Leopold von Ranke
Overview
 
Leopold von Ranke was a German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 historian
Historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

, considered one of the founders of modern source-based history
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

. Ranke set the standards for much of later historical writing, introducing such ideas as reliance on primary source
Primary source
Primary source is a term used in a number of disciplines to describe source material that is closest to the person, information, period, or idea being studied....

s (Empiricism
Empiricism
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

), an emphasis on narrative history
Narrative history
Narrative history is the practice of writing history in a story-based form. It can be divided into two subgenres: the traditional narrative and the modern narrative....

 and especially international politics (Aussenpolitik
Political history
Political history is the narrative and analysis of political events, ideas, movements, and leaders. It is distinct from, but related to, other fields of history such as Diplomatic history, social history, economic history, and military history, as well as constitutional history and public...

).
Ranke was born in Wiehe
Wiehe
Wiehe is a town in the Kyffhäuserkreis district, in Thuringia, Germany. It is situated 24 km south of Sangerhausen, and 32 km north of Weimar....

, then part of the Electorate of Saxony
Electorate of Saxony
The Electorate of Saxony , sometimes referred to as Upper Saxony, was a State of the Holy Roman Empire. It was established when Emperor Charles IV raised the Ascanian duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg to the status of an Electorate by the Golden Bull of 1356...

. He was educated partly at home and partly in the Gymnasium of Schulpforta. His early years engendered a life-long love of Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 and Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 and of the Lutheran
Lutheranism
Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation...

 Church.
Quotations

Die glücklichsten Zeiten der Menschheit sind die leeren Blätter im Buch der Geschichte.

Translation: The happiest times of humanity are the blank pages in the book of history.

[...] nicht das Amt die Vergangenheit zu richten, die Mitwelt zum Nutzen zukünftiger Jahre zu belehren, sondern bloß zu zeigen, wie es eigentlich gewesen ist.

Translation: [The historian has] not the duty to judge the past, nor to instruct one's contemporaries with an eye to the future, but rather merely to show how it actually was.

Er, der Geschichte Bären auf Politik bilden möchte, muß sicher sein, daß seine Geschichte objektiv ist; andernfalls beeinflußt Geschichte nicht Politik, aber eher Politik Geschichte.

Translation: He who wants to make history bear on politics must be sure that his history is objective; otherwise, history will not influence politics, but rather politics history.

Encyclopedia
Leopold von Ranke was a German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 historian
Historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

, considered one of the founders of modern source-based history
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

. Ranke set the standards for much of later historical writing, introducing such ideas as reliance on primary source
Primary source
Primary source is a term used in a number of disciplines to describe source material that is closest to the person, information, period, or idea being studied....

s (Empiricism
Empiricism
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

), an emphasis on narrative history
Narrative history
Narrative history is the practice of writing history in a story-based form. It can be divided into two subgenres: the traditional narrative and the modern narrative....

 and especially international politics (Aussenpolitik
Political history
Political history is the narrative and analysis of political events, ideas, movements, and leaders. It is distinct from, but related to, other fields of history such as Diplomatic history, social history, economic history, and military history, as well as constitutional history and public...

).

Overview

Ranke was born in Wiehe
Wiehe
Wiehe is a town in the Kyffhäuserkreis district, in Thuringia, Germany. It is situated 24 km south of Sangerhausen, and 32 km north of Weimar....

, then part of the Electorate of Saxony
Electorate of Saxony
The Electorate of Saxony , sometimes referred to as Upper Saxony, was a State of the Holy Roman Empire. It was established when Emperor Charles IV raised the Ascanian duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg to the status of an Electorate by the Golden Bull of 1356...

. He was educated partly at home and partly in the Gymnasium of Schulpforta. His early years engendered a life-long love of Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 and Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 and of the Lutheran
Lutheranism
Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation...

 Church. In 1814, Ranke entered the University of Leipzig, where his subjects were Classics
Classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

 and Lutheran theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

. At Leipzig, Ranke became an expert in philology
Philology
Philology is the study of language in written historical sources; it is a combination of literary studies, history and linguistics.Classical philology is the philology of Greek and Classical Latin...

 and translation of the ancient authors into German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

. As a student, Ranke's favorite authors were Thucydides
Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

, Livy
Livy
Titus Livius — known as Livy in English — was a Roman historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people. Ab Urbe Condita Libri, "Chapters from the Foundation of the City," covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome well before the traditional foundation in 753 BC...

