I have already submitted a few postings on related topics, however, I can highlight some of the traditional Philosophies of History within the West.
1.The Post-Modern school: This is the most recent or contemporary historiography and Philosophical approach towards History. Post-Modern History is critical of the traditional views and definitions of Objectivity and Absolutism. The Post-Modernists champion and morally defend the idea of Cultural and Historical Relativism whereby historical reality is not necessarily rooted in truthful narratives, but instead, is a product of a socio-cultural bias and "construction".
Post-Modern Philosophy, and more specifically, Post-Modern History, was pioneered by the French Philosopher, Michelle Foucault during the 1960's and 1970's,
- The Marxist school: The Marxist approach towards History grew in popularity beginning in the mid 1960's. The Marxists view History as a long tale of perpetual injustices and "class struggles" between the "Haves and Have- Nots"..... the wealthy elites and the working classes. This ongoing class strife was based on the Capitalist class' imposition of unequal economic policies that enriched a tiny elite, while impoverishing-(and even greatly impoverishing), the majority populace.
Though primarily economic in tone, Marxist History and Historiography has broadened its meaning to include the divisions and "struggles" between the Politically Powerful elites and the politically disenfranchised majority. However, for the Marxists, revolutions which attempt to overthrow the elitist class-(including The State), is the necessary antidote by which universal equality and historical progress/justice can only be achieved.
Karl Marx spent his adult intellectual years in London during the 19th century Industrial Revolution Age.
- The Hegelian/Dialectical School: George Hegel was a German Philosopher, Professor and University President during the early years of the 19th century.
He was perhaps the First true Philosopher of History and discussed the interpretation of historical reality in a more theoretically comprehensive manner than his Western predecessors. Hegel's "Philosophy of History" introduced the West-(and indeed the world) to Dialectics. The word, "Dialectics", was an Ancient Greek word that was central to the nature of language-(it literally means, "two words" or "the combination of two words"). However, for Hegel, Dialectics was not merely a conjoining of words and language, but a greater reconciliation of historical phenomena whereby a "Thesis", an "Antithesis" and a resulting "synthesis" defined the cyclical or quasi-cyclical nature of historical time and reality.
For example if one wanted to analyze the origins of the Soviet Union from a Hegelian perspective, one might position the Tsar, as well as the Russian Orthodox Church Leadership as the Thesis, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky as the Antithesis and the birth of the Soviet imperial Atheistic State as the resulting Synthesis.
Karl Marx was deeply influenced by George Hegel; in fact, the phrase, "Dialectical Materialism" was invented by Karl Marx thought it has a Hegelian connotation. The main distinction though between Marx and Hegel-(including, Marxist and Hegelian historiography), is the Atheism of Marx, versus the teleological Theism-(perhaps even Christian Theism) of Hegel.
- The Great Man Theory of History: This now largely discredited and untaught school of history, is one of the oldest in Modern Theoretical History. The Great Man Theory of History was pioneered by the English Writer, Thomas Carlyle, who viewed Historical Reality as the determination of "Great Men" or persons with great exceptionalism and character. Generals, Statesmen, Poets, Writers, Philosopher, Religious Leaders, Scientists, Mathematicians and Inventors, were the ones, due to their foresighted genius, as well as novel writings and inventions, who essentially defined the meaning and purpose of History.
The Great Man Theory of History is the absolute opposite of Marxism and Post-Modernism; it is very much the oldest of "Old school" style historiography and Philosophy of History.
- Pareto and "The Circulation of Elites": The Italian Social Theorist, Pareto-(unfortunately, I don't remember his first name), originated a concept known as, "The Circulation of Elites". According to Pareto, the movement of human history, is just that, an actual biological movement akin to ants in a colony whereby a timeless structure of Leaders and followers has been and continues to remain... unbreakable. However, in the case of the Human species, the human movement towards history, is a "circulation of elites", that is to say, a changing and shifting of elite groups from stage of history, to another stage of history.
If one, for example, looks at the history of Pareto's native Italy, specifically, Ancient Rome, one can find the classic example of a "circulation of elites". Rome began as a Monarchical elitist system, then transitioning towards a Republic/Senatorial elitist system, then evolving into the Roman Empire, an imperialistically tyrannical elitist system, which "collapsed into", a Theocratic elitist system.
Pareto's "circulation of elites" concept is more sociological in tone, though it has an important and often overlooked historical meaning that has been and is
still largely underappreciated.
There are other Theoretical approaches to history with Authors, such Arnold Toynbee, Ibn Khaldun and even Nicolo Machiavelli.