A History of Germany in the Middle Ages

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SINCE the comparatively recent time when, by the efforts of Wolf, Niebuhr, and Kanke, historical investigation was raised to the rank of a science, the whole of the German history has been re-written. New sources of information have been opened up, old problems in many cases solved. More than fifty thousand historical essays and other works, relating to Germany, have been reviewed by the "Jahresbericht der ...

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History of Germany in the Middle Ages

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Overview

An excerpt from the INTRODUCTION:

SINCE the comparatively recent time when, by the efforts of Wolf, Niebuhr, and Kanke, historical investigation was raised to the rank of a science, the whole of the German history has been re-written. New sources of information have been opened up, old problems in many cases solved. More than fifty thousand historical essays and other works, relating to Germany, have been reviewed by the "Jahresbericht der Geschichtswissenschaft" in the thirteen years alone between 1878 and 1890.

Not in one, but in many ways has history writing been revolutionized in our own day. In the first place, the immense importance of text-criticism has been recognized; no scholar now edits a chronicle or document of the past without distinguishing carefully between the original, or at least the oldest obtainable, manuscript and the horde of later copies with all of their accumulated errors. The study of paleography has enabled men to determine at least in what century a given text was written, and many a document or chronicle long considered very ancient has been found to be by a comparatively modern hand, and vice versa.

By comparing the changes, too, and the omissions of words and clauses in a number of different manuscripts of a given work, the prototype or original manuscript from which all the others were taken can often be discovered.

What this method signifies for the truth and accuracy of a historical text may be made clear from the case of Einhard's life of Charlemagne, written shortly after the death of the great hero. Of this valuable writing there are eighty manuscripts extant, of which all but a very few are worthless copies made, in the course of centuries, not from the original, but one from the other. The later scribes and copyists, too, were men far less capable of performing such a task than are many schoolboys of to-day.

It is only modern scholars who have been able to establish the relationships of these Einhard texts to each other, and to sift the later ones of their accumulated errors and interpolations. And the case just mentioned is but one among hundreds.

It must be remembered in this connection that, in the Middle Ages, as parchment grew scarcer, or at least more expensive with time, it became the custom to contract almost every word of more than one syllable; and that the next copyist often had to use his imagination as to the real word that was intended. Many of the manuscripts of the thirteenth century seem a mere mass of signs and tokens of abbreviation. How often, too, not to speak of interpolations wittingly and wantonly made for a given purpose, have marginal remarks of a reader or commentator been attributed by a later scribe to the original author, and placidly incorporated in the new copy!

Altogether the study of paleography and of original historical sources gives one an amazing insight into the peculiarities, the follies, and the weaknesses of our forefathers. The abbot of a monastery interpolates or otherwise falsifies a charter of privileges to gain or preserve this or that right, or to raise the value of these or those relics. A chronicler does not hesitate to put down fictitious details which may add to the glory of the ancestors of a family which gives him its patronage. More than half the charters attributed to Merovingian times have been proved to be fraudulent in either one way or another.

Follow the stream back to its source, reconstruct your edifice from the very foundation, find out the original authority for every assertion; such are the watchwords of the modern school of historians....

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781497307285
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
  • Publication date: 3/10/2014
  • Pages: 462
  • Sales rank: 554,148
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.93 (d)

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