Influential historian Hayden White dies at 89

Student News

Hayden V. White, professor emeritus in the History of Consciousness Department at UC Santa Cruz, died at his Santa Cruz home on March 5, 2018, at age 89. He was a 40-year resident of Santa Cruz who traveled the world.White was trained as a medieval historian, but the majority of his work focused on modern European intellectual history, literary criticism, philosophy, and historiography–the study of historical writing.He first gained notice in 1966 with an essay, “The Burden of History,” laying the foundation for his later work, which re-imagined history as a creative, as well as scientific history. His landmark book published in 1973, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe, initiated a major re-orientation in the field of historiography and has been translated into more than 10 languages.”Hayden White was a towering figure bridging intellectual history and cultural theory,” said UC Santa Cruz dean of humanities, Tyler Stovall. “His Metahistory remains one of the most important studies of historiography in the modern era. His focus on narrative and the relationship between history and literature exercised a seminal influence on the rise of cultural history to its dominant position in historical studies today.”Stovall added that White also “played a central role in shaping the History of Consciousness Department into a one-of-a-kind program that pioneered theoretical and cultural studies, and helped stamp UC Santa Cruz as a university that marched to a different drummer.” White came to UC Santa Cruz in 1978 as one of the History of Consciousness Board’s first full-time faculty members. As the new chairperson, he brought “essential stability and a fresh vision,” recalled his colleague, emeritus professor James Clifford. “Working with Hayden wasn’t always comfortable. He would step on what you held sacred. And he could be wickedly accurate. But we discovered that if you stayed with him, stayed in the conversation (and he so loved conversation), he would …

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