Historicity is the historical actuality of persons and events, meaning the quality of being part of history as opposed to being a historical myth, legend, or fiction. The historicity of a claim about the past is its factual status. Historicity denotes historical actuality, authenticity, factuality and focuses on the true value of knowledge claims about the past. [1][2]

Some theoreticians characterize historicity as a dimension of all natural phenomena that take place in space and time. Other scholars characterize it as an attribute reserved to certain human phenomena, in agreement with the practice of historiography.[3] Herbert Marcuse explained historicity as that which "defines history and thus distinguishes it from 'nature' or from the 'economy'" and "signifies the meaning we intend when we say of something that is 'historical'."[4] The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy defines historicity as "denoting the feature of our human situation by which we are located in specific concrete temporal and historical circumstances". For Wilhelm Dilthey, historicity identifies human beings as unique and concrete historical beings.[5]

Questions regarding historicity concern not just the issue of "what really happened", but also the issue of how modern observers can come to know "what really happened".[6] This second issue is closely tied to historical research practices and methodologies for analyzing the reliability of primary sources and other evidence. Because various methodologies thematize historicity differently, it's not possible to reduce historicity to a single structure to be represented. Some methodologies like historicism can make historicity subject to constructions of history based on submerged value commitments.[7][8]

Questions of historicity are particularly relevant to partisan or poetic accounts of past events. For example, the historicity of the Iliad has become a topic of debate because later archaeological finds suggest that the work was based on some true event.

Questions of historicity arise frequently in relation to historical studies of religion. In these cases, value commitments can influence the choice of research methodology.[8]

See also


  1. Wandersee, J. H. (1992). "The historicality of cognition: Implications for science education research". J. Res. Sci. Teach. 29: 423–434. doi:10.1002/tea.3660290409.
  2. Harre, R., & Moghaddam, F.M. (2006). Historicity, social psychology, and change. In Rockmore, T. & Margolis, J. (Eds.), History, historicity, and science (pp. 94–120). London: Ashgate Publishing Limited.
  3. Jones, Michael S., "Lucian Blaga, The Historical Phenomenon: An Excerpt from The Historical Being" (2012). Faculty Publications and Presentations. Paper 1.
  4. Herbert Marcuse, Hegel’s Ontology and the Theory of Historicity, trans. by Seyla Benhabib (Cambridge, MA; London: The MIT Press, 1987), 1.
  5. Bunnin, N., & Yu, J. (2004). The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.
  6. William J. Hamblin, professor of history at Brigham Young University. Two part article on historicity, and
  7. Hall, J. (2007). Historicity and Sociohistorical Research. In W. Outhwaite, & S. Turner (Eds.), The Sage Handbook of Social Science Methodology. (pp. 82–102). London: Sage Publications Ltd. doi:10.4135/9781848607958.n5
  8. Hall, J. (2007). History, Methodologies, and the Study of Religion. In J. Beckford, & N. Demerath (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of the Sociology of Religion (pp. 167–189). London: Sage Publications Ltd. doi:10.4135/9781848607965.n9

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