The idea of "critical" history emerged during the nineteenth century, when historians adopted critical methods from philology. By applying critical methods to history, historians hoped to produce a history that was like the critical edition of a text. Critical history would present an authentic account of the period it addressed, note important sources and variations, and provide an apparatus that provides context and perspective.
In the General Editors' Preface to the Edinburgh Critical History of Philosophy series, Howard Caygill and David Webb present a different view of critical history, which is related to Kant's critical philosophy (vii). Caygill and Webb argue that while critical philosophy reflects on the limits of what can be thought, the history of philosophy reminds us that different things have been and can be thought at different times. This makes a critical history of philosophy "an indispensable resource, a testing ground, and a reminder that we are never really done with thinking" (vii).
Alison Stone's introduction reveals that the Edinburgh Critical History of Nineteenth-Century Philosophy is more narrowly focused. According to Stone,
nineteenth-century philosophy can be broadly characterized by several themes: the conflict between metaphysics and religious faith on the one hand and the empirical sciences on the other; a new focus on history, progress, and evolution; new ideas of individuality, society, and revolution; and ever-increasing concerns about nihilism(1).These are the themes which "become important in relation to later Continental European philosophy" and they represent the "particular but not exclusive focus" of the volume (5). . . .