How to compare cultures? The case of historical thinking

Comparative studies in historiography are rare. In most cases authors use a pre-given idea of the essentials of historical thinking and historiography to compare Western with non-Western phenomena in the field of historical representation in general, and historiography in particular. This approach to comparison is very problematic since the presupposed paradigm of historiography is an abstraction in the Western tradition. As a consequence this comparison brings about knowledge on non-Western historical thinking and historio-graphy in so far as it is similar to or different from the Western one. Difference normally imply deviation or a lack of historicity. However, comparing Western historiography with Chinese historiography, does not bring about such a big difference as we witness in the case of for example India. Nevertheless, a cultural bias in the comparative work exists that makes the results of comparative work problematic. The article proposes a theoretical means of intercultural comparison that is grounded in a general theory of historical thinking, presented in the form of its matrix. This matrix is explicated, discussed and differentiated into a set of items which can be used as criteria of comparison.