Arno Borst

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Arno Borst (born May 8, 1925 in Alzenau , † April 24, 2007 in Konstanz ) was a German historian . He is considered one of the most important medievalists of the 20th century.

Live and act

Arno Borst was born the son of a school councilor and a teacher and grew up in Brendlorenzen . From 1935 he attended the Gymnasium Münnerstadt , where he graduated from high school in 1943. After Reich labor service , military service and prisoner of war , Borst studied from 1945 to 1951 at the Georg-August University of Göttingen and Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich , where he received a scholarship from the Maximilianeum Foundation , and in 1951 he was in Göttingen with a thesis supervised by Percy Ernst Schramm Cathars to Dr. phil. PhD. Then was bristle assistant at the University of Muenster in Herbert Grundmann , where he met with a basic history of ideas habilitation thesis on the history of the theories on the origin of languages 1957th From 1961 he worked as an adjunct professor in Münster and in 1962 followed a call as full professor at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg . Six years later, he moved to the newly founded University of Konstanz to the chair of Middle and Modern History. From 1987 to 1990 he held a special endowed professorship of the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft in Konstanz. In 1990 he retired. From 1969 to 1970 Arno Borst was Vice Rector of the University of Konstanz.

The focus of Borst's research is on medieval history, but less on the classic fields of political, legal and constitutional history, and more on the history of everyday life , mentality , ideas, science and social history . Borst was one of the few historians who covered almost the entire spectrum of the Middle Ages from approx. 500 to 1500. Based on a thorough mastery of the philological , palaeographic and codicological fundamentals, he was able to study the sources in the original language and, if they were still unpublished, to edit, explain and evaluate them from the manuscripts and archives . He was introduced to palaeography and manuscript studies by Bernhard Bischoff , who also followed his further path with interest. He became internationally known with his 1973 published and repeatedly reissued social and history of mentalities plant life forms in the Middle Ages , which he considered one of the first German historian questions the French Annales school resumed, but without abstract theoretical discussions and esoteric terminology to abgewinnen something. In Mönche am Bodensee he also dealt with exemplary figures of medieval monasticism from the Lake Constance area such as Walahfrid Strabo and Hermann the Lame from the Reichenau monastery , the hermit Gallus and the abbots Otmar and Ulrich Rösch from the St. Gallen monastery , Abbot Gregor von Einsiedeln , Eberhard von Rohrdorf from the Cistercian Abbey of Salem , Provost Hermann of the Premonstratensian monastery in Weißenau , Heinrich Seuse from the Dominican monastery in Constance and the Carthusian Peter Thaler from the Ittingen Charterhouse . His favorite figure was the Benedictine Hermann the Lame, the Reichenau polymath, to whom he dedicated a number of essays and who is also the focus of the essay Astrolabe and Monastery Reform .

In addition, he also dealt with the Latin philology of the Middle Ages , modern history and computistics , which, under the overriding question of the understanding of time in the Middle Ages, became the main topic of his extraordinarily extensive research and publication activities after his retirement. His last work is his autobiography Meine Geschichte , which, edited and with an afterword by Gustav Seibt , was published posthumously in 2009 by Libelle-Verlag. It and the foreword to the three-volume writings published in 2006 on computistics in the Franconian Empire from 721 to 818 indicate that, despite his great publicity and numerous academic honors, Borst was among his colleagues because of his questions and questions that lie apart from the mainstream and traditional research areas of the discipline Paths of thought increasingly isolated and misunderstood: “Most representatives of medieval studies caused disillusionment, especially at German universities. They wanted to know less about the topic that thwarted their special studies and general theses than Grotefend or even Mommsen . ”His hopes linked to the founding of the Reform University in Konstanz had also been bitterly disappointed.

He achieved particular fame with his habilitation thesis, the aforementioned monumental, six-volume work on the phenomenon of the different languages ​​and peoples on earth, which according to the statements of the Old Testament should have occurred during the construction of the Tower of Babel : The Tower of Babel. History of opinions on the origin and diversity of languages ​​and peoples , for which he examined an abundance of late antique and medieval sources on this topic and on the emergence and delimitation of vernacular languages ​​from Latin. The researched time span of the work extends into the 20th century. For this fundamental work, which was published in four volumes between 1957 and 1963, he received the 1966 Prize of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences .

Borst had been a member of the Maximilianeum Foundation since 1949, a full member of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences since 1982, a corresponding member of the Braunschweigische Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft since 1986 and a corresponding member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences since 2003 . In addition, from 1983 to 1996 he was a full member of the Central Management of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica . Since 1996 Borst has also been chairman of the Arno Borst Foundation, which he set up to promote medieval history .


Fonts (selection)

A list of publications appeared in: Rudolf Schieffer, Gabriela Signori (Ed.): Arno Borst (1925–2007). (= Constance working group for medieval history. Lectures and research. Special vol. 53). Thorbecke, Ostfildern 2009, ISBN 978-3-7995-6763-3 , pp. 39-63 ( digitized version )


