Umbrella term comprising any body of historical work and the history of historical writing
Top 10 Historiography related articles
- 1 Terminology
- 2 Antiquity
- 3 Middle Ages to Renaissance
- 4 Enlightenment
- 5 19th century
- 6 20th century
- 6.1 France: Annales school
- 6.2 Marxist historiography
- 6.3 Biography
- 6.4 British debates
- 6.5 U.S. approaches
- 6.6 Latin America
- 6.7 World history
- 6.8 The cultural turn
- 6.9 Memory studies
- 7 Scholarly journals
- 8 Narrative
- 9 Topics studied
- 10 Approaches
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 Bibliography
- 13.1 Theory
- 13.2 Guides to scholarship
- 13.3 Histories of historical writing
- 13.4 Feminist historiography
- 13.5 National and regional studies
- 13.6 Themes, organizations, and teaching
- 14 External links
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Historiography is the study of the methods of historians in developing history as an academic discipline, and by extension is any body of historical work on a particular subject. The historiography of a specific topic covers how historians have studied that topic using particular sources, techniques, and theoretical approaches. Scholars discuss historiography by topic—such as the historiography of the United Kingdom, that of WWII, the British Empire, early Islam, and China—and different approaches and genres, such as political history and social history. Beginning in the nineteenth century, with the development of academic history, there developed a body of historiographic literature. The extent to which historians are influenced by their own groups and loyalties—such as to their nation state—remains a debated question.
In the ancient world, chronological annals were produced in civilizations such as ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. However, the discipline of historiography was first established in the 5th century BC with the Histories of Herodotus, the founder of Greek historiography and History in general. The Roman statesman Cato the Elder produced the first history in Latin, the Origines, in the 2nd century BC. His near contemporaries Sima Tan and Sima Qian in the Han Empire of China established Chinese historiography with the compiling of the Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian). During the Middle Ages, medieval historiography included the works of chronicles in medieval Europe, Islamic histories by Muslim historians, and the Korean and Japanese historical writings based on the existing Chinese model. During the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment, historiography in the Western world was shaped and developed by figures such as Voltaire, David Hume, and Edward Gibbon, who among others set the foundations for the modern discipline.
The research interests of historians change over time, and there has been a shift away from traditional diplomatic, economic, and political history toward newer approaches, especially social and cultural studies. From 1975 to 1995 the proportion of professors of history in American universities identifying with social history increased from 31 to 41 percent, while the proportion of political historians decreased from 40 to 30 percent. In 2007, of 5,723 faculty in the departments of history at British universities, 1,644 (29 percent) identified themselves with social history and 1,425 (25 percent) identified themselves with political history. Since the 1980s there has been a special interest in the memories and commemoration of past events—the histories as remembered and presented for popular celebration.
Historiography Intro articles: 30
In the early modern period, the term historiography meant "the writing of history", and historiographer meant "historian". In that sense certain official historians were given the title "Historiographer Royal" in Sweden (from 1618), England (from 1660), and Scotland (from 1681). The Scottish post is still in existence.
Historiography was more recently defined as "the study of the way history has been and is written – the history of historical writing", which means that, "When you study 'historiography' you do not study the events of the past directly, but the changing interpretations of those events in the works of individual historians."
Historiography Terminology articles: 6
Understanding the past appears to be a universal human need, and the "telling of history" has emerged independently in civilizations around the world. What constitutes history is a philosophical question (see philosophy of history).
The earliest chronologies date back to Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt, in the form of chronicles and annals. However, no historical writers in these early civilizations were known by name. By contrast, the term "historiography" is taken to refer to written history recorded in a narrative format for the purpose of informing future generations about events. In this limited sense, "ancient history" begins with the early historiography of Classical Antiquity, in about the 5th century BCE.
The earliest known systematic historical thought emerged in ancient Greece, a development which would be an important influence on the writing of history elsewhere around the Mediterranean region. Greek historians greatly contributed to the development of historical methodology. The earliest known critical historical works were The Histories, composed by Herodotus of Halicarnassus (484–425 BCE) who became known as the "father of history". Herodotus attempted to distinguish between more and less reliable accounts, and personally conducted research by travelling extensively, giving written accounts of various Mediterranean cultures. Although Herodotus' overall emphasis lay on the actions and characters of men, he also attributed an important role to divinity in the determination of historical events.
