The Eleven Fathers of History: A Summary Of The First Study Into Who Has Been Called The Father Of History And When

It was in the December 2020 that I decided to conduct a study into who all had been called the father of history (or father of scientific history) and when they had been called it. To this day (28 Jan, 2021), I’m still not aware of any other study that is similar to this one. This article summarizes the results of my original study to make them clearer and easier to comprehend. You can read the original study here: https://ctruth.today/2020/12/10/the-fathers-of-history/.[1]

In total, I found eleven people who had been dubbed the father of history/scientific history. One limitation of this study is that I restricted my results to English only. This means that this study only covers this particular titling trend in the English language. The exception to this limitation being the earliest known instance of dubbing someone the father of history (which was done in Latin). This study adds new locations to the map which represents the territory that is intellectual history.

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The earliest person to be called the father of history was Herodotus (C5th BCE). Tradition maintains that he was first called as such by Cicero’s On the Laws in the 1st century BCE. The earliest mention of this in English dates to 1695. Herodotus gained this title for his works known as The Histories, which have long served as a foundational source for Western history. Herodotus is the only person I know of who was called the father of history in antiquity and throughout the middle ages.

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The second person is Onofrio Panvinio (1529-1568) and he was called the father of history supposedly by the time he died. The earliest mention in text that I’ve heard about dates to around 1600. Joseph Scaliger (1540-1609), the man titled the father of chronology, allegedly called Panvinio the father of history. Scaliger was also known to their contemporaries as the most learned man in Europe, and to my knowledge, his only rival for that position was Isaac Casaubon (1559-1614).

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Panvinio won his title for his works on antiquity and church history. The scholarship on Panvinio appears to me to be sparse. There’s one scholar I know of that has spent considerable time learning about and writing about Panvinio. That scholar is Stefan Bauer and in 2019, he published the some 300 page work known as “The Invention of Papal History: Onofrio Panvinio Between Renaissance and Catholic Reform“.

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Third up is Sima Qian (C2nd-1st BCE). In 1771, he was called the father of history, and in 1840, he was called the Herodotus of China. He gained recognition for his Records of the Grand Historian, a foundational source for Chinese history.

Fourth on the list is the Biblical Moses. He was called the father of history in 1825. I think he was called this because the first 5 books of the Bible are traditionally held to have been written by him.

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In the Western world during the early to mid-1800’s, there was a popular belief that the Bible contained the only reliable information about the early ages of the world. While this belief was even more prominent in the few preceding centuries, by the end of the 1800’s it had been mostly discarded. Additionally, during this century and the last, there have been a number of debates about whether or not Moses even existed. All of this aside, he was called the father of history in 1825.

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Fifth is Dr. David Ramsay (1749-1815). He was called the father of history in 1836 for his works on American history, the first of which was published in 1785 when he was around 35 years old. The last of his publications was a history of the world from the earliest known records to the year 1808. Allegedly, he held this reputation among United States citizens for quite some time. However, I only saw one mention of him being called this (the mention from 1836) when I did my original study.

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Sixth is Thucydides (C5th BCE). In 1903, he was called the father of scientific history, and in 2007, he was called the father of history. He won his title by his use of primary sources for writing his History of the Peloponnesian War. The methods of Thucydides are sometimes discussed in opposition to those of Herodotus, the first person I mentioned on this list. While there is a debate to be had about the differences in methodology, I think the title “father of scientific history” is generally used to distinguish the methods of Thucydides as superior.

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Seventh is Homer (C8th or C9th BCE). I think potentially Homer was called the father of history in 1775. In 1820, he was singled out as “…almost the father of history…”. And finally in 1908, one source claimed that the Greeks “… regarded Homer as the father of history”. As with Moses, questions have been raised and arguments have been made about whether or not Homer was ever a real person. As my dating for when he lived shows, there is even debate as to when he would have lived if he was in fact a real person at one point in time.

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Number eight is Herbert Baxter Adams (1850-1901). In 1941, the New York Board of Education became the first to call Adams the father of scientific history. Based on a brief review of the titles of his works, it appears to me that he gained his reputation for his works revolving around historical method and American history. The only other source I found titling Adams as such was from 2008.

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Ninth is Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886). In 1950, he was called the “long recognized father of scientific history”. He gained renowned mainly for his works on European history and his efforts to further develop the discipline of history beyond that of the state in which he encountered it. As with most of the names on this list, there is debate about whether or not he deserves the title that he’s been given.

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Tenth is Henry Thomas Buckle (1821-1862). In 1972, Garganigo mentioned that Viana called Buckle the father of scientific history. He wrote a fair bit on the history of England and I think this might be one of the reasons he gained his title.

And last but not least, number eleven is George F. Hegel (1770-1831). Known mostly for his works on philosophy, in 1993, Hegel was crowned the “founding father of scientific history” by Awuondo.

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Why Hegel was named as such, I’m not entirely sure. I am interested in learning more about that if anyone reading this can point me in the right direction.

To summarize this summary, reportedly only one person had been called the father of history until the 16th century. One new name was added to the register in the 18th century, 2 new names in the 19th century, 6 in the 20th, and 1 in the 21st.

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Here are some questions for future research or discussion:

1 – What makes someone the “father of history” or the “father of scientific history”?

2 – Is there a true father of history, a person that has the right to claim the title?

3 – What all did my study miss or get wrong?

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References:

[1] – https://ctruth.today/2020/12/10/the-fathers-of-history/. Accessed 28 Jan. 2021.

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