Paul Frédéricq.

The study of history in Germany and France; online

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History is past Politics and Politics present History Freeman






Profetior in the University of Ghent

AnthorM Translation from the Frenek Dy Henrietta Leonard, of PUlaietttii






The French titles of Professor Fredericq's papers are De V Enseiynement
Superieur de VHistoire en Allemagne and L" Enseignement Superieur de I'Histoire
d Paris. Notes et Impressions de Voyage. The following translations were
made, with Professor Fredericq's approbation, by Miss Henrietta Leonard,
A. B. (Smith College) of Philadelphia. It will be remembered that Miss
Leonard also translated Professor Fredericq's Notes and Impressions con-
cerning Advanced Instruction in History in England and Scotland, published
in the University Studies, Fifth Series, X, in October, 1887. Her transla-
tion of Fr^dericq's Study of History in Belgium and Holland may be
expected in the present series in the early summer.

In this connection, as contributing to the object of promoting historical
studies in America, the editor begs to note the recent publication in the
Papers of the American Historical Association, Vol. IV, Part 1, of Presi-
dent Charles Kendall Adams' Inaugural Address on Recent Historical
Work in the Colleges and Universities of Europe and America. This
address admirably supplements all previous contributions to the general
subject and brings the whole account to the present time.




I. The University of Berlin 7

II. Universities of Halle, Leipzig and Gottingen Students'

Historical Societies 24

University of Halle . 24

University of Leipzig 29

University of Gottingen 33

Historical Societies of Students 36

III. General Kemarks upon the Teaching of History in Germany, 41


L The College of France 56

II. The School of Charters 58

III.-The Higher Normal School .. 66

IV. The Practical School for Advanced Study 74

V. The Faculty of Arts, Master's Degree and History Fellow-
ships 94

VI. Conclusion.... .110


Having obtained from the minister of public instruction
leave to visit certain foreign universities for the purpose of
investigating their teaching of history, especially in practical
courses, I made two journeys in the cause, one in 1881 and
one in 1882. The pages that follow are merely notes of these
visits, not at all pretending to treat the numerous questions
which are raised by the distinction between theoretical and
practical courses of history. The reader must expect only
impressions, which I have reproduced as faithfully as possible.


Omitting ecclesiastical and literary history, history of
philosophy, law, arts and sciences, which furnish numerous
professorships and numerous practical courses, history proper
at the University of Berlin in th$ summer term of 1881 com-
prised the following courses: historical encyclopsedics and
methodology, Grecian paleography, Latin paleography, chro-
nology of the Middle Ages, diplomatics, history of Assyria
and Babylon, history of Athenian antiquities, sources of
Roman history, military history of feudal times, sources
of modern history from 1500-1815, modern history from
1648 to 1763, history of Germany from the Golden Bull to
the religious peace of Augsburg (1356-1555), history of polit-
ical institutions of Germany from the Golden Bull to the


8 History in Germany. [202

suppression of the empire by Napoleon I (1356-1809), history
of Prussia, history of the Seven Years' War, history of France
sixteen theoretical courses.

There were six practical courses under the direction of
Professors Waitz, Droysen, Mommsen, Bresslau, and the tutors
Koser and Delbriick. It must be remembered that the regular
number of courses had been reduced by two or three on account
of the death of Prof. Nitzsch. Compare this with the meagre
program of our Belgian universities which contains, when all
are told, seven purely theoretical courses : ancient history,
Greek and Roman antiquities, mediaeval history, modern his-
tory, history of Belgium and contemporary history ; this last
only since Easter, 1880, and as an optional course included
only in the examination for professeur agrege in history, a new
degree created in November, 1880.