The generation following Herodotus witnessed a spate of local histories of the individual city-states (poleis), written by the first of the local historians who employed the written archives of city and sanctuary. Dionysius of Halicarnassus characterized these historians as the forerunners of Thucydides, and these local histories continued to be written into Late Antiquity, as long as the city-states survived. Two early figures stand out: Hippias of Elis, who produced the lists of winners in the Olympic Games that provided the basic chronological framework as long as the pagan classical tradition lasted, and Hellanicus of Lesbos, who compiled more than two dozen histories from civic records, all of them now lost.
Thucydides largely eliminated divine causality in his account of the war between Athens and Sparta, establishing a rationalistic element which set a precedent for subsequent Western historical writings. He was also the first to distinguish between cause and immediate origins of an event, while his successor Xenophon (c. 431 – 355 BCE) introduced autobiographical elements and character studies in his Anabasis.
The proverbial Philippic attacks of the Athenian orator Demosthenes ( 384–322 BCE) on Philip II of Macedon marked the height of ancient political agitation. The now lost history of Alexander's campaigns by the diadoch Ptolemy I ( 367–283 BCE) may represent the first historical work composed by a ruler. Polybius (c. 203 – 120 BCE) wrote on the rise of Rome to world prominence, and attempted to harmonize the Greek and Roman points of view.
The Chaldean priest Berossus ( fl. 3rd century BCE) composed a Greek-language History of Babylonia for the Seleucid king Antiochus I, combining Hellenistic methods of historiography and Mesopotamian accounts to form a unique composite. Reports exist of other near-eastern histories, such as that of the Phoenician historian Sanchuniathon; but he is considered semi-legendary and writings attributed to him are fragmentary, known only through the later historians Philo of Byblos and Eusebius, who asserted that he wrote before even the Trojan war.
The Romans adopted the Greek tradition, writing at first in Greek, but eventually chronicling their history in a freshly non-Greek language. While early Roman works were still written in Greek, the Origines, composed by the Roman statesman Cato the Elder ( 234–149 BCE), was written in Latin, in a conscious effort to counteract Greek cultural influence. It marked the beginning of Latin historical writings. Hailed for its lucid style, Julius Caesar's ( 100–44 BCE) de Bello Gallico exemplifies autobiographical war coverage. The politician and orator Cicero ( 106–43 BCE) introduced rhetorical elements in his political writings.
Strabo ( 63 BCE – c. 24 CE) was an important exponent of the Greco-Roman tradition of combining geography with history, presenting a descriptive history of peoples and places known to his era. Livy ( 59 BCE – 17 CE) records the rise of Rome from city-state to empire. His speculation about what would have happened if Alexander the Great had marched against Rome represents the first known instance of alternate history.
Biography, although popular throughout antiquity, was introduced as a branch of history by the works of Plutarch (c. 46 – 127 CE) and Suetonius (c. 69 – after 130 CE) who described the deeds and characters of ancient personalities, stressing their human side. Tacitus ( c. 56 – c. 117 CE) denounces Roman immorality by praising German virtues, elaborating on the topos of the Noble savage.
The Han dynasty eunuch Sima Qian (around 100 BCE) was the first in China to lay the groundwork for professional historical writing. His work superseded the older style of the Spring and Autumn Annals, compiled in the 5th century BC, the Bamboo Annals and other court and dynastic annals that recorded history in a chronological form that abstained from analysis. Sima's Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian) pioneered the "Annals-biography" format, which would become the standard for prestige history writing in China. In this genre a history opens with a chronological outline of court affairs, and then continues with detailed biographies of prominent people who lived during the period in question. The scope of his work extended as far back as the 16th century BCE, and included many treatises on specific subjects and individual biographies of prominent people. He also explored the lives and deeds of commoners, both contemporary and those of previous eras.
Whereas Sima's had been a universal history from the beginning of time down to the time of writing, his successor Ban Gu wrote an annals-biography history limiting its coverage to only the Western Han dynasty, the Book of Han (96 CE). This established the notion of using dynastic boundaries as start- and end-points, and most later Chinese histories would focus on a single dynasty or group of dynasties.
