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Gustav Freytag and the Prussian Gospel

Novels, Liberalism, and History


Larry L. Ping

Spanning the worlds of literature and the history profession, the Prussian novelist and historian Gustav Freytag (1816-95) was influential in shaping opinion for his generation of liberals. Best known as the author of the popular novel Soll und Haben (1855), Freytag represented the views of a generation of National Liberals in the debate over Jewish assimilation, political reform in Prussia, and German unification. This new study places Freytag in his proper political and social context as a member of an elite of academic historians and liberal publicists who promoted German unification. Alongside colleagues like Theodor Mommsen and Heinrich von Treitschke, Freytag worked to create a progressive, Prussian historical myth for the new Germany. Although the author addresses Freytag’s well-earned reputation for anti-Jewish prejudice, the primary focus of the work is to explore the mental world of a significant, but often overlooked, German historian. Focusing upon Gustav Freytag as a representative figure, this book explores the contribution of the German history profession to German liberalism and political culture.
Contents: Erinnerungen aus meinem Leben: Biedermeier Idyll – Soll und Haben: The Merchant as Hero – Soll und Haben, and the Liberal Critique of Ostjuden in the GründerzeitDie Verlorene Handschrift: The Historian as Hero – Kulturgeschichte and Kulturprotestantismus: The Case of «Doktor Luther» – The Prussian Gospel, Part I: The Thirty Years’ War – The Prussian Gospel, Part II: Frederick the Great – Gustav Freytag, The Bilder aus der deutschen Vergangenheit, and the Reich.