Relics of the Past: Antiquarianism and Archival Authority in Enlightenment Germany

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Abstract

During the Early Modern period, many scholars described the ideal historian as a person, who personally had experienced the events. However, the skeptical critique of the trustworthiness of testimonies increasingly undermined this ideal and some scholars attempted to identify sources that should not be considered as testimonies, but rather as “relics” of the historical situation. Some of these sources were antiquarian sources, such as coins, inscriptions, and monuments, but German historians especially emphasized the importance of legal and official documents stored in state archives. These documents, they insisted, were not only more reliable than eyewitness accounts, but also better historical evidence than all other material remains of the past. The use of these sources in historical research also helped shape the modern ideal of the historian as an archival researcher. To illustrate these changes, the paper focuses upon the example of the Göttingen historian Johann Christoph Gatterer, who is often considered one of the founders of modern critical historical research.
OriginalsprogEngelsk
BogserieStoria della Storiografia
Vol/bind68
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)69-84
Antal sider13
ISSN0392-8926
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 2016

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