hayden White at some length, new members may find it useful to have a look at the chapter by White that we read last year. See

I am taking over organization for this year, so if you have any queries about the group, if you’d like to join in, or if you have any suggestions for readings, please email me: s.pawley(at)



July 25, 2007

This is the online home of a reading group in the Philosophy of History, based at Birkbeck College, London.

We will be re-convening in the Autumn term of 2007 and will welcome new members, new suggestions for readings and new chair-people for our meetings.

For more information or requests please contact me on:


Guns, Germs and Steel

June 25, 2007

easterislandFor the final meeting of the year, we will be reading Jared Diamond’s controversial Guns, Germs and Steel, which can be found in most libraries and in cheap paperback. Please look at the introduction, “Yali’s Question” and also this review of the book from the NYRB by William McNeill which also includes Diamond’s response. If you have time, please also read the concluding chapter of the book as well as this article by JR McNeill in the History Co-operative Journal.

As usual we meet at 5pm on Friday, in room 261, Malet Street.


May 21, 2007


Our next meeting will be on Friday June 8th, at 5pm, in Birkbeck Room 261, Malet Street.

The topic will be Prosopography or, group biography, as a tool for History.

Please look at the articles by Lawrence Stone and Steven Shapin & Arnold Thackray.


May 4, 2007


For the first meeting of term, on Friday 4th May, we will be reading Reinhart Koselleck: please look at both the first and the last chapters of his Futures Past (Columbia Univ. Press, 2004).

“Modernity and the Planes of Historicity” & “‘Space of Experience’ and ‘Horizon of Expectation’: Two Historical Categories”.

Summer Term Dates

April 17, 2007

As the days draw longer we re-group three more times during the summer term. All new participants are very welcome to join us (please contact me for more information) while the attention of regular members is drawn to the following three dates, which they should mark in their diaries:

Fridays; May 4th, June 8th, June 29th

As usual, tea and biscuits will be provided by Birkbeck School of History from 5pm in Room 261.

Topics this term will include a reading from Koselleck on temporality, a discussion of Prosopography, and finally the controversial Jared Diamond to end the year.