Bibliographic data

Neubauer, Friedrich: Deutsche Geschichte bis zum Westfälischen Frieden (Unterprima). Lehrbuch der Geschichte für höhere Lehranstalten. Halle: Buchhandlung des Waisenhauses Halle/Saale, 10th ed. [10. Aufl.], 1908, 91.

The Emergence of European Knighthood out of the Crusades by Herfordt, Ewa (2018)

This textbook, which was written for use in the lower sixth form of German secondary schools, begins (typically for the curriculum of a ‘Prussian-German school’ adhering to state governance) German history with the prehistory of the Germanic peoples, culminates with the foundation of the empire by Charlemagne, and ends with the Peace of Westphalia. In some instances, Neubauer refers to European and non-European history. The source presented here is taken from the passage about ‘The Outcome of the Crusades’ and can be found in the third chapter called ‘The Age of the Hohenstaufens’, which in turn is to be found in the context of ‘The German Empire (919-1250)’. This section deals briefly with the Crusades on a number of occasions, with a summary of the outcome of this event, which fills about one page. It gives details of the emergence of the religious and military order of knights – Templars, Knights of the Order of St. John, and the Teutonic Knights – as well as the economic privileges enjoyed by the Italian city-states following the expansion of long-distance trade, including the scientific influence of the Orient, all of which constituted the most important effects of the Crusades ‘for Occidental culture’.

The integration of the knighthood ‘into a confraternity which encompassed the whole of Christian Europe’ is presented as a further result of the Crusades, and constitutes at the same time a universal point of reference which, though not described in detail by the author, reveals the complex parallels between Europe and each of the nations. Neubauer writes in terms of the ‘Christian colonies conquered in the east’, which were short-lived. The ‘European immigration’ in Syria is interpreted as a prerequisite for the ‘cultivation’ of this country ‘in a European manner’. Its failure, according to the author, lay in the poor political leadership of the crusading states and in the small numbers of immigrants, among whom there were only a small number of farmers. Western culture, or the ‘cultural mission’ of Europe, is of interest in this context: ‘Europe’ is used as a politically charged word. The pupil is given the impression that this cultural mission serves a ‘holy’ purpose, that is, a firm and unquestionable justification for outward expansion.

Indeed, in this context the German-Prussian enthusiasm for unification was expansive, and was supposed to be ‘mobilised’ in order to compete with the colonial states of England and France after the turn of the century. The task of consolidating the nation is upheld as a condition for being taken seriously as a negotiating partner in the Christian Occident, that is, in the eyes of the other major European powers (Pingel 1988). On the eve of the world war, the aim was to lend legitimacy to the outward expansion of the empire. However, the defence of the Occident by one denomination, which had given rise to a ‘bellicose community of fate’ in the form of Europe’s knighthood, does not make Europe more visible, but rather the extent to which the state has been ‘constructed’ ideologically in the years preceding the First World War (Bergmann 1982).

History, along with the History of the Middle Ages in Germany, had a central place within the canon of traditional core subjects taught towards the end of the Wilhelmine Empire. The central topics to be taught in the weekly three-hour upper level history lesson were laid down by the privy councillor Matthias in his ‘Negotiations Concerning Questions about Upper Level Teaching in 1900’, and are to be found in a short passage about historical representations at the beginning of the book. In this passage, German history is subsumed to Prussian history, while European history is subsumed to ‘world history’. The treatment of the imperial cult and the history of war reveal the influence of the political language of imperial Germany at a time when the Empire was striving to achieve international standing. The idea of the unification of European states was not well received in the public discourse of the Wilhemine Empire. Instead, the late nineteenth century saw the rise of the idea of laying claim to greater territories along with the continuing idea of Central Europe, which had become topical in the wake of the foundation of the Empire (Burkdorf 1999). These topics are not brought into focus by Neubauer. Instead, he suggests that political and moral values are the key to understanding how the ‘great men’ acquired ‘world’ status, while the collective force of the nation gradually evolves as a fundamental category. Despite this, it was clear from as early as 1908 that, in part, ‘schools had conformed to imperialism’ (Burkdorf).


  • Bergmann, Klaus, Imperialistische Tendenzen in Geschichtsdidaktik und Geschichtsunterricht ab 1890, in: Bergmann, K. u.a. (eds.), Gesellschaft – Staat – Geschichtsunterricht. Beiträge zu einer Geschichte der Geschichtsdidaktik und des Geschichtsunterrichts von 1500 bis 1980, Düsseldorf, Pädagog. Verlag Schwann, 1982, pp. 190-217.
  • Burgdorf, W., „Chimäre Europa“’: antieuropäische Diskurse in Deutschland 1648-1999, Bochum, Winkler, 1999.
  • Kawerau, S., Denkschrift über die deutschen Geschichts- und Lesebücher vor allem seit 1923, Berlin, Hensel, 1927.
  • Mommsen, M.J., Die Mitteleuropaidee und die Mitteleuropapläne im Deutschen Reich, in: (02.05.2018).
  • Pingel, F., Geschichtsbücher zwischen Kaiserreich und Gegenwart, in: Verband der Geschichtslehrer Deutschlands (ed.), Geschichtsunterricht und Geschichtsdidaktik vom Kaiserreich bis zur Gegenwart, Stuttgart, Klett, 1988, pp. 242-262.
  • Schallenberger; H., Untersuchungen zum Geschichtsbild der Wilhelminischen Ära und der Weimarer Republik: eine vergleichende Analyse deutscher Schulgeschichtsbücher aus der Zeit 1888-1933, Ratingen, Henn, 1964.

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