Friedrich Meinecke

Friedrich Meinecke

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Friedrich Meinecke was a liberal
Liberalism
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

 German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 historian, probably the most famous German historian of his generation. As a representative of an older tradition still writing after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, he was an important figure to the end of his life.

Life


Meinecke was born in Salzwedel
Salzwedel
Salzwedel of Altmarkkreis Salzwedel, and has a population of approximately 21,500. Salzwedel is located on the German Framework Road.-Geography:...

 in the Province of Saxony
Province of Saxony
The Province of Saxony was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia and later the Free State of Prussia from 1816 until 1945. Its capital was Magdeburg.-History:The province was created in 1816 out of the following territories:...

. He was educated at the University of Bonn
University of Bonn
The University of Bonn is a public research university located in Bonn, Germany. Founded in its present form in 1818, as the linear successor of earlier academic institutions, the University of Bonn is today one of the leading universities in Germany. The University of Bonn offers a large number...

 and the University of Berlin. In 1887-1901 he worked as an archivist at the German State Archives. He served as editor of the journal, Historische Zeitschrift between 1896 and 1935, and was the chairman of the Historische Reichskommission from 1928 to 1935.

Meinecke was best known for his work on 18th-19th century German intellectual and cultural history. The book that made his reputation was his 1908 work Weltbürgertum und Nationalstaat (Cosmopolitanism and the National State), which traced the development of national feelings in the 19th century. Starting with Die Idee der Staatsräson (1924), much of his work concerns the conflict between Kratos (power) and Ethos (morality), and how to achieve a balance between the two.

Under the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

, Meinecke had called for more democracy
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. One of his students was Heinrich Brüning
Heinrich Brüning
Heinrich Brüning was Chancellor of Germany from 1930 to 1932, during the Weimar Republic. He was the longest serving Chancellor of the Weimar Republic, and remains a controversial figure in German politics....

, the future Chancellor. Under the Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

, Meinecke was an Vernunftsrepublikaner (republican by reason), someone who supported the republic as the least bad alternative. Under the Third Reich, he had some sympathy for the regime, especially in regard to its early anti-semitic laws. After 1935, Meinecke fell into a state of semi-disgrace, and was removed as editor of the Historische Zeitschrift. Though Meinecke remained in public a supporter of the Nazi regime
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

, in private he became increasing bothered by what he regarded as the violence and crudeness of the Nazis. Meinecke's best known book, Die Deutsche Katastrophe (The German Catastrophe) of 1946, sees the historian attempting to reconcile his lifelong belief in authoritarian state power with the disastrous events of 1933-45. His explanation for the success of National Socialism
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 points to the legacy of Prussian militarism in Germany, the effects of rapid industrialisation and the weaknesses of the middle classes, though Meinecke also asserts that Hitlerism benefited from a series of unfortunate accidents, which had no connection with the earlier developments in German history. In 1948, he helped to found the Free University of Berlin
Free University of Berlin
Freie Universität Berlin is one of the leading and most prestigious research universities in Germany and continental Europe. It distinguishes itself through its modern and international character. It is the largest of the four universities in Berlin. Research at the university is focused on the...

.

British historian E. H. Carr  cites him as an example of a historian whose views are heavily influenced by the zeitgeist
Zeitgeist
Zeitgeist is "the spirit of the times" or "the spirit of the age."Zeitgeist is the general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual or political climate within a nation or even specific groups, along with the general ambiance, morals, sociocultural direction, and mood associated with an era.The...

: liberal during the German Empire, discouraged during the interwar period, and deeply pessimistic after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.

Works

  • Das Leben des Generalfeldmarschalls Hermann von Boyen (2 volumes, 1896–1899) (The Life of Field Marshal Hermann von Boyen)
  • Das Zeitalter der deutschen Erhebung, 1795-1815 (1906) (The Coming of Age of Germany)
  • Weltbürgertum und Nationalstaat: Studien zur Genesis des deutschen Nationalstaates (1908) (Cosmopolitanism and the Nationstate: Studies in the Beginning of the German Nationstates)
  • Radowitz und die deutsche Revolution (1913) (Radowitz and the German Revolution)
  • Die Idee der Staatsräson in der neueren Geschichte (1924) (The Idea of the Reason of State in Revisionist History)
  • Geschichte des deutsch-englischen Bündnisproblems, 1890-1901 (1927) (The History of German-English Partnership Problems)
  • Staat und Persönlickeit (1933) (State and Personality)
  • Die Entstehung des Historismus (2 volumes, 1936) (The Origin of Historicism)
  • Die deutsche Katastrophe: Betrachtungen und Erinnerungen (1946) (The German Catastrophe: Contemplations and Recollections)
  • 1848: Eine Säkularbetrachtung (1948) (1848: The Year in Review)
  • Werke (9 volumes, 1957–1979) (Works)

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