The Records of the Grand Historian and Book of Han were eventually joined by the Book of the Later Han (488 CE) (replacing the earlier, and now only partially extant, Han Records from the Eastern Pavilion) and the Records of the Three Kingdoms (297 CE) to form the "Four Histories". These became mandatory reading for the Imperial Examinations and have therefore exerted an influence on Chinese culture comparable to the Confucian Classics. More annals-biography histories were written in subsequent dynasties, eventually bringing the number to between twenty-four and twenty-six, but none ever reached the popularity and impact of the first four.
Traditional Chinese historiography describes history in terms of dynastic cycles. In this view, each new dynasty is founded by a morally righteous founder. Over time, the dynasty becomes morally corrupt and dissolute. Eventually, the dynasty becomes so weak as to allow its replacement by a new dynasty.
In 281 CE the tomb of King Xiang of Wei (d. 296 BC) was opened, inside of which was found a historical text called the Bamboo Annals, after the writing material. It is similar in style to the Spring and Autumn Annals and covers the time from the Yellow Emperor to 299 BC. Opinions on the authenticity of the text has varied throughout the centuries, and in any event it was re-discovered too late to gain anything like the same status as the Spring and Autumn.
Historiography Antiquity articles: 73
Middle Ages to Renaissance
Christian historiography began early, perhaps as early as Luke-Acts, which is the primary source for the Apostolic Age, though its historical reliability is disputed. In the first Christian centuries, the New Testament canon was developed. The growth of Christianity and its enhanced status in the Roman Empire after Constantine I (see State church of the Roman Empire) led to the development of a distinct Christian historiography, influenced by both Christian theology and the nature of the Christian Bible, encompassing new areas of study and views of history. The central role of the Bible in Christianity is reflected in the preference of Christian historians for written sources, compared to the classical historians' preference for oral sources and is also reflected in the inclusion of politically unimportant people. Christian historians also focused on development of religion and society. This can be seen in the extensive inclusion of written sources in the Ecclesiastical History written by Eusebius of Caesarea around 324 and in the subjects it covers. Christian theology considered time as linear, progressing according to divine plan. As God's plan encompassed everyone, Christian histories in this period had a universal approach. For example, Christian writers often included summaries of important historical events prior to the period covered by the work.
Writing history was popular among Christian monks and clergy in the Middle Ages. They wrote about the history of Jesus Christ, that of the Church and that of their patrons, the dynastic history of the local rulers. In the Early Middle Ages historical writing often took the form of annals or chronicles recording events year by year, but this style tended to hamper the analysis of events and causes. An example of this type of writing is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which was the work of several different writers: it was started during the reign of Alfred the Great in the late 9th century, but one copy was still being updated in 1154. Some writers in the period did construct a more narrative form of history. These included Gregory of Tours and more successfully Bede, who wrote both secular and ecclesiastical history and who is known for writing the Ecclesiastical History of the English People.
During the Renaissance, history was written about states or nations. The study of history changed during the Enlightenment and Romanticism. Voltaire described the history of certain ages that he considered important, rather than describing events in chronological order. History became an independent discipline. It was not called philosophia historiae anymore, but merely history (historia).
Muslim historical writings first began to develop in the 7th century, with the reconstruction of the Prophet Muhammad's life in the centuries following his death. With numerous conflicting narratives regarding Muhammad and his companions from various sources, it was necessary to verify which sources were more reliable. In order to evaluate these sources, various methodologies were developed, such as the "science of biography", "science of hadith" and "Isnad" (chain of transmission). These methodologies were later applied to other historical figures in the Islamic civilization. Famous historians in this tradition include Urwah (d. 712), Wahb ibn Munabbih (d. 728), Ibn Ishaq (d. 761), al-Waqidi (745–822), Ibn Hisham (d. 834), Muhammad al-Bukhari (810–870) and Ibn Hajar (1372–1449). Historians of the medieval Islamic world also developed an interest in world history. Islamic historical writing eventually culminated in the works of the Arab Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406), who published his historiographical studies in the Muqaddimah (translated as Prolegomena) and Kitab al-I'bar (Book of Advice). His work was forgotten until it was rediscovered in the late 19th century.
The earliest works of history produced in Japan were the Rikkokushi (Six National Histories), a corpus of six national histories covering the history of Japan from its mythological beginnings until the 9th century. The first of these works were the Nihon Shoki, compiled by Prince Toneri in 720.
