Wilhelm Gottlieb Soldan

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Wilhelm Gottlieb Soldan (born May 17, 1803 in Alsfeld ; † January 16 (or January 17 ) 1869 in Gießen ) was a German high school teacher , historian and Hessian parliamentarian . The "Soldan paradigm" refers to his work on the history of the witch trials (1843) in witch historiography .


Soldan was born as the son of the Alsfeld pastor Karl Ludwig Soldan and his wife Marianne Sophie, née Pfaff. His father, who had been transferred to Billertshausen in 1804, taught him until he was 15 . From the fall of 1818 Soldan attended the grammar school in Giessen and began studying theology at the state university there in 1820 . In 1821 he became a member of the Corps Hassia in Giessen . In the same year he moved to the University of Halle , where he also studied pedagogy . From 1823 he worked as a private tutor for the children of State Minister Karl Ludwig Wilhelm von Grolman in Darmstadt . In 1829 he took on a few hours as an assistant teacher at the Darmstadt grammar school and at the same time gave lectures on universal and state history at the Grand Ducal Military School. As an invitation to the autumn exam in 1829, he wrote the topographical part of a planned larger monograph on the city of Miletus . With this font he received his doctorate in Giessen in the same year . On February 1, 1831, he was employed as an academic teacher at the Giessen grammar school , where he remained until his death.

Soldan, who was of Protestant faith, married Emma Johanette, born Hoffmann, the daughter of Member of Parliament Ernst Emil Hoffmann , on April 7, 1831 in Darmstadt .


In 1862 Soldan moved into the Hessian state parliament, the state estates of the Grand Duchy of Hesse , as a member of the liberal Hessian Progressive Party . He was elected for the constituency of the city of Alsfeld . From 1865 to 1866 he was President of the Second Chamber. While he was initially on temporary leave of absence from his teaching post to exercise his mandate, he was permanently released from service from Easter 1867 and finally retired on October 17, 1868. In 1869 his term in the second chamber ended.


Title page of the history of the witch trials

Soldan published a history of the witch trials in 1843 . Illustrated from the sources , which soon became a standard work. Within the meaning of historicism ' Rank Escher embossing Soldan reconstructed in a number of cases and let the sources in detail to speak. It was the first complex presentation of the topic that was also verifiable. The book has been reissued to this day, but in an edited form. Soldan's daughter Henriette and his son-in-law Heinrich Heppe published a version in 1880 in which they tightened the denominational statements and added a chapter on "Witchcraft and witch hunt in the 19th century". Where Soldan had always held back with information on the number of victims, the Heppes generously estimated the number in the millions and thus became influential advocates of the popular “nine million theory”. In the context of the Kulturkampf, they polemicized not least against the infallibility dogma of the Catholic Church , which was enacted at the First Vatican Council in 1870 . In 1911, the publicist Max Bauer was responsible for an edition in which he defused the religious political peaks, added information about the belief in witches in the early 20th century, deleted footnotes and text and revised the style.

In 1845 Soldan published the polemical work Thirty Years of Proselytism in Saxony and Braunschweig . In it he dealt with a work by Augustin Theiner , who had taken the history of some conversions of German Protestant princes to Catholicism as an opportunity to underline the advantages of the Catholic Church. Soldan started from new sources in order to refute essential theses of Theiner.

In the following decade, Soldan studied the history of Protestantism in France extensively . In 1855 he published the two-volume history of Protestantism in France up to the death of Charles IX. He also presented a series of local historical research, for example on the history of the city of Alsfeld.

The "Soldan Paradigm"

The term “Soldan paradigm” or “rationalist paradigm” denotes a research direction in witch historiography which assumes that the allegations in the witch trials were constructed and instrumentalized without any real reference to reality. The American historian William Monter coined the term with reference to Soldan's basic work History of the Witch Trials . Soldan had interpreted the witch trials in the enlightenment spirit optionally as delusion, plague or superstition of a misguided authority.

“With Christianity, Latin language and literature, demonology, self-conscious priests who exerted influence on the educational path came to Celts , Teutons and Slavs . What might have been peculiar to the nations, assimilated in the course of time the more powerful elements brought with them. Belief in miracles and the devil devoured the lighter view that emerged in a few centuries of the Middle Ages. Even the at times pleasant striving for natural research was brought from this point of view. The servant of hierarchical purposes, the Inquisition , stripped of popularity and income, looked around for a model of all the horror that it could lend to its victims, and under their hands the crime of witchcraft was formed from nothing but familiar materials. Placing the devil in the form in which she found him trained in the middle, she gave him on the one hand the traditional heretic atrocities of Christian church history, which had increased with every century, on the other hand those offending body and property and frowned upon by the old law Maleficia of Roman paganism, together with all the magical spooks of the same known from poets. All of this combined to form witchcraft as a whole, whereas earlier times had known only individual arts or crimes committed by sorcery. A bloody practice provided so striking and numerous proofs of the demonic theory, which was moreover able to be adapted to the Bible and Roman law , that soon any doubt about the threefold power of experience, authority and fear and the processes based on that theory died out , favored by the conditions developed above, could approach our time. Without Roman literature, without the peculiar and far-reaching mediation of the ecclesiastical mode of understanding, without the diverse, constantly renewing secondary interests of those involved in the exercise, the appearance of that everywhere uniform, no longer national, but European or rather Christian superstition would be just the same incomprehensible when it becomes perfectly explicable as soon as one regards it as the result of those unified powers. "

- History of the witch trials , 1843

Soldan relied on the power of reason and rejected any mystification. He saw the magic belief, as it was negotiated in the trials, as a construction of the church and therefore also dealt critically with the interpretation of Jacob Grimm , whose position in witch historiography as the "Jacob Grimm paradigm" or " romantic paradigm" referred to as. Grimm saw in the witch hunt the suppression of an independent pre-Christian Germanic mythology and thus established a "national" interpretation. He also mentions for the first time those "wise women" who, for the French historian Jules Michelet, became the romantic epitome of the " witch ".


