Cultural History Before Burckhardt

This project starts with Peiresc and, first, establishes his connection to the Benedictines (Peiresc was the absentee abbey from 1619 of the Bendictine Abbey of Notre Dame de Guitres across the Gironde from Bordeaux) and in particular to the Congregation of S. Maur. It will then suggest continuities between Peiresc’s practice and that associated with this Congregation, in particular, in the second half of the 17th century. This first essay, as yet unwritten, will conclude with a discussion of Mabillon aimed to show that much of what we take to be original with him actually reaches back to the antiquarianism of Peiresc and his friends.

A second chapter starts with Mabillon’s codification of the unsystematic working practices of people like Peiresc and follows this story through the establishment of the historische Hilfswissenschaften in Germany. Close examination of leading texts will show not only that this constitutes the first “curriculum” of material culture studies, but that in gross it maintains the momentum of antiquarian scholarship.

A third chapter shifts the scene from the university curriculum at the beginning of the nineteenth century, to the local history societies (Geschichtsvereine, historische Vereine). In their periodical literature we see the subject matter of the Hilfswissenschaften liberated from a subordinate pedagogic role and being treated as evidence for history of different German lands. But because of the nature of the material survival, this was not a history of political events, but of social and cultural life.

A fourth chapter looks at the beginning of cultural history. It emerged at precisely the moment when the patriotic local history literature reached a critical mass, in the 1840s. I examine the connection between material evidence and cultural history through the work of Gustav Friedrich Klemm.

A fifth chapter examines the institutionalization of this new nexus between material evidence and cultural history: the museum. The Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nürnburg was a fruit of the regional history association movement, had Klemm on its board, and published a journal entitled Zeitschrift für deutsche Kulturgeschichte. The story of the museum’s founding and early years takes the history of antiquarianism’s impact up through publication of Burckhardt’s Kultur der Renaissance in Italien (1860).

The final chapter is something of a coda, focusing on a next generation which, after a deep caesura, marks the beginning of an era of studying material and cultural evidence that continues to the present day. The key figure here is Karl Lamprecht.

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