The Debates about Universal History and National History, <i>c.</i> 1800: A Problem-oriented Historical Attempt*

Hans Erich Bödeker

in Unity and Diversity in European Culture c.1800

Published by British Academy

Published in print October 2006 | ISBN: 9780197263822
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734960 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

The Debates about Universal History and National History, c. 1800: A Problem-oriented Historical Attempt*

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Friedrich Rühs outlined the problems in the complicated relationship between national history and universal history around 1800. The change in theory from universal to national history, from the totality to the individual, was not only the result of methodological or intra-disciplinary consistency, but reflected nationalisation. The background was provided by the particular historical experiences of the time around the turn of the century: the French Revolution and, even more, changes in the German states and the impact of Napoleon Bonaparte's rule. The debates about the relationship between universal history and national history began during the heyday of Enlightenment history-writing. The switch from, in simplified terms, ‘Enlightenment history’ to ‘historicism’, it seems, also took place in these debates, which were, for a time, its primary setting. The authors involved were historians, philologists, philosophers, theologians and men of letters; the names ranged from Johann Christoph Gatterer, August Ludwig von Schlözer, and Johann Gottfried Herder to Immanuel Kant, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Leopold von Ranke and Johann Gustav Droysen.

Keywords: Friedrich Rühs; Enlightenment; universal history; historicism; national history; Johann Christoph Gatterer; August Ludwig von Schlözer; Johann Gottfried Herder; Wilhelm von Humboldt; Leopold von Ranke

Chapter.  15361 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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