The Soldan family was genealogically examined in detail by the Giessen doctor Robert Sommer .


Individual publications

  • Guilielmi Theophili Soldan… rerum Milesiarum commentatio prima. Qua ad sollennia in Gymnasio Darmstadino diebus XXVIII, XXIX et XXX Septembris peragenda invitavit Jul. Frid. Car. Dilthey. Goebel, Darmstadii 1829.
  • History of the witch trials. Illustrated from the sources. Cotta, Stuttgart et al. 1843.
  • Thirty years of proselytism in Saxony and Braunschweig. With an introduction. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1845.
  • About the trial of the Templars and the accusations made against their order. (Leipzig) (1845).
  • History of Protestantism in France up to the death of Charles IX. Volume 1 , Volume 2 , Brockhaus, Leipzig 1855.
  • On the history of the city of Alsfeld. Giessen 1861.62.
  • German royal elections. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1862.
  • The monastery question in the second chamber of the estates of the Grand Duchy of Hesse. Answer to the "Open epistle to those hostile to the monastery ... Members of the second chamber in Darmstadt from the priest of the Diocese of Mainz". CW Leske, Darmstadt 1863.
  • La France et la Saint-Barthélemy. Translated by Charles Schmidt, Paris 1855.


  • by Heinrich Ludwig Julius Heppe: Soldan's history of witch trials. Cotta, Stuttgart 1880.
    • History of the witch trials. (Edited from the original.) With 33 cont. Fig. Antaeus-Verlag, Lübeck, Leipzig 1938th
  • by Heinrich Heppe, Max Bauer: History of the witch trials. 3. Edition. Müller, Munich 1911.
    • History of the witch trials. Müller & Kiepenheuer, Hanau / M 1969.
    • History of the witch trials. Knowledge Buchges., Darmstadt 1972.
    • History of the witch trials. Parkland-Verlag, Cologne 1999, ISBN 3-88059-960-2 .
  • by Heinrich Heppe, Sabine Ries: History of the witch trials. Magnus-Verlag, Kettwig 1987, ISBN 3-88400-259-7 .
  • by Max Bauer: History of Protestantism in France up to the death of Charles IX. Munich 1911.


  • Georg Winter:  Soldan, WG In: General German Biography (ADB). Volume 34, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1892, p. 556 f.
  • Hans Georg Ruppel, Birgit Groß: Hessian MPs 1820–1933. Biographical evidence for the estates of the Grand Duchy of Hesse (2nd Chamber) and the Landtag of the People's State of Hesse (= Darmstädter Archivschriften. Vol. 5). Verlag des Historisches Verein für Hessen, Darmstadt 1980, ISBN 3-922316-14-X , p. 243.
  • Jochen Lengemann : MdL Hessen. 1808-1996. Biographical index (= political and parliamentary history of the state of Hesse. Vol. 14 = publications of the Historical Commission for Hesse. Vol. 48, 7). Elwert, Marburg 1996, ISBN 3-7708-1071-6 , p. 360.

Web links

Wikisource: Wilhelm Gottlieb Soldan  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The ADB states January 16, Ruppel / Groß and, derived from this, Lengemann and Lagis state January 17.
  2. Kösener corps lists 1910, 51 , 76
  3. ^ Heinrich Eduard Scriba: Biographical-literary lexicon of the writers of the Grand Duchy of Hesse in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Leske, Darmstadt 1831–1843.
  4. Wolfgang Behringer: Nine million witches. Origin, tradition and criticism of a popular myth. In: History in Science and Education. 49 1998, p. 671; Katarzyna Leszczyńska: Witches and Teutons. The interest of National Socialism in the history of the witch hunt. transcript, Bielefeld 2009, ISBN 978-3-8376-1169-4 , pp. 155-156.
  5. Robert Zagolla: Bauer, Max. In: Gudrun Gersmann, Katrin Moeller, Jürgen-Michael Schmidt (ed.): Lexicon for the history of witch hunts /// witches. Analyzes sources documents. Directmedia Publ., Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-89853-193-7 ( digital library . 93).
  6. ^ William Monter: The Historiography of European Witchcraft. Progress and Prospects. In: Journal of Interdisciplinary History. 2 1971/72, pp. 435-436.
  7. ^ Wilhelm Gottlieb Soldan: History of the witch trials. Illustrated from the sources. Cotta, Stuttgart et al. 1843, pp. 488-489.
  8. Thomas Lange: witch hunt in class. A regional historical material in the change from cultural-historical education to ethnological learning. In: History in Science and Education. 46 1995, pp. 403-404. Nils Freytag: The persecution of witches in German historiography of the 19th century. In: Gudrun Gersmann, Katrin Moeller, Jürgen-Michael Schmidt (Hrsg.): Lexicon for the history of witch persecution /// witches. Analyzes sources documents. Directmedia Publ., Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-89853-193-7 ( digital library . 93). Leszczyńska: Witches and Teutons. Pp. 156-166.
  9. Robert Sommer: Family research and genetics. With 2 tables. Barth, Leipzig 1907.