Allan Megill photo

Allan Megill


(434) 924-6414
434 Nau Hall
Office Hours: NORMAL OFFICE HOURS IN TEACHING SEMESTERS (on leave Spring 2022): Tuesdays & Thursdays 3:40-4:40 pm & by appointment. My e-mail is, My regular office hours often need to be cancelled because of meetings. Wednesdays and Fridays I don't teach, and so sometimes these days are good for longer conversations. I am also very happy to see students in late afternoons, AFTER my Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday classes. ADVISEES: During the advising period for the subsequent semester it is best to propose a range of times during late afternoons on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, and on Wednesdays/Fridays from noon onward, to see me. Be sure to propose a variety of possible times, to avoid email tag.

Field & 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


For some indication of my academic work generally, see

FALL SEMESTER 2021: HIEU 3802 ORIGINS OF CONTEMPORARY THOUGHT (Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger [1927], and related themes), and, with Fahud Bishara, HIST 7001 (introductory class for first-year PhD students). (In person.)

SPRING SEMESTER 2022: I will be on research leave in spring semester 2022.


Among my classes, HIEU 3802 and HIEU 3812 have no particular prerequisites apart from an ability and willingness to work systematically and read attentively, immersing yourself in what is there in the text. It also helps to be able to follow the rules specific to the class, and not assume that the class is like other classes you have taken.

I often teach HIEU 1502. While it is restricted to first-year and second-year students; ***it is not restricted to students who intend to major in history***-- on the contrary, I welcome first-and second-year students with a variety of academic and career goals -- the course puts a heavy emphasis on writing, a focus that is useful for everyone, and will give you insight into how historians think, which is useful whether OR NOT you take another history class.

Various documents describing or otherwise connnected with these, and other, courses that I teach can be found on my site: .

Letters of reference: To save breath I indicate here what I ask students or former students in my classes to give me if I agree to write a letter of reference for them: I would possibly be open to writing a letter of reference for you if that is needed. I require the following from people for whom I write: information concerning what is required by the internship, job, fellowship, and so on that you are applying for; a copy of your unofficial transcript; a statement as to which professors and  classes have had the most impact on you; an informal CV (which may include personal information that you would not put on a work-related CV or resume, if such information might be helpful to a reference-letter writer); and a statement concerning your central interests and talents as well as concerning your plans for the next few years. Students should send reminders, with deadlines clearly indicated in the e-mail subject line, as deadlines approach. 

Visiting scholars: Over the years I have often hosted in my classes visitors from other countries (they have come from China [including Hong Kong], Brazil, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Norway, and Germany). This presence has often been illuminating for regularly-enrolled undergraduate and graduate students, offering a certain widening of vision. It is best, however, if I am teaching a relevant class--that is, a class relevant to the prospective visitor's interests--during the period the visitor will be here (most relevant to vistors' interests have been HIEU 3812 Marx, and HIEU 5062 Philosophy and Theory of History). 



NOTE: My complete CV, with a detailed publication list, is usually to be found at my site:, as well as under my OFFICE HOURS line, above (although sometimes this CV is less up to date than the CV).


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: Remains in process,trans. Han Zhao and others (Beijing: Peking University Press, slated for publication in the series “Ideas of History,” forthcoming).


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 is in preparation.)


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]. Another new 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.

Theological Presuppositions of the Evolutionary Epic: From Robert Chambers to E. O. Wilson,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Volume 58, Pages 1-122 (August 2016), Special Issue: Replaying the Tape of Life: Evolution and Historical Explanation, ed. Peter Harrison and Ian Hesketh, at pp. 24-32. Crossref DOI link for article: URL for entire issue:


“On the Dual Character of Historical Thinking: Challenges for Teaching and Learning,” chapter 10 in Christine Counsell, Katharine Burn, and Arthur Chapman, eds., MasterClass in History Education: Transforming Teaching and Learning (London: Bloomsbury, forthcoming March 24, 2016, ISBN 9781472534873), 159-165.


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


Contribution to Marcin Moskalewicz, “The Old Nietzschean Question Raised Again: How much Past do we need for having a Healthy Life?” [with contributions by Frank Ankersmit, Sande Cohen, Jan van der Dussen, Allan Megill, and Jörn Rüsen], Rethinking History: The Journal of Theory and Practice, published online 24 March 2014, DOI: 10.1080/13642529.2014.893666; to link to this article, use this URL:; print publication forthcoming in Rethinking History 18: 4 (2014), fall 2014 (my contribution amounts to about 1,300 words).


Phillip Honenberger and Allan Megill, with contributions by Jesse Dukes, Justin Reich, “John Norman,” Steven M. Shepard, and Hillary J. Bracken, “Inferência abdutiva e historiografia: uma conversa para historiadores e filósofos,” trans. Viviane Venancio Moreira, Intelligere, Revista de História Intelectual, vol. 1, nº1 (dez. 2015): 58-81, downloadable at (instructional/scholarly hybrid).


“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. Chinese translation: 阿兰·梅吉尔:《历史、理论主义与“后世俗”的限度》,张文涛译、张旭鹏校,《新史学》第十三辑,2014年,第98—117页; in pinyin:  Allan Megill, "Lishi, lilun zhuyi yu 'hou shisu' de xiandu", trans. by Wentao Zhang, revised by Xupeng Zhang, New History, Vol. 13, 2014, pp. 98-117.


“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.


Current Research

Currently I work mainly in the theory and philosophy of history. The most up-to-date publicly available version of my CV is usually to be found on my site: Search the CV publications list for recent years (e.g., 2020, 2019, etc.) to see my most recent publications.

Awards & Honors

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.

Courses Taught

HIEU 3802 ORIGINS OF CONTEMPORARY THOUGHT (on Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud, and early Heidegger) and HIEU 3812 Marx, are the two centrally important undergraduate lecture classes that I teach. If you've “got” Marx, plus the Nietzsche to Heidegger sequence, you can go on and tackle just about anything; and if you don''t have them, what planet are you living on? On occasion I also teach a small, quite intensive HIEU 1502 seminar for first- and second-year undergraduates.

Some of my most rewarding pedagogical work has been done in connection with undergraduates (on rare occasion this work has included research collaboration, including on several occasions co-authorship of a published scholarly article or chapter). Many of these undergraduate students have gone on to greater things (these days the greater things usually do not include immediate graduate work in history).


I am open to advising senior theses in History or in Political and Social Thought. However, a prerequisite for this is that the student would have taken at least one of my 3000-level classes, ideally by their second year or by first semester of third year.



I am interested in working with history graduate students *who are the advisees of other professor in the department* and who feel that they would find my theoretical and methodological concerns and expertise useful for their empirical work. In addition, I am always interested in hearing from graduate students in other human sciences departments who directly share my theoretical interests. I do not expect to be advocating the admission of graduate students hoping to specialize in my own particular fields of history of European ideas and theory and philosophy of history. I am potentially open to expressions of interest from potential Visiting Scholars.


I am much less interested in taking on new graduate students as my own advisees. If you have the qualifications to get admitted here (the competition is very severe), and if you are interested in the kind of rather theoretical and conceptual work that I do, you probably have the qualifications to get admitted to (and thus funding from) a stronger program than UVA, with a prospective advisor whose horizon for still being there probably will extend beyond the six [hurray] to ten [ouch--finish faster than that] years that in our experience in the recent past is the horizon to expect. (To be sure, we are all working towards making the shorter period into the norm.)


On the other hand, if you can establish a community of interest with another member of the Corcoran Department of History who is willing to be your advisor, and if the Graduate Committee also deems you worthy of admission, then we could certainly talk about what I could contribute to your education here. I should note that this department has some recently-tenured faculty who would be excellent advisors for the right student. It is easy to overlook these people because they will generally not be widely known in the broad academic community. We also have some excellent tenure-track faculty who are as yet untenured--the tenuring process is very long. 


Carefully read the "Guide to Graduate Study in Intellectual History" that I wrote and put online many 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 (some readers took umbrage at my "pessimism" back when I uploaded that  [still unrevised] document too long ago, but the pessimism turned out to be realism).


I am more optimistic about the field of intellectual history in particular than I was fifteen to twenty years ago, but I am more pessimistic about the academic job market, because of structural changes in American higher education. Will things change for the better? It’s possible, but don’t hold your breath. On the other hand, the history of European ideas remains a field of compelling interest to people outside the traditions within which those ideas were articulated.


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, including a knowledge of the language's literature. 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.


Of course, in this age of global competition, there are many bright young Europeans or Israelis who acquire a good knowledge of two or even three languages almost as a matter of course.


One seeming bright spot (will it continue?) is the increasing demand in East Asia and elsewhere for people who have a good American graduate training and have a serious commitment to making a career abroad. (However, it should be noted [observation of January 2018] than many young Chinese people are acquiring near-mastery of English, including its grammar, at a relatively early age.)


If you are deeply interested in pursuing graduate work in history in general, or intellectual history in particular, and if you get admitted (which, these days, means getting full funding), I would say: go for it, if you really want to.  But be expeditious about it. Above all, you need to find a short and manageable dissertation topic.


Over the years I have 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 1,550 per month to support himself or herself while here.