, Dionysius of Halicarnassus
Dionysius of Halicarnassus
Dionysius of Halicarnassus was a Greek historian and teacher of rhetoric, who flourished during the reign of Caesar Augustus. His literary style was Attistic — imitating Classical Attic Greek in its prime.-Life:...

, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

, Barthold Georg Niebuhr
Barthold Georg Niebuhr
Barthold Georg Niebuhr was a Danish-German statesman and historian who became Germany's leading historian of Ancient Rome and a founding father of modern scholarly historiography. Classical Rome caught the admiration of German thinkers...

, Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

, Johann Gottlieb Fichte
Johann Gottlieb Fichte
Johann Gottlieb Fichte was a German philosopher. He was one of the founding figures of the philosophical movement known as German idealism, a movement that developed from the theoretical and ethical writings of Immanuel Kant...

, Friedrich Schelling, and Friedrich Schlegel. Ranke showed little interest in the work of modern history because of his dissatisfaction with what he regarded as history books that were merely a collection of facts lumped together by modern historians.

Between 1817–1825, Ranke worked as a Classics teacher at the Friedrichs Gymnasium in Frankfurt an der Oder. During this time, Ranke became interested in History
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

 in part because of his desire to be involved in the developing field of a more professionalized history and in part because of his desire to find the hand of God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 in the workings of history.

Beginning with his first book in 1824, the Geschichte der romanischen und germanischen Völker von 1494 bis 1514 (History of the Latin and Teutonic Peoples from 1494 to 1514), Ranke used an unusually wide variety of sources for a historian of the age, including "memoirs, diaries, personal and formal missives, government documents, diplomatic dispatches and first-hand accounts of eye-witnesses". In this sense he leaned on the traditions of Philology
Philology
Philology is the study of language in written historical sources; it is a combination of literary studies, history and linguistics.Classical philology is the philology of Greek and Classical Latin...

 but emphasized mundane documents instead of old and exotic literature.

Ranke began his book with the statement in the introduction that he would show the unity of the experiences of the "Teutonic" nations of Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 and the "Latin" nations of Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 through the great "respirations" of the Völkerwanderung (great migration), the Crusades
Crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

 and colonisation that in Ranke's view bound all of the nations together to produce modern European civilization. Despite his opening statement, Ranke largely treated all of the nations under examination separately until the outbreak of the wars for the control of Italy starting in 1494. However, the book is best remembered for Ranke's comment that "To history has been assigned the office of judging the past, of instructing the present for the benefit of future ages. To such high offices this work does not aspire: It wants only to show what actually happened (wie es eigentlich gewesen)". Ranke's statement that history should embrace the principle of wie es eigentlich gewesen (meaning "how things actually were") is taken by many historians as their guiding principle. There has been much debate over the precise meaning of this phrase. Some have argued that adhering to the principle of wie es eigentlich gewesen means that the historian should only document facts without offering any interpretation of these facts. Following Georg Iggers, Peter Novick has argued that Ranke, who was more of a romantic and idealist than his American contemporaries understood, meant instead that the historian should discover the facts and find the essences behind them. Under this view, the word eigentlich should be translated as "essentially", the aim then being to "show what essentially happened". (Note that Ranke wrote "wie es eigentlich gewesen", rather than the more common German phrase "wie es eigentlich gewesen ist". His omission of the final "ist" ("was") suggests, according to some scholars, a less literal meaning.) Ranke went on to write that the historian must seek the "Holy hieroglyph" that is God's hand in history, keeping an "eye for the universal" whilst taking "pleasure in the particular".

Following the success of Geschichte der romanischen und germanischen Völker von 1494 bis 1514, Ranke was given a position in the University of Berlin. At the university, Ranke became deeply involved in the dispute between the followers of the legal professor Friedrich Carl von Savigny
Friedrich Carl von Savigny
Friedrich Carl von Savigny was one of the most respected and influential 19th-century jurists and historians.-Early life and education:...

 who emphasized the varieties of different periods of history and the followers of the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.Hegel developed a comprehensive...

 who saw history as the unfolding of a universal story. Ranke supported Savigny and criticized the Hegelian view of history as being a one-size-fits-all approach. Also during his time in Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, Ranke became the first historian to utilise the forty-seven volumes that comprised the diplomatic archives of Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 from the 1500's and 1600's. Ranke came to prefer dealing with primary sources as opposed to secondary sources during this time. Ranke later wrote "I see the time approaching when we shall base modern history, no longer on the reports even of contemporary historians, except in-so-far as they were in the possession of personal and immediate knowledge of facts; and still less on work yet more remote from the source; but rather on the narratives of eyewitnesses, and on genuine and original documents."