The tradition of Korean historiography was established with the Samguk Sagi, a history of Korea from its allegedly earliest times. It was compiled by Goryeo court historian Kim Busik after its commission by King Injong of Goryeo (r. 1122–1146). It was completed in 1145 and relied not only on earlier Chinese histories for source material, but also on the Hwarang Segi written by the Silla historian Kim Daemun in the 8th century. The latter work is now lost.
In 1084 the Song dynasty official Sima Guang completed the Zizhi Tongjian (Comprehensive Mirror to Aid in Government), which laid out the entire history of China from the beginning of the Warring States period (403 BCE) to the end of the Five Dynasties period (959 CE) in chronological annals form, rather than in the traditional annals-biography form. This work is considered much more accessible than the "Official Histories" for the Six dynasties, Tang dynasty, and Five Dynasties, and in practice superseded those works in the mind of the general reader.
The great Song Neo-Confucian Zhu Xi found the Mirror to be overly long for the average reader, as well as to too morally nihilist, and therefore prepared a didactic summary of it called the Zizhi Tongjian Gangmu (Digest of the Comprehensive Mirror to Aid in Government), posthumously published in 1219. It reduced the original's 249 chapters to just 59, and for the rest of imperial Chinese history would be the first history book most people ever read.
South East Asia
Historiography of the Philippines refers to the studies, sources, critical methods and interpretations used by scholars to study the history of the Philippines. It includes historical and archival research and writing on the history of the Philippine archipelago including the islands of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The Philippine archipelago was part of many empires before the Spanish Empire arrived in the 16th century.
Before the arrival of Spanish colonial powers, the Philippines did not actually exist. Southeast Asia is classified as part of the Indosphere and the Sinosphere. The archipelago had direct contact with China during the Song dynasty (960-1279), and was a part of the Srivijaya and Majapahit empires.
The pre-colonial Philippines widely used the Abugida system in writing and seals on documents, though it was for communication and no recorded writings of early literature or history. Ancient Filipinos usually wrote documents on bamboo, bark, and leaves, which did not survive, unlike inscriptions on clay, metal, and ivoriy did, such as the Laguna Copperplate Inscription and Butuan Ivory Seal. The discovery of the Butuan Ivory Seal also proves the use of paper documents in ancient Philippines.
The arrival of the Spanish colonizers, pre-colonial Filipino manuscripts and documents were gathered and burned to eliminate pagan beliefs. This has been the burden of historians in the accumulation of data and the development of theories that gave historians many aspects of Philippine history that were left unexplained. The interplay of pre-colonial events and the use of secondary sources written by historians to evaluate the primary sources, do not provide a critical examination of the methodology of the early Philippine historical study.
Historiography Middle Ages to Renaissance articles: 74
During the Age of Enlightenment, the modern development of historiography through the application of scrupulous methods began. Among the many Italians who contributed to this were Leonardo Bruni (c. 1370–1444), Francesco Guicciardini (1483–1540), and Cesare Baronio (1538–1607).
French philosophe Voltaire (1694–1778) had an enormous influence on the development of historiography during the Age of Enlightenment through his demonstration of fresh new ways to look at the past. Guillaume de Syon argues:
Voltaire recast historiography in both factual and analytical terms. Not only did he reject traditional biographies and accounts that claim the work of supernatural forces, but he went so far as to suggest that earlier historiography was rife with falsified evidence and required new investigations at the source. Such an outlook was not unique in that the scientific spirit that 18th-century intellectuals perceived themselves as invested with. A rationalistic approach was key to rewriting history.
Voltaire's best-known histories are The Age of Louis XIV (1751), and his Essay on the Customs and the Spirit of the Nations (1756). He broke from the tradition of narrating diplomatic and military events, and emphasized customs, social history and achievements in the arts and sciences. He was the first scholar to make a serious attempt to write the history of the world, eliminating theological frameworks, and emphasizing economics, culture and political history. Although he repeatedly warned against political bias on the part of the historian, he did not miss many opportunities to expose the intolerance and frauds of the church over the ages. Voltaire advised scholars that anything contradicting the normal course of nature was not to be believed. Although he found evil in the historical record, he fervently believed reason and educating the illiterate masses would lead to progress.
