The Fathers of History

This article contains my investigation into the responses to the question “who is the father of history?”. As there are multiple different answers which have been given in response to that question, it felt appropriate to title this article with “The Fathers of History” instead of “The Father of History”. The main goal of this research was to establish who all has been called “the father of history” or “the father of scientific history” and when they were called as such. As far as I’m aware, no other study into who all has been called by those two titles and when they were first called by such titles has been conducted. My study for this article began on 4 Dec. 2020 and ended on 10 Dec. 2020.

This study was limited to English and I’d be interested in seeing studies on the same topic conducted for other languages. When were the people below first called as such in Spanish? Or in German? Or Italian? I’d love to find out. If you are fluent in any languages aside from English and want to help continue this research, please do so. In the following section I present my methodology so that if you have no clue where to start, you can follow a similar path to the one I took.


I began with a simple Google search for the father of history. My first reference is from that search. Then I searched Google for father of history but this time with Jstor in quotes. My references 2 through 5 are from that search. Then I searched Google for the father of scientific history. My sixth reference is from that search. I then went to Google Ngram.

I ran the following terms through the Google Ngram Viewer and did my best to check as many of the publications as possible:
1 – father of scientific history (through 2019)
2 – father of history (through 2019)
3 – Father of History (through 1924)

Not all of the publications I checked were included in the research. I generally limited my references to the earliest instances of a person being dubbed as such, to one reference per century, or to variations of the title. If anyone decides to conduct a similar, more thorough investigation which is free from these limitations, I would love to review it.

After that, I returned to Google to run the names from the list in order to find more information on each of them. I didn’t spend much time on this part. I mostly just did this to clear up confusion that resulted from different spellings for the same name. This is where my initial investigation ended.

One limiting factor for this study is that I only searched for English results.

The Fathers of History

In the following list, I have the names of the people who have been called the “father of history” or the “father of scientific history”. They are in order of when each person was called as such:
1 – Herodotus – History (1st century BC)
2 – Onofrio Panvinio – History (c.1600)
3 – Sima Qian – History (1771)
4 – Moses – History (1825)
5 – David Ramsey – History (1836)
6 – Thucydides – Scientific History (1903)
7 – Homer – History (1908)
8 – Herbert Baxtar Adams – Scientific History (1941)
9 – Leopold von Ranke – Scientific History (1950)
10 – Henry Thomas Buckle – Scientific History (1972)
11 – George F. Hegel – Scientific History (1993)
12 – Egypt – History (2010)

Here are the names ordered by when the person reportedly lived:
1 – Moses (M2nd BCE)
2 – Homer (C8th or C9th BCE)
3 – Herodotus (C5th BCE)
4 – Thucydides (C5th BCE)
5 – Sima Qian (C2nd-1st BCE)
6 – Onofrio Panvinio (1529-1568)
7 – David Ramsay (1749-1815)
8 – Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886)
9 – George F. Hegel (1770-1831)
10 – Henry Thomas Buckle (1821-1862)
11 – Herbert Baxter Adams (1850-1901)


No one else has been called the Father of History as much as the ancient Herodotus (c.484-c.425 BCE). This trend reportedly began with Cicero’s (106-43 BCE) De Legibus (Laws, 1.5) where Herodotus was called “pater historiae” (father of history).[1] The earliest reference I’m currently aware of to Cicero calling Herodotus the Father of History was made in Book 4 Part 4.26 of Petrarch’s Rerum memorandarum libri.[41]

“To my knowledge, it was not until the Renaissance that anyone pointed out the contradiction in Herodotus’ reputation.”[2, p.11]
– J. A. S. Evans (1968)

1695 – “Herodotus, that Cicero calls the Father of History, notwithstanding the Envy of Plutarch, was never Officer, nor Minister of State.”[49, p.18]

1709 – “Whence it is, that Cicero very justly stiles him, the Prince of Historians, and Father of History…”[26, p.244]

1723 – “The Father of History, and Prince of Historians”[22]

1738 – “…And yet this is that Herodotus, who has been stil’d the Father of History; tho’ he might with equal Right be named the Parent of Fable.”[27, p.130]

1752 – “…the father of history, Herodotus…”[28, p.83]

1765 – “the father of history”[23, HISTORY]

1774 – “Whilst Esdras and Nehemiah were compiling the latter part of that great work, Herodotus, whom the profane authors call the Father of History, began to write. Thus we find that the latest authors of the books of scripture, flourished about the same time with the first authors of the Grecian history…”[25, p.103]