In the first place I will speak briefly of the theoretical
courses I attended in Berlin. The most popular was that of
Prof, von Treitschke on the history of France. It was given in
a vast, isolated hall, built in the midst of the garden that lies
behind the University, and called Baralcken-auditorium, a
name expressive of the architectural simplicity of the great
scientific shed. This hall contains 25 long rows of seats ; in
each row 30 persons could easily be seated, thus making at
least 750 auditors seated in the hall. In winter, they told me,
the hall was filled at almost all the lectures given by Prof.
Treitschke ; during the summer term the numbers are smaller.
There must have been about 300 at each of the two lectures I
attended ; among them I noticed one field-officer and a few old
gentlemen, as at the Sorbonne, but the great majority were

This course of M. von Treitschke's is marvellous. The
professor is completely deaf and never hears himself speak ;
his delivery is extremely monotonous; his voice anxious,
sometimes harsh and choked like that of a deaf mute ; there
is no pause, not even for a second, between the different phrases
or parts of a phrase; periods follow one another in close

203] History in Germany. 9

succession, interrupted from time to time only by his breathing,
which usually breaks a phrase in two without any logical
reason ; his gesture is always the same and his head shakes
continually as if from some nervous affection. In spite of his
expression of sympathy and majestic kindness, the first impres-
sion he makes is very strange. The visitor is inclined to ask
how lectures thus given attract such an audience and win such
renown throughout Germany.

But at the end of a very few minutes the stranger is under
the charm. He forgets the voice, the gesture, the speaker
himself; for these confused and anxious phrases, poured out
in painful haste, are masterpieces. The listener is carried
away by the originality and daring frankness of the ideas,
the poetic beauty of their form and the generous warmth of
feeling they express. He accepts the strange-sounding voice
without further notice, just as one unresistingly submits to the
inarticulate and outrageous speech of the Englishman who
insists upon using his own mother tongue. The ear once
accustomed, the listener sits spellbound up to the moment
when M. Treitschke stops speaking with no other warning than
his final silence. One ought thus to pass from the first disap-
pointed astonishment to the succeeding enthusiastic admiration
in order to appreciate the fascination of this unique course. I
leave unmentioned the well-known reputation of this professor.
Even those whom he crushes with his hardest criticisms still
remain his most earnest auditors. There is, moreover, in his
clear eye and his frank, expressive face a good faith that dis-
arms in advance.

I shall long remember M. von Treitschke's lecture on France
in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Combining art,
religion and politics, he spoke of the French cathedrals of the
North and the South and gave a beautiful and strikingly true
description of the splendid church of St. Ouen at Rouen.
Then in a few words he pictured the naval battle of Sluys, in
the midst of which, according to a poetic legend, the Black
Prince, seated on a bowsprit, daringly sang a prophecy of the

10 History in Germany. [204

maritime greatness of England. He then spoke of the pop-
ular movements in Paris after the defeat at Poitiers, the first
appearance of those periodic convulsions of which the Com-
mune was the latest. He compared Stephen Marcel with
Jacques van Artevelde, der Weber -Konig king of the
weavers and vividly described Ghent and Bruges. He
then went on to speak of Pan, and of the Pyrenees, taking
occasion to describe the magnificent landscape in view from
the Chateau de Pau. Speaking of Isabelle of Bavaria, he
called her "the Bavarian Brunhilde of the fourteenth cen-
tury," etc. At every step he had a figure or word or picture,
always graphic and apt. The last and finest part of this lec-
ture was devoted to Joan of Arc, whom he warmly defended
from the sarcasms of Voltaire, comparing her to Garibaldi
in our century. " We must pardon such natures everything,"
he cried, " because they love much." This cold and colorless
analysis gives but a faint idea of the charm of M. von
Treitschke's extraordinary lectures.

According to the custom of German universities, M. von
Treitschke gave two courses ; one was free and public, this
year on the history of France ; the other, to which an admis-
sion fee was charged, treated the history of Prussia. This
last course was attended by about 50, 1 and was marked by the
same brilliant originality, although by less rhetoric, than that
on the history of France. One lecture on Wallenstein, Tilly
and Gustavus Adolphus was superb. The professor outlined,
enthusiastically, the religious and political plans of the great
Swedish king, described his death in vivid and even touching
words, and spoke from personal remembrance of the tomb of
the king in the noble church at Stockholm. One secret of
M. von Treitschke's power is his knowledge of all the monu-

1 One of them puzzled me greatly ; holding in his hand a long instrument
like a German pipe, he seemed to smoke with his right ear. I learned
afterward that he was a deaf man who could hear the lectures by means of
this singular apparatus.

