This paper will discuss some of the challenges notions of deep time – more specifically, the deep human past – pose to the ways in which the discipline of historical writing understands itself. For this purpose, it will first address some theoretical features of the notion of "historical time" and inquire into the possibilities of "deepening" it, and the related costs and benefits. Second, it will seek to develop a historical contextualization of the theoretical features in question, and it will explore what challenges to deep time emerge from such contexts. The paper will, in particular, focus on the changing functions of modern European history writing for the cultural processing of the dead, as this context is, if somewhat unexpectedly, crucial for the problem of historical depth.
Henning Trüper (PhD, European University Institute, Florence, 2008, "Habilitation" for modern history, Zurich 2018) is currently University Researcher at Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, after holding research positions in Zurich, Paris, Princeton, and Berlin. He works on matters to do with the history and theory of history writing and the humanities more generally, as well as the history of humanitarianism. He is currently finishing a book manuscript on the history of orientalist philologies and embarking on a new project on the history of saving lives from shipwreck in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.