Frontiers of History: Historical Inquiry in the Twentieth Century

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The major powers had long established their national vernaculars with attendant cultural and political traditions, and the mini-nationalities paral- leled or followed these developments, often in opposition to the hegemony of expanding and absorbing modern states. Some of these mini- national litera- tures emerged in the later middle ages and Renaissance, especially in the form of poetry and Bible translations, and then were promoted more actively by intellectuals in the Enlightenment and Romantic period before taking more organized, political, and sometimes xenophobic form in the later nineteenth century.

All of these languages were often placed on the cultural defensive—Norwe- gian, for example, being an oral idiom subordinated to Danish hegemony, while Danish struggled against repeated German intrusions. Other essential elements in the professionalization of historical studies in the mini-national traditions, which paralleled or imitated the processes in Ger- many, France, England, Italy, etc.

All this represented a modern form of the Republic of Letters of the old regime, as did the establishment of the great series of international historical congresses, beginning with that held in the Hague in , which, appropri- ately enough in an age of imperialism and fears of war, centered on diplomatic history, and including those in Paris , Rome , Berlin , and London Yet the international character of these well-attended meetings was publicized by the reports in the major historical journals—Monod in the Revue Historique, Below in the Historische Zeitschrift, and C.

These meetings were bro- ken off by the war, but they resumed again in Brussels in part with the help of American money especially for the collecting and publishing of docu- ments , and continue down to the present day. Seraphim — These studies were often absorbed into later scholarship, but their literary value remains concealed in languages which are inaccessible to all but specialists, and so unfortunately they are also lost to mainstream historiography and even to later bibliographies.

During the war scholars were drawn into the political arena not only to champion or to attack national traditions along conventional lines but also to envision a postwar redrawing of national boundaries to alleviate or even to put an end to classic political and ethnic clashes. In this effort historical study offered a legitimizing foundation for the post- war designs of the major powers, which were increasingly drawn to the sup- port of national and mini-national aspirations against the ancient divisions preserved in Scandinavia, Austria, Russia, and the Balkans.

The historical movement from language and culture to politics was the natural pattern of historical evolution, and the same principle should apply after the Great War. All have striven for cen- turies to promote their individuality as a nation. To help them realize them- selves as a political unit merely implies furthering the process begun by na- ture. Leaving Trieste and already embarked on Ulysses, Joyce went into a second exile, this time to Zurich, not moving on to Paris until What was the impact of the war on their inquiries and interpretations? In another way it undermined formerly unques- tioned premises, especially in subverting ideas of progress and universal peace.

Some, especially in Ger- many, celebrated the positive, invigorating, and enhancing aspects of war. He noted the theories of the state and militarism which German historians like Treitschke had developed. Others joined the campaign, and in A. Between and F. The great Catholic historian of the Reformation Pierre Imbart de la Tour sought expla- nation in the German philosophy of history, but other historians turned more particularly to contemporary behavior. As in Germany such involvement seemed contrary to the canons of his- torical science. Fay in , turned against this invidious line of argument.

In J. But on the other hand, we will show that Germany cannot be conquered. Some also participated in negotiations for peace, Shotwell serving as head of the history division of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace led by Presi- dent Wilson and being joined by colleagues brought in to give expert advice about the new global settlement.

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Haskins, G. Beer, William Lunt, Robert H. Lord, Wallace Notestein, William L. James T. Prothero, and J. Gooch and Harold Temperley, and in launching the Annual Survey of international affairs, edited by Toynbee from and later by Geoffrey Barraclough.

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The genera- tion of historians who had made their names before the war, including Mein- ecke d. After these scholars constituted a small intellectual community which argued over the twists and turns of the political and military process.


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Reevaluations Most of these national historians also treated questions of methodology, fol- lowing for the most part the Rankean tradition, whether in positivist or ide- alistic form, against the incursions of cultural history as promoted by Lamp- recht d. For Hintze it was German particularism as well as its geographic vulnerability that delayed Prussian political develop- ment; and he emphasized the role of the military in terms of society and nation as well as foreign relations. He was never as rabidly nationalistic as some of his contempo- raries, a breadth of view illustrated by his pioneering work in the comparative study of institutions and bureaucracy.

Hintze carried on his critique of sociology and the philosophy of history in his early writings on the collective vs.

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Like Spengler, Troeltsch drew on the organic ideas of Romanticism Vico, Herder, and Rousseau as well as Goethe and the historical school of jurisprudence, which had led, and not by accident, to the current fashion of cultural history. The keys to this historicism, as Meinecke argued more systematically and more historically a few years later, were historical individuality and organic development. Among other things, he thought, this view makes impossible both comparative history and the sort of global vision displayed by H.