It was in Vienna, where the friendship of Frederich von Gentz and the protection of Metternich opened to him the Venetian archives, of which many were preserved in that city—a virgin source, the value of which he first discovered, and which is still unexhausted. He found time, in addition, to write a short book on Die Serbische Revolution (1829), from material supplied to him by Vuk Karadžić, a Serb who had himself been witness of the scenes he related during the First Serbian Uprising
First Serbian Uprising
The First Serbian Uprising was the first stage of the Serbian Revolution , the successful wars of independence that lasted for 9 years and approximately 9 months , during which Serbia perceived itself as an independent state for the first time after more than three centuries of Ottoman rule and...

 in 1804. This afterwards expanded into Serbien und die Turkei im 19 Jahrhundert (1879).

Starting in 1831 at the behest of the Prussian government, Ranke founded and edited the Historisch-Politische Zeitschrift journal. Ranke, who was a conservative
Conservatism
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

, used the journal to attack the ideas of Liberalism
Liberalism
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

. In his 1833 article "The Great Powers" and his 1836 article "Dialogue on Politics" Ranke claimed that every state is given a special moral character from God and individuals should strive to best fulfill the "idea" of their state. Thus, in this way, Ranke urged his readers to stay loyal to the Prussian state and reject the ideas of the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, which Ranke claimed were meant for France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, not Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

.

Between 1834–1836 Ranke produced the multi-volume Die römischen Päpste, ihre kirche und ihr Staat im sechzehnten und siebzehnten Jahrhundert (History of the Popes, Their Church and Their State in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries). As a Protestant, Ranke was barred from viewing the Vatican
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 archives in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, but on the basis of private papers in Rome and Venice, Ranke was able to explain the history of the papacy in the 1500's. In this book, Ranke coined the term the Counter Reformation and offered colourful portrayals of Pope Paul IV
Pope Paul IV
Pope Paul IV, C.R. , né Giovanni Pietro Carafa, was Pope from 23 May 1555 until his death.-Early life:Giovanni Pietro Carafa was born in Capriglia Irpina, near Avellino, into a prominent noble family of Naples...

, Ignatius of Loyola
Ignatius of Loyola
Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish knight from a Basque noble family, hermit, priest since 1537, and theologian, who founded the Society of Jesus and was its first Superior General. Ignatius emerged as a religious leader during the Counter-Reformation...

, and Pope Pius V
Pope Pius V
Pope Saint Pius V , born Antonio Ghislieri , was Pope from 1566 to 1572 and is a saint of the Catholic Church. He is chiefly notable for his role in the Council of Trent, the Counter-Reformation, and the standardization of the Roman liturgy within the Latin Church...

. The papacy denounced Ranke's book as anti-Catholic while many Protestants denounced Ranke's book as too neutral. However, Ranke has been generally praised by historians for placing the situation of the Roman Catholic Church in the context of the 1500's and for his treatment of the complex interaction of the political and religious issues in that century. In particular, the British Roman Catholic historian Lord Acton
John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton
John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton, KCVO, DL , known as Sir John Dalberg-Acton, 8th Bt from 1837 to 1869 and usually referred to simply as Lord Acton, was an English Catholic historian, politician, and writer...

 defended Ranke's book as the most fair-minded, balanced and objective study ever written on the papacy of the 1500's. Ranke followed this book up with multi-volume Deutsche Geschichte im Zeitalter der Reformation (History of the Reformation in Germany) in 1845–1847. Ranke used the ninety-six volumes from ambassadors to Imperial Diet in Frankfurt
Frankfurt
Frankfurt am Main , commonly known simply as Frankfurt, is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth-largest city in Germany, with a 2010 population of 688,249. The urban area had an estimated population of 2,300,000 in 2010...

 to explain the Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 as the result of both politics and religion.

