History of the Human Sciences 26 (4):67-83 (2013)

The archival turn in 19th-century historical scholarship – that is, the growing tendency among 19th-century historians to equate professional historical studies with scholarship based on archival research – not only affected the profession’s epistemological assumptions and day-to-day working manners, but also changed the persona of the historian. Archival research required the cultivation and exercise of such dispositions, virtues, or character traits as carefulness, meticulousness, diligence and industry. This article shows that a growing significance attached to these qualities made the archival turn increasingly contested. As the case of the German-Austrian historian Theodor von Sickel and his critics shows, it was not the necessity of archival research as such on which historians in late 19th-century Europe came to hold different views. Sickel’s critics were rather concerned about the potentially detrimental effects that the increasingly philological ethos of archival studies could have on the historian’s character. What was primarily at stake in late 19th-century debates on the gains and losses of increased commitments to archival study was the persona of the historian – his character traits, his dispositions and the virtues and skills in which he excelled
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DOI 10.1177/0952695113500291
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