Troeltsch was part of the European-wide conversation about historicism and its crisis, a conversation in which Karl Mannheim, Karl Heussi, Benedetto Croce, and many others were involved. In this idea again Meinecke saw the intersection between politics and history; and in he published a survey of the theme, which he dedicated to the memory of Ernst Troeltsch, whose contrast between naturalism and histor- icism Meinecke adopted for his own purposes.

Frederick hoped to join humanitarian ideals with reason of state, though he could not succeed in this plan. On another level Hegel tried likewise to join the rational and the real, though he, too, was incapable of bringing them into unity. With Treitschke, moving away from Ranke, the shift moved even further from political and moral ideals to national power and to the confusion between political and military action.

In the s Meinecke was deeply involved in the Historical Commission for the Imperial Archives following a plan which he had discussed earlier with Marcks , along with Marcks, Goetz, Oncken, Brandenburg, Fritz Harting, and others.

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This project, which became the target of controversies between nationalists and moderate republicans like Meinecke himself, focused on sources relating to political, diplomatic, and military history according to the old Rankean habits of privileging foreign affairs above economic, social, and cultural history; and it underlay the Imperial Institute for the Study of the History of the New Germany, headed by Walter Frank during the Nazi period. The Marxist construction of Rus- sian history, beginning especially by M.

Pokrovskii, joined the traditional emphasis on social and economic factors to revolutionary and Stalinist ideol- ogy, and its career lasted down to the end of the Soviet Union, which upset the grand narrative of twentieth-century global history, opening the way to a vast new project of revision and reconstruction.

This was the atmosphere of pessimism that inspired the interpretations of Oswald Spengler and Rudolf Pannwitz. Yet historical knowledge if not wisdom continued to increase in these depressing times despite wartime xenophobia, in terms of international cooperation, with scholars around the world joined in efforts to expand the horizons of historical perception in both time and space. The learning and teaching of history were subject to extraordinary demographic growth in these years, as the institutional supports of pedagogy, research, publication, professional or- ganization, and international exchange were expanded to accommodate this growth through journals, source collections, monographs, textbooks, univer- sity chairs, academic and professional associations, and international confer- ences—during the early decades of the twentieth century.

Investigat- ing the life of humanity in the ages before writing no longer depended merely on linguistics, mythology, and historical conjecture and analogies; for now there was a growing body of information about material culture in the amaz- ing discoveries of archeologists around the world; and indeed later periods of history were also illuminated by the same sorts of organized research. Although a number of talented archeologists were killed in the war, discoveries and interpretations continued to accumulate and to demand the revision of universal history— although the old theory of diffusionism was preserved by scholars like G.

Elliot Smith, W. Perry, W. Rivers, and V. Gordon Childe. Scaliger, was central.

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Yet historians always lagged behind the archeological pioneers. Maspero also from , and James Breasted from Bury indeed supported just this step by including the oriental prelude in the plan- ning of the Cambridge Ancient History, which, delayed by the war, began to appear in Of course these scholars lacked grounding in the relevant ancient languages, and moreover they could not know of civilizations yet to be uncovered.

The writings of all of these scholars spanned the period before and after the war and began the attempts to produce a cooperative synthesis— although they all realized that a full account was not possible in the present state of knowledge and uncertainties. The extraordinary progress in knowledge of the ancient history of the Near East may be seen in the changing editions, from to , of the standard textbook by H.

Actually, as G. Renard wrote in , there were two prehistories. But hyper-Germanic culture also turned against the classicist orientation of the German mandarinate.


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  6. Having mastered the major oriental as well as classical languages, Meyer set about to extend the frontiers of historical science in Egyptian chronology and the cultures of the Hittites, Assyrians, and Sumerians as well as the Greeks, Romans, Jews, and Islam, especially in areas of economics and religion, includ- ing the origins of Christianity.

    The story he told of Greece, in vast detail, was a tragedy, in which classical culture matured and was perfected even as the political fortunes of a demo- cratic, divided, and contentious Greece fell to much larger imperial powers. He carried his work, along with his convictions, through the First World War and con- tinued efforts on his history of antiquity until his death in Yet his views were criticized both by contemporary social scientists and by historians for his conservatism, which was scholarly as well as political. In any case he believed that the sub- ject of history was those peoples which had risen to the level of high civiliza- tion—namely, the Western tradition.

    Bury and others. For the Greeks the cities were a source both of greatness and of weakness, of growth and decline, leading as they did to revolutions as well as to federative experiments. Glotz proposed to emphasize not only historical development but also geographical context, which had been neglected by Fustel as well as Aristotle, and like Meyer and contempo- rary sociologists to consider not only the family and the polis but also the individual. Both, he concluded prudently, since Greece was able to take refuge in philosophy in place of the shorter-lived political success of Philip and Alexander.