In 1841, Ranke was appointed Royal Historiographer to the Prussian court. In 1849, Ranke published Neun Bücher preussicher Geschichte (translated as Memoirs of the House of Brandenburg and History of Prussia, during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries), in which he examined the fortunes of the Hohenzollern family and state from the Middle Ages to the reign of Frederick the Great
Frederick II of Prussia
Frederick II was a King in Prussia and a King of Prussia from the Hohenzollern dynasty. In his role as a prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire, he was also Elector of Brandenburg. He was in personal union the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel...

. Many Prussian nationalists were offended by Ranke's portrayal of Prussia as a typical medium-sized German state rather than as a great power.

In a series of lectures given before the future King Maximilian II of Bavaria
Maximilian II of Bavaria
Maximilian II of Bavaria was king of Bavaria from 1848 until 1864. He was son of Ludwig I of Bavaria and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.-Crown Prince:...

, Ranke argued that "every age is next to God", by which he meant that every period of history is unique and must be understood in its own context. He argued that God gazes over history in its totality and finds all periods equal. Ranke rejected the teleological approach to history, by which each period is considered inferior to the period which follows. Thus, the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 were not inferior to the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

, simply different. In Ranke's view, the historian had to understand a period on its own terms, and seek to find only the general ideas which animated every period of history. For Ranke, then, history was not to be an account of man's "progress" because, "After Plato, there can be no more Plato." For Ranke, Christianity was morally most superior and could not be improved upon. Ultimately, "History is no criminal court."

In 1865, Ranke was ennobled, in 1882 appointed a Prussian Privy Councillor, and in 1885 given an honorary citizenship of Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

. In 1884, he was appointed the first honorary member of the American Historical Association
American Historical Association
The American Historical Association is the oldest and largest society of historians and professors of history in the United States. Founded in 1884, the association promotes historical studies, the teaching of history, and the preservation of and access to historical materials...

. After his retirement in 1871, Ranke continued to write on a variety of subjects relating to German history
History of Germany
The concept of Germany as a distinct region in central Europe can be traced to Roman commander Julius Caesar, who referred to the unconquered area east of the Rhine as Germania, thus distinguishing it from Gaul , which he had conquered. The victory of the Germanic tribes in the Battle of the...

 such as the French Revolutionary Wars
French Revolutionary Wars
The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts, from 1792 until 1802, fought between the French Revolutionary government and several European states...

, Albrecht von Wallenstein
Albrecht von Wallenstein
Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Wallenstein , actually von Waldstein, was a Bohemian soldier and politician, who offered his services, and an army of 30,000 to 100,000 men during the Danish period of the Thirty Years' War , to the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II...

, Karl August von Hardenberg
Karl August von Hardenberg
Karl August Fürst von Hardenberg was a Prussian statesman and Prime Minister of Prussia. While during his late career he acquiesced to reactionary policies, earlier in his career he implemented a variety of Liberal reforms...

, and King Frederick William IV of Prussia
Frederick William IV of Prussia
|align=right|Upon his accession, he toned down the reactionary policies enacted by his father, easing press censorship and promising to enact a constitution at some point, but he refused to enact a popular legislative assembly, preferring to work with the aristocracy through "united committees" of...

. Starting in 1880, Ranke began a huge six-volume work on World History
World History
World History, Global History or Transnational history is a field of historical study that emerged as a distinct academic field in the 1980s. It examines history from a global perspective...

, which began with ancient Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and the Israelites. By the time of Ranke's death in Berlin in 1886, at the age of 90, he had reached only the 1100's, though his assistants later used his notes to take the still-incomplete series up to 1453.

Methodology and criticism

At the core of his method, Ranke did not believe that general theories could cut across time and space. Instead, he made statements about the time using quotations from primary sources. He said, "My understanding of 'leading ideas' is simply that they are the dominant tendencies in each century. These tendencies, however, can only be described; they can not, in the last resort, be summed up in a concept." Ranke objected to philosophy of history
Philosophy of history
The term philosophy of history refers to the theoretical aspect of history, in two senses. It is customary to distinguish critical philosophy of history from speculative philosophy of history...

, particularly as practiced by Hegel, claiming that Hegel ignored the role of human agency in history, which was too essential to be "characterized through only one idea or one word" or "circumscribed by a concept." This lack of emphasis on unifying theories or themes led some to denigrate his "mindless empiricism." In the 19th century, Ranke's work was very popular and his ideas about historical practise gradually became dominant in western historiography. However, he had critics among his contemporaries, including Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

, a former Hegelian, who suggested that Ranke engaged in some of the practices he criticised in other historians.

