He studied at the universities of Bonn and Berlin, where he received his PhD in 1846. In 1847 he moved to England, where he served as private secretary to Baron von Bunsen, the Prussian ambassador in London. In 1852–55 he studied history in Edinburgh, Oxford, Cambridge and London. In 1855 he returned to Germany, and successively became a professor of history at the universities of Rostock, Tübingen, Marburg and Göttingen. In 1866 he left the University of Tübingen because of his political views.