A History of Germany in the Middle Ages

A History of Germany in the Middle Ages

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A History of Germany in the Middle Ages

A History of Germany in the Middle Ages

Read FREE!

Excerpt

Since the comparatively recent time when, by the efforts of Wolf, Niebuhr, and Ranke, historical investigation was raised to the rank of a science, the whole of the German history has been re-written. New sources of information have been opened up, old problems in many cases solved. More than fifty thousand historical essays and other works, relating to Germany, have been reviewed by the "Jahresbericht der Geschichtswissenschaft" in the thirteen years alone between 1878 and 1890.

Not in one, but in many ways has history writing been revolutionized in our own day. In the first place, the immense importance of text-criticism has been recognized; no scholar now edits a chronicle or document of the past without distinguishing carefully between the original, or at least the oldest obtainable, manuscript and the horde of later copies with all of their accumulated errors. The study of palæography has enabled men to determine at least in what century a given text was written, and many a document or chronicle long considered very ancient has been found to be by a comparatively modern hand, and vice versâ.

By comparing the changes, too, and the omissions of words and clauses in a number of different manuscripts of a given work, the prototype or original manuscript from which all the others were taken can often be discovered.

What this method signifies for the truth and accuracy of a historical text may be made clear from the case of Einhard's life of Charlemagne, written shortly after the death of the great hero. Of this valuable writing there are eighty manuscripts extant, of which all but a very few are worthless copies made, in the course of centuries, not from the original, but one from the other. The later scribes and copyists, too, were men far less capable of performing such a task than are many schoolboys of to-day.

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