From modern to postmodern historiography? The ‘contingent turn’

This chapter examines the impact of postmodern thought on contemporary debates in historiography. Its paradigmatic influence, as shall be illustrated in subsequent sections, is reflected in what may be described as the contingent turn1 in historiography. Postmodern thinkers call the validity of what they consider to be mainstream conceptions of historical development into question. Irreducible to an issue of peripheral importance, the interpretation of history forms an integral, albeit contentious, element of the social sciences and, more broadly, of the humanities. Its significance is expressed in the basic insight that social realities are — always and unavoidably — historically situated. Put differently, every form of sociality is embedded in a specific horizon of historicity.