ABSTRACT

IT was Leopold von Ranke, together with his contemporaries and successors of the Prussian Historical School, who laid the founda­ tion of modern academic history. If there is meaning in history it can only be discovered, said Ranke, by a patient and detailed examination of the facts by men trained in the use of objective methods of historical scholarship. To be objective, it is necessary that only what the documents reveal must have actually happened should be reported. ‘The strict presentation of the facts is . . . the supreme law of historiography,’ declared Ranke. In 1859 the new Historische Zeitschrift announced to its contributors that ‘this periodical should, above all, be a scientific one. Its first task, there­ fore, should be to represent the true method of historical research and to point out the deviations therefrom.’ Critical methods were devised for sifting, testing, collating, and evaluating documentary sources, and the most rigorous standards were employed in judging the objectivity, impartiality, and accuracy of historical works. A series of great scholars, Ranke, Niebuhr, and Mommsen in Ger­ many, Taine and Fustel de Coulanges in France, Lord Acton and J. B. Bury in England, taught these techniques of historical science to a new generation of historians.2