ABSTRACT

The need for a history of ‘culture’ sprang from deep roots in German historical consciousness. Lamprecht’s journal of 1894 merely retitled an existing one, the Zeitschrift für deutsche Kulturgeschichte, which two men in particular, Johannes Falke and Johann Müller, had helped inaugurate as early as 1856. (Gilbert 1990:84). An insistence on the Germanic character of Kultur followed predictably enough from the search for origins which we have noticed in the generation of Humboldt and the young Ranke; and its meaning proved limited in practice to a form of social history that tried to press exploration beyond the elites on whom historians normally concentrated. By the time Karl Lamprecht went up to Göttingen as an undergraduate in 1874, however, the connotations of a cultural history had begun the series of shifts which would eventually make two distinct patterns discernible. One of them reflected an interest in a new historical form arising from the history of art and literature as keys to understanding social perception and the limits of a period’s sense of itself. This tendency prowled around the edge of the German Empire in Switzerland, Belgium and Holland. The other predilection saw in Kultur a concept that associated intellectual and aesthetic prowess with a definite understanding of state-ascendancy and tied its analysis of German thought to the development of the Bismarckian Reich. Even Lamprecht, who dissociated himself from some aspects of this reduction of Kultur to Macht, found himself amid the dislocations of 1914 looking back on what he saw as an ‘extraordinarily strong distinction between west European cultural formation [Kulturverhalten] and the central European, especially German, one’; and he saw in the latter’s peculiarity ‘a close connection between state and nation’ (Lamprecht 1914:9, 11).