Leopold von Ranke

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Leopold von Ranke (portrait after Julius Schrader ). Ranke's signature:
Signature Leopold von Ranke.PNG

Franz Leopold Ranke , von Ranke from 1865 (* December 21, 1795 in Wiehe ; † May 23, 1886 in Berlin ), was a German historian , historiographer of the Prussian state , university lecturer and royal Prussian Real Privy Councilor .


Leopold von Ranke was born as the eldest son of the lawyer Gottlieb Israel Ranke (1762–1836) and his wife Friederike Ranke, b. Lehmicke (1776–1836), born. He was the brother of the theologian Friedrich Heinrich Ranke (1798–1876) and the theologian Ernst Ranke (1814–1888). His nephews were the physiologist and anthropologist Johannes Ranke , the physician Heinrich von Ranke , who was also ennobled in 1891, and the senior pastor Leopold Friedrich Ranke .

Ranke married Helena Clarissa Graves (1808–1871) from an old English family in 1843 : the daughter of Dublin Police Commissioner John Crosby Graves (1776–1835) and Helena Perceval (1785–1835). The Ranke couple had three sons Otto (1844-1928), Major General Friedhelm (1847-1917), who married his cousin Selma von Ranke , and Albrecht (1849-1850) and a daughter Maximiliane (1846-1922). The British poet and writer Robert von Ranke-Graves was a great-nephew of Leopold von Rankes.

He was raised to the Prussian nobility on March 22, 1865 in Berlin .


Memorial stone for Leopold von Ranke at the Pforta State School
Berlin street sign of Rankestrasse with dedication
Leopold von Ranke (1877)
Honorary grave , Grosse Hamburger Strasse 29, in Berlin-Mitte
Special stamp from Germany (1995) for the 200th birthday of Rankes

Leopold von Ranke attended the Pforta State School from 1809 to 1814 . He completed his studies from 1814 to 1818 in theology and philology at the University of Leipzig .

From 1818 he was a high school teacher in Frankfurt (Oder) . In 1824 he moved to Berlin and was at the city's University associate professor. From 1827 to 1831 Ranke toured the archives of the former Holy Roman Empire , as well as the Venice State Archives in 1829 , and in 1832 the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin accepted him as a member. In 1834 Ranke became a full professor at the university and in 1841 was appointed historiographer of the Prussian state by King Friedrich Wilhelm IV (the proceeds collected, published as Twelve Books of Prussian History , 1878/1879).

In 1871, because he was visually impaired, he stopped teaching, but resolutely continued to work on his work: he began to rework and add to older works in order to publish his Complete Works . At the age of 80 he began to dictate his world history , a volume of which was published annually from 1881 and which was supplemented from his notes after his death. He died in 1886. His tomb is in the Sophienkirchhof . It is dedicated to the city of Berlin as an honorary grave .


In January 1850 Ranke received the Prussian Order of the Red Eagle II Class, in 1852 the Commander's Cross and then in 1866 the Grand Commander's Cross of the Bavarian Order of Merit of St. Michael , in 1853 the Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art and in 1855 the Prussian Order Pour le Mérite for Science and Arts .

In 1851 Ranke was elected a foreign member of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences . Since 1857 he was a foreign member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences . In 1863 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences .

In 1885 Ranke was made an honorary citizen of Berlin .

At the house at Luisenstraße 24a in Berlin-Mitte, a plaque used to indicate that Ranke had lived there from 1844 until his death. In 1888, Rankestrasse in Berlin was named in his honor . There is also a Rankestrasse in Leipzig and Dresden, and there was also one from 1937 in Hanover, where it was later renamed Windthorststrasse after the politician Ludwig Windthorst .

In 1995, Deutsche Post issued a special postage stamp worth 80 pfennigs on his 200th birthday .

In his hometown Wiehe there are several places of remembrance to him and a small museum in the town hall.

Meaning of his work

Ranke is one of the founding fathers of modern history. After the Prussian reforms (around 1810) and the founding of the first Berlin university under Wilhelm von Humboldt , the scientific concept of historicism had prevailed. Historicism differed in its systematic and source-critical approach from the previous primarily philosophical view of history.

Based on this approach, Ranke provided a methodology that combines the old narrative story with the new scientific foundations (with increasing professionalization through the study of history). The historian's task is therefore to show “how it actually was” . Ranke is concerned with the greatest possible objectivity in telling the story. This characteristic of his historiography led to the development of so-called “Neorankeans” in German history in the second half of the 19th century. These include u. a. Erich Marcks , Max Lehmann and Max Lenz . In contrast to historians like Heinrich von Sybel , Heinrich von Treitschke or Johann Gustav Droysen , who also see history with a daily political task, they stand on the methodological basis of Rankes. However, they are also not unaffected by the other current. Objectivity in historiography by no means means neutrality in politics of the day. Incidentally, this also applies to Ranke himself. His works achieved the most lasting effects primarily on the Reformation, the Roman popes, and English and French history in the 17th century. In the international historiography of his time there are few who can compete with him. These include u. a. Jules Michelet and Thomas Babbington Macaulay .

For Ranke, the aesthetics of the language were just as important as the actual content. Some accuse him of being devastating and, in some cases, still having an impact today, that his sophisticated language does not keep literary form and intellectual discovery apart.

According to its importance, Ranke had a large number of important students, who in turn set up their own schools. His oldest and probably most important Heinrich von Sybel for the development of German historical science should be mentioned here. Even Jacob Burckhardt , Carl von Noorden and Wilhelm Maurenbrecher have temporarily studied with Ranke in Berlin.

Ranke's historiography is essentially the political history of states. The people who appear have some kind of political significance. The exploration of the world of states is essential to him. The social aspects such as those of the lower social classes usually do not arise with him. One of the few chapters in his historiography where they are so revolutionary that they cannot be ignored is the topic of the German peasant war . This conception of history is particularly evident in the history of the Reformation and that of the 17th century. But it is not without consequences for the history of the 19th century either. At the end of the 19th century, the so-called Rankeans and Karl Lamprecht started a methodological dispute in historical studies , which was actually less a factual dispute than a disparagement of Lamprecht's new approach.

Ranke published the historical-political magazine from 1832 to 1836 . Since he wrote the majority of the articles in the magazine himself, it is now regarded as the “unique personal creation of its editor with an everlasting effect”.


  • Stories of the Roman and Germanic Peoples from 1494 to 1514 (1824).
  • Princes and peoples of southern Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (1827 ff.).
  • The Serbian Revolution. From Serbian papers and communications (1829).
  • On the conspiracy against Venice, in 1618 , Berlin 1831.
  • Historical-political magazine (ed.) 2 volumes with 4 issues each (1832–1836). Nothing more appeared.
  • The Roman Popes in the last four centuries (1834–1836).
  • German History in the Age of the Reformation (1839–1847).
  • Nine books on Prussian history (1847–1848), later twelve books on Prussian history (1878/1879).
  • French history, notably in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (1852–1861).
  • English history, notably in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (1859–1869).
  • History of Wallenstein (1869).
  • The Origin of the Seven Years War (1871).
  • The German Powers and the Fürstenbund (1871–1872), 2 volumes online in the Internet archive .
  • From the correspondence between Friedrich Wilhelm IV and Bunsen (1873).
  • Origin and beginning of the Revolutionary Wars in 1791 and 1792 (1875).
  • On the history of Austria and Prussia between the peace treaties in Aachen and Hubertusburg (1875).
  • Hardenberg and the history of the Prussian state from 1793 to 1813 (1877).
  • Frederick the Great. Friedrich Wilhelm IV. Two biographies (1878).
  • Serbia and Turkey in the nineteenth century (1879).
  • World History , 6 vols. (1881–1885); Vol. 7-9 posthumously (1886-1888).
  • Complete Works , 48 vols. (1867–1886); Vol. 49-54 posthumously (1887-1890).


  • Complete edition of Leopold von Ranke's correspondence . Published by the Historical Commission at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences by Klaus Hildebrand . Volume 1: 1813-1825. Edited and introduced by Ulrich Muhlack and Oliver Ramonat. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Munich 2007 ISBN 978-3-486-58097-6 .
  • Siegfried Baur: Attempt on the history of the young tendril . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1998 ISBN 978-3-428-09115-7 .
  • Andreas Dieter Boldt: The life and work of Leopold von Ranke . Peter Lang, Bern 2016 (first English: The Life and Work of the German Historian Leopold von Ranke (1795–1886). An Assessment of His Achievements , Lewiston: Mellon Press 2014).
  • Helmut Berding: Leopold von Ranke . In: Hans-Ulrich Wehler (Ed.): German Historians , Volume 1. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht , Göttingen 1971, pp. 7–24.
  • Volker Dotter Weich:  Ranke, Leopold. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 7, Bautz, Herzberg 1994, ISBN 3-88309-048-4 , Sp. 1324-1355.
  • Alfred DoveRanke, Leopold von . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 27, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1888, pp. 242-269.
  • Günter Johannes Henz: Leopold Ranke. Life, Thought, Word, 1795–1814. Performing studies and edition. With general archival and bibliographical contributions . Phil. Diss. Cologne 1968.
  • Günter Johannes Henz: On Leopold von Ranke's correspondence. Research report and review . Archiv für Kulturgeschichte , 54 (1972), pp. 285-324.
  • Günter Johannes Henz: To the criticism of newer letter editors. The issue of Leopold von Ranke's correspondence by the Historical Commission at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. A memorandum on its 150th anniversary . Jülich 2008 ( online ).
  • Günter Johannes Henz: Ranke's wrongly named lectures “On the Epochs of Modern History”. An investigation into the appearance and existence of tradition . In: Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft and Geistesgeschichte , 83, 2009, pp. 408–451.
  • Günter Johannes Henz: Leopold von Ranke in historical thinking and research . Vol. 1: Personality, creation of the work, history of impact . Vol. 2: Fundamentals and ways of research . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2014 (with extensive bibliography).
  • Wolfgang J. Mommsen (Hrsg.): Leopold von Ranke and modern history . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3-608-91472-2 .
  • Ulrich Muhlack: Leopold Ranke, Rome and “The Roman Popes” . In: Michael Matheus, Martin Wallraff and Jörg Lauster (eds.): Rombilder in German-speaking Protestantism. Encounters with the city in the "long 19th century" , international conference organized by the German Historical Institute in cooperation with the Philipps University of Marburg and the Centro Filippo Melantone. Protestant Center for Ecumenical Studies Rome, Facoltà Valdese, German Historical Institute in Rome 18. – 21. June 2009, Tübingen 2011, pp. 1–24.
  • Ulrich Muhlack: Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886). In: Lutz Raphael (Hrsg.): Classics of the science of history . Vol. 1: From Edward Gibbon to Marc Bloch , Beck, Munich 2006, ISBN 978-3-406-54118-6 , pp. 38-63.
  • Ulrich Muhlack:  Ranke, Franz Leopold von. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 21, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-428-11202-4 , pp. 140-142 ( digitized version ).
  • Ugo Tucci : Ranke and the Venetian Document Market . In: The Courier 22.1 (1987), pp. 27-38.
  • Martin Wahler: Leopold von Ranke . In: Mitteldeutsche Lebensbilder , Volume 2: Lebensbilder des 19. Jahrhundert , Magdeburg 1927, pp. 171–186.
  • Leopold von Ranke. Lectures on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his death. Commemoration of the Historical Commission at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and the Foundation Historical College in the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft on May 12, 1986 [including lectures by Heinrich Lutz and Rudolf Vierhaus ], Munich 1987 ( digitized version ).
  • Gothaisches genealogisches Taschenbuch der Briefadeligen houses, 1913, p.643

Web links

Commons : Leopold von Ranke  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Leopold von Ranke  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Richard Perceval Graves, The assault heroic . Papermac 1986. Family tree on page x.
  2. S. the upper square star on his chest on the portrait after Julius Schrader (also various literary mentions).
  3. Hof- und Staatshandbuch des Kingdom of Bavaria for the year 1861, p. 72. Online at: http://opacplus.bsb-muenchen.de/title/6228495/ft/bsb10374599?page=98 ; Court and State Manual of the Kingdom of Bavaria for the year 1873, p. 68. Online at: http://opacplus.bsb-muenchen.de/title/6228506/ft/bsb11038432?page=96 ; s. the lower, e.g. T. concealed eight-pointed star on his chest on the portrait after Julius Schrader.
  4. ^ Court and State Handbook of the Kingdom of Bavaria for the year 1861, p. 88. Online at: http://opacplus.bsb-muenchen.de/title/6228495/ft/bsb10374599?page=114 ; see Hans Körner “The Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art and its Members” in: Journal for Bavarian State History, Vol. 47 (1984), pp. 299–398. Online at: http://periodika.digitale-sammlungen.de/zblg/kapitel/zblg47_kap28 ; s. the rear, e.g. Sometimes concealed medals on the collar on the stamp.
  5. ^ Orden Pour le Mérite for sciences and arts (ed.): The members of the order . tape 1: 1842-1881 . Gebr. Mann Verlag, Berlin 1975, ISBN 3-7861-6189-5 ( orden-pourlemerite.de [PDF; accessed on September 18, 2011]). ; s. the front medal on the collar on the portrait after Julius Schrader and on the postage stamp.
  6. Holger Krahnke: The members of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen 1751-2001 (= Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Philological-Historical Class. Volume 3, Vol. 246 = Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Mathematical-Physical Class. Episode 3, vol. 50). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 3-525-82516-1 , p. 196.
  7. Former memorial plaque at Luisenstrasse 24a in Berlin Mitte
  8. On this, see Rudolf Vierhaus: Rankes Concept of Historical Objectivity. In: Reinhart Koselleck, Wolfgang J. Mommsen, Jörn Rüsen (eds.): Objectivity and partiality in the science of history. dtv, Munich 1977 (=  Contributions to Historik. Vol. 1), pp. 63–76.
  9. ^ Jonathan Knudsen: The Historicist Enlightenment. In: KM Baker, PH Reil (Ed.): What's Left of Enlightenment? Stanford, California 2001, ISBN 0-8047-4026-7 , p. 45.
  10. ^ Theodor Schieder : Die deutsche Geschichtswwissenschaft in the mirror of the historical journal, in: Historische Zeitschrift 189 (1959), p. 2.
  11. Günter Johannes Henz's reference to numerous errors “prompted the Historical Commission on April 17, 2008 to suspend the delivery of the volume as a precaution in order to have the complaints checked in detail by uninvolved third parties. The result ... confirmed the critical objections. ”Historical Commission: Annual Report 2008 , p. 48.