Georg Waitz

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Bust of Georg Waitz.

Georg Waitz (9 October 1813 – 24 May 1886) was a German historian and politician. Waitz is often spoken of as the chief disciple of Leopold von Ranke, though perhaps in general characteristics and mental attitude he has more affinity with Georg Heinrich Pertz or Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann. His special domain was medieval German history, and he rarely travelled beyond it.

Biography[edit]

He was born at Flensburg, in the duchy of Schleswig, and educated at the Flensburg gymnasium and the universities of Kiel and Berlin. The influence of Ranke early diverted him from his original purpose of studying law, and while still a student he began that series of researches in German medieval history which was to be his life's work.

On graduating at Berlin in August 1836, Waitz went to Hanover to assist Pertz in the great national work of publishing the Monumenta Germaniae historica; and the energy and learning he displayed in that position won him a summons to the chair of history at Kiel in 1842. The young professor soon began to take an interest in politics, and in 1846 entered the provincial diet as representative of his university. His leanings were strongly German, so that he became somewhat obnoxious to the Danish government, a fact which made an invitation in 1847 to become professor of history at Göttingen peculiarly acceptable.

The political events of 1848-1849, however, delayed his appearance in his new chair. When the German party in Schleswig and the duchy of Holstein rose against the Danish government during the First Schleswig War, Waitz hastened to place himself at the service of the provisional government. He was sent to Berlin to represent the interests of the duchies there, and during his absence he was elected by Kiel as a delegate to the Frankfurt Parliament. Waitz was an adherent of the party who were eager to bring about a union of the German states under a German emperor; and when King Frederick William IV of Prussia declined the imperial crown the professor withdrew from the assembly in disappointment, and ended his active share in public life.

In the autumn of 1849 Waitz began his lectures at Göttingen. His style of speaking was dry and uninteresting; but the matter of his lectures was so practical and his teaching so sound that students were attracted in crowds to his lecture-room, and the reputation of the Göttingen historical school spread far and wide. At the same time Waitz's pen was not idle, and his industry is to be traced in the list of his works and in the Proceedings of the different historical societies to which he belonged.

In 1875 Waitz moved to Berlin to succeed Pertz as principal editor of the Monumenta Germaniae historica. In spite of advancing years the new editor threw himself into the work with all his former vigour, and took journeys to England, France and Italy to collate works preserved in these countries. He died at Berlin on 24 May 1886. He was twice married—in 1842 to a daughter of Schelling the philosopher, and in 1858 to a daughter of General von Hartmann.

The violinist Joseph Joachim attended Waitz's lectures in 1853.

Works[edit]

Waitz's chief works, apart from his contributions to the Monumenta, are:

  • Deutsche Verfassungsgeschichte (8 vols, Kiel, 1844–1878; 2nd ed., 2 vols only, 1865–1870)
  • Schleswig-Holsteins Geschichte (2 vols, Göttingen, 1851–1854; the 3rd vol. was never published)
  • Lübeck unter Jürgen Wullenwever und die europäische Politik (3 vols; Berlin, 1855–1856)
  • Grundzüge der Politik (Kiel, 1862)

Among his smaller works, which, however, indicate the line of his researches, are the following:

  • Jahrbücher des deutschen Reichs unter Heinrich I. (Berlin, 1837, 3rd ed., 1885)
  • Über das Leben und die Lehre des Ulfila (Hanover, 1840)
  • Das alte Recht der salischen Franken (Kiel, 1846)
  • Deutsche Kaiser von Karl dem Grossen bis Maximilian (Berlin, 1872)

In conjunction with other scholars Waitz took a leading part in the publication of the Forschungen zur deutschen Geschichte (Munich, 1862 seq.), and in the Nordalbingische Studien, published in the Proceedings of the Schleswig-Holstein Historical Society (Kiel, 1844–1851). A Bibliographische Übersicht über Waitz's Werke was published by Ernst Steindorff at Göttingen in 1886.

Obituary notices of Waitz are to be found in the Historische Zeitschrift, new series, vol. xx.; in the publications for 1886 of the Berlin Academie der Wissenschaften, the Göttingen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, and the Hansischer Geschichtsverein; in the Historisches Jahrbuch der Görres Gesellschaft, vol. viii.; and in the Revue historique, vol. xxxi.

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