BLTC Press Titles

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The Secret Doctrine, Volume II Anthropogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

Theory of Colours

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Vanity Fair

William Thackery

Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

History of the reformation in Germany

by Leopold von Ranke


1 Latin and Teutonic Nations, translation, p. 6.
3 History of England, translation, vol. v., p. 428.

3 Cf. Ranke's Zur Kritik neuerer Geschichtschreiber, which forms the Appendix to his Geschichte der Romanischen und Germanischen Volker—a work which has unfortunately not yet been translated into English.


close of the fifteenth century that the nations of Europe first definitely realized in the Italian wars the fundamental unity which underlay their common civilization, a civilization which was in all cases founded on a fusion of Romanic and German elements. Ranke first set himself to demonstrate this fundamental unity, but the complexity of his task and the ever-increasing mass of material led him to abandon the attempt, after having brought his sketch up to the year 1518. Henceforth he devoted himself to the study of separate countries, chiefly, however, in the centuries of his original choice. The side which most attracted him was the religious movement, so far, at least, as this was interwoven with political issues. Thus most of his writings1 aim at tracing the special form taken in each country by the great movement of the Reformation. In the volume before us it is with the relations of Church and State in Germany that he is mainly interested. His purpose is to show that just as the mediaeval history of Germany had turned upon the contest between the Empire and the Papacy, so that of the sixteenth century centred round the struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism. Though he does not deny the influence of personal character on the development of the plot, he insists more especially on the effect of the German Constitution and of the Empire, both the products of past history, upon the course of the Reformation in that country. According to his method, he seeks for the interpretation of events chiefly in the despatches of ambassadors, and in the political correspondence of contemporary statesmen, while somewhat neglecting the faiths and aspirations expressed in the general literature of the age.

This limitation of the scope of history is less apparent in the work before us than in others, but for all that "The History of the Reformation in Germany " may be said to present a somewhat external picture of the times.

Our author investigates the causes of events, but the feelings of the victorious and of the oppressed, or the economic or social side of history, he passes by with scant attention. Yet it may fairly be claimed that the history of a nation at any time, and above all at such a period of intellectual and social as well as spiritual upheaval as this which he has under review, to be altogether intelligible, should not be limited to war,

1 The most important are:

History of the Latin and Teutonic Nations, translated by Ash worth.
History of the Popes, translated by S. Austin.

Memoirs of the House of Brandenburg during the 16th and 17th Centuries, translated by Sir A. and Lady Duff-Gordon.

History of England, principally in the 17th Century, translated by several hands.

Civil Wars and Monarchy in France in the 16th and 17th Centuries, translated by M. A. Garvey.

diplomacy, and government, but should cover the whole field of human thought and action, and even, we may add, of sentiment.

Ranke has been called a lyrical writer of history. "His point of view is not that of the narrative, but of reflection on the narrative. ... It is not his purpose first to make us acquainted with the subject, as is usually the intention of historical writers. He assumes such acquaintance . . . and adds to it only the last touches of colour, often in quite unexpected places."1

"He draws in broad outlines, and then fills up the details. 'I have made,' he says, 'this attempt to represent the general through the particular, directly, and without multiplicity of detail.' The truth of the picture, no doubt, depends upon the discrimination and honesty with which the choice of details is made."2

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