Johann Gustav Droysen

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Johann Gustav Droysen

Johann Gustav Bernhard Droysen (born July 6, 1808 in Treptow an der Rega , † June 19, 1884 in Berlin ) was an important German historian and history theorist. In 1848/1849 he sat in the Frankfurt National Assembly and was a member of the important constitutional committee .

Profession and Politics

Droysen's drawing

After attending grammar school in Stettin , Droysen devoted himself to studying philosophy and philology in Berlin, where he heard from among others Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel , August Boeckh and Karl Lachmann . Then he was first tutor of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy from 1827 to 1829 , then from 1829 teacher at the Berlinisches Gymnasium zum Grauen Kloster in Berlin. From 1833 he was a private lecturer, from 1835 associate professor at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Berlin , from 1840 professor at the University of Kiel , where his (unfinished) history of Hellenism originated, then in Jena (from 1851) and again at the university Berlin (since 1859).

Droysen got involved in politics even before the Schleswig-Holstein survey in 1848: in 1846 he took part in the so-called Germanist Days . In 1848 he was a representative of the Provisional Government in Kiel at the Bundestag in Frankfurt , then from May a member of the National Assembly , in which he joined the right-wing center (" Casino "). He never gave a speech in parliament, but behind the scenes he was one of the most influential right-wing liberal politicians.

His resolute advocacy of the separation of Schleswig and Holstein from the Danish crown led to tension with the government in Copenhagen . Droysen therefore applied for the chair of history at the University of Jena, which had to be filled due to Heinrich Luden's health . The corresponding negotiations failed in 1846, and Adolf Schaumann was given the chair . Another application in 1851 - Adolf Schaumann had been appointed archivist, senior librarian and historiographer of the royal house - was successful, while the eight other revolutionary professors at Kiel University were dismissed from their posts after the failure of the Schleswig-Holstein uprising in 1852.

Droysen is buried in the Old Twelve Apostles Cemetery . The grave was dedicated to the city of Berlin from 1958 to 2015 as an honorary grave .


Johann Gustav Droysen

Droysen placed himself in the forefront of historians of his time with his first work, The History of Alexander the Great in 1833. With his groundbreaking history of Hellenism , he then elevated the term " Hellenism " to the epoch designation for the time between Alexander and Cleopatra . Droysen was one of the first historians to advocate not seeing the three centuries after Alexander as a decay; In his eyes, developments were taking place at that time without which Christianity would not have been possible.

Later Droysen mainly worked in the field of modern history. His history of Prussian politics (1855–1886) is the most comprehensive representation of the Prussian-Little German idea of ​​history. Droysen did not belong directly to Heinrich von Sybels and Heinrich von Treitschke's school , but understood the task of historical studies in a related sense. Droysen resolutely rejected Leopold von Ranke's demand for objectivity in historiography : for him, history rather had an educational function for the state.

Droysen was a member of several academies. So he belonged to the Royal Saxon Society of Sciences in Leipzig and the Prussian Academy of Sciences .

As a history theorist, Droysen laid the foundation for the hermeneutic methodology in modern history. The source-critical method, which had a far-reaching influence on historiography , goes back to Droysen and Barthold Georg Niebuhr . Friedrich Meinecke is one of Droysen's most important students . His son Gustav Droysen was also a history professor and presented important research on the history of the Thirty Years' War .


Droysen's parents were Johann Christoph Droysen (1773-1816), Lutheran military pastor, and Anna Dorothee Friederike Casten († 1827), daughter of an ironmonger. He grew up with three sisters and a brother in Greifenhagen near Stettin.

Droysen's grave in the Twelve Apostles Cemetery in Berlin

JG Droysen's first marriage (1836) was married to Marie Mendheim (1820–1847). She is the daughter of Samuel Ferdinand Mendheim (1786–1860), bookseller and music publisher in Berlin, and Marianne Friedländer (1797–1826). After the death of her mother, she grew up with her grandparents Rebecca and Benoni Friedländer .

The children come from this marriage

  • Gustav (1838–1908), historian in Halle (Saale)
  • Marie (1839-1896), married. with Emil Hübner , classical philologist and epigraphist
  • Anna (1842–1918), married. with Henri Jordan , classical philologist
  • Ernst Droysen (1844–1874).

In his second marriage (1849) JG Droysen was married to Emma Michaelis (1829-1881). She was the daughter of the Kiel gynecologist Gustav Adolf Michaelis and a friend of his first wife Marie. From this marriage comes

  • Hans Droysen (1851–1918), historian and high school professor in Berlin.


  • In 1874 he received the Verdun Prize .
  • Various streets were named after him.

Works (selection)

A directory of the writings, autographs and portraits of Johann Gustav Droysen as well as a selection of literature on the person is available from:
Horst W. Blanke (Ed.): Droysen Bibliography (= Historik. Historisch-Kritische Ausgabe. Supplement). Frommann-Holzboog, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-7728-2379-4 .


