Allan Megill

Allan Megill

Professor (1990)

On Leave: NOT on leave, but will be on leave Fall Semester 2016

Office Hours: Spring Semester 2016: TuTh 3:40-4:40, AND BY ARRANGEMENT. It is best to e-mail ahead of time for an appointment: megill(at) Generally, I am disinclined to see students on Tu or Th before my 2:00 pm class, since I grade TQs and grade mini-papers, and think about the subject matter of my class, before teaching (I do not lecture from yellowing lecture notes but invent anew each time). Sometimes meetings interfere with my regularly scheduled office hours. Generally, Monday or Friday, which are the two days when I do not teach, are more open for seeing me than are Tu, Wed, and Th. INDICATE YOUR AVAILABLE TIMES WHEN E-MAILING ME FOR AN APPOINTMENT-- this will eliminate a round of extra e-mailing. Also, students in my classes should feel free to confer with me right after the class: I am often able to stick around after the end of the class period.

Office: 434 Nau Hall

Phone: (434) 924-6414

Email: megill (at)

Fields & Specialties

Modern Europe, Modern European History of Ideas, Historical Theory/Philosophy of History


B.A. Saskatchewan 1969
M.A. Toronto 1970
Ph.D. Columbia 1975

Note: My complete CV and publications list can usually be found (in a recently updated form) on my page:

I offer graduate tutorials in philosophy and theory of history and in European history of ideas/intellectual history to students inside and outside the history department. Students should try to be attentive to (and should feel free to directly ask me about) my teaching schedule, since it is best if a tutorial in subject X is taken in a semester when I am teaching subject X. Notably, I do teach 5000-level course in philosophy and theory of history that generally offers a richer experience than a tutorial would..  


Historical Knowledge, Historical Error: A Contemporary Guide to Practice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, February 2007. ISBNs: cloth: 0-226-51829-9 (cloth), [UPC] 978-0-226-51829-9. Paper: 0-226-51830-2, [UPC] 978-0-226-51830-5.  304 pp.

*****Russian version: trans. Marina Kukartseva, V. S. Timonin, and V. E. Kashaev, with an introduction by Marina Kukartseva, Историческая Эпистемология [Istoricheskaya epistemologia] [Historical Epistemology] (Moscow: Kanon+, 2007).

*****Chinese version: As of Oct. 20, 2015, a translation into Chinese by Han Zhao and Hongxia Huang, entitled 历史知识、历史谬误:当代史学实践导论, has been completed and transmitted to the publisher, Peking University Press. Its publication, in the series "Ideas of History," edited by Xin Chen and Jörn Rüsen, is expected in 2016. 

Karl Marx: The Burden of Reason (Why Marx Rejected Politics and the Market). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002, pp. xxv + 367.

*****Russian version: trans.Marina Kukartseva, Карл Маркс: Бремя Разума, (Moscow: Kanon+,  2011, ISBN: 978-5-88373-254-2). (Note: this is a condensed and slightly updated version of the original 180,000-word English-language book [condensation by am]. It is about half the length of the original version.

*****A Chinese version, trans. Xupeng Zhang, is in preparation, and is expected to be published by Commercial Press, Beijing, in late 2016.

Prophets of Extremity: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985, pp. xxiii + 399 (paperback edition, May 1987).

*****Turkish version: trans. Tuncay Birkan, Aşirliğ—in Peygamberleri: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida (Ankara: Bilim ve Sanat, 1998 [ISBN 975-7298-32-8]). New edition Ankara: Ayraç, 2009 [9789944732147]. Newest edition: Istanbul: Idefix, 2012 [9786050201697].

Allan Megill, ed., Rethinking Objectivity (Durham., N.C.: Duke University Press, June 1994 [hardcover and paperback eds.]), pp. ix + 342.

John S. Nelson, Allan Megill, and Donald N. McCloskey, eds., The Rhetoric of the Human Sciences: Language and Argument in Scholarship and Public Affairs. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987, pp. viii + 445 (paperback edition, January 1991).Korean version: Seoul: Korea University Press, 2003, x + 600 (ISBN 89-7641-495-01/89-7641-428-4).

Some articles and other shorter pieces from ca. 2008 onward.

 “‘Big History’ Old and New: Presuppositions, Limits, Alternatives,” Journal of the Philosophy of History 9.2 (2015) 306–326 [in a Special Issue of JPhilHist on “The Aesthetics of Scale,” ed. Ian Hesketh and Knox Peden].

“Introdução: Teoria da História ca.1870-1940: Objetividade e Antinomias da História em um Tempo de Crise Existencial [Introduction: Theory of History ca. 1870-1940: Objectivity and the Antinomies of History in a Time of Existential Crisis],” trans. Sérgio Campos Gonçalvos, in Jurandir Malerba, ed., Lições de história: Da história cientifica à razão metódica no limiar do século XX (Rio de Janeiro: Editora FGV, and Porto Alegre: EdiPUCRS, 2013), 11-37.