205] History in Germany. 11

ments, towns and battle-fields he speaks of, whose images he
calls up in the best chosen words. He has a marvellous
plastic power.

While M. von Treitschke is in all the vigor of middle life,
M. Gustave Droysen is one of the veterans of advanced
teaching in Germany. His courses also are of lively interest.
I' can see him still, holding in his hand a little blue notebook
and leaning on a plain square desk, raised about a half yard
above his chair. He commenced in a low voice, after the
manner of great French teachers, in order to obtain complete
silence. We could have heard the step of a fly. Leaning over
his little blue book and turning upon his audience a look that
almost shattered his eyeglasses, he spoke of the falsifications
of history. It was in his course in encyclopsedics and meth-
odology. He spoke with profound disgust of the falsehoods
retailed under the name of history, and his habitual expression
of nervous discontent added much to the energy and pitiless
fire with which he treated his subject, compressing his lips and
emitting, from time to time, sighs of scorn and anger. Each
moment brought a brilliant witticism, always sharp and biting,
and eliciting a discreet smile from every listener. Sometimes
he discharged a shot at a historic character, sometimes he
jeered at a contemporary scholar, Schliemann, for example, or
one of his colleagues, whom he called by name. He treated
his subject with great originality, using abundant characteristic
examples and diabolical humor, which he apparently wished to
hide under a coldly comic manner of speaking. His lecture
ended amidst a burst of Homeric laughter, provoked by an
irresistible anecdote. I was never so much amused at a
university lecture not much to say, I admit but, besides, I
have rarely heard anything so serious and so solid. I was
inclined to cry with Horace : Omne tulit punctum qui miscuit
utile dulci !

But let no one suppose that all M. Droysen's lectures are
pyrotechnic displays of wit, though he uses irony with rare

12 History in Germany. [206

good humor, and his satirical style greatly enhances the real
originality of his ideas. 1

His course on modern history (1648-1763) was more ele-
mentary. As M. Droysen said to me, he was speaking to
beginners; nevertheless I admired the caustic humor, the
clearness and cleanness of his views, as well as the consummate
ease with which the professor read his notes, as if using none.
The theoretical course of M. Droysen's is counted among the
best in Germany.

Another character at Berlin is Prof. Ernst Curtius, author
of the poetic Griechische Geschichte which has delighted
every specialist. Although thin and below the medium
height, M. Curtius vaguely resembles M. Fre"re-Orban. He
has a magnificent head ; his features, of rare distinction, are
lighted by a calmly radiant expression. He speaks slowly,
piling up majestic images and weighing the great adjectives he
needs to express all his admiration for Greece.

The hall in which he gives his lectures on Athenian antiq-
uities seems to have been designed especially for the purpose.
It is quietly decorated with antique casts, celebrated busts and
bas-reliefs. Behind the professor's chair, fastened to the wall,
is a great plan of Athens and a long panorama of the town,
and of Attica with the sea and the hills sung by the poets. A
little further away hangs a fine photograph of the temple of
Theseus. All this lends particular attractiveness to the lecture
and permits the professor to use the topography of the country.
I heard him thus give an excellent lecture on the fortifications
of Athens and the fortified walls which connect the city with
the ports of Piraeus, Phalerum and Munychia.

Another lecture of M. Curtius's was entirely devoted to the
history of Athenian ceramics, from the earliest vases in clay,
naively marked with the signature of the potter, down to that

1 1 noticed that almost all the students were armed with the professor's
manual, Orundriss der Historik (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1875), a curious and obscure
work, which lacks the brilliant spontaneity of his lectures. [ Johann Gustav
Droysen died June 19, 1884.]

207] History in Germany. 13

of the period of decadence, which M. Curtius aptly termed
" the Attic rococo." He had brought a portfolio stuffed with
drawings, chromolithographs, photographs and reproductions
of all sorts, which he distributed amongst the pupils, to sup-
port his assertions. When the university clock sounded the
hour, it was to the amazement of the whole class ; so swiftly
and so profitably had the time passed.

