Ranke vs Schlosser
Pairs of personae in nineteenth-century German historiography
in How to be a historian
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Language of virtue and vice, such as that used by nineteenth-century German historians, offers a glimpse on an often neglected aspect of historical studies – that of dispositions, character traits or virtues deemed necessary for pursuit of historical inquiry. The chapter shows that often-used phrases like ‘the first virtues of the historian’ invoked hierarchical constellations of virtues corresponding to distinct conceptions of the historian’s vocation, which may be called scholarly personae. From this it follows that personae can be historicized: they need not be seen as a modern conceptual tool, but as modern names for schematic models of virtue that nineteenth-century historians themselves already invoked. The chapter also argues that such personae tended to be associated with outstanding historians and often came in contrastive pairs: Schlosser vs Ranke, Waitz vs Sybel and Treitschke vs Lamprecht. What these examples also illustrate is that pairs of personae could change over time, in step with changing debates over the historian’s vocation and the virtues it demanded.

Editor: Herman Paul

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