Allan Megill and Xupeng Zhang, “Questions on the History of Ideas and Its Neighbours,” Rethinking History 17: 3 (Sept. 2013). Chinese version: Allan Megill and Xupeng Zhang, “What is the History of Ideas? A Conversation with Professor Allan Megill”; Chinese title and publication data: “什么是观念史?——对话弗吉尼亚大学历史系阿兰·梅吉尔教授,”Historiography Quarterly (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing) [journal title in Chinese: 史学理论研究, in Pinyin: Shixue Lilun Yanjiu], Issue 2, 2012, pp. 108-119. Excerpt from this article published in Chinese Social Science Digest, Issue 9, 2012, pp. 71-72.

Review article, “History, Theoreticism, and the Limits of 'the Postsecular’”  (on Dominick LaCapra, History and Its Limits), History and Theory 52 (Feb. 2013): 110-29.

“Epilogue” to Oxford History of Historical Writing, vol. 5 (5 vols.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 5: 678-88.

 “Five Questions on Intellectual History,” Rethinking History 15: 4 (December 2011): 489-510. A shorter variant is forthcoming in in Stjenfelt, F., M. H. Jeppesen, and M. Thorup, eds., Intellectual History: 5 Questions. Automatic Press/VIP, Copenhagen ( in  December 2011. A Russian translation of the long version will be appearing, as "Пять вопросов об интеллектуальной истории," in the intellectual history journal Диалог со временем: Альманах интеллектуальной истории, no. 38 (March 2012). A Chinese translation of the long version is in preparation.

“Границы у Национальное Государство: Предварительые Заметки [Borders and the Nation-State: A Preliminary Communication],” Диалог со временем: альманах интеллектуальной истории [Dialogue with Time: Intellectual History Review] (Moscow), no. 30 (2010): 43-58. A slightly longer Chinese variant of this paper, trans. Xupeng Zhang, has appeared in Shandong Social Sciences Journal (ISSN 1003-4145/CN37 – 1053/C), 2009, no. 12 (general no. 172):  19-26. 

“What Role Should Theory Play in Historical Research and Writing,” published in Russian as “Роль Теории в историческом исследовании и историописании,” trans. О. V. Vorobyeva, in L. P. Repina, ed., Историческая наука сегодня: Теории, Методы, Перспективы (The Science of History Today: Theories, Methods, Perspectives) (Москва: Издательство ЛКИ, 2011), 24-40.

“Is There Moral Progress in History? An Old Kantian Question Raised Yet Again,” in Don Yerxa, ed., British Abolitionism and the Question of Moral Progress (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2012). A Russian variant has appeared as“Старый вопрос,   поставленный  вновь: существует ли моральный  прогресс в истории? [An Old Question Raised Anew: Is there Moral Progress in History],” trans. N. Motroshilova  and M. Kukartseva, in Международная конференция, посвященная 200-летию выхода в свет Феноменологии духа Г .В Ф. Гегеля: Сборник докладов и материалов под ред Н. Мотрошиловой [International Conference marking  the 200th Anniversary of the Publication of G. W. F. Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, ed. N Motroshilova]  (Moscow: Kanon+, for Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences, 2010), 645-68.

“The Needed Centrality of Regional History,” Ideas in History 4, 2 (2009) [Oslo: Nordic Society for the History of Ideas): 11-37]. A Chinese variant has appeared as “Regional History and the Future of Historical Writing” [in Chinese], Academic Research [Xueshu Yanjiu (ISSN1000-7326/CN44-1070)], 2009, no. 8: 89-100.

 “The Rhetorical Dialectic of Hayden White,” in Frank Ankersmit, Ewa Domanska, and Hans Kellner, eds., Re-Figuring Hayden White (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009), 190-215.

“Некоторые размышления о проблеме истинностной оценки репрезентации прошлого; translation by Marina Kukartseva], Эпистемология & философия науки [Журнал Института философии Российской Академии наук] (Epistemology and Philosophy of Science [Journal of the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences]), Vol. 15, no. 1 (2008): 53-61. (part of a “Panel Discussion” with responses by A. L. Nikiforov, H. M. Smirnova, A. C. Shchabelov, S. P. Shchabelov, and M. A. Kukartseva); Science [Journal of the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences]), Vol. 15, no. 1 (2008): 53-61, reprinted in  М. Кукартсева, ред., Способы постижения проплого: Методология и теория исторической науки (Moscow: Канон+, 2011), 117-28.

