Hayden White

Hayden White
Born(1928-07-12)July 12, 1928
DiedMarch 5, 2018(2018-03-05) (aged 89)
Academic background
Alma materUniversity of Michigan
InfluencesAristotle, Max Weber, Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Roland Barthes, William J. Bossenbrook,[2] Erich Auerbach, Northrop Frye
Academic work
Main interestsTheory of history
Notable worksMetahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe
InfluencedSharon Traweek, Norman J. Wilson

Hayden White (July 12, 1928 – March 5, 2018) was an American historian in the tradition of literary criticism, perhaps most famous for his work Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (1973/2014). He claimed that the manifest historical text[jargon] is marked by strategies of explanation, which include explanation by argument, explanation by emplotment, and explanation by ideological implication.[3] He argued that historical writing was influenced by literary writing in many ways, sharing the strong reliance on narrative for meaning, therefore eliminating the possibility of objective or truly scientific history.[4] White also argued, however, that history is most successful when it uses this "narrativity", since it is what allows history to be meaningful.[5] He ended his career as University Professor Emeritus[6] at the history of consciousness department of the University of California, Santa Cruz, having previously retired from the comparative literature department of Stanford University.


White received his B.A. from Wayne State University (1951) and his M.A. (1952) and Ph.D. (1955) degrees from the University of Michigan. While an undergraduate at Wayne State, White studied history under William J. Bossenbrook alongside then-classmate Arthur Danto.[2]

In 1998, White directed a seminar ("The Theory of the Text") at the School of Criticism and Theory.[7]

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