This introductory chapter is an overview of emotions history—its origins, how the field has gained prominence, its core issues, and the debates and discoveries surrounding the field. By studying feelings, historians are uncovering the worldviews and the most fundamental assumptions about life, culture, and personality that people in the past carried in their heads. These investigations have shifted the discourse of history—away from the construct of the rational actor, whose behavior supposedly reflected only calculating self-interest. In questioning such concepts, and bringing emotions back into the story, historians have enriched what were fairly impoverished explanations of human motivation and offered more nuanced discussions of why men and women in other eras did what they did. As a result of such labors, they have demonstrated not only that emotions shaped history but that emotions themselves have a history.
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