Some other, older, articles

“Historical Representation, Identity, Allegiance,” in Stefan Berger and Linas Eriksonas, eds., Narrating the Nation: The Representation of National Narratives in Different Genres (Oxford and New York: Berghahn Books, 2007), 28-41.

“What is Distinctive about Modern Historiography?,” in The Many Faces of Clio: Cross-Cultural Approaches to Historiography. Essays in Honor of Georg G. Iggers, ed. Q. Edward Wang and Franz L. Fillafer (New York: Berghahn, 2007), 28-41.

“Globalization and the History of Ideas,” Journal of the History of Ideas 66 (2005): 179-87. Russian version, trans. Lorina Repina, “Глобализация и история идей, Диалог со временем: альманах интеллектуальной истории (Dialogue with Time: Intellectual History Review) 14 (2005): 11-20.

“Intellectual History and History” (critical discussion of Dominick LaCapra, “Tropisms of Intellectual History”), Rethinking History 8 (2004): 549-57.

“Imagining the History of Ideas” (critical discussion of Mark Bevir, The Logic of the History of Ideas [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999]), Rethinking History 4, 3 (2000): 333-340.

“History, Memory, Identity,” History of the Human Sciences 11: 3 (1998): 37-62.

Other data of interest

President, Journal of the History of Ideas, Inc., 2005--2014

Directeur d'études invité at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, May 1997.

University of Virginia Sesquicentennial Associateship, Spring Semester 1994, Spring Semester 2000, Spring Semester 2005, fall semester 2010.

Instructor, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Professor of History, University of Iowa, 1974-90.

University of Iowa Faculty Scholarship, 1985-88.

Research Fellow, Australian National University, 1977-79.

Current Research

I usually work in several different research areas at once. Currently I am working on a short biography of Karl Marx that emphasizes Marx’s concern with networks and “backwardness”; on issues relating to intellectual history as a field; and on historiography and historical theory.  Recently (2014) I have written a paper on the contemporary and the 19th-century "evolutionary epic" that I expect to see print in 2015. In addition, at the moment I am working on a short reflective piece on "comparative modernities" in relation to China and the West, for a conference to be held in Guilin in May 2015. I am also writing a short work on theory and philosophy of history for a series of lectures to be given in Krakow in June 2015.  For the time being they take priority over my short Marx biography project.

My complete and up-to-date cv can usually be found at and at, although I am not always punctilious about keeping the link fully up to date.

 Prospective Graduate Students

I expect prospective graduate students to write me in advance, after having carefully read the "guide to graduate study in intellectual history" that I wrote years ago; you can find it by googling. Things have changed greatly since I last revised it, but fundamentally its assessment of the field, and of academic prospects generally, remains correct. I am more optimistic about the field of intellectual history than I was ten or twelve years ago, but more pessimistic about the academic job market, because of structural changes in American higher education.

Prospective graduate students should not feel obliged to work in my specific areas of interest. I am willing to supervise a fairly wide range of 19th and 20th century topics that rely primarily on French or German sources and that, without being theory, explore theory in a historical way. But note that we accept only a small number of students into our graduate program--perhaps ten each year overall, in a department having 40+ faculty members. Moreover, you should not assume that I will be able to accept graduate students in any given year. It only makes sense for me to do so if I am teaching a graduate course (=5000-level or above) at least one out of the two semesters in which you would arrive. In academic years 2012-14 I could not work with graduate students because of my heavy involvement in a highly regarded undergraduate honors program, Political and Social Thought, that made it difficult for me to accept students. However, I can recommend other excellent  prospective advisors.

It continues to be difficult to get a tenure-track position in European history, which is not a growth area. Prospective students should not underestimate the difficulties involved. It is best to acquire foreign experience and real competence in one relevant foreign language before starting graduate school. Intellectual history can’t be done well without a precise knowledge of language. Teaching in a secondary school in Europe, while at the same time perfecting one’s knowledge of the language through systematic and organized study, is one route to acquiring such experience and competence, although it is not the only route. Learning a foreign language at an academic level also involves immersing yourself in that language's literature. In addition, students who would want to work with me are likely to have some competence in thinking conceptually.

I should also note that I place quite a lot of emphasis on the student’s learning of the conventions of the historical discipline. Students working with me will also need to connect with a fair sampling of my departmental colleagues.

I have also found it valuable to host visiting scholars from abroad if they have interests close to mine. Alas, UVA doesn't have funding for this purpose; visiting scholars come with funding from scientific funding agencies in their own countries. At the current writing, the US Department of State requires a single foreign visitor to have funding of USD 1,500 per month to support himself or herself while here.

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904

tel: (434) 924-7147; fax: (434) 924-7891
office: M-F 8 am to 4:30 pm
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