Gerhard Oestreich

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Gotthold Herbert Gerhard Oestreich (born May 2, 1910 in Zehden an der Oder , † February 5, 1978 in Kochel am See ) was a German historian with a focus on the early modern period . Oestreich held chairs for the history of political theories at the Otto Suhr Institute in Berlin (1960–1962), for Middle and Modern History at the University of Hamburg (1962–1966) and for Modern History at the University of Marburg (1966–1975). In the sixties and seventies he was one of the most influential representatives of the emerging German early modern research.

Live and act

Gerhard Oestreich was the son of a pastor. His mother worked as a teacher. After his father died in 1912, the family moved to Berlin . In 1929 he passed the Abitur at the Helmholtz Realgymnasium. Oestreich then studied history, German, religious studies and philosophy in Berlin and in the summer semester of 1935 in Heidelberg . He was particularly influenced by the academic teachers Robert Holtzmann , Hermann Oncken and Fritz Hartung . At Hartung in Berlin, he received his doctorate in 1935 with an administrative history work on the Brandenburg-Prussian Privy Council from the arrival of the Great Elector to the reorganization of 1651. As a DFG scholarship holder , he worked from 1935 to 1939 on the publication of the letters of the Prussian army reformer Gerhard von Scharnhorst . The results of the edition were lost in 1945. Oestreich was also employed as an assistant at the Defense Policy Institute of the University of Berlin from 1935 to 1939. There he tried to establish the new discipline of "military history". His habilitation failed because of the state of war in Berlin. In 1939 Oestreich was drafted into military service. During the Second World War he was taken prisoner by the Americans .

From 1947 to 1949 Oestreich was a research associate for the "Deutsche Literaturzeitung" at the German Academy of Sciences . At Verlag Walter de Gruyter he took over the management of the scientific editorial department in 1949 and published “ Kürschner's Scholars Calendar ” from 1950 to 1954 and “Minerva. Yearbook of the Learned World ”. He completed his habilitation in 1954 at the Free University of Berlin with the thesis Ancient Spirit and Modern State under Justus Lipsius (1547 to 1606) , which was only published posthumously (1989). At the German University of Politics , he taught first as a private then as a dietician. In 1958 he was appointed adjunct professor. In 1960 Oestreich was appointed associate professor to the newly established chair for the history of political theories at the Otto Suhr Institute ; a year later was appointed full professor. From April 1962 to December 1966 he held a chair for Middle and Modern History at the Department of History at the University of Hamburg . He then taught until his retirement in 1975 as a professor of modern history at the University of Marburg . He had refused an appointment at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen in the winter semester of 1966/67. In the 1960s, Oestreich was one of the founding editors of the legal and historical journal “ Der Staat ”. The constitutional historian Hartwig Brandt and the early modern researchers Thomas Klein and Kersten Krüger were among his academic students during the Hamburg and Marburg periods .

Oestreich is considered to be one of the co-creators of the " early modern era " as a separate specialist discipline within historical studies. With the term " social discipline " he coined , he provided an interpretative concept for the early modern nationalization process. His work on early parliamentarianism, the history of human rights and class research were groundbreaking. His constitutional overview “Constitutional history from the end of the Middle Ages to the end of the old Reich” in “ Gebhardt ”, the handbook on German history (1955) , also became fundamental . Oestreich re-edited the collected essays of the constitutional and social historian Otto Hintze from 1962 to 1967 in three volumes. He is the author of the first German-language monograph, which offers a general and comparative “history of human rights and fundamental freedoms”. He was a member of the Commission Internationale pour l'Histoire des Assemblées d'État , the Johannes Althusius Society and the Nederlands Historisch Genootschap .

Oestreich was married to Brigitta Oestreich (1925–2011) who published various studies and an edition on the historian Hedwig Hintze . He was buried in the old village cemetery in Kochel am See . In 1994 his widow set up an Oestreich Foundation at the University of Rostock in his honor. The foundation supports historical research in the field of the early modern period.

Fonts (selection)

A list of publications appeared in: Brigitta Oestreich (Ed.): Structural Problems of the Early Modern Age. Selected essays. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1980, ISBN 3-428-04635-8 , pp. 403-429.


  • The Brandenburg-Prussian Secret Council from the arrival of the Great Elector to the reorganization in 1651. A study of the history of authorities (= Berlin studies on modern history. H. 1, ZDB -ID 1449128-x ). Triltsch, Würzburg-Aumühle 1937 (also: Berlin, university, dissertation).
  • The idea of ​​human rights in its historical development (= spirit and knowledge. Vol. 6, ZDB -ID 254464-7 ). Völker, Düsseldorf 1951.
  • History of human rights and fundamental freedoms in outline (= historical research. Vol. 1, ISSN  0344-2012 ). Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1968.
  • The empire - Habsburg monarchy - Brandenburg-Prussia from 1648 to 1803. In: Theodor Schieder (Hrsg.): Handbuch der Europäische Geschichte. Volume 4: Fritz Wagner (Ed.): Europe in the age of absolutism and the enlightenment. Union-Verlag et al., Stuttgart 1968, pp. 378–475 (also special edition).
  • Spirit and figure of the early modern state. Selected essays. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1969.
  • Friedrich Wilhelm, the Great Elector (= personality and history. Vol. 65). Musterschmidt, Göttingen et al. 1971, ISBN 3-7881-0065-6 .
  • Constitutional history from the end of the Middle Ages to the end of the old empire (= Handbook of German History. Vol. 11 = dtv 4211 Scientific Series ). Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 1974, ISBN 3-423-04211-7 (several editions).
  • Friedrich Wilhelm I. Prussian absolutism, mercantilism, militarism (= personality and history. Vol. 96/97). Musterschmidt, Göttingen et al. 1977, ISBN 3-7881-0096-6 .
  • Structural problems of the early modern period. Selected essays. Edited by Brigitta Oestreich. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1980, ISBN 3-428-04635-8 .
  • Ancient spirit and modern state with Justus Lipsius (1547–1606). Neoicism as a political movement. (= Series of publications of the historical commission at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences , vol. 38). Edited and introduced by Nicolette Mout. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1989 (also: habilitation thesis, Free University Berlin 1954), ISBN 3-525-35938-1 .


  • Otto Hintze : Collected treatises. 2nd, expanded edition. 3 volumes. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1962–1967;
    • Volume 1: State and Constitution. Collected treatises on general constitutional history. 1962;
    • Volume 2: Sociology and History. Collected treatises on sociology, politics and the theory of history. 1964;
    • Volume 3: Government and Administration. Collected treatises on the state, legal and social history of Prussia. With person and subject index for the Collected Treatises Vol. 1–3. 1967.


Web links


  1. ^ Peter N. Miller: Nazis and Neo-Stoics: Otto Brunner and Gerhard Oestreich Before and After the Second World War. In: Past and Present. Vol. 176, 2002, pp. 144-186, here p. 169.
  2. On the concept of social disciplining: Lars Behrisch: Social disciplining. In: Friedrich Jäger (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Modern Times. Volume 12: Silver Subsidies. Metzler, Stuttgart et al. 2010, ISBN 978-3-476-02002-4 , Sp. 220-29; Winfried Schulze : Gerhard Oestreich's term “social discipline in the early modern times”. In: Zeitschrift fur historical research 14, 1987, pp. 265-302.
  3. Peter Baumgart : Gerhard Oestreich to the memory. In: Historical magazine . Vol. 227, 1978, No. 1, pp. 251-256, here: p. 254.
  4. Homepage of the Oestreich Foundation .