Open Access (free)

Series:

Johan Östling

In the twenty-first century, intense debates concerning the university have flared up in Germany. An underlying factor is the general feeling that the country's once so excellent universities have been irredeemably left behind. This book anchors the current debate about the university in the past by exploring the history and varying meanings of the tradition of Wilhelm von Humboldt. It first provides a history of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the history and content of the Humboldtian tradition. Humboldt was involved in Greek antiquity, theory of education, Prussian educational system, and comparative linguistics. If, in spite of this versatility, a comprehensive idea, his Lebensthema, is to be found, it would have to be human beings and their Education. The book discusses the contributions of Adolf von Harnack and Eduard Spranger who emphasised Humboldt as a prominent figure in German university history. It focuses on three of the most influential figures in the post-war debate on the university: philosopher Karl Jaspers, historian Gerhard Ritter, and Germanic philologist Werner Richter. The 150th anniversary celebrations of the university in 1960 saw the eastern Berlin academia claiming to be the bearers of the true Humboldtian spirit and the west demonstrating itself as taking over Humboldt's original idea. The years following 2000 saw most European countries realising university reforms without any notable opposition, but in Germany the Bologna process gave rise to heated discussions in the public sphere.

Open Access (free)

Series:

Johan Östling

This chapter first presents a framework drawn from intellectual history and the history of knowledge which may provide university history with relevant themes and methods. Based on German evidence, Matthias Asche and Stefan Gerber argue that university history as a genre has flourished in periods of academic crisis and rapid change. During the decades around the year 1800, the university and its understanding of itself was rocked to its foundations, and this seems to have given rise to a need for examining the historical development of the institution. The chapter then explores the history of the Humboldtian tradition during the modern era: how it has been interpreted and transformed, and how it has provided direction to the debate on the idea of the university. It further provides an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book.

Open Access (free)

Series:

Johan Östling

This chapter discusses the ideas of Wilhelm von Humboldt and the establishment of the Berlin university. Following a brief interlude in Berlin, Humboldt functioned as a Prussian diplomat at the Holy See in 1802-08. During sixteen productive months, from February 1809 to June 1810, he would leave a deep impression on the educational system. Humboldt's efforts were initially focused on breathing life into and reforming the Prussian school system. In 1809, he sent the official letter to the Prussian king Frederick William III about establishing a new university in Berlin. The King approved the proposal. Humboldt was as much a practically disposed as a theoretically orientated man, and his idea about Bildung emerges most concretely in the proposals, memoranda, and drafts that he wrote during his years as a Prussian minister. Next to Bildung, the idea of science and scholarship (Wissenschaft) was a cornerstone in Humboldt's conception of the university.

Open Access (free)

Series:

Johan Östling

This chapter details a survey of the Wilhelm von Humboldt renaissance in the period around the year 1900 and the reform proposals of the subsequent decades. Sylvia Paletschek has analysed the place of Humboldt in the early twentieth-century academic debate. She has spoken of 'the discovery of Humboldt' around the year 1900. The debates from the Weimar era on the principles of the German university were framed by extensive demands for academic reform. Karl Jaspers was typical of the Weimar Republic in that he formulated a holistic ideal for the university. From the perspective of university history Martin Heidegger's speech was a part of an extended German debate on the basic academic issues. Heidegger cherished a dream of a different kind of institution, a vision that entailed a break with all ideas on the university as an autonomous institution.

Open Access (free)

Series:

Johan Östling

In the years of occupation after the Second World War, the German debate was characterised by a desire to examine and vitalise the academic heritage. This chapter concentrates on three of the most influential figures in the post-war debate on the German university: philosopher Karl Jaspers, historian Gerhard Ritter, and Germanic philologist Werner Richter. All were older mandarins and all had similar generational experiences: they were born in the 1880s, they had been professors of the humanities during the 1920s, and they had opposed Nazism in different ways. The proposals that Jaspers, Ritter, Richter, and several others formulated during the early post-war period were anything but timeless; they were expressions of the experiences and ideals of a particular generation. These debaters sought a rebirth of the university, but what they witnessed was the swan song of the mandarins.

Open Access (free)

Series:

Johan Östling

This chapter discusses some of the most significant contributions to the early 1960s discussion on the idea of the German university to a fairly thorough analysis. On the basis of knowledge of the interwar years and the first post-war years, there is reason to ask in what way these contributions mirrored the academic situation of the time. The general conditions, the growth of student numbers, the birth of the mass university and the large-scale social planning, had their analogies in other countries. Also, their sweeping changes brought about an investigation of the classic academic tradition. The chapter also focuses on the concrete, time-bound manifestations of the long Humboldtian line. It further focuses on a person named Helmut Schelsky who brought Wilhelm von Humboldt into the centre of the debate on the development of the modern university.

Open Access (free)

Series:

Johan Östling

In most European countries the reform was realised without any notable opposition, but in Germany the Bologna process gave rise to heated discussions in the public sphere. In this chapter, the early twenty-first-century Bologna process is linked to the Humboldtian tradition and to the overarching importance of that tradition in modern-day Germany. The chapter argues that it is possible to reconcile a critical understanding of the Humboldtian tradition with support for several of its fundamental ideas. An intellectual reflection over fundamental academic ideals has been at the centre of the investigation of the Humboldtian tradition's changing meanings in German history. This reflection is viewed from a perspective of intellectual history as well as of the history of knowledge. It has become an analysis of university history, both as related to distinct periods and with regard to changes over the long timeline.