Leopold Von Ranke Essay

973 Words Dec 7th, 2012 4 Pages
Leopold von Ranke lays down a series of critiques against the philosophy of history. He outlines several flaws in the methodology that he believes prevent it from accurately recreating the historical development of ideas, events, etc. To a large degree, Ranke himself avoids the most fundamental of these flaws while himself attempting to relate the history of European politics from Louis XIV through the fall of Napoleon. However, due largely to the complexity and demandingness of the historical discipline, Ranke’s work is itself open to some of his own objections, preventing it from truly gaining a perfect portrayal of the development of the great European powers.
The core objection that Ranke raises against the philosophy of history,
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Furthermore, he enthusiastically endorses the idea that certain individual men make their mark on history, tracing how luminaries such as Louis XIV, Peter I, and Frederick II shaped world history to the interests of their respective nations. He further emphasizes their importance by imagining how history could have developed in radically different directions without their accomplishments.
Closely related is Ranke’s contention that philosophy of history, anticipating an ideal historical destiny, adopts a prophetic position rather than one that looks backwards, analyzing past events to understand them and their causes. Here though Ranke occasionally seems to slip. For example, he imagines that had James II not been overthrown, “English policy would have thenceforth been forever chained to that of France” (72) and that, were it not for the rise of Frederick, France may have “maintained a perpetual domination” (81) over the divided German states.
Ranke produces other attacks on the philosophy of history method that he does not avoid so nimbly. Like someone who rounds a square peg to fit it nicely into a round hole, philosophers of history according to Ranke fit history to their theories by engaging in selective analysis of specific works and events. While the Marxist philosopher of history would doubtless spend copious amounts of ink documenting the lead up to the October Revolution in Russia, he doubtless would pass over the

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