Source Criticism - The Meaning of "source Criticism"

The Meaning of "source Criticism"

Problems in translation: The Danish word “kildekritik” like the Norwegian word “kildekritikk” and the Swedish word “källkritik” derived from the German “Quellenkritik” and is closely associated with the German historian Leopold von Ranke (1795–1886). Hardtwig writes: "His first work Geschichte der romanischen und germanischen Völker von 1494–1514 (History of the Latin and Teutonic Nations from 1494 to 1514) (1824) was a great success. It already showed some of the basic characteristics of his conception of Europe, and was of historiographical importance particularly because Ranke made an exemplary critical analysis of his sources in a separate volume, Zur Kritik neuerer Geschichtsschreiber (On the Critical Methods of Recent Historians). In this work he raised the method of textual criticism used in the late eighteenth century, particularly in classical philology to the standard method of scientific historical writing" (Hardtwig, 2001, p. 12739).

The larger part of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries would be dominated by the research-oriented conception of historical method of the so-called Historical School in Germany, led by historians as Leopold Ranke and Berthold Niebuhr. Their conception of history, long been regarded as the beginning of modern, `scientific' history, harked back to the `narrow' conception of historical method, limiting the methodical character of history to source criticism" (Lorenz, 2001).

Bible studies dominate the use of "source criticism" in America (cf. Hjørland, 2008). The term is thus relatively seldom used in English about historical methods and historiography (cf. Hjørland, 2008). This difference between European and American use of "source criticism" is somewhat strange considering the influence of Ranke on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. It has been suggested that differences in the use of the term are not accidental but due to different views of the historical methodEmpty citation‎ (help) . In the German/Scandinavian tradition this subject is seen as important, whereas the Anglo-American tradition it is believed that historical methods must be specific and associated with the subject studied, for which reason there is no general field of "source criticism".

In the Scandinavian countries and elsewhere source evaluation (or information evaluation) is also studied interdisciplinarily from many different points of view, partly caused by the influence of the Internet. It is a growing field in, among other fields, library and information science. In this context source criticism is studied from a broader perspective than just, for example, history or Biblical studies.

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