International Review of Social History


History Without a Cause? Grand Narratives, World History, and the Postcolonial Dilemma

Barbara  Weinstein 


Among the many historical conventions that went out of fashion in the wake of the linguistic and/or cultural turn was the grand explanatory narrative rooted in an interpretive tradition that typically traced an arc from causes to consequences. A chorus of criticism consigned the grand or meta-narrative to the dustbin of historiography, if not history. Linguistic theorists like Hayden White seemed to challenge historians' cherished notions of interpretive truth by stressing the resemblance between historical and fictional narratives; postmodernists of various stripes questioned whether historical narratives could escape the teleological tendencies of the master narrative of the Western/liberal tradition; and recently a leading postcolonial theorist has denounced all historicism, broadly defined, as incurably eurocentric.