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Universal History and Comparison at the End of 18th Century Germany

Vol. 4, No. 2, December 2008
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Alexandre Escudier, CEVIPOF/Paris

The aim of this article is to provide a counter-perspective, derived from the history of humanities, to the contemporary debates on global scale comparatism. We will center our attention on what we believe to be the context of emergence, the functions, and the different uses of the omnipresent universal history genre in the last third of the 18th century in the Germanic Holy Roman Empire. In contrast to the contemporary theoretical and historiographic usage, this picture will allow us to note argumentative continuities and discontinuities. It will also potentially allow us to put into perspective some of the false methodological genealogies, or the merits that are more often supposed than proved of the Universalhistorie of German Enlightenment.