Ranke’s understanding of the methodJune 27, 2021
Despite its inadequacies in terms of style and arrangement, the book is important in that it contains an appendix that explains the method that Ranke envisions for historical studies.
In the appendix entitled “Zur Kritik neuerer Geschichtsschreiber” (On the Critique of the New Historians), Ranke emphasized the importance of the historian’s explanation of events by going down to primary sources. According to him, the task of the historian is to clear the events from universal interpretations and to make an objective inventory of them. According to him, since historical events are original, understanding the universal is only possible with an inductive method and an empirical approach that goes from the specific to the general.
In 1827, Ranke went to Vienna, where he stayed for three years, to study European libraries and archives. During this trip, he collected funds for his most important book (“Roman Popes, The Churches and the State in the 16th and 17th Centuries”). When he returned to his country in 1831, he became the editor-in-chief of the journal Historisch-Politische Zeitschrift (Historical Political Journal), which was published by the University of Berlin until 1836 with the support of the Prussian government. Ranke, who in 1841 became the official historian of the Prussian State, was given the title of nobility in 1865. Ranke spent the last years of his life writing Weltgeschichte (“History of the World”), which he described as his most important book, and died before it could be completed.