Historical Explanation and the Event: Reflections on the Limits of Contextualization

Abstract
Contextualization has become the reigning shibboleth of historical analysis, especially for intellectual and cultural history. Although acknowledging the achievements of the Cambridge School of historians, led by Quentin Skinner, who have done so much to promote awareness of the need to situate texts in their original illocutionary contexts, this essays explores two critical responses. The first focuses on challenges to contemporary historians to establish the relevant explanatory contexts without bringing to bear current perspectives and knowledge of developments after the original period. The second turns to the events themselves and draws on recent French theory, in particular the phenomenological work of Claude Romano, to question whether all historical phenomena can be understood by situating them in their generative contexts.