Warring States Project

Leopold von Ranke

The possibility of a science of history consists not in the fact that historians pour liquid from A into B, but in the possibility of judging, between two accounts of a data set, which is the more likely.

History aims to discover the truth about the past. Methods have been worked out for getting at historical truth. Some basic principles - objectivity, honesty, preference for the earliest sources - many of them known in antiquity, are associated in the West with the name of Leopold von Ranke. Some of Ranke's maxims are here combined as a quick introduction to the study of the past. They are followed by some advice of our own about some of the difficulties in the process of recovering the past.

These methodological dos and don'ts look to just one thing: recovering the past, in Ranke's words, "as it really was." To this we add a few personal suggestions about procedure in the doing and interpreting of history, and conclude with a brief look at the further reaches of the subject.


23 Oct 2013 / Contact The Project / Exit to Home Page