M. Curtius had appointed the afternoon for a meeting at the
Museum of Antiquities, where he lectures each week on Greek
and Roman Archaeology. At his arrival the students who
were waiting, loitering through the collections, saluted him in
silence, and again put on their hats. M. Curtius remained
covered also, and straightway commenced his tour of archae-
ological demonstration. Armed with an ivory paper-folder
he moved from object to object, explaining, pointing out the
slightest peculiarities with the tip of his paper-folder, now
standing on tiptoe, now kneeling, the better to complete his
explanations. Once he fairly lay upon the ground before a
Greek tripod. Supported on his left elbow, and with his right
hand brandishing his faithful paper-cutter, he expatiated upon
the elegant form and the ravishing decorations of this little
chef-d'oeuvre. It is easy to believe that lectures given with
such enthusiasm, and by such a scholar, in a museum of the
first rank, would be of great value to the students.

The lecture I heard was concerned with minor points,
tripods, candelabra, vases in baked clay, etc. ; but, notwith-
standing, the professor infused into it a contagious enthusiasm
and a perfume of antiquity.

They told me that when M. Curtius took up statuary he
soared to the most majestic eloquence ; I easily believed it.

Among the other regular professors at the University of
Berlin who have attained fame throughout Europe, is the pale-
ographer, M. Wattenbach. He is the most modest and amia-
ble man imaginable. I attended one of his lectures on Latin
paleography. Most of the students were provided with the pro-
fessor's manual, Anleitung zur lateinischen Palceographie (3rd

14 History in Germany. [208

edition, Leipzig, 1878). M. Wattenbach showed the peculiar
characteristics of the writing of manuscripts of the fourth and
fifth centuries of our era, frequently tracing upon the black-
board the letters of which he was speaking. His lecture was
very scholarly, but it was given without the slightest ostenta-
tion and with charming good nature.

M. Bresslau is one of the ablest and busiest professors in
the University. In the summer terms of 1881, he was giving
a course in chronology, one in diplomatics and one in the his-
tory of the institutions of the ancient German Empire, besides
his practical exercises which I shall mention later.

I could not attend M. Bresslau's lectures on chronology.
He takes up the astronomical and technical part of the science,
the divers calendars and eras, the problems connected with
days, months, festivals and years ; the students practice calcu-
lating obscure dates by means of a Julian calendar, which the
professor gives them with the abstract of his lectures. 1

I heard two of M. Bresslau's lectures on the history of Ger-
man institutions. He passed in review the judiciary functions
of the ancient German empire. In connection with each office
he cited some of those who had filled it and gave a sort of
biographical sketch of the most active of them. He spoke
with great volubility, nodding his head and darting keen
glances at his pupils through his glasses, whose continual
sparkling seemed to add animation and encouragement to his
words. The amiable and conscientious man continually cited
sources and referred to monographs, accurately and methodi-
cally. He had an audience of about 60.

His course in diplomatics also seemed to me excellent. The
pupils had in hand a collection of Latin charters, pub-
lished by the professor himself under the title, DIPLOMATA
CENTUM in usum scholarum diplomaticarum edidit et anno-
tationibus illustravit Henricus Bresslau (Berlin, 1872). M.

1 Guiidriss zu Vorlesungen iiber Mittdalterliche Chronologic, by Harry Bress-
lau, 2nd ed. fac-simile, Berlin, 1881.

209] History in Germany. 15

Bresslau commented upon and compared with one another
several imperial charters of the Middle Ages, his pupils mean-
while examining the texts. He showed how very important
historical consequences can be traced to certain words of an
authentic document. He made a minute dissection of the
imperial documents and with skilful hand developed results
as solid as they were surprising. The pupil who follows such
a delicate operation in its minute details must acquire not only
sound ideas but, besides, a trustworthy method of using
charters in the study of history. These students read the
documents and frequently had to answer questions put by the
professor. They were thus constantly on the alert and played
an active part in the lecture, which was on the border line
between didactic theory and practical exercise. I admired the
inspiriting vivacity of the professor, transforming the dryest
teaching to active and interesting work.

