Leopold von Ranke

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1995 German Stamp celebrating the 200th birthday of Leopold von Ranke

Leopold von Ranke (21 December 1795 – 23 May 1886) was a German historian. Modern history writing is greatly influenced by him. He made focusing on primary sources and international relations in history writing, popular.

Life[change | change source]

Ranke was born 21 December 1795 in Wiehe in Electoral Saxony.[1] He was educated at local schools in Donndorf and Pforta.[1] In 1814 he went to the University of Leipzig.[1] He studied Classics and Lutheran theology. From 1817-1825 he was a Classics teacher. While teaching he became interested in history. In 1824 he released his first book: Geschichte der romanischen und germanischen Völker von 1494 bis 1514 (History of the Latin and Teutonic Peoples from 1494 to 1514). Ranke was a firm believer in historicism.[2] For that reason he insisted on using primary sources.[2]

University professor[change | change source]

Ranke was a professor at the University of Berlin.[2] He was a professor there for almost 50 years. While there he criticized the historical theories of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. He also advised his students to go to archives in search of sources. Because of this many think of him as the founder of a historical social science.[3] Ranke retired as a professor in 1871, but still wrote history. In 1880 he started writing a book on world history, beginning in Ancient Egypt with the story of the Israelites. When he died in 1886 he had not finished his book, and had only written up to the 12th century.

Honors[change | change source]

In 1831 the Prussian Government asked Ranke to start and edit the Historisch-Politische Zeitschrift journal. Ranke, who was conservative, sometimes used the journal to attack liberalism. In 1841 Ranke was made Royal Historiographer of the Prussian Court. In 1865 Ranke was made a noble, and in 1882 he was made a member of the Prussian Privy Council. In 1885 he was elected to the American Philosophical Society.[4]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 'Leopold von Ranke, (1795–1886)', Encyclopedia of European Social History, Gale. 2001, HighBeam Research, 19 Dec. 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. (Columbia University Press, 2014), s.v. "Ranke, Leopold Von," https://www.questia.com/read/1E1-Ranke-Le[permanent dead link]
  3. Ernst Breisach, Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern, Third Edition (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2007).233.
  4. Felix Gilbert, 'Leopold von Ranke and the American Philosophical Society', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 130, No. 3 (Sep., 1986), p. 362 JSTOR, subscription service