Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
History

History: Politics or Culture? Reflections on Ranke and Burckhardt

FELIX GILBERT
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 120
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zv3w6
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    History
    Book Description:

    Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886), generally recognized as the founder of the school of modern critical historical scholarship, and Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897), the great Swiss proponent of cultural interpretation, are fathers of modern history--giants of their time who continue to exert an immense influence in our own. They are usually seen as contrasts, Ranke as representative of political history and Burckhardt of cultural history. In five essays, each flowing gracefully into the next, the distinguished historian Felix Gilbert shows that such contrasts are oversimplifications. Despite their interest in different aspects of the past, Ranke's and Burckhardt's views arose from common elements in the first half of the nineteenth century, the time in which they grew up and in which their first masterworks attracted such wide attention. This concise volume clarifies the beginnings of history as an autonomous discipline, while forcing us to examine our views on basic questions in historical scholarship.

    In the case of Ranke, relating his work to his times counteracts the current tendency to disregard the difference between the historical concepts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. By focusing on this difference, Gilbert emphasizes the originality and novelty of Ranke's ideas about history. Although Burckhardt is often portrayed as an intellectually lonely figure, this book reveals the importance of relating his thought to the intellectual trends of his time.

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6107-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER I THE IMPACT OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION AND OF THE NAPOLEONIC AGE ON HISTORICAL THOUGHT
    (pp. 3-10)

    The revolution has created a connected unity that distinguishes our time from earlier times. Jacob Burckhardt opened his lecture course on the “History of the Revolutionary Age”¹ with this statement, which expressed a view widely held in the nineteenth century. To a large extent it is still held and has had a great impact on the study of the past: it widened the historical outlook and gave new importance to an old problem, the problem of historical continuity. The question that had arisen was this: If the French Revolution created an era different from all earlier periods, did knowledge of...

  5. CHAPTER II RANKE’S VIEW OF THE TASK OF HISTORICAL SCHOLARSHIP
    (pp. 11-31)

    Leopold von ranke’s influence on the development of historical scholarship has been the subject of many books and articles.¹ The result of these investigations—which in the course of the nineteenth century became a widely accepted dogma—was that by using a new method, the philological-critical method, Ranke raised history to a science. A consequence was that the historian’s primary concern ought to be political history based on the analysis of archival material. This view of Ranke’s importance and influence has its dangers, because this nineteenth-century image simplifies and rigidifies Ranke’s contribution to the study of history. We may come...

  6. CHAPTER III RANKE AND THE MEANING OF HISTORY
    (pp. 32-45)

    Ever since Ranke’s time historians have appealed to his name and his writings in an attempt to justify their approach to the study of the past, but his imprint on the development of historical scholarship has been interpreted in different ways. He is thought to be the advocate and defender of two contradictory claims about the purposes of historical scholarship.

    One claim is that history is a science, that it is primarily concerned with facts and their causal connection—how they acted upon each other. The historian works with materials contemporary with the time on which he focuses, or at...

  7. CHAPTER IV BURCKHARDT’S CONCEPT OF CULTURAL HISTORY
    (pp. 46-80)

    When his years of study came to an end, Jacob Burckhardt decided to work in a particular field of history: in cultural history.¹ What did that decision mean? What did he understand by this term? Did his conception of cultural history undergo significant changes in the course of his life? These are the questions with which this chapter is concerned.

    In the early 1840s, cultural history was a small but recognized special field. Karl Dietrich Hüllmann was one of the few professors who offered lectures on cultural history, and he has left a description of what he considered cultural history...

  8. CHAPTER V BURCKHARDT AND THE CULTURAL HISTORY OF HIS TIME
    (pp. 81-92)

    The lecture course on Greek cultural history that Burckhardt gave at Basel in 1872 opened with an introduction explaining the aims and method of the course.¹ Only in these pages did Burckhardt discuss theoretical aspects of his work in cultural history.

    The introduction contains what we might expect, beginning with an explanation of how this course differs from other courses on Greek culture. Burckhardt explains that his course will not deal with what is done in courses on Greek antiquities, that is, it will not discuss in detail the structure and organizations of Greek public and private life, nor will...

  9. CHAPTER VI RANKE AND BURCKHARDT: THE COMMON BOND
    (pp. 93-106)

    Ranke and burckhardt are the two greatest historical thinkers whom the nineteenth century khas produced within the area of German culture. With these words the eighty-six-year-old Friedrich Meinecke began in 1948 his address “Ranke and Burckhardt.”¹ This is only one, although one of the most distinguished, of the many contributions to a much-discussed subject. Frequently, one might almost say usually, this theme is treated as a confrontation. Ranke believed in the power of the state as guardian of order and stability; Burckhardt regarded power as tied to evil. Ranke, the Protestant scholar, confidently sought the hand of a benevolent God...

  10. INDEX
    (pp. 107-109)