Wilhelm Roscher

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Wilhelm Roscher
Signature Wilhelm Roscher.PNG

Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Roscher (born October 21, 1817 in Hanover , † June 4, 1894 in Leipzig ) was a German historian and economist . He is considered the founder of the older historical school of economics .


Roscher came from a Hanoverian civil servant family whose members had served in the military and civil sectors for generations. His father Conrad August Roscher, who had last been senior justice advisor in the Hanoverian Ministry of Justice, died in 1827. He attended the Lyceum in Hanover, which was then headed by the well-known cuneiform decipherer Georg Friedrich Grotefend , but left it in 1835 before completing the course to go to Göttingen antiquity - and to study history, where he was a member of the Corps Hannovera . Roscher's Göttingen professors included the historians Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann , Georg Gottfried Gervinus and Karl Otfried Müller .

On September 10, 1838, he received his doctorate with a historical dissertation entitled “De historicae doctrinae apud sophistas maiores vestigiis” (in German: On the traces of historical teaching among the older sophists ). He continued his studies in Berlin with the historians August Boeckh and Leopold von Ranke . There he worked in Ranke's historical seminar, which he later thanked repeatedly for its support. In 1840 Roscher completed his habilitation in history and political science at the University of Göttingen. In 1843 he was appointed associate professor and in 1844 full professor.

However, he only gave a lecture on a genuinely historical topic in the first semester on "historical art according to Thucydides ". He recorded the results of his in-depth study of the ancient Greek historian in the work "Life, Work and Age of Thucydides" published in 1842 . He then turned to political science and, from 1845, held courses on economics , the history of political theories, politics, statistics and finance. His other lectures and works reveal the change in his research focus, whereby he repeatedly expanded his circle of interests in the course of his 54 years of teaching. The aim of his scientific activity was the establishment of a political science based on the historical method, which should show the development laws of economics and the state. His historical approach referred initially to economics, but then also to the doctrine of the constitutional forms of the state. This "historical method" was in contrast to the "philosophical method" of its predecessors. With the help of his method, he derived certain laws that were in contrast to classical economics .

In 1848 Roscher accepted a call to the University of Leipzig , which he never left, despite calls from abroad to Munich, Vienna and Berlin. In addition to the lectures held in Göttingen, there were lectures on economic policy , which he later referred to as "practical economics and economic police", and since 1871 a lecture on agricultural policy and statistics . He also paid special attention to statistics and between 1851 and 1869 held numerous courses on comparative statistics, comparative civics of the six great powers, comparative statistics and civics of Germany , Great Britain and France, and the peoples of Europe. Soon he also gave lectures under the titles: “Introduction to the study of the entire legal, political and cameral science”, “History of political (and social) theories”, “History of natural law, politics and economics”, “Basic doctrines of practical politics ”,“ natural theory of the state ”and in place of the latter since 1870 the lecture“ natural theory of the monarchy, aristocracy and democracy as a preschool for all practical politics ”.

In 1889, shortly after he turned 71, he was released from his teaching duties at his request. From then on he only gave public lectures on politics, to which he added a new one on "Poor Policy and Poor Care" with an introduction to socialism and communism. In the spring of 1894 he stopped his academic activity.

His son was the classical philologist Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher .


Together with Bruno Hildebrand and Karl Knies, Roscher is considered to be the founder of the older historical school of German economics . He developed a monistic - teleological economic level theory ( nature - work - capital ). This was criticized by Karl Marx , for whom this theory was one of what he called the theories of vulgar economics . The classical economics sat Roscher against a concept that sees the only sensible theoretical approach in the historic access and is committed to highlighting the individual as an economic factor - Roscher concept herein is just by Max Weber , been criticized but also further developed.

Roscher first attempted to periodise the absolutist age and to assign the enlightened epoch a separate historical position. As a term for the epoch, "absolutism" has therefore been significantly shaped by him since 1847. He developed the idea of ​​a historical sequence of stages that began with a “confessional absolutism” (16th century, Philip II ), changed into a “courtly absolutism” (age of Louis XIV. ) And finally into enlightened absolutism ( Friedrich II. ) Opens. These concepts have long determined the periodization approaches in historical research; While in the meantime the term absolutism has largely been abandoned, there are some historians who still do not want to replace the term enlightened absolutism .

