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( Originally Published Early 1900's )
History has been raised to the dignity of an independent science in the Nineteenth Century. It was formerly regarded as the servant of other sciences, the handmaid which supplied to them what was needed in any exigency for argument or illustration. "History," said Boling-broke, "is philosophy teaching by examples." But it was more commonly regarded as merely gathering and having ready whatever examples the great dame Philosophy might see fit to call for. The art of history was to join these examples in a narrative which should recommend itself to the reader's taste or prejudices. It was to furnish arguments or morals. But the error of this relegation of history to a subordinate position has been rebuked and the practice generally abandoned in the Nineteenth Century. The change was brought about gradually, but credit for the first step toward it may be given to Barthold Georg Niebuhr (1776-1831), who was a Dane, son of a famous traveler, Karsten Niebuhr. This scholar was called to Prussia to assist Stein in the reformation of its government, and was for a time ambassador at Rome. He settled down as a professor at Bonn in 1823, and soon began his "History of Rome." The new departure in his work was his entire discarding of the fables which had previously passed current in regard to the kings and heroes of Rome. The true history begins centuries later than the accepted date of the foundation of the city. To prove this conclusion so clearly that it could not be controverted was the work of Niebuhr. He went on to show how fragments of the truth could be detected in later writers and in various institutions of the historical period.
From new materials, gathered by independent researches, philological and archaeological, he reconstructed the true course of the history of Rome. But his labors really went much further and involved the reconstruction of historical study everywhere. He settled the fundamental distinction between history and legend. The method corresponding to this distinction inaugurated a new epoch in the study of history. Niebuhr was cut off before he had fully exhibited the results of his method even in regard to Rome. Some of his hypotheses have been rejected by later investigators. It was left to his successor, Mommsen, to write the "Roman History" which exhibits the truth in regard to the origin of the Eternal City and its mighty power.