Retranslating Thucydides as a scientific historian: A corpus-based analysis

Author: Henry Jones

in Target: International Journal of Translation Studies




The nineteenth century was a period of dramatic change in Europe for the idea of history. While from antiquity through to the eighteenth century, historiography had broadly been considered an artistic and rhetorical activity, this view gradually lost ground in the nineteenth century to an understanding of history as a science. This case study aims to explore how these shifts in attitudes towards the proper aims and methods of history writing might have shaped the interpretation and translation into English of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, a work first written in classical Greek in the fifth century BCE. The analysis is carried out by means of a corpus-based methodology which, I argue, can better enable researchers to engage with each (re)translator’s overall presentation of the source through the production and interrogation of concordances listing every instance of a given search item as it occurs within digitised versions of the target texts. This is demonstrated through an investigation of the use of the term ‘fact(s)’ which reveals a striking divergence in interpretation between the six translations, with Crawley’s (1874) History in particular appearing to lend a significantly more objective and empirical tone to Thucydides in English.