Voltaire explains his view of historiography in his article on "History" in Diderot's Encyclopédie: "One demands of modern historians more details, better ascertained facts, precise dates, more attention to customs, laws, mores, commerce, finance, agriculture, population." Already in 1739 he had written: "My chief object is not political or military history, it is the history of the arts, of commerce, of civilization – in a word, – of the human mind." Voltaire's histories used the values of the Enlightenment to evaluate the past. He helped free historiography from antiquarianism, Eurocentrism, religious intolerance and a concentration on great men, diplomacy, and warfare. Peter Gay says Voltaire wrote "very good history", citing his "scrupulous concern for truths", "careful sifting of evidence", "intelligent selection of what is important", "keen sense of drama", and "grasp of the fact that a whole civilization is a unit of study".
At the same time, philosopher David Hume was having a similar effect on the study of history in Great Britain. In 1754 he published The History of England, a 6-volume work which extended "From the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution in 1688". Hume adopted a similar scope to Voltaire in his history; as well as the history of Kings, Parliaments, and armies, he examined the history of culture, including literature and science, as well. His short biographies of leading scientists explored the process of scientific change and he developed new ways of seeing scientists in the context of their times by looking at how they interacted with society and each other – he paid special attention to Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton and William Harvey.
He also argued that the quest for liberty was the highest standard for judging the past, and concluded that after considerable fluctuation, England at the time of his writing had achieved "the most entire system of liberty, that was ever known amongst mankind".
The apex of Enlightenment history was reached with Edward Gibbon's monumental six-volume work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published on 17 February 1776. Because of its relative objectivity and heavy use of primary sources, its methodology became a model for later historians. This has led to Gibbon being called the first "modern historian". The book sold impressively, earning its author a total of about £9000. Biographer Leslie Stephen wrote that thereafter, "His fame was as rapid as it has been lasting."
Gibbon's work has been praised for its style, its piquant epigrams and its effective irony. Winston Churchill memorably noted, "I set out upon ... Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire [and] was immediately dominated both by the story and the style. ... I devoured Gibbon. I rode triumphantly through it from end to end and enjoyed it all." Gibbon was pivotal in the secularizing and 'desanctifying' of history, remarking, for example, on the "want of truth and common sense" of biographies composed by Saint Jerome. Unusually for an 18th-century historian, Gibbon was never content with secondhand accounts when the primary sources were accessible (though most of these were drawn from well-known printed editions). He said, "I have always endeavoured to draw from the fountain-head; that my curiosity, as well as a sense of duty, has always urged me to study the originals; and that, if they have sometimes eluded my search, I have carefully marked the secondary evidence, on whose faith a passage or a fact were reduced to depend." In this insistence upon the importance of primary sources, Gibbon broke new ground in the methodical study of history:
In accuracy, thoroughness, lucidity, and comprehensive grasp of a vast subject, the 'History' is unsurpassable. It is the one English history which may be regarded as definitive. ... Whatever its shortcomings the book is artistically imposing as well as historically unimpeachable as a vast panorama of a great period.
Historiography Enlightenment articles: 19
The tumultuous events surrounding the French Revolution inspired much of the historiography and analysis of the early 19th century. Interest in the 1688 Glorious Revolution was also rekindled by the Great Reform Act of 1832 in England.
Thomas Carlyle published his three-volume The French Revolution: A History, in 1837. The first volume was accidentally burned by John Stuart Mill's maid. Carlyle rewrote it from scratch. Carlyle's style of historical writing stressed the immediacy of action, often using the present tense. He emphasised the role of forces of the spirit in history and thought that chaotic events demanded what he called 'heroes' to take control over the competing forces erupting within society. He considered the dynamic forces of history as being the hopes and aspirations of people that took the form of ideas, and were often ossified into ideologies. Carlyle's The French Revolution was written in a highly unorthodox style, far removed from the neutral and detached tone of the tradition of Gibbon. Carlyle presented the history as dramatic events unfolding in the present as though he and the reader were participants on the streets of Paris at the famous events. Carlyle's invented style was epic poetry combined with philosophical treatise. It is rarely read or cited in the last century.
French historians: Michelet and Taine
In his main work Histoire de France (1855), French historian Jules Michelet (1798–1874) coined the term Renaissance (meaning "rebirth" in French), as a period in Europe's cultural history that represented a break from the Middle Ages, creating a modern understanding of humanity and its place in the world. The 19-volume work covered French history from Charlemagne to the outbreak of the French Revolution. His inquiry into manuscript and printed authorities was most laborious, but his lively imagination, and his strong religious and political prejudices, made him regard all things from a singularly personal point of view.
