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How Liberalism Came About in Europe / Liberal Historiography in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
At least until World War II, much of nineteenth- and twentieth-century academic historiography consisted of the history of the nation-state, at once its favourite subject, institutional framework and planning horizon. What most marks a specifically liberal trait in it – alternative to the Rankian conservative one – would appear to be precisely the pursuit of a difficult reconciliation between the principle of liberty, seen as a universal and absolute ethical-poetical value compared to historical-national individualities, and the improvement of the common traditions of civilisation of European peoples launched by the post-Revolutionary French school. Using the guiding thread offered by this way of conceptualising liberal historiography – which means refusing to reduce it to a purely party-political and denominational phenomenon – the author identifies a line of evolution of his own (along which, of course, hold-ups and steps backwards alternate with successes and flashes of innovation) and reconstructs the salient stages along the way.