History of Political Thought in Germany from 1789 to 1815

History of Political Thought in Germany from 1789 to 1815

History of Political Thought in Germany from 1789 to 1815

History of Political Thought in Germany from 1789 to 1815

Excerpt

The most noble aim of the historian is to contribute to the better understanding of his own time. This is the ultimate goal which the great historian had in view when they set out to penetrate into the darkness from whence the present landscape of history emerges. The historian who endeavours to describe the development of political thought must be guided by the same principle. He must try to discover what the people thought about the political issues of the time in order to understand those ideas which are at work at present. This undertaking, however, involves from the start several difficulties. Who were the people whose thought he is going to record? It is obvious that the object of his investigations cannot be the inchoate mass of political thought which we call public opinion. Any such attempt must fail since the sources are either lacking or are too vague and inarticulate. We should like, for instance, to know in what way the peasant in his village, the tradesman in his shop and the nobleman in his mansion talked about the French Revolution, what they thought of the policy of their Governments and how they reacted to political events. Yet clearly this cannot be the subject of our study, even if the sources were more explicit than they actually are. The history of political thought is the history of such thought as actually influenced political events, or was at least expressive of prevailing political tendencies. It need hardly be said that this is not synonymous with the study of political philosophy. It nught well be and, indeed, has often been the case that the ideas of political philosophers were doomed to failure or insignificance since they were too far ahead of their times or tried to justify a state of affairs the economic and social presuppositions of which had disappeared. In Germany the number of such thinkers is particularly great, a fact which in itself throws light on its political development.

Thus the historian of political thought in Germany would . . .

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