Universal Histories between Erudition and Enlightenment
An added level of uncertainty emerged from the increased attention to non-Western civilizations. Comparisons revealed apparent conflicts and inconsistencies in chronologies, leading scholars to attempt both to construct universal histories that would make sense of these discrepancies and to reconcile the parallel development of different cultures. It is also a period during which scholars began to pay increasing attention to periodization and to articulate a vision of distinct eras or epochs in the history of human development, making comparisons among the different civilizations.
These epistemological challenges led scholars to develop new and innovative ways to explore the past, to formulate new critical methods for evaluating sources, and to emphasize the moral responsibilities of the historian. This panel will thus examine how the methodological approaches to the study of the past were affected by both an increased attention to ancient history and by attempts to compose universal histories. These cases will reveal how early modern historians approached the difficulty of composing histories about periods and areas for which they had a paucity of sources.