Hayden White: an actor in “the practical past”

International Social Science Journal (Chinese Edition)

No.3, 2021


Hayden White: an actor in “the practical past”



Li Li


Hayden White, a famous American thinker of historical theory, died on March 5, 2018. To commemorate his outstanding contributions, History and Theory published a virtual special issue on “Hayden White in History and Theory” in May. The issue included all his contributions to the journal and responses, and the studies of White were also clearly edited and arranged, which offers a good opportunity for the academic circles to review White’s thought and the tortuous history of acceptance to his ideas. Based on the issue, the article focuses on an analysis of White’s orientation of thinking, style, characteristics and theoretical claims behind his writings, and sorts out the changing and diversified acceptances according to the studies of White and elicited disputes.  Finnally, the author suggests a shift between models might be tried in the studies of White’s thought. Researchers should not obsess about “professional” mehtods to get an image of “real White”. Instead, they should actively regard him as “the practical past” with value for reality. Only by that way, is it possible to free White himself from the fate of being the “burden of history”, and really begin a revolution of history he expected.