His thinking had strong roots in the Christian faith, as u. a. show the posthumously published "Spiritual Thoughts". Roscher, with a philosemitic attitude and idealistic romanticizing, underlined the outstanding and indispensable role of Judaism in medieval trade, which in his opinion made it the economic teacher of the European peoples.

As a doctoral supervisor , he influenced Karl Lamprecht .




  • Helmuth Beckmann: The historical method of Wilhelm Roscher. Bonn 1948.
  • Karl booksRoscher, Wilhelm . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 53, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1907, pp. 486-492.
  • Chaim Jaffé: Roscher, Hildebrand and Knies as founders of the Older Historical School of German Economists. A contribution to the history and theory of the historical school of political economy in Germany. Bern 1916.
  • Harald Hagemann : Roscher and the Theory of Crisis. In: Jürgen G. Backhaus (Ed.): Wilhelm Roscher and the 'Historical Method' . In: Journal of Economic Studies 22 (1995), pp. 171-186.
  • Heinz KurzRoscher, Wilhelm Georg Friedrich. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 22, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-428-11203-2 , pp. 39-41 ( digitized version ).
  • Tim Petersen: Theological Influences on German National Economy in the 19th and 20th Centuries - Three Case Studies Dissertation, University of Hamburg 2015 ( full text ), pp. 22–95.
  • Tim Petersen: Wilhelm Roscher and pietism in Halle. Francke and his Prussian environment in the judgment of a famous 19th century economist In: Holger Zaunstöck et al. (Ed.): Hallesches Waisenhaus and Berliner Hof, contributions to the relationship between Pietism and Prussia , Halle 2017, pp. 215-234.
  • Wilhelm Rothert : General Hannoversche Biography Volume 1: Hannoversche men and women since 1866 , Sponholtz, Hannover 1912, pp. 271–277.
  • Erich W. Streissler : Wilhelm Roscher as a leading economic historian. In: Bertram Schefold (Ed.): Vademecum on a classic of the historical school . Düsseldorf 1994. pp. 37-121.
  • Guido Wölky: Roscher, Waitz, Bluntschli and Treitschke as political scientists. The late bloom and decline of a classic university subject in the second half of the 19th century. Dissertation, University of Bochum 2006 ( full text )
  • Theodor Roscher: On the history of the Roscher family in Lower Saxony , Hanover: A. Harbers & Brager , 1892.
  • Theodor Roscher: History sheets of the Lower Saxon family Roscher , Hanover 1909.
  • Counselor Dr. Theodor Roscher: Roscheriana. Christmas sheet 1911 , Hanover: Göhmannsche Buchdruckerei, 1911.
  • Theodor Roscher: Roscheriana. Christmas 1913 , Booklet E, Hanover, Göhmannsche Buchdruckerei, 1913.

Individual evidence

  1. See on the development of the term Reinhard Blänkner: "Absolutism". A conceptual historical study of political theory and history in Germany, 1830–1870. 2nd edition of the dissertation with a preliminary remark. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 2011, and Wolfgang Schmale : Absolutism. Biography of a term. In: Contributions to historical social studies 31 (2001), pp. 5–10.
  2. ^ Wilhelm Roscher: Outlines for the natural theory of the three forms of government. In: Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Geschichte 7 (1847), pp. 79–88 , 322–365 and 436–473 as well as 9 (1848), pp. 285–413 ( here 7, p. 451 ). In short by Wilhelm Roscher: History of the national economy in Germany. Munich: R. Oldenbourg 1874, p. 380 f. Relevant criticism from Otto Hintze : Roscher's political development theory. In: Schmollers Jahrbuch 21 (1897), pp. 767-811.
  3. Ronald G. Asch , Heinz Duchhardt (ed.): Absolutism - a myth? Structural change in monarchical rule in Western and Central Europe (approx. 1550–1700). Cologne: Böhlau 1996; Heinz Duchhardt: The absolutism debate - an anti-polemic. In: Historische Zeitschrift 275 (2002), pp. 323–331.
  4. Wolfgang Neugebauer gives an overview of the state of the debate : Enlightened absolutism, reform absolutism and structural change in Germany in the 18th century. In: Werner Greiling, Andreas Klinger, Christoph Kohler (eds.): Ernst II. Von Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg. A ruler in the Age of Enlightenment. