Bibliographische Daten

Kienitz, Otto; von Borries, Emil: Die Hauptereignisse der römischen Kaiserzeit. Deutsche Geschichte bis zum Ende des Dreißigjährigen Krieges, Sonderausgabe für Südwestdeutschland. Pfeifers Lehrbuch der Geschichte für höhere Lehranstalten, Vol. 5. Ferdinand Hirt Verlag, 1911, 67–74.

Charlemagne as National Counter-Image to Europe by Herfordt, Ewa (2018)

The textbook, published by the Ferdinand Hirt publishing house in Breslau, is written entirely in the spirit of the Wilhelmine educational policy, whose aim was to form ‘young Germans and not young Greeks or Romans’. The textbook covers German history from the end of the Roman Empire until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. In so doing, the authors present a linear narrative from Roman antiquity and the Germanic Empire of the migration period through to the Middle Ages. Thus, German national history is traced back to the Imperium Romanum.

The sub-chapter, selected here, about Charlemagne, which is taken from the third part entitled ‘The Frankish Empire under the Carolingians’, highlights Charlemagne’s importance for the development of the German nation. He appears as the unifier of all the Germanic tribes on the mainland and as the innovator of the Western Roman Empire – whose universal empire united the Roman and Germanic populations in the occident. As ‘German Emperor’,” who possessed the same ‘power of the earlier roman emperors’,” he was placed in a line of tradition along with the Roman emperors. The Frankish Empire is thus interpreted as the successor to the Roman Empire and Charlemagne defined as the ‘first German Emperor’.

All components of the concept of the occident are to be found in other places in the textbook depiction of Charlemagne: Roman antiquity, Germanic-Frankish, and Christian traditions are merged into a romantic model of a ‘Christian occident’ which has been very popular since the nineteenth century, and which veils what is in fact (in geographical terms) exclusively western Europe. However, the textbook’s frame of reference is not Europe, but solely the German nation, which is placed within a Christian-Germanic tradition and is described as the successor to the Roman Empire. Charlemagne is appropriated and ‘nationalised’ as the German Emperor. The similarly potential interpretation of Charlemagne as the founding father of Europe and benefactor of occidental culture, as the ‘pater Europae’, cannot yet be discerned here. This perception gained in significance most noticeably after the end of the Second World War. Shortly before the beginning of the First World War, Charlemagne appeared in the national historiography of the German Empire rather as the national antithesis of Europe.

Bibliography

  • Clauss, Martin, Seidenfuß, Manfred (eds.), Das Bild des Mittelalters in europäischen Schulbüchern (Geschichtsdidaktik in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart, vol. 5), Berlin, Lit-Verlag, 2007.
  • Heydorn, Heinz-Joachim, Zur Bildungsgeschichte des deutschen Imperialismus. Einleitung zur Neuherausgabe der Preußischen Schulkonferenzen 1890/1900 und der Reichsschulkonferenz von 1920, Glashütten/i. Taunus, Auvermann, 1973.
  • Krüger, Gerhard, Die Stellung Karls des Großen in der deutschen und europäischen Geschichte, in: Vergangenheit und Gegenwart 32 (1942).
  • Schallenberger, Horst, Untersuchungen zum Geschichtsbild der Wilhelminischen Ära und der Weimarer Republik: eine vergleichende Analyse deutscher Schulgeschichtsbücher aus der Zeit 1888-1933, Ratingen/b. Düsseldorf, Henn, 1964.
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