Here is what we had to say about it over at WoH
a while back:Me
: Please give me a definition in your own words. Thanks.DB
:Historiography is the study of historians and their contributions to the field of History.DB
:I just realized what you were doing Phid. I should have offered an explanation when I created this forum. I arrogantly assumed most would know what historiography meant. My bad.Me
:Oh, no - the dictionary definition is easily found. Sometimes the "insider" definitions are more revealing, though.Scout
:Historiography is the study of the way in which historians write history. The do as opposed to the what. the methods used and the way in which historical conclusions are reached.Me
:So, then, what is the real purpose of historiography? I mean, what do you think is to be gained by studying how historians do history?DB
:Outside of academic circles and teaching historical method, not much. I enjoy it because I like to trace the history of ideas. It's about the same as why we still study Ptolemy in astronomy when we know his ideas were epic fail. Me
:I suppose it also helps us to know how we arrived at present knowledge, or how we developed present-day methods to enhance accuracy in research. I think if we are familiar with the successes and failures of past scholars, we can both be confident in certain accepted methods that are used and avoid repeating mistakes made in the past.DB
:I believe this is absolutely correct. Research methods should always be studied, therefore, historiography is most relevant.Me
:How about this - how does historiography relate to hermeneutics? Is historiography a subgroup of hermeneutics? It seems that this would be the case since hermeneutics might also include the way non-historians approach the past. DB
:I might have to argue that hermeneutics goes beyond the scope of the historian's focus. We are primarily interested in only the research of professional historians, and only consult non historians when absolutely necessary or where they are pertinently relevant to the subject at hand...i.e. they possess special expertise that cannot be found elsewhere.
Hermeneutics should be the tool of linguists, theologians, and literary critics; not historians.Me
:I don't think I agree with that at all (though I will grant that we may not be considering the word in the same manner). For example, studying the history of the Renaissance may very well entail looking into the Renaissance interpretation of ancient Roman sources. It's clear that Renaissance thinkers went in wrong directions in interpreting Vitruvius, for example, because we have examples from Pompeii that better illustrate what Vitruvius meant. Early 18th century England, 19th century Germany, etc. also looked to the Renaissance, to Rome, or to Greece and interpreted perceived ideals in ways that helped shape contemporary societies.
In other words, we are not the ones doing the interpreting; rather, we are looking at historical interpretations made by past civilizations.
In this sense, it seems to be a means of doing primary research rather than historiography, so I can see how they are unrelated in that regard. DB
:So long as historians aren't doing the interpreting, then I have no problem with your usage.