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Henrich Steffens

Ein politischer Professor in Umbruchzeiten 1806–1819

Marit Bergner

Diese mentalitätsgeschichtlich angelegte Studie untersucht den norwegischen Naturphilosophen Henrich Steffens (1773–1845), Gelehrter an den preußischen Universitäten Halle, Breslau und Berlin. Erstmals fasst sie ihn als politischen Professor, öffentlichen Kommentator der preußischen Politik und (Mit-)Initiator politischer Ereignisse im Kontext der nationsbildenden Jahre in Preußen. Henrich Steffens war Fürsprecher der autonomen und souveränen Wissenschaft, Leutnant im Krieg gegen Napoleon und wurde 1818 in der Breslauer Turnfehde durch die Ablehnung einer erzwungenen Nationsbildung zum Gegner der deutschen Nationalbewegung. Neben seinen in den Jahren 1806 bis 1819 publizierten politischen Schriften bilden auch private und behördliche Briefwechsel sowie seine Autobiographie den Quellenschwerpunkt.

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Abstract

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Henrich Steffens is primarily known as a German natural philosopher (Natur- philosoph) and for his ten-volume autobiography. As a scholar in the Kingdom of Prussia, Steffens lived in the so-called Sattelzeit, a time of change, predominantly marked by the Napoleonic Wars and the early phase of German Nationalism. In the years from 1806 to 1819, Steffens published no longer in the field of the natural philosophy (Naturphilosophie); instead he focussed on political writings using his professorship to comment political issues (politischer Professor). In a famous speech at the University of Breslau (Wroclaw), Steffens called onto his students to follow him into the war against Napoleon (1813–14), in which he himself would fight in the rank of lieutenant. Even more important for his reception in the public’s view was Steffens’ involvement during the so-called Breslauer Turnfehde in 1818, a public dispute of Breslau educators, arguing for and against the usefulness of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn’s patriotic oriented gymnastics movement (Turnbewegung), which demanded a national unification as a German nation-state. While Steffens was still part of the early German nationalist movement in 1813, he positioned himself in Breslau in 1818 in the front line of the opponents of the gymnastics movement and the German national education as proclaimed by Johann Gottlieb Fichte. The Breslauer Turnfehde constitutes the main part in this thesis, where, for the very first time, the questions of why and how the phi- losopher Steffens positioned himself on political issues in Prussia between 1806 and 1819 are addressed. Steffens’...

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