A Guide to Historical Method

A Guide to Historical Method

A Guide to Historical Method

A Guide to Historical Method


It is generally recognized that Lehrbuch der historischen Methode, by Ernst Bernheim, is the classic work in the field of historical method. Unfortunately, it has never been translated, nor have any of those who taught this subject in countries where German is not the mother tongue explicitly attempted to adapt Bernheim's book to the needs of their students. A suggestion to this effect was made by Langlois and Seignobos, who speak of using Bernheim with modifications, "leaving out metaphysical problems which we consider devoid of interest" and developing certain points which the author ignores, but "which appear to us to be of the greatest importance, both theoretically and practically."

A more recent writer, Allen Johnson, has noted that nearly all the books on historical method which have appeared since Bernheim, "flatter him by imitation," or lean heavily upon him in formulating in practical form "the approved modes of procedure in historical criticism."

Among this latter class is Lehrbuch der geschichtlichen Methode, by Alfred Feder, of which the same writer says that "it makes no advance beyond Bernheim," and "is, indeed, in many respects reactionary in its point of view, especially in matters concerning ecclesiastical history and tradition."

It may be conceded that in the essentials of historical methodology neither Feder nor any other writer has advanced beyond the work of Bernheim, but in specific details and in various interpretations Feder has made a notable contribution to this science. Further, the "reactionary" character of Father Feder's work consists in his having a metaphysical conception of the universe with which Mr. Johnson does not agree; a conception which leaves room for the supernatural, for God, for revelation, for miracles.

The initial intention of Father Garraghan was to translate and adapt Feder's book, but as the work progressed, his treatment of the subject became more independent. In its final form, as here presented to the reader, what he has done should be regarded as truly original, except for Part III, entitled "Criticism." Even in this third part, and throughout the whole book, wherever possible, his illustrative material is taken from American and English History.

In preparing the manuscript for the press, the editor has endeavored to make no change affecting the substance of the book, although there are points of detail, such as the requirement for establishing individual facts, which might be more strongly emphasized. It will be evident, also, that certain sections are purely academic, and that many problems are discussed which concern the philosophy of history rather than historical method. Their interest for the student of history amply justifies their inclusion, though they might well have been omitted if this were merely a textbook . . .

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