The Ecphorizer

Dismembrance of Things Past

Issue #23 (July 1983)

The nineteenth-century historian Leopold von Ranke related an incident from which his cynicism about historiography was derived. A bridge broke down near his home, and some persons were swept away by the river. Von Ranke inquired into the details of the catastrophe. "I saw the bridge fall," said a neighbor; "a heavy cart had just passed over it. Two men were on it when it fell, and a soldier on a white horse." "I saw it fall," declared another, "but the cart had passed over two hours before. The foot-passengers were children, and the rider was a civilian on a black horse." "Now," argued von Ranke, "if it is impossible to learn the truth about an accident which happened at broad noonday only twenty-four hours ago, how can I declare any fact to be certain that is shrouded in the darkness of ten centuries?" 

We have collected the essential data you need to easily include this page on your blog. Just click and copy!close
E-mail Print to PDF Blog
Return to Table of Contents for Issue #23