From the Imitation of Words to Semantic Integration. Translation as Transfer of Culture
Translation traps form a constant part of the historian’s daily work. This article first focuses on the different heuristic and hermeneutic dimensions of translations from the historian’s point of view: the diachronic translation from past phenomena into an analytical language of the present, and the synchronic comparison and implicit translation of seemingly “similar” concepts such as “revolution” or “nation” between past societies. However these past concepts cannot be translated without semantic transformations. Based on a concrete analysis of liberal and liberalism as contemporary key-concepts of the political and social vocabulary since the end of the eighteenth and at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the article reconstructs how French, German, Italian and English contemporaries perceived of these new concepts and how they interpreted them, how these concepts and their semantics were exported and imported and where the obvious limits of such transformations from one society to the other can be observed. Translation is thus understood as an asymmetrical cultural transfer, in which it is not precision of transfer and translation that matters for the historian, but rather the mechanisms and contexts of cultural transfers themselves.
Kurz-Bio: Jörn Leonhard
Historiker, Lehrstuhl für Westeuropäische Geschichte am Historischen Seminar der Universität Freiburg, Gründungsdirektor (zusammen mit Prof. Dr. Ulrich Herbert) der School of History des Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies (FRIAS). Forschungsschwerpunkte: Europäischer Liberalismus, Krieg und Nation, Begriffsgeschichte, Historische Semantik.