Leopold von Ranke (21 December 1795 – 23 May 1886) was a German historian and a founder of modern source-based history. According to Caroline Hoefferle, "Ranke was probably the most important historian to shape [the] historical profession as it emerged in Europe and the United States in the late 19th century." He was able to implement the seminar teaching method in his classroom and focused on archival research and analysis of historical documents. Ranke set the standards for much of later historical writing, introducing such ideas as reliance on primary sources (empiricism), an emphasis on narrative history and especially international politics (Außenpolitik).
Ranke was born in Wiehe, then part of the Electorate of Saxony. He came from a family of Lutheran pastors and lawyers. He was educated partly at home and partly in the gymnasium of Schulpforta. His early years engendered a lifelong love of Ancient Greek and Latin and of the Lutheran Church. In 1814, Ranke entered the University of Leipzig, where his subjects were Classics and Lutheran theology. At Leipzig, Ranke became an expert in philology and translation of the ancient authors into German. His teachers included Johann Gottfried Jakob Hermann. As a student, Ranke's favorite authors were Thucydides, Livy, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Barthold Georg Niebuhr, Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Schelling, and Friedrich Schlegel. Ranke showed little interest in the work of modern history because of his dissatisfaction with what he regarded as history books that were merely a collection of facts lumped together by modern historians...
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