Michelet was one of the first historians to shift the emphasis of history to the common people, rather than the leaders and institutions of the country. He had a decisive impact on scholars. Gayana Jurkevich argues that led by Michelet:
19th-century French historians no longer saw history as the chronicling of royal dynasties, armies, treaties, and great men of state, but as the history of ordinary French people and the landscape of France.
Hippolyte Taine (1828–1893), although unable to secure an academic position, was the chief theoretical influence of French naturalism, a major proponent of sociological positivism, and one of the first practitioners of historicist criticism. He pioneered the idea of "the milieu" as an active historical force which amalgamated geographical, psychological, and social factors. Historical writing for him was a search for general laws. His brilliant style kept his writing in circulation long after his theoretical approaches were passé.
Cultural and constitutional history
One of the major progenitors of the history of culture and art, was the Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt Siegfried Giedion described Burckhardt's achievement in the following terms: "The great discoverer of the age of the Renaissance, he first showed how a period should be treated in its entirety, with regard not only for its painting, sculpture and architecture, but for the social institutions of its daily life as well."
His most famous work was The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, published in 1860; it was the most influential interpretation of the Italian Renaissance in the nineteenth century and is still widely read. According to John Lukacs, he was the first master of cultural history, which seeks to describe the spirit and the forms of expression of a particular age, a particular people, or a particular place. His innovative approach to historical research stressed the importance of art and its inestimable value as a primary source for the study of history. He was one of the first historians to rise above the narrow nineteenth-century notion that "history is past politics and politics current history.
By the mid-19th century, scholars were beginning to analyse the history of institutional change, particularly the development of constitutional government. William Stubbs's Constitutional History of England (3 vols., 1874–1878) was an important influence on this developing field. The work traced the development of the English constitution from the Teutonic invasions of Britain until 1485, and marked a distinct step in the advance of English historical learning. He argued that the theory of the unity and continuity of history should not remove distinctions between ancient and modern history. He believed that, though work on ancient history is a useful preparation for the study of modern history, either may advantageously be studied apart. He was a good palaeographer, and excelled in textual criticism, in examination of authorship, and other such matters, while his vast erudition and retentive memory made him second to none in interpretation and exposition.
Von Ranke and professionalization in Germany
The modern academic study of history and methods of historiography were pioneered in 19th-century German universities, especially the University of Göttingen. Leopold von Ranke (1795–1886) at Berlin was a pivotal influence in this regard, and was the founder of modern source-based history. According to Caroline Hoefferle, "Ranke was probably the most important historian to shape historical profession as it emerged in Europe and the United States in the late 19th century."
Specifically, he implemented the seminar teaching method in his classroom, and focused on archival research and analysis of historical documents. Beginning with his first book in 1824, the History of the Latin and Teutonic Peoples from 1494 to 1514, Ranke used an unusually wide variety of sources for a historian of the age, including "memoirs, diaries, personal and formal missives, government documents, diplomatic dispatches and first-hand accounts of eye-witnesses". Over a career that spanned much of the century, Ranke set the standards for much of later historical writing, introducing such ideas as reliance on primary sources, an emphasis on narrative history and especially international politics (Aussenpolitik). Sources had to be solid, not speculations and rationalizations. His credo was to write history the way it was. He insisted on primary sources with proven authenticity.
Ranke also rejected the 'teleological approach' to history, which traditionally viewed each period as inferior to the period which follows. In Ranke's view, the historian had to understand a period on its own terms, and seek to find only the general ideas which animated every period of history. In 1831 and at the behest of the Prussian government, Ranke founded and edited the first historical journal in the world, called Historisch-Politische Zeitschrift.
Another important German thinker was Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, whose theory of historical progress ran counter to Ranke's approach. In Hegel's own words, his philosophical theory of "World history ... represents the development of the spirit's consciousness of its own freedom and of the consequent realization of this freedom." This realization is seen by studying the various cultures that have developed over the millennia, and trying to understand the way that freedom has worked itself out through them:
World history is the record of the spirit's efforts to attain knowledge of what it is in itself. The Orientals do not know that the spirit or man as such are free in themselves. And because they do not know that, they are not themselves free. They only know that One is free. ... The consciousness of freedom first awoke among the Greeks, and they were accordingly free; but, like the Romans, they only knew that Some, and not all men as such, are free. ... The Germanic nations, with the rise of Christianity, were the first to realize that All men are by nature free, and that freedom of spirit is his very essence.
