The German Conception of History: The National Tradition of Historical Thought from Herder to the Present

The German Conception of History: The National Tradition of Historical Thought from Herder to the Present

by Georg G. Iggers
     
 

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This is the first comprehensive critical examination in any language of the German national tradition of historiography. It analyzes the basic theoretical assumptions of the German historians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and relates these assumptions to political thought and action.
The German national tradition of historiography had its beginnings

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Overview

This is the first comprehensive critical examination in any language of the German national tradition of historiography. It analyzes the basic theoretical assumptions of the German historians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and relates these assumptions to political thought and action.
The German national tradition of historiography had its beginnings in the reaction against the Enlightenment and the French Revolution of 1789. This historiography rejected the rationalistic theory of natural law as universally valid and held that all human values must be understood within the context of the historical flux. But it maintained at the same time the Lutheran doctrine that existing political institutions had a rational basis in the will of God, though only a few of these historians were unqualified conservatives. Most argued for liberal institutions within the authoritarian state, but considered that constitutional liberties had to be subordinated to foreign policy – a subordination that was to have tragic results.

Mr. Iggers first defines Historismus or historicism and analyzes its origins. Then he traces the transformation of German historical thought from Herder’s cosmopolitan culture-oriented nationalism to exclusive state-centered nationalism of the War of Liberation and of national unification. He considers the development of historicism in the writings of such thinkers as von Humboldt, Ranke, Dilthey, Max Weber, Troeltsch, and Meinecke; and he discusses the radicalization and ultimate disintegration of the historicist position, showing how its inadequacies contributed to the political débâcle of the Weimar Republic and the rise of National Socialism. No one who wants to fully understand the political development of national Germany can neglect this study.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Not only an important contribution to the history and problems of German historiography, but also to the intellectual background of German political and social history of the 19th and 20th century . . . No student of modern German history should miss reading this informative and thoughtful book.”—Hans Kohn, Poetry

“Any attempt to present a comprehensive synthesis of the German historiographical tradition must be respected as a bold venture. When someone succeeds in presenting a thoroughgoing and lucid analysis in a book fewer than four hundred pages, it must be regarded as a major achievement in intellectual history. Iggers has succeeded in doing just this.” —Robert A. Pois, The Historian

“The German Conception of History stands as a remarkable work. Throughout the book, Iggers is more than equal to the formidable difficulty and range of his subject matter.” —Lewis D. Wurgaft, History and Theory

“Although [this book] is primarily addressed to historians, it is of the very first importance to philosophy in general, to philosophy of law, and to other social and human sciences…Professor Iggers has written an impressive account of the most important bourgeois thought of the last two centuries.” —Mitchell Franklin, Tulane Law Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780819560803
Publisher:
Wesleyan University Press
Publication date:
01/01/1984
Edition description:
Revised ed.
Pages:
405
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Born in Hamburg, Germany, GEORG IGGERS came to the United States in 1938. He received a B.A. from the University of Richmond and an A.M. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Iggers taught at Philander Smith College in Little Rock from 1950-57 and Dillard University in New Orleans from 1957-63; from 1963 to 1965 he taught at Roosevelt University. He is Distinguished Professor of History at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

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