1.3.4 The Imagination in Historical Studies

“Imagination.” Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk, 2013.


…Collingwood argued (1946/1994) that history is fundamentally different because the events that historians study have both an ‘outside’ or observable part, and an ‘inside’ which can only be “described in terms of thought (Lemisko, 2004).

Does imagination have a place in the study of history? According to philosopher and historian R.G. Collingwood, imagination is key to the recreation of past events.

Read: The Historical Imagination: Collingwood in the Classroom // Canadian Social Studies

Guiding Questions:

  • Can knowledge that involves the use of imagination be reliable?
  • Is history different from other forms of knowledge?
  • Do you think that human imagination can give us better insights into how things really are?
  • If imagination is needed for a better understanding of history, is not the study of history closely related to knowledge of the self?
  • Do you think that history, if done in the way that Collingwood suggests, gives us more self-knowledge?


Thumbnail: “Imagination.” Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk. CC BY-NC 2.0.