  • The works of Aristophanes . 2 parts in 3 volumes, trans. by Johann Gustav Droysen, Leipzig 1835–1838, (²1871).
  • Aeschylus : tragedies . Fischer, Frankfurt / M. 2008, ISBN 978-3-596-90091-6 (reprint of the Berlin 1841 edition).
  • Aristophanes : Comedies . Vollmer, Wiesbaden 1958 (reprint of the Berlin 1838 edition).


  1. The foundation . Berlin 1855. ( full text )
  2. The territorial time . 1857. (full text)
  3. The state of the great elector . 1865.
  4. On the history of Friedrich I and Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia . 1869.
  5. Frederick the Great . 4 vols. 1874–1886.



  • Arthur Alfaix Assis: What Is History For? Johann Gustav Droysen and the Functions of Historiography. Paperback edition. Berghahn Books, New York 2016, ISBN 978-1-78533-334-7 ( Google Books ).
  • Uwe Barrelmeyer: Historical reality as a problem. Investigations on historical theoretical foundations of historical knowledge with Johann Gustav Droysen, Georg Simmel and Max Weber. (= Contributions to the History of Sociology , 9), Münster 1997.
  • Christoph Johannes Bauer: The secret of all movement is its purpose. Philosophy of history in Hegel and Droysen. Felix Meiner Verlag, Hamburg 2001 (Diss. 2000).
  • Horst Walter Blanke (ed.): History and history. 200 years of Johann Gustav Droysen. Festschrift for Jörn Rüsen on his 70th birthday . Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-412-20425-9 .
  • Andreas Buller: The theories of history of the 19th century. The relationship between historical reality and historical knowledge in Karl Marx and Johann Gustav Droysen. Logos, Berlin 2002 (Diss. 2002).
  • Dirk Fleischer: Knowledge of history as knowledge of God: The theological foundation of Johann Gustav Droysen's theory of history . In: Horst Walter Blanke (ed.): History and history. 200 years of Johann Gustav Droysen. Festschrift for Jörn Rüsen on his 70th birthday . Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2009, pp. 73–89.
  • Christiane Hackel (Ed.): Johann Gustav Droysen 1808–1884. Philologist - historian - politician . (Catalog for the exhibition at the Humboldt University in Berlin). G + H Verlag, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-940939-05-0 .
  • Otto HintzeDroysen, Johann Gustav . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 48, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1904, pp. 82-114.
  • Wilhelm Knelangen: Johann Gustav Droysen and his program of a “practical” political science. In: Wilhelm Knelangen , Tine Stein (ed.): Continuity and controversy. The history of political science at the University of Kiel. Klartext, Essen 2013, pp. 163–180, ISBN 978-3-8375-0763-8 .
  • Hiram Kümper:  DROYSEN, Johann Gustav Bernhard. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 25, Bautz, Nordhausen 2005, ISBN 3-88309-332-7 , Sp. 303-306.
  • Niklas Lenhard-Schramm: Constructors of the Nation. History professors as political actors in Vormärz and Revolution 1848/49 . Münster / New York 2014.
  • Hans-Ulrich Lessing: The problem of truth in historicism. Droysen and Dilthey . In: Markus Enders and Jan Szaif (eds.): The history of the philosophical concept of truth. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin a. a. 2006.
  • Wilfried Nippel : Johann Gustav Droysen. A life between science and politics . Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-406-56937-1 .
  • Ernst Opgenoorth : Johann Gustav Droysen and his correspondents. A study of the history of communication . In: Yearbook on Liberalism Research 27 (2015), pp. 149–182.
  • Jörn Rüsen : Johann Gustav Droysen. In: Hans-Ulrich Wehler (Ed.): Deutsche Historiker , Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen 1973, pp. 115–131.
  • Theodor SchiederDroysen, Johann Gustav. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 4, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1959, ISBN 3-428-00185-0 , pp. 135-137 ( digitized version ).
  • Falko Schnieke: Elements of biographical legitimation, functions of historical research: Johann Gustav Droysen's "Friedrich I. King of Prussia" (1867, GPP IV / 1) . In: Archiv für Kulturgeschichte , Vol. 96, Issue 1, pp. 27–56.
  • Christian-Georg Schuppe: The other Droysen. New aspects of his theory of historical science. Steiner, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-515-07391-4 .
  • Robert Southard: Droysen and the Prussian School of History. University Press of Kentucky, Lexington 1995.
  • Christine Wagner: The development of Johann Gustav Droysen as an ancient historian. Habelt, Bonn 1991, ISBN 3-7749-2500-3 .
  • Wolfgang Eric Wagner (Ed.): The library of the historical society of Johann Gustav Droysen 1860-1884. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-05-004381-4 .

Web links

Wikisource: Johann Gustav Droysen  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Johann Gustav Droysen  - Collection of images, videos and audio files