Dr. Koser, tutor (privat-docent), devoted four hours a week
to the study of sources of modern history from 1500 to 1815.
His lecture was full and very conscientious and I learned
many things from it. M. Koser estimated correctly the
worth of the principal authors who have written upon modern
history. I heard him define very clearly the scope of the
revolution brought about by Voltaire, who borrowed his new
method in his letters on history, in part, from his friend, Lord
Bolingbroke. M. Koser then passed in review the official
historiographers and gave the history of this singular public
function from the fifteenth century. Then he spoke of
memoirs relating to modern history and criticised, among
others, the Commentaires of Charles Y, which M. Kervyn de
Lettenhove discovered one day at Paris and published. This
course of M. Koser's requires an immense amount of study
and is an excellent guide for the students.

Dr. Seeck, a tutor, gave a course upon sources of Roman
history. The lecture I attended had for its topic a most inter-
esting question : the historical value of Polybius. M. Seeck
treated his subject with great clearness, power and remarkable

16 History in Get^many. [210

warmth. Being little versed in ancient history, I dare not
pass a fuller criticism. I was pleased to hear that M. Seeck
is appointed professeur extraordinaire at the University of

All these theoretical courses made a vivid impression upon
me; but it was the practical courses which struck me most and
at which I fairly marvelled.

I regretted very much that it was impossible for me to
attend the Historische Uebungen of Prof. Droysen and Prof.
Mommsen ; but these eminent scholars would grant me no
admission. They excused themselves on the ground that their
practical courses were open only to matriculates and that the
criticism suffered there was too severe and pitiless to permit the
presence of a stranger. I also regret that M. Mommsen did
not give his theoretical course that summer, and I was thus
altogether deprived of hearing the illustrious scholar.

I have no information concerning M. Mominsen's practical
course, but it appears in the program under the title Uebungen
aus dem Gebiet der romische Geschichte, privatissime imd unent-
geltlich. M. Droy sen's was named, Uebungen der historischen
Gesellschaftj offentlich. (The last word seemed to me ill-chosen
to express the professor's idea.) I am told M. Droysen proceeds
as follows : At the beginning of each semester he indicates
upon a blackboard, for his picked students, a series of sub-
jects relative to one period, embracing not more than ten,
twenty, or thirty years. Twice during the year he changes
this field so as to cover during the course all modern history.
The students work under his direction to settle vexed questions
proposed by the professor, and submit to him papers, which are
discussed and carefully criticised. They form thus an historical
society, meeting M. Droysen once a week, from six till eight
in the evening.

But if I cannot describe the method of M. Mommsen and
M. Droysen, fortunately I have learned that of another prince
of the science ; M. Waitz, the celebrated successor of Pertz in
the direction of the Monumenta Germaniae historica, very



211] History in Gvmwy. ^,

^ ,^,~^^^^

kindly admitted me to his historische Uebungen, although the
program named them as given privatissime. Formerly a pro-
fessor at the University of Gottingen, and its glory, he is not
a professor at the University of Berlin ; but, as a member of
the Royal Academy of Sciences, he has the right to teach there.
He uses his right generously, giving a familiar practical
course. He devotes two hours on Friday evening of each
week to this work, and receives his pupils in his study.

M. Waitz is in all the vigor of robust old age (he was born
in 1813); with his hair still unwhitened, he seems in the
prime of life. His countenance beams with sovereign calm
and dignity and marked affability. I cannot tell why he
reminded me of an English lord, for he is a native of Holstein.
Two mahogany tables were loaded with musty books ; around
these tables nine students were seated, and M. Waitz took his
place upon a sofa near them and commenced the lesson. He
was engaged upon a detail of the time of Charles Martel,
which they were studying at the same time in the Gesta
Trevirorum, the Historia Remensis, in Flodoard, in the Vita
Rigoberti, etc. The students were laboring to determine, under
Mr. Waitz's direction, to what extent these chronicles were
copies one of another, and in what respects they differed. M.
Waitz quietly and constantly put his questions, raised objec-
tions and came to the rescue of the floundering with perfect
tact and unvarying serenity. The most ancient editions of the
old chronicles were in the students' hands, intensifying the
mediaeval savor of this excellent course. Once, when one of
the class made a new observation, M. Waitz cried out : " I
have learned something myself on a subject I thought I had

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