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Smith, R. (1988). Writing on the history of psychology. Free Associations, 1O(14):96-110.

(1988). Free Associations, 1O(14):96-110

Writing on the history of psychology

Roger Smith

History of Psychology by David Hothersall, New York: Random House, 1984, xx + 456 pages, pb

The Shaping of Modern Psychology: An Historical Introduction, by L.S. Hearnshaw, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987, viii + 423 pages, £19.95

Scientists of the Mind: Intellectual Founders of Modern Psychology, by Clarence J. Karier, Urbana/Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1986, xi + 356 pages

A common opinion of history is that it is a dull affair, concerned only with preserving facts about the past, whereas lively minds get on with creating the future. A much more interesting and thoughtful view understands that history is a central way we create both present and future: by rendering accounts of the past to describe what we have become, by making contrasts that enable us to criticize what we do, or by providing authority for what we wish to achieve. In this view, all of history is a glorified creation myth — remembering, of course, that to those who create and to those who believe, myth is true.

With the separation of history as a scholarly discipline in its own right in the nineteenth century, however, Western historians have acquired an ambiguous status. They continue to construct stories about the past and to supply society — but more often social groups, such as a class — with an origin.

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