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Droysen and the Prussian School of History

Droysen and the Prussian School of History

Robert Southard
Copyright Date: 1995
Edition: 1
Pages: 256
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    Droysen and the Prussian School of History
    Book Description:

    The Prussian School of History first predicted and advocated, then celebrated and defended, the unification of Germany by Prussia. Experts in German historiography and the history of German liberalism have often complained about the lack of a book, in any language, that traces the origins and explains the ideas of this school of history. Here is that book.

    Robert Southard finds that, for the Prussian School, history had an agenda. These historians generally expected history to complete its main tasks in their own time and country. The outcome of their politics was, really, an "end of history" -- not a cessation to historical occurrences, but a cessation of onward historical movement because the historical process had already achieved its long-term, beneficent purposes.

    Leading us through the intricacies of important but untranslated works of J. G. Droysen, Max Duncker, Rudolph Hayn, and Heinrich von Sybel, Southard demonstrates their belief that the historical sequence was a continual unfolding of God's plan. Indispensable for those interested in the history of German historical writing, this book also has major implications for understanding the history of political liberalism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4973-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. [Map]
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    The Prussian or “Little German” (kleindeutsch) School of history is normally defined in terms of the political program that its adherents advanced: the unification of Germany, without Austria’s German provinces, as a constitutional monarchy under the Hohenzollern. This definition by political program is understandable. Their major political outlook is more recognizable than the theories that underlie it, and in their mature works, historians such as Johann Gustav Droysen (1808–86), Heinrich von Sybel (1817–95), and Heinrich von Treitschke (1834–96) were stridently pro-Prussian in their German nationalism. Moreover, they enjoyed the celebrity that comes from being on the winning...

  6. 1 Droysen and the Problem of Freedom
    (pp. 10-31)

    The Prussian School took form because of the severe disappointments of the revolutionary years 1848–49, but those disappointments are intelligible only after studying the expectations that, after seeming triumph, failed badly. For the most part, that is, the mature ideas of the Prussian School were transmutations and recombinations of prerevolutionary ideas made when successive defeats and failures at last forced Droysen, Duncker, and Haym—along with, of course, many other liberal nationalists—to reexamine and, then, to reformulate beliefs that until recently had seemed unquestionable and irrefutable. These men went through a crisis that few others experienced, even those...

  7. 2 Droysen: Interpretation and Prediction
    (pp. 32-68)

    In the 1840s Droysen turned to prediction. This was less a new departure than a logical extension of ideas he had long held. In the preceding decade he had linked past and present by identifying historical life with human freedom and the historical process with the search for an eventual solution to the problem that freedom posed. His critical revision of Hegel’s philosophy in the light of Augustinian theology enabled him, or so he thought, to trace the continual realization of divine purpose in the historical record. The result was an extraordinary burst of political activity, especially after 1845. As...

  8. 3 Parallel Careers: Duncker, Haym, Sybel
    (pp. 69-111)

    While Droysen moved from ancient into modern history and used his historical expertise to supply predictive analysis and advice in the crises over Schleswig-Holstein and in observing the abortive convening of the Prussian United Diet, his future allies and collaborators—Duncker, Haym, and Sybel—were also beginning their careers as scholars and as partisans. Their early works show neither the theoretical grasp nor the historical range of Droysen’s, both because they were younger than he and, frankly, because they could not match Droysen, who possessed one of the greatest historical imaginations of all times. Their early ideas demand study, nonetheless,...

  9. 4 Expectation and Action: March to May 1848
    (pp. 112-134)

    Droysen, Duncker, Haym, and Sybel misread their situation and prospects in spring 1848 for understandable reasons. A brief glance at the political world in which they moved will explain why this was the case. On 22 February the barricades went up in Paris. Two days later, Louis Philippe, France’s Orleanist monarch since 1830, fled to London while Alphonse Lamartine, author of a four-volume history in verse of the French Revolution of 1789, formed a provisional government for the Second Republic. With memories of that revolution very much in mind, the German princes hastily introduced reforms and installed popular governments when...

  10. 5 In the National Assembly: May to August
    (pp. 135-161)

    On 18 May the National Assembly began its sessions in Frankfort’s St. Paul’s Church, a recently built and ungainly red-stone structure never actually consecrated for divine services. Germany had no real parliamentary experience, and the confusion and disorganization of the early sessions should have been depressing, but Droysen, Duncker; and Haym—who were attending deputies—were again optimistic during the first weeks of the assembly’s existence. It gave them a focus for their political energies, and the fact of its meeting served as a measure of how much things had changed since March.¹ Droysen’s correspondence and diary entries nicely illustrate...

  11. 6 Crisis and Reconstruction
    (pp. 162-193)

    By late summer, unexpected events had severely stressed the optimism that Droysen, Duncker, and Haym felt after the question of the provisional executive had been resolved in late June. In several important respects, Droysen had briefly changed his political program, though not yet his vision of history, and Haym now thought that unification could be achieved only with greater difficulty and after greater compromise than he had earlier supposed. These changes in outlook, however, were only partial and, to some extent, temporary. It took more than Prussian obduracy in the face of the provisional government’s decrees to force them to...

  12. 7 Toward the Prussian School
    (pp. 194-215)

    The disappointing spring of 1849 forced Droysen and his colleagues to modify further their historical and political thinking. The result was the historical outlook called the Prussian School, an outlook still optimistic about the Prusso-German future but now more self-consciously realist and more focused on military force and moral will. It is worth noting that this change occurred while they were still fairly young. They had long careers ahead of them in which to follow the implications of the ideas they devised. Droysen, the eldest, was forty-one in 1849. Duncker was thirty-eight, Sybel thirty-two, and Haym a youthful twenty-eight. This...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 216-235)
  14. Suggested Readings
    (pp. 236-242)
  15. Index
    (pp. 243-247)