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This essay presents the ways in which a crucial transition has been made the object of erudite reasoning. This transition concerns the passage from a vision of universal history based on chronological and historical calculation, as attested in Francesco Bianchini’s (1662-1729) Istoria Universale (1697), aimed at confirming the historical truth of the Holy Scriptures and reconstructing the events of humankind in a global time and space, towards a historical-philosophical analysis, focused on the progress and decline of civilizations, on the basis of their discoveries in various fields of knowledge. Herder, who thought of himself as one of the greatest innovators of eighteenth-century historiography, especially due to his Ideen (1784-1791), reflected on how to overcome the missing link between the reconstruction of sacred history and the profane history of ancient civilizations as well as on how to highlight the cultural achievements of different peoples. In the late 1760s, he envisaged a solution simultaneously developed by historian Johann Christoph Gatterer, thus inaugurating a genealogical method designed for the study of the past. Just like Gatterer, Herder criticized the systematic setup of J.J. Winckelmann’s Geschichte der Kunst des Althertums (1764), taking – as argued here – Antoine-Yves Goguet’s De l’origine des loix, des arts, et des sciences; et de leurs progrès chez les anciens peuples (1758) as his model. Within a few years, Goguet’s work was translated across Europe. Winckelmann certainly knew this work, but did not explicitly mention it for reasons of methodological convenience, since Goguet considered – among other things – the role of the Greeks in the ancient world to be overestimated.