  • The Cathars (= Monumenta Germaniae Historica . Schriften. Vol. 12, ISSN  0080-6951 ). Hiersemann, Stuttgart 1953 (numerous editions; in French: Les Cathares. Payot, Paris 1984, ISBN 2-228-11421-9 ).
  • The Tower of Babel. History of opinions on the origin and diversity of languages ​​and peoples. 4 (in 6) volumes. Hiersemann, Stuttgart 1957–1963 (Unchanged reprint. (= Dtv 59028). Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-423-59028-9 );
    • Volume 1: Foundations and Structure. 1957;
    • Volume 2, Sub-Volume 1–2: Expansion. 1958-1959;
    • Volume 3, Part 1–2: Modification. 1960-1961;
    • Volume 4: Conclusions and Overviews. 1963.
  • Life forms in the Middle Ages. Propylaea, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1973, ISBN 3-549-07284-8 (Numerous editions and editions; In Chinese: Ou zhou Zhong gu sheng huo xing tai. Bai pian jing xuan shi liao dao du. 2 volumes. Fan shi shu wu, Xin bei shi 2011, ISBN 978-986-86446-1-8 (Vol. 1), ISBN 978-986-86446-2-5 (Vol. 2).
  • Monks on Lake Constance. 610–1525 (= Bodensee Library. Vol. 5). Thorbecke, Sigmaringen 1978, ISBN 3-7995-5005-4 (numerous editions); New edition 2010, Libelle Verlag (CH-Lengwil).
  • The medieval number battle game (= writings of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences, Philosophical-Historical Class. Supplements. Vol. 5). Winter, Heidelberg 1986, ISBN 3-533-03750-9 .
  • Barbarians, heretics and artists. Worlds of the Middle Ages. Piper, Munich et al. 1988, ISBN 3-492-03152-8 (In English: Medieval worlds. Barbarians, heretics and artists in the Middle Ages. Polity Press, Cambridge 1991, ISBN 0-7456-0735-7 ). The work was reissued in 2007 under the title: The World of the Middle Ages. Barbarians, heretics and artists. Nikol, Hamburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-937872-52-0 .
  • Riding across Lake Constance. Review of medieval movements. Libelle, Bottighofen 1992, ISBN 3-909081-52-5 .
  • The Carolingian calendar reform (= Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Schriften. Vol. 46). Hahn, Hannover 1998, ISBN 3-7752-5446-3 .
  • My story. Edited and with an afterword by Gustav Seibt . Libelle, Lengwil 2009, ISBN 978-3-905707-26-7 (autobiography, published posthumously).

Editorships and editions

  • The Carolingian imperial calendar and its tradition up to the 12th century (= Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Antiquitatis. 3: Libri memoriales. Vol. 2, 1–3). 3 volumes. Hahn, Hannover 2001, ISBN 3-7752-0902-6 ).
  • The dispute over the Carolingian calendar (= Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Studies and Texts. Vol. 36). Hahn, Hannover 2004, ISBN 3-7752-5736-5 .
  • Writings on computistics in the Franconian Empire from 721 to 818 (= Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Sources on the intellectual history of the Middle Ages. Vol. 21, 1-3). 3 volumes. Hahn, Hannover 2006, ISBN 3-7752-1021-0 .
  • Knighthood in the Middle Ages (= ways of research . Vol. 349). Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1976, ISBN 3-534-05705-8 .
  • Monasticism, episcopate and nobility at the time the Reichenau Monastery was founded (= Constance working group for medieval history. Lectures and research. Vol. 20). Thorbecke, Sigmaringen 1974, ISBN 3-7995-6620-1 .


  • Patrick Bahners : The person in his presence. Arno Borst, the author of “Lebensformen im Mittelalter”, gave an account of the form of his own life in his last book. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , November 27, 2009, No. 276, p. L11.
  • Patrick Bahners: Lifetime Aid Science. On the death of the historian Arno Borst. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , April 28, 2007, No. 99, p. 35.
  • Johannes Fried : Arno Borst 1925-2007. In: Historical magazine . Vol. 285, Issue 2, 2007, pp. 514-519.
  • Horst Fuhrmann : Arno Borst: May 8, 1925 - April 24, 2007. In: Yearbook of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences (2007) pp. 140–145. ( online )
  • Dieter Mertens : Arno Borst (8.5.1925–24.4.2007). In: Yearbook of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences for 2007. Heidelberg 2008, pp. 191–195.
  • Rudolf Schieffer : Obituary Arno Borst . In: German Archive for Research into the Middle Ages. Vol. 64, 2008, pp. 135-137. ( Digitized version )
  • Rudolf Schieffer, Gabriela Signori (eds.): Arno Borst (1925–2007). (= Constance working group for medieval history. Lectures and research. Special vol. 53). Thorbecke, Ostfildern 2009, ISBN 978-3-7995-6763-3 ( digitized version )
  • Award of the Historical College Prize. Part: 2: Second award of the Historical College Prize. Tasks, scholarship holders, writings of the historical college. (= Writings of the Historical College. Documentations. Vol. 4). Historical College, Munich 1987 ( digitized version )

Web links


  1. Horst Fuhrmann: Arno Borst: May 8, 1925 - April 24, 2007. In: Yearbook of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences (2007) pp. 140–145, here: p. 140.
  2. Borst, Arno. In: Linguist's Handbook. Biographical and bibliographical data of German-speaking linguists of the present. Vol. 2, Tübingen 1997, p. 92.
  3. To determine your own location, cf. but Borst, My Story (see Scriptures below), pp. 40–42.
  4. See Borst, Meine Geschichte (see below under Writings), p. 22; P. 53; P. 64.
  5. See Borst, Meine Geschichte (see below under Writings), pp. 38–39.
  6. Borst, Astrolab und Klosterreform at the turn of the millennium (see literature below).
  7. Borst, Schriften zur Komputistik (see below under Writings), pp. XI-XII. See also. Meine Geschichte (see below under Writings), pp. 28–29; P. 42; Pp. 111-112 (Seibt).
  8. See Borst, Meine Geschichte (see below under Writings), pp. 33–39; Pp. 108-110 (Seibt).