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Heinrich von Treitschke

Heinrich von Treitschke (September 15, 1834 - April 28, 1896), German historian and political writer, was born at Dresden.

He was the son of an officer in the Saxon army who rose to be governor of Konigstein and military governor of Dresden. Young Treitschke was prevented by deafness from entering the public service. After studying at Leipzig[?] and Bonn, where he was a pupil of Dahlmann, he established himself as a privatdozent at Leipzig, lecturing on history and politics. He at once became very popular with the students, but his political opinions made it impossible for the Saxon government to appoint him to a professorship.

He was at that time a strong Liberal; he hoped to see Germany united into a single state with a parliamentary government, and that all the smaller states would be swept away. In 1863 he was appointed professor at Freiburg[?]; in 1866, at the outbreak of war, his sympathies with Prussia were so strong that he went to Berlin, became a Prussian subject, and was appointed editor of the Preussische Jahrbücher. A violent article, in which he demanded the annexation of Hanover and Saxony, and attacked with great bitterness the Saxon royal house, led to an estrangement from his father, who enjoyed the warm friendship of the king. It was only equalled in its ill humour by his attacks on Bavaria in 1870. After holding appointments at Kiel[?] and Heidelberg, he was in 1874 made professor at Berlin; he had already in 1871 become a member of the Reichstag, and from that time till his death he was one of the most prominent figures in the city.

On Sybel's death he succeeded him as editor of the Historische Zeitschrift. He had outgrown his early Liberalism and become the chief panegyrist of the house of Hohenzollern. He did more than any one to mould the minds of the rising generation, and he carried them with him even in his violent attacks on all opinions and all parties which appeared in any way to be injurious to the rising power of Germany. He supported the government in its attempts to subdue by legislation the Socialists, Poles and Catholics; and he was one of the few men of eminence who gave the sanction of his name to the attacks on the Jews which began in 1878. As a strong advocate of colonial expansion he was also a bitter enemy of Great Britain, and he was to a large extent responsible for the anti-British feeling of German Chauvinism during the last years of the 19th century. In the Reichstag he had originally been a member of the National Liberal party, but in 1879 he was the first to accept the new commercial policy of Bismarck, and in his later years he joined the Moderate Conservatives, but his deafness prevented him from taking a prominent part in debate.

As an historian Treitschke holds a very high place. He approached history as a politician and confined himself to those periods and characters in which great political problems were being worked out: above all, he was a patriotic historian, and he never wandered far from Prussia. His great achievement was the History of Germany in the Nineteenth Century. The first volume was published in 1879, and during the next sixteen years four more volumes appeared, but at his death he had only advanced to the year 1847. The work shows extreme diligence, and scrupulous care in the use of authorities. It is discursive and badly arranged, but it is marked by a power of style, a vigour of narrative, and a skill in delineation of character which give life to the most unattractive period of German history; notwithstanding the extreme spirit of partisanship and some faults of taste, it will remain a remarkable monument of literary ability. Besides this he wrote a number of biographical and historical essays, as well as numerous articles and papers on contemporary politics, of which some are valuable contributions to political thought.

The most important of the essays have been collected under the title Historische und politische Aufsatze (4 vols., Leipzig, 1896); a selection from his more controversial writings was made under the title Zehn Jahre deutscher Kämpfe; in 1896 a new volume appeared, called Deutsche Kämpfe, neue Folge. After his death his lectures on political subjects were published under the title Politik. He brought out also in 1856 a short volume of poems called Vater-ländische Gedichte, and another volume in the following year. The only works translated into English are two pamphlets on the war of 1870, What we demand from France (London, 1870), and The Fire-test of the North German Confederation (1870).

See Schiemann, Heinrich v. Treitschkes Lehr und Wanderjahre, 1836-1866 (Munich, 1896); Gustav Freitag und Heinrich v. Treitschke im Briefwechsel (Leipzig, 1900); Deutsche Rundschau (Oct. 1896); and article by JW Headlam, Hist. Rev. (Dec. 1897).

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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