Wilhelm Oncken

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Wilhelm Oncken around 1890

Christian Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Oncken (born December 19, 1838 in Heidelberg , † August 11, 1905 in Gießen ) was a German historian .


Wilhelm Oncken was born in Heidelberg on December 19, 1838, the son of the Heidelberg lawyer and private scholar Anton Wilhelm Oncken and his wife Marie Eleonore Thaden.

After completing his school education, Wilhelm Oncken studied classical philology, history and philosophy in Heidelberg , Göttingen and Berlin . During his studies in 1856 he became a member of the Frankonia Heidelberg fraternity . In 1862 he received his doctorate under Ludwig Häusser and was initially a private lecturer, then in 1866 an associate professor of history with ancient Greece in Heidelberg.

In 1870 he moved to Giessen to teach history there as a full professor. He viewed history as a means of national political education. First he worked on Greek history and later he turned to the history of Prussia and the German Unification. In the 1870s Wilhelm Oncken was a member of the National Liberals in the Hessian state parliament and in the Reichstag. In 1873 he turned down a call to the University of Königsberg . In 1877 and 1878 he was the rector of the University of Giessen.

From 1876 to 1891 Wilhelm Oncken published the work General History in individual representations in 44 volumes. Furthermore, he gave countless popular science lectures on the history of Germany held nationally across the country. Commissioned by Wilhelm I , Wilhelm Oncken wrote a biography about him for posterity. The work "The Age of Emperor Wilhelm" was not finished until two years after Wilhelm I's death. - He was a member of the Gießen Freemason Lodge Ludewig zur Treue and temporarily its master from the chair .

Wilhelm Oncken retired around 1900. He died on August 11, 1905 in Giessen at the age of 67. Wilhelm Oncken was the brother of the economist August Oncken .


Wilhelm Oncken found a response from the general public due to his countless popular science lectures, but received little attention in his field. His works were less characterized by new knowledge or scientific originality than by voluminous histories. His contribution was more to participate in the formation of national identity after the establishment of the Empire in 1870.


  • Athens and Hellas. Research on the national and political history of the ancient Greeks. 1865/66.
  • City, castle and university of Heidelberg, pictures from their past. 1874.
  • The age of Frederick the Great. 1880/81.
  • Age of revolution, the empire and the wars of liberation. 1884/86.
  • The age of the emperor Wilhelm. 1890.
  • Baron Eduard von Lade and his country house on the Rhine . Bong, Berlin 1904. ( Digitized edition of the University and State Library Düsseldorf )


  • H. Berding in: HG Gundel et al. (Ed.): Gießener Gel. in the first half of the 20th century. 1982, pp. 696-703.
  • Helmut Berding:  Oncken, Wilhelm. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 19, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-428-00200-8 , p. 536 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • R. Bonnet: Wilhelm Oncken's shorthand record of his conversation with Bismarck in the years 1891, 1895 and 1896. In: F. Burmeister (Ed.): On the 140th birthday of Wilhelm von Stolze. 1938, pp. 72-78.
  • Helge Dvorak: Biographical Lexicon of the German Burschenschaft. Volume I: Politicians. Sub-Volume 4: M-Q. Winter, Heidelberg 2000, ISBN 3-8253-1118-X , pp. 252-253.
  • HG Gundel: Treitschke and Oncken around 1870, on some unknown scholarly letters. In: Nachrr. d. Giessener Hochschulges. 35, 1966, pp. 169-181.
  • 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. 285.
  • A. Lindig in: Meo! Old gentlemen's newspaper of the Frankonia fraternity in Heidelberg. No. 186, June 1968, pp. 75-81.
  • Klaus-Dieter Rack, Bernd Vielsmeier: Hessian MPs 1820–1933. Biographical evidence for the first and second chambers of the state estates of the Grand Duchy of Hesse 1820–1918 and the state parliament of the People's State of Hesse 1919–1933 (= Political and parliamentary history of the State of Hesse. Vol. 19 = Work of the Hessian Historical Commission. NF Vol. 29) . Hessian Historical Commission, Darmstadt 2008, ISBN 978-3-88443-052-1 , No. 650.
  • LR Schmitt in: Historical quarterly magazine. No. 8, 1905, p. 582 f.
  • A. Woll (Ed.): Diary entries, Bismarck after his fall. In: Gießener Univ.bll. 1, H. 2, 1968, pp. 28-38.

Web links

Wikisource: Wilhelm Oncken  - Sources and full texts