Historicism and European Historiography, 1760-1860
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My subject is the revolution in the practice of historical writing, primarily in France and Germany, in the century between 1760 and 1860. The title "Historicism and European Historiography" indicates a duality of theme. My view is that the movement of ideas called historicism was the chief philosophical impetus to this revolution, but that, like other such movements, it exerted its influence in two distinct ways. First there was the explicit, radical formulation of historicism in the German Historical School, the main tradition of German historiography from Leopold von Ranke to Friedrich Meinecke. It is impossible to separate this historicism from its "local" characteristics, its narrow focus on military and diplomatic history and its extreme nationalism. The German Historical School exerted its greatest influence during the century of Germany's intellectual ascendancy over Europe, approximately the dates above. But historicism, I believe, made a deeper and more lasting impression on European historiography, in a universal and often unacknowledged way. This was fundamentally important in the rise of modern historical consciousness, and I have tried to trace some of its general effects in the work of Michelet, Tocqeville and Burckhardt. My hypothetical course ends when the greatest phase in the German Historical School was over and the general influence of historicism ebbed before the success of nineteenth century positivism.