On History and Other Essays
In five essays, including three on historiography, one of the greatest minds in English political thought in the twentieth century explores themes central to the human experience: the nature of history, the rule of law, and the quest for power that is intrinsic to the human condition. Michael Oakeshott believed, as Timothy Fuller observes, that “the historian’s effort to understand the past without ulterior motive [is the] effort which distinguishes the historian as historian from all who examine the past for the guidance they expect it to provide about practical concerns.” The essays on history are “Present, Future, and Past,” “Historical Events: The fortuitous, the causal, the similar, the correlative, the analogous, and the contingent,” and “Historical Change: Identity and continuity.” In “The Rule of Law,” Oakeshott takes the expression to mean a particular kind of ideal human relationship. In “The Tower of Babel”— one of two essays he wrote by the same title and on the same subject—Oakeshott discusses the various versions in which the Bible story has been told and the different circumstances which it has been used to illuminate. On History was originally published in 1983.
Michael Oakeshott (1901–1990) was Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics and a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He was the author of many works, including Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays and Hobbes on Civil Association, both published by Liberty Fund.
Timothy Fuller is Dean of Colorado College and has published widely on the works of Michael Oakeshott.