Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

Famous scholars from Kiel:

Georg Waitz

Born in Flensburg, Georg Waitz was Professor of History at the CAU from 1842 to 1848. Like his predecessor in this chair – Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann – he was active in the national movement.

Waitz is known among other things for his co-editorship of a major bibliographic work on German history – the Dahlmann-Waitz. Waitz continued the bibliography of sources and literature on German history "Quellenkunde der deutschen Geschichte", which was begun by Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann (1785 - 1860) and first published in 1830, after Dahlmann's death. This standard reference work of historical research now runs to 12 volumes. Waitz edited numerous medieval texts and also wrote an eight-volume German constitutional history from the 12th century between 1844 and 1878 as well as a two-volume history of Schleswig-Holstein in 1851-52. According to Professor Thomas Riis from the Institute of History a further notable work which is relatively unknown in Germany is Waitz's study of the Mayor of Lübeck Jürgen Wullenwever and his involvement in the Danish civil war 1534-1536.

Georg Waitz was born in Flensburg in the Duchy of Schleswig on 9th October 1813 and spent his youth there. "However, my family came from Hesse and further back from Thuringia", as Waitz wrote in a brief autobiography in his work "Deutsche Kaiser von Karl dem Großen bis Maximilian" (German Emperors from Charlemagne to Maximilian) published in 1862. Waitz had already discovered his love of history during his upper school days. He studied history, law, philosophy and Protestant theology at the universities of Kiel and Berlin from 1832 to 1836. Waitz was one of the first historians to receive a modern historical training. The German historian Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886) had being offereing his revolutionary instruction in source criticism since 1824 and Waitz became acquainted with the craft of editing source texts through his work on the Monumenta Germaniae Historica. After successfully completing his doctorate he left Berlin in 1836 to work as an assistant to Georg Heinrich Pertz (1795-1876) on the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, the central collection of German mediaeval sources. "I spent 5.5 years here, including the time spent on journeys, and it was time both agreeably and usefully spent."

By his own account he was involved in the constitutional struggles which began with the accession of the Hanoverian King Ernest Augustus I in 1837. "These years were also important in many respects in forming my political views". He became acquainted with Dahlmann as well as the brothers Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm on travels to Göttingen.

Waitz was appointed Professor of History in Kiel in 1842. He took up his appointment at the CAU in October of that year. Shortly before he married Clara Schelling, a daughter of the philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling (1775-1854). In Kiel he began to work on early German constitutional history. The first volume of "Deutsche Verfassungsgeschichte" (History of the German Constitution) was published in 1844 and the second volume in 1847. Alongside his lecturing and writing Waitz also became, like his predecessors and successors, secretary of the Schleswig-Holstein-Lauenburg Society for Regional History.

He became a member of the Holstein Assembly of the Estates in 1846. In the same year he was a co-signatory to a declaration presented to Christian VIII on the succession in Schleswig, which led to him being expelled by the Danish government. Waitz continued to work for the indivisibility of Schleswig-Holstein and Schleswig's membership of the German Confederation. From 18th May 1848 to 20th May 1849 Waitz sat in the Frankfurt National Assembly in the Paulskirche for the constituency of Kiel and was a member of the assembly's constitutional committee. Riis: "Waitz was not, however, in the first rank of the political movement like Dahlmann."

In the summer of 1847 Waitz was offered an appointment in Göttingen; the University of Kiel attempted to keep him in Kiel with an increase in salary, but the government turned down the request. Waitz left Kiel at Easter 1848. Under his leadership the Historical Faculty at the University of Göttingen achieved worldwide renown as the "Göttingen historical school"; for example the founder of the French Revue Historique Gabriel Monod studied under Waitz in Göttingen. Waitz became president of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica. He died in Berlin on 24th May 1886.

Kerstin Nees

1) Georg Waitz: übeck unter Jürgen Wullenwever und die europäische Politik, I-III, Berlin 1855 – 1856

More Information: Source criticism

Source criticism

Traditionally modern academic history differs from its precursors through the principles of source criticism, which was first consciously practised by the historians Ranke and Niebuhr. Later other authors, including Georg Waitz, further refined these principles. Source criticism refers to methods used to investigate the significance and value of historical testimonies. Its goal is to reconstruct how and why the historical source material was created. Its motto is that one can only understand texts by placing them back in their original context.

In the source-critical method only sources whose information has been examined using the principles of source criticism should be used in historical writing. The comparison of different sources with each other is also a principle of source criticism. If several different sources report the same facts independently of each another, then these facts are considered to be reliable.

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