1954 – Harrison called Herodotus the Father of History.[3, p.233]

1990 – Herodotus was called the father of history.[20, p.250]

2013 – “…Herodotus, whom Cicero dubiously designated the “father of history.””[46, p.106]

Sima Qian

Sima Qian (c.145-c.86 BCE). Also spelled “Se-ma Ts’ien (transcription used by Édouard Chavannes); Sseu-ma Ts’ien (transcription from the French School of the Far East); Ssu-ma Ch’ien (Wade-Gilles transcription); Sīmǎ Qiān (accented pinyin); 司马迁(simplified characters)”.[51]

1771 – “The famous Se ma-tsiene, to whom the Chinese, from their high esteem of him, have given the name of Tai ssecong, or father of history…”[24, p.191] I could be wrong about the spelling of “Tai ssecong”. The “o” doesn’t connect in the print I was looking at.

1827 – “On its appearance, the posthumous title of Sse-thoung-tsen, which is one of the dignities of the imperial college, was conferred by the Emperor on its author; and the still more honourable appellation of ‘ Father of History ‘ was applied to him by universal consent.”[50, p.246]

1840 – “Szema Tseen, the most celebrated of the Chinese historians, who has been called the father of history and the Herodotus of China, was, as we have seen, the son of a man, himself distinguished as a writer of history; an art in which many of his countrymen have since excelled.”[37, p.211]

1840 – “He was the second son of Szema Che, one of the ministers of the emperor Jin-tsung of the Song Dynasty, and believed to be of the same family with Szema Tseën, who is regarded as the father of history in China.”[37, p.274]

1901 – “So far as China is concerned, the art of writing history may be said to have been created during the period under review. SSU-MA CH’IEN, the so-called Father of History…”[38, p.102]

2013 – “The Chinese generally manage to do things first, but Herodotus’ history of the Persian invasions of Greece was written in the fifth century BC, some three centuries before Ssu-ma Ch’ien, the Chinese ‘father of history’, was born.”[45, p.42]


Thucydides (c.460-c.400)

Thucydides has been called the “father of scientific history”.[6]

1903 – “He may be regarded as the father of scientific history.”[7, p.287]

1922 – “…Thucydides has been reckoned the father of scientific history.”[10, p.279]

1937 – “Thucydides was the father of scientific history.”[14, p.7]

1940 – Thucydides was called the “father of scientific history”.[15, p.253]

1990 – Thucydides was called the father of scientific history.[19, p.250]

2006 – “Thucydides … is known as the father of scientific history for his reliance on first-hand accounts, or primary sources.”[13, p.87]

2007 – “Though we know of earlier historians, many writers consider Thucydides to be the father of history. This is because, in their opinion, his History of the Peloponnesian War is the earliest example of serious historical research.”[42, p.354]

2012 – “…the ancient Greek Thucydides, the fabled ‘father of history’…”[48, p.47]

2012 – “If Herodotus is the Father of History, then Thucydides is the father of modern, critical history (though this view of Thucydides has become controversial).”[47, p.2]

2013 – “Thucydides (460-399 B.C.) True Father of History[46, p.103]

Onofrio Panvinio

Onofrio Panvinio (1529-1568)

c.1600 – According to Bauer, Justus Lipsius called Onofrio Panvinio the “true and principle father of history…”. Also according to Bauer, Joseph Justus Scaliger repeatedly called Panvinio the “father of history”.[52, p.7-8]

1794 – “He died 1568, having, it is said, acquired the title of The Father of History.”[31, OPP]

1810 – “He … was so skilled in historical knowledge, that he was called the Father of History.”[33, OP]

Leopold von Ranke

Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886)

In 1950, Ranke was called the “long recognized “father of “scientific history””.[4, p.499]

1966 – “Leopold Von Ranke (1795-1886) … is rightly termed the father of scientific history.”[17, p.8]

1987 – “There has been, perhaps most pronounced in the United States at the turn of the century, a persistent misconception of Ranke as the ‘father of scientific history‘, the model historian who was determined to hold strictly to the facts of history, to preach no sermon. Did the pedants who reduced Ranke’s historiography to such ‘soulless positivism’ ever read him one wonders…”[18, p.55]

In 2004, Ranke was called the “often credited … father of “Scientific History””.[5, p.981]

In 2005, Sculle noted that it was not accurate to call Ranke the father of scientific history, which indirectly noted Ranke’s reputation as such.[6, p.26]

