German Travel Writers’ Narratives on Ireland from Before the 1798 Rising to After the Great Famine- Texts Edited, Translated and Annotated by Eoin Bourke
30 Leopold von Ranke (1865)
Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886), who stemmed from a solidly Protestant Saxon background, became one of Germany’s leading historians of the second half of the 19th century by establishing a new approach of basing historiography on verifiable data and gleaning “history as it was” from original documents. Al- though in his treatment of European issues he generally demonstrated “a sym- pathetic empathy with the Protestant cause”, in the case of Ireland he “showed open support for the Irish and their Catholic cause” [cf. Boldt 2007, 233f.]. This becomes evident in his comment in his History of England, vol. III on Oliver Cromwell’s vengeful siege of Drogheda in 1649: Did Cromwell really imagine that he was executing the justice of God on these people, whose hands were allegedly stained with innocent blood? Can he possibly have believed, as he claimed, that he was driven by a higher divine spirit? [LvR 1861, 346f.] And in his diaries he drew a comparison between the Cromwellian invasion and the brutal English suppression of the Great Indian mutiny of 1858 with the remark: “Almost as Cromwell treated the Irish. But is this fair? Is this not ex- cessive violence?” [cit. Boldt 2007, 163] His interest in Ireland was certainly intensified by marrying Clarissa Graves, who had grown up in the lap of a distinguished Anglo-Irish Protestant family in 13 Merrion Square and 12 Fitzwilliam Square. She travelled widely throughout Europe in her mother’s company and was first introduced to Ranke in Paris in the summer of...
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