Can human history as a whole be interpreted in any meaningful way? Has there been real progress between stone age and space age? Does history repeat itself? Is there evidence of divine providence? Questions such as these have fascinated thinkers, and some of the greatest philosophers, notably Kant and Hegel, have turned their minds to philosophical history. As a branch of philosophy, however, it has received little attention in the analytical tradition. This pioneering work aims to bring the methods of analytical philosophy to the critical examination of some of these questions. In addition to Hegel and Kant, the discussion ranges over the writings of Augustine, Machiavelli, and Alasdair MacIntyre. The ideas of historical progress, secularization and the decline of religion, cultural cycles, historical rupture and God in history are all subjected to careful analysis. Gordon Graham argues that, although unfashionable, the claim that history is the story of progress under the guidance of providence is one of the most plausible accounts of the shape of the past.
Graham's programmatic survey of the field is conducted with sensitivity and finesse and with an openness of approach that encompasses the ideas of an exceptionally wide range of thinkers ... the variety of shrewd and suggestive insights encountered in the course of his inquiry remains, and make it well worth following. * Times Literary Supplement * the many specific issues explored make this a welcome addition to the literature on philosophical history, It is written with exceptional clarity and, arising as it does from teaching courses, is of a level accessible to undergraduates./Leon Pompa/The Philosophical Quaterly, 1999.