Footnote from De Thou to Ranke-Grafton

Footnote from De Thou to Ranke-Grafton

The footnote is seen as an essential part of historical writing today. However, that was not always the case. In this article, Grafton discussed the history of the footnote. He explains how works before the footnote were written and how the footnote developed over time. He first begins by discussing Momigliano, who is credited with writing the longest footnote in history spanning over 150 pages. This footnote is seen as extremely articulate, however you would be hard pressed to find a footnote that long today.

Before the footnote, people would simply cite within their writing if they cited at all. However, as history became a more scientific practice people began to use footnotes to provide evidence of their arguements. It is important to note that footnotes are not universal. How footnotes are implimented in America is greatly different from Italy or Germany. Grafton describes what he believed to be the two tasks of historians: 1) examine all sources relevent to the solution of a problem; 2) construct a narrative from those sources. The footnote allows historians to demonstrate to readers that they have done their research. Their arguments are not simply beliefs, but hypothesis based on research and evidence.


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