In 2008, McIntire called Ranke the “putative father of scientific history”.[11, p.166]

Herbert Baxter Adams

Herbert Baxter Adams (1850-1901)

1941 – The New York Board of Education called Herbert Baxter Adams the “father of scientific history”[16, p.31]

In 2008, James G. Hollandsworth said, “…Stone invoked the name of Herbert Baxter Adams, the father of scientific history whose program of professional training at John Hopkins had greatly influenced the contemporary generation of historians.”.[12, p.252]

Henry Thomas Buckle

Henry Thomas Buckle (1821-1862)

1972 – “Viana’s position is aligned with that of the positivist historian Thomas Buckle whom he admires and calls “the father of scientific history”.”[20, p.39]

Georg W. F. Hegel

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)

1993 – “George F. Hegel (again wrongly called the father of dialectics) had turned history to appear an exact science, and very successfully. And yet Hegel is little heard of as the ‘founding father’ of ‘scientific history’. An interesting ‘oversight’ by scholars.”[21, p.3]


Potentially Homer was called the “Father of History” in 1775.[29, p.485]

1820 – Homer was singled out as “…almost the father of history…”[34, p.3]

1908 – “The Greeks rightly regarded Homer as the father of history.”[39, p.49]


1825 – The Biblical Moses was identified as the “Father of History”.[35, p.10]

Dr. David Ramsay

1836 – “The citizens of the United States have long regarded him (Dr. Ramsay) as the father of history in the New World; and he has always been ranked among those on whom America must depend for her literary character.”[36, pp.5-6]


2010 – “EGYPT has been called “The Father of History and the Mother of Civilization” and well may she be called both for her influence upon the ancient world must have been great.”[44, p.1]


1998 – “Xenophanes was a poet and rhapsode, and he was an historian, perhaps the real father of history.”[43, p.33]

Jean Bodin

In 1909, Sloane commented that Jean Bodin (1530-1596) “…would have been the father of scientific history…” “Had he combined with his own thoughts (Methodus ad facilem Historiarum Cognitionem) the one great thought of Aristotle…”.[8, p.53]


1778 – Someone was called the “father of history”. I haven’t yet been able to see who was being referring to.[30, p.19]

1809 – Someone was called the “father of history”. I haven’t yet been able to see who was being referred to.[32, p.290]

In 1914, Lescarbot provided a footnote that said “A celebrated French historian of the sixteenth century, who may almost be called the father of scientific history in modern times”. I have not yet been able to review the page that this footnote is located on and so I do not know who he was referencing.[9, p.207]

1968 – Someone was called the “father of history”. I haven’t yet been able to see who was being referred to.[40, p.53]

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[1] – Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

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[6] – Accessed 7 Dec. 2020.

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2 Comments on “The Fathers of History

  1. 1. Herodot is well & truly referred to as „Father of History“ in modern European cultures; I read in several languages and that is the consensus.
    But Herodotus also has been variously called a „confabulist“ by his contemporaries abd later generations. This is due to his faith, often misplaced, in orally transmitted folklore.
    2. Sima Qian has been the Father of Chinese History for a simple reason: Historiography was the province of the emperor who delegated this task to an official. Sima Qian was the 2nd historian appointed by an emperor; the Chinese empire had only been created a century earlier. China was the result of a hegemon seeking to control agricultural kingdoms; the united China became expansionist under Han emperor Wudi, Sima’s employer.
    The history Sima composed contained even the chronicles of peoples not yet conquered by the new Chinese empire. Sima’s version was not the version favoured by Han Wudi; he hid it (to protect himself from the emperor’s wrath) and died, leaving his labour of a lifetime safe in the house of his sister. This os how an original manyscript came into the hands of posterity, and this explains why nobody in the intervening centuries modified its contents.
    Sima too went about his business by interviewing & faithfulky recording folkloric storytellers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Stephen
    Step One: Herodotus and the Question of Greek Indentity

    College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University …
    Evans, J. A. S. “Father of History or Father of Lies; The Reputation of Herodotus.” The Classical Journal. 64, no. 1 (October 1968): 12. O. Kimball Armayor, even calls into question the validity of Herodotus’ sources in the article “Did Herodotus Ever Go to Egypt.” His conclusion is especially damning, as he states that … explains what Herodotus was aiming at (or whovever it was actually ‘writing’ as Herodotus …)

    Liked by 1 person

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