The introductory chapter defines the book's major aim, which lies in investigating the life‐work of five historians in comparative and transnational perspective and ascertaining their place in the intellectual landscape of nineteenth‐century historiography. They are: Joachim Lelewel (Polish, 1786–1861), Simonas Daukantas (Lithuanian, 1793–1864), František Palacký (Czech, 1798–1876), Mihály Horváth (Hungarian, 1804–78), Mihail Kogălniceanu (Romanian, 1818–91). The chapter surveys existing literature and identifies a gap in historiographical literature that exists between large‐scale general accounts and individual case studies and defines the book's scope between these two categories. It takes issue with the widely held view that smaller and marginal historical traditions were necessarily ‘backward’ and thus incapable of producing worthwhile contributions. It also challenges other established perceptions regarding the differences between nationalism in Western and Eastern Europe, especially with the view that intense political engagement was a trait peculiar to historians of Eastern Europe. It then goes on to address the methodological difficulties inherent in transnational comparison and, finally, introduces the major themes of the book.
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