While Ranke's method remain influential in the practice of history, his broader ideas of historiography
Historiography
Historiography refers either to the study of the history and methodology of history as a discipline, or to a body of historical work on a specialized topic...

 and empiricism are now regarded as outdated and no longer credible. It held sway among historians until the mid-twentieth century, when it was challenged by E. H. Carr and Fernand Braudel
Fernand Braudel
Fernand Braudel was a French historian and a leader of the Annales School. His scholarship focused on three main projects, each representing several decades of intense study: The Mediterranean , Civilization and Capitalism , and the unfinished Identity of France...

. Carr opposed Ranke's ideas of empiricism as naive, boring and outmoded, saying that historians did not merely report facts — they choose which facts they use. Braudel's approach was based on the histoire problème. Remarking on the legacy of Ranke's dictum that historians should represent the past "wie es eigentlich gewesen" (as it really was), Walter Benjamin
Walter Benjamin
Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin was a German-Jewish intellectual, who functioned variously as a literary critic, philosopher, sociologist, translator, radio broadcaster and essayist...

 scathingly wrote that it represented "the strongest narcotic of the [nineteenth] century".

Relation to Robert Graves

Amalie von Ranke, the historian's niece, was the mother of the British novelist and poet Robert Graves
Robert Graves
Robert von Ranke Graves 24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985 was an English poet, translator and novelist. During his long life he produced more than 140 works...

, whose full name was Robert von Ranke Graves.

Selected works

  • Geschichte der romanischen und germanischen Völker von 1494 bis 1514 ("History of the Romanic and Germanic Peoples from 1494 to 1514", 1824)
  • Serbische Revolution ("Serbian Revolution", 1829)
  • Fürsten und Völker von Süd-Europa im sechzehnten und siebzehnten Jahrhundert ("Princes and Peoples of Southern Europe in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries")
  • Die römischen Päpste in den letzen vier Jahrhunderten ("The Roman Popes in the Last Four Centuries", 1834–1836)
  • Neun Bücher preussischer Geschichte (Memoirs of the House of Brandenburg and History of Prussia, during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, 1847–1848)
  • Französische Geschichte, vornehmlich im sechzehnten und siebzehnten Jahrhundert (Civil Wars and Monarchy in France, in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries: A History of France Principally During That Period, 1852–1861)
  • Die deutschen Mächte und der Fürstenbund ("The German Powers and the Princes' League", 1871–1872)
  • Ursprung und Beginn der Revolutionskriege 1791 und 1792 (Origin and Beginning of the Revolutionary Wars 1791 and 1792, 1875)
  • Hardenberg und die Geschichte des preussischen Staates von 1793 bis 1813 (Hardenberg and the History of the Prussian State from 1793 to 1813, 1877)
  • Weltgeschichte - Die Römische Republik und ihre Weltherrschaft (World history: The Roman Republic and Its World Rule, 2 volumes, 1886)

Online


External links

  • Leopold von Ranke, from Humboldt University of Berlin
    Humboldt University of Berlin
    The Humboldt University of Berlin is Berlin's oldest university, founded in 1810 as the University of Berlin by the liberal Prussian educational reformer and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt, whose university model has strongly influenced other European and Western universities...

     website
  • Leopold von Ranke historicism, from "Age of the Sage" website.
  • Leopold von Ranke's papers at Syracuse University
    Syracuse University
    Syracuse University is a private research university located in Syracuse, New York, United States. Its roots can be traced back to Genesee Wesleyan Seminary, founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1832, which also later founded Genesee College...

    ; Ranke's personal library, containing many works by lesser known writers on historical, political and literary subjects of the 16th to 19th centuries, was also donated to the University's Rare Books department.
  • Williams, H. S. (1907). The historians' history of the world. Volume XV. (ed., this volume covers Leopold von Ranke on Page 633.)
  • Geschichte der romanischen und germanischen Völker von 1494 bis 1514 by Leopold von Ranke at the Internet Archive
    Internet Archive
    The Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library with the stated mission of "universal access to all knowledge". It offers permanent storage and access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, music, moving images, and nearly 3 million public domain books. The Internet Archive...

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