Strindberg's Historical Imagination: Erik XIV


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

At the end of the nineteenth century to study history was still to believe that the historian's highest commitment was to Truth, and that invariably the right historical method would disclose the formal coherence of man's life in time. To be sure, by the 1890's methods of attaining truth and discovering universal principles of order were anything but uniform. Positivists like Ranke, Comte, Marx, and Mill argued that history was merely another branch of natural science and that the past should be studied from a sound basis of experimentally verifiable laws. For Idealists like Hegel, Croce, and Dilthey, on the other hand, history was a human not a mathematical science, and thus the historian had to get "inside" the past, to write history in Leopold von Ranke's term "as it actually was" by reliving or rethinking what happened and why. Still, no matter what differences in methodology or philosophy existed, nineteenth-century European historical thought "represented an effort to constitute history as the ground for a 'realistic' science of man, society, and culture";1 almost without exception men accepted that history was proceeding in a more-or-less coherent direction toward some teleology, and that historical events could be made to yield their ultimate meaning.

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