Karl Marx introduced the concept of historical materialism into the study of world historical development. In his conception, the economic conditions and dominant modes of production determined the structure of society at that point. In his view five successive stages in the development of material conditions would occur in Western Europe. The first stage was primitive communism where property was shared and there was no concept of "leadership". This progressed to a slave society where the idea of class emerged and the State developed. Feudalism was characterized by an aristocracy working in partnership with a theocracy and the emergence of the nation-state. Capitalism appeared after the bourgeois revolution when the capitalists (or their merchant predecessors) overthrew the feudal system and established a market economy, with private property and parliamentary democracy. Marx then predicted the eventual proletarian revolution that would result in the attainment of socialism, followed by communism, where property would be communally owned.
Previous historians had focused on cyclical events of the rise and decline of rulers and nations. Process of nationalization of history, as part of national revivals in the 19th century, resulted with separation of "one's own" history from common universal history by such way of perceiving, understanding and treating the past that constructed history as history of a nation. A new discipline, sociology, emerged in the late 19th century and analyzed and compared these perspectives on a larger scale.
Macaulay and Whig history
The term "Whig history", coined by Herbert Butterfield in his short book The Whig Interpretation of History in 1931, means the approach to historiography which presents the past as an inevitable progression towards ever greater liberty and enlightenment, culminating in modern forms of liberal democracy and constitutional monarchy. In general, Whig historians emphasized the rise of constitutional government, personal freedoms and scientific progress. The term has been also applied widely in historical disciplines outside of British history (the history of science, for example) to criticize any teleological (or goal-directed), hero-based, and transhistorical narrative.
Paul Rapin de Thoyras's history of England, published in 1723, became "the classic Whig history" for the first half of the 18th century. It was later supplanted by the immensely popular The History of England by David Hume. Whig historians emphasized the achievements of the Glorious Revolution of 1688. This included James Mackintosh's History of the Revolution in England in 1688, William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, and Henry Hallam's Constitutional History of England.
The most famous exponent of 'Whiggery' was Thomas Babington Macaulay. His writings are famous for their ringing prose and for their confident, sometimes dogmatic, emphasis on a progressive model of British history, according to which the country threw off superstition, autocracy and confusion to create a balanced constitution and a forward-looking culture combined with freedom of belief and expression. This model of human progress has been called the Whig interpretation of history. He published the first volumes of his most famous work of history, The History of England from the Accession of James II, in 1848. It proved an immediate success and replaced Hume's history to become the new orthodoxy. His 'Whiggish convictions' are spelled out in his first chapter:
I shall relate how the new settlement was b... successfully defended against foreign and domestic enemies; how ... the authority of law and the security of property were found to be compatible with a liberty of discussion and of individual action never before known; how, from the auspicious union of order and freedom, sprang a prosperity of which the annals of human affairs had furnished no example; how our country, from a state of ignominious vassalage, rapidly rose to the place of umpire among European powers; how her opulence and her martial glory grew together; ... how a gigantic commerce gave birth to a maritime power, compared with which every other maritime power, ancient or modern, sinks into insignificance ... the history of our country during the last hundred and sixty years is eminently the history of physical, of moral, and of intellectual improvement.
His legacy continues to be controversial; Gertrude Himmelfarb wrote that "most professional historians have long since given up reading Macaulay, as they have given up writing the kind of history he wrote and thinking about history as he did." However, J. R. Western wrote that: "Despite its age and blemishes, Macaulay's History of England has still to be superseded by a full-scale modern history of the period".
The Whig consensus was steadily undermined during the post-World War I re-evaluation of European history, and Butterfield's critique exemplified this trend. Intellectuals no longer believed the world was automatically getting better and better. Subsequent generations of academic historians have similarly rejected Whig history because of its presentist and teleological assumption that history is driving toward some sort of goal. Other criticized 'Whig' assumptions included viewing the British system as the apex of human political development, assuming that political figures in the past held current political beliefs (anachronism), considering British history as a march of progress with inevitable outcomes and presenting political figures of the past as heroes, who advanced the cause of this political progress, or villains, who sought to hinder its inevitable triumph. J. Hart says "a Whig interpretation requires human heroes and villains in the story."