Robin George Collingwood, or R. G. Collingwood as he is more usually known, was
Waynefleet Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy at Oxford University from 1935 to 1941.
During his career Collingwood attempted to integrate and understand
human experience and knowledge, and to bring together history and philosophy. He considered
that worthwhile historical studies must take on board, as a key aspect of their proper function, the
goal of self-knowledge of the mind.
His major work, The Idea of History, was published posthumously in 1946.
In the introduction to The Idea of History Collingwood attempted to define a "philosophy of history" and
discussed the nature, object, method and value of history. He maintained that historical studies should be recognised
as being potentially productive of results that should be as entitled to be condidered to be knowledge as those of
the natural sciences. He sought "to vindicate history as a form of knowledge distinct from natural science and yet
valid in its own right."
"History is for human self-knowledge ... the only clue to what man can do is
what man has done. The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done
and thus what man is."
R. G. Collingwood
The above R. G. Collingwood quote is, perhaps, somewhat reminiscent of these quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson:-
"There is one mind common to all individual men.
Of the works of this mind history is the record.
Man is explicable by nothing less than all his history.
all the facts of history pre-exist as laws. Each law in
turn is made by circumstances predominant. The creation
of a thousand forests is in one acorn, and Egypt, Greece, Rome,
Gaul, Britain, America, lie folded already in the first man.
Epoch after epoch, camp, kingdom, empire, republic, democracy,
are merely the application of this manifold spirit to the
"In old Rome the public roads beginning at the Forum
proceeded north, south, east, west, to the centre of every
province of the empire, making each market-town of Persia, Spain,
and Britain pervious to the soldiers of the capital: so out of
the human heart go, as it were, highways to the heart of every
object in nature, to reduce it under the dominion of man. A man
is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots, whose flower and
fruitage is the world. His faculties refer to natures out of him,
and predict the world he is to inhabit, as the fins of the fish
foreshow that water exists, or the wings of an eagle in the egg
presuppose air. He cannot live without a world."