The German Conception of History: The National Tradition of Historical Thought from Herder to the Present

The German Conception of History: The National Tradition of Historical Thought from Herder to the Present

The German Conception of History: The National Tradition of Historical Thought from Herder to the Present

The German Conception of History: The National Tradition of Historical Thought from Herder to the Present

Excerpt

Despite the great impact of German historical thought and scholarship on the development of the cultural sciences throughout the world, as well as on political and social thought in Germany, no comprehensive study of German historiography or German historical thought has appeared in English during the past fifty years. In Germany a great number of monographs have been published on individual historians, but only two general works have appeared in recent years, each written from a point of view very different from that of the present author. Of these, one, Geist und Geschichte vom deutschen Humanismus bis zur Gegenwart, was written by an Austrian advocate of a Greater Germany, Heinrich Ritter von Srbik, an historian still steeped in the tradition of German Idealism; the other, Studien über die deutsche Geschichtswissenschaft, consists of a collection of essays by East German Marxist historians edited by Joachim Streisand.

Like the two above-mentioned studies, this work is not primarily intended as a history of German historiography. Rather it seeks to present an interpretative, critical analysis of the theoretical presuppositions and political values of German historians in the major national tradition of German historiography from Wilhelm von Humboldt and Leopold von Ranke to Friedrich Meinecke and Gerhard Ritter. Ranke's ideal of absolute scholarly detachment proved to be unobtainable by any historian in the tradition and undesirable to many. Instead, the scholarship of these historians con-

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