For those of you who haven’t heard Oakeshott here is a rare BBC recording. The transcript can be found here – and the audio is here. Since the topic is philosophy of history, here is the opening paragraph of Geoff Thomas’ essay for Paul and my Companion:
Omnis determinatio est negatio, says Spinoza: to specify the nature of anything is also illuminatingly to say what it is not. This remark, whatever its general force, applies exactly to Michael Oakeshott’s philosophy of history. Oakeshott is a polemicist, a prince of skeptics, throughout his writings on the nature of history. To be sure, his position can be characterized positively: he is a constructionist. He holds that the historical past is an inferential construction from present experience. So, clearly enough, here’s the first negative: Oakeshott rejects any idea of the reality of the past. The past does not exist; if it did, the historian would not need to construct it inferentially or in any other way. It would just be there, open to investigation.