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Keywords:

  • psychohistory;
  • psychoanalysis;
  • history-writing;
  • ego-psychology;
  • Freudian theory;
  • transference

ABSTRACT

This article argues that, although psychoanalysis and history have different conceptions of time and causality, there can be a productive relationship between them. Psychoanalysis can force historians to question their certainty about facts, narrative, and cause; it introduces disturbing notions about unconscious motivation and the effects of fantasy on the making of history. This was not the case with the movement for psychohistory that began in the 1970s. Then the influence of American ego-psychology on history-writing promoted the idea of compatibility between the two disciplines in ways that undercut the critical possibilities of their interaction. The work of the French historian Michel de Certeau provides theoretical insight into the uses of incommensurability, while that of Lyndal Roper demonstrates both its limits and its value for enriching historical understanding.