contributions made by Leopold von Ranke to the writing of History.

2117 Words Dec 1st, 2013 9 Pages
Historical studies came into their own following the immense political and social upheavals associated with the French Revolution (1789-1815). The French Revolution represented a massive break with the past and, paradoxically, made people much more “history-conscious” than ever before. Thus, it was in the nineteenth century that history became the “Queen of the Sciences” and earned a permanent place in the academy. The man responsible for elevating the study of history to a new plateau was the German historian Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886). Ranke’s contribution were threefold: (1) he played a leading role in establishing history as a respected discipline in the universities, (2) he firmly established the notion that all sound history must …show more content…
Ranke’s university career concluded in 1871 when he retired from his chair at Berlin. Nonetheless by the time of his death in Berlin in 1886, he had completed nine volumes of his Universal history .
Leopold von Ranke endeavored to understand political order within its own historical context. To understand the nature of historical phenomena, such as institution or an idea, one had to consider its historical development and the changes it underwent over a period of time. Historical epochs, Ranke argued, should not be judged according to predetermined contemporary values or ideas. Rather, they had to be understood on their own terms by empirically establishing history ‘as things really were’. Ranke emphasized both ‘individuality’ and ‘development’ in history. Each historical phenomenon, epoch and event had its own individuality and it was the task of the historian to establish its essence. According to Ranke, one should not make moral judgment on past individuals and past cultures but try to understand them on their own terms. To do this, historians had to immense themselves in the epoch and assess it in a manner appropriate for that time. They had, in Ranke’s words, ‘to extinguish’ their own personality .
Furthermore, Ranke was convinced in all his work that there was meaning and coherence in history and that the established political institutions embodied moral forces, yet he rejected the reduction of history to a grand scheme . In Ranke’s opinion,