Allan Megill


(434) 924-6414

434 Nau Hall
Office Hours: Thursday 3:40-4:40 pm & by appointment
PDF icon MEGILL CV 2017-03-01.pdf

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

In FALL SEMESTER 2017 I shall be teaching HIEU 3802 Origins of Contemporary Thought, and HIEU 1502 Introductory Seminar in Modern European History. HIEU 3802 has no particular prerequisites apart from an ability and willingness to read. HIEU 1502 is restricted to first-year and second-year students; it is not restricted to students who intend to major in history.

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

I do not yet know my SPRING SEMESTER 2018 schedule.

I also regularly teach HIEU 3812 MARX and HIEU 5062 Philosophy and Theory of History.

HIEU 3812 has no particular prerequisites, beyond the ability and willingness to read carefully.

HIEU 5062 is both a graduate and an upper-level undergraduate course. I routinely accept into it upper-level undergraduates who have at least some inchoate idea for a paper topic that will have something to do with the past, or with present attempts to grasp the past, or with the presence of the past in the present (many research projects in the humanities and social sciences certainly have, or ought to have, a historical dimension). The class has also benefited over the years from the presence of graduate students in several humanities and social science disciplines--not only history graduate students.

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.

Visiting scholars: Over the years I have often hosted visitors from other countries (they have come from China [including Hong Kong], Brazil, Mexico, Poland, 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 prospectikve 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.


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). The Chinese version, translated by Hongxia Huang and  Han Zhao, is slated to be published by Peking University Press in Spring, 2017.


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

I usually work in several different research areas at once. Currently (I am writing this in July 2016) I am mainly interested in making serious progress on a set of articles, and on a new book, on the theory of historical research and writing. Two recently-published pieces (both of them very substantial), “Theological Presuppositions of the Evolutionary Epic” and “Big History’ Old and New: Presuppositions, Limits, Alternatives,” are part of this larger research area. I have also recently completed a similarly substantial review article dealing with Marx. I have a longstanding commitment to write a short biography of Karl Marx that emphasizes Marx’s concern with networks and “backwardness,” and this shortly will return to the front burner. Finally, with a Chinese colleague I have been collaborating on pieces that I hope will eventually turn into a book on approaches and methods in the history of ideas/intellectual history.

My complete and up-to-date cv, plus some links to my work, can be found at

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..

University of Iowa Faculty Scholarship, 1985-88.

Research Fellow, Australian National University, 1977-79.

Courses Taught

In FALL SEMESTER 2016 I am on a much-deserved sabbatical, trying to get writing done, rather than focusing on teaching. Consequently, my interaction with students will be limited until early January.  If you happen to see me around, do remember that I'm not fully here.


HOWEVER, IF YOU HAVE TAKEN A CLASS WITH ME PREVIOUSLY, I would possibly be open to writing a letter of reference for you if that is needed. I require the following: a copy of your unofficial transcript (which, annoyingly, omits instructors' names); 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.


In SPRING SEMESTER 2017 I teach HIEU 3812 MARX. This is, along with HIEU 3802 ORIGINS OF CONTEMPORARY THOUGHT (on Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud, and early Heidegger), is one of the two centrally important 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.


IN SPRING 2017 I shall also be teaching HIEU 5062 THEORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY, which over the years has been the matrix for a lot of my scholarly work and publications in the theory of history field. The main requirements for students in this course are to read the assigned readings, to participate as much as possible in discussion, and to write a largish seminar paper at the end. (There will also be some shorter assignments of a more informal sort that I won't be micro-editing or grading in any serious way--such as a very small number of brief class presentations, and the writing up of brief class notes.)


I routinely accept upper-level undergraduates into this class, as long as they have a least an inchoate idea for an acceptable paper topic having something to do with the past, or with present attempts to grasp the past, or with the presence of the past in the present. In general, it is best, although this is not absolutely required, that undergraduates in HIEU 5062 should also have taken one of my lower-level courses.


The class has also benefited over the years from the presence of graduate students in several humanities and social science disciplines. Also, over the years I have often had visitors from other countries sitting in on this class (from China [including Hong Kong], Brazil, Mexico, Poland, and Norway, to name the countries that come most quickly to mind). This presence has often been illuminating for regularly-enrolled undergraduate and graduate students, offering a certain widening of vision.


On occasion I also teach a small, quite intensive HIEU 1502 seminar for first- and second-years.


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.


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 am 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. 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.


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. I am more optimistic about the field of intellectual history in particular than I was twelve or fourteen years ago, but I am somewhat 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.


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. 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.


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.

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904


(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
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