German and Brazilian Perspectives
Edited By Luiz Estevam de Oliveira Fernandes, Luísa Rauter Pereira and Sérgio da Mata
Schemes of Historical Method in the Late 19th Century: Cross-References between Langlois and Seignobos, Bernheim, and Droysen
At the end of the 19th century, most professional historians – wherever they existed – deemed history to be a form of knowledge ruled by a method that bears no resemblance with those most commonly traceable in the natural sciences. The bulk of the historian’s task was then frequently regarded as being the application of procedures frequently referred to as ‘historical method’. In the context of such an emerging interest on historical methods and methodology, at least three textbooks stand out: Johann Gustav Droysen’s Grundriss der Historik (Outline of the Theory of History), Ernst Bernheim’s Lehrbuch der historischen Methode (Handbook of Historical Method), and Charles Langlois and Charles Seignobos’s Introduction aux études historiques (Introduction to the Study of History). These books were quite influential in Germany, France, and elsewhere, and they very much helped promote a general idea of historical method that would become relatively consensual among historians of many nationalities by the early 20th century. Such a relative agreement on historical method sponsored both the communication and the development of a sense of disciplinary identity among historians trained within different and sometimes conflicting national traditions. It was then partially extended, partially challenged, and surely made more complex when, from the 1920s on, social and economic historians became a good part of the historiographical establishment in many countries.2
The three books by Droysen, Bernheim, and Langlois and Seignobos were already pieced together by Rolf Torstendahl, who studied them as a group of texts that, despite their differences, contributed...
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