Department of History of Science and Ideas

Martin Gierl: "Johann Christoph Gatterer and History as Science"

  • Date: 3/6/2018 at 1:15 PM 3:00 PM
  • Location: Engelska parken - The Rausing Room
  • Organiser: Department of History of Science and Ideas
  • Contact person: H. Otto Sibum
  • Seminarium

Office for History of Science

Professor Martin Gierl, Universität Göttingen: "Johann Christoph Gatterer and History as Science"

Knowledge and scholarship had been united before the split into a science and a humanities culture: all of you know that sterotyp and backbone of the history of knowledge (which may be true, but which is suspiciously parallel to the division of christianity into a catholic and a protestant branch after the reformation). And, it is true, a lot of people studied the social character of the sciences (Otto Sibum among them). But nobody asked about the “scientific” character ( in the sense of “scientific” practices) of the humanities like philosophy and history for example.

Johann Christoph Gatterer was the best known German historian in the 1760s and 70s. From 1759 till 1799 he was Professor of History at the leading German enlightened University of Göttingen. He established the Institut der historischen Wissenschaften, the first institute ever, dedicated to history. He issued two already modern historical journals – the Historische Bibliothek and the Historische Journal – and he published the then leading compendia of the auxiliaries: from Numismatics, Heraldry, Diplomatics up to Chronology, Geography and Statistics. Gatterer treated Universal History, the core of early modern historiography, with no less than ten compendia. His motto was “History in the full scope” and he desired to bring historiography up to the level of the flourishing natural sciences.

In my book on Gatterer I have unfold three theses. Firstly, historiography was a matter of construction and not of narration during the Early modern period in the first place. It consisted of compiled lists of noteworthy facts. Secondly, Gatterer introduced scientific methods in the field of history, especially to strengthen the links between civil and natural history, but above all, to make the noteworthy facts precise. Historiography should become a proven copy of history, which would allow to conceive the development of history and its causes at the first glance. Thirdly, Gatterer divided history in epochs that he distinguished by immanent historic reasons as a consequence of his approach. Using historic reasons instead of formal divisions was not less than the starting point of historiography as an autonomous discipline.

I my presentation I will confine on Gatterers attempts to combine science and history, nature and culture, and on his use of scientific tools.

1. The Frame: Space and Time

2. Tables: The Evolution of Writing - Culture

3. Tables, Maps, and Diagrams of Nature: Climate and Civilization

4. Tables, Maps, and Diagrams of Culture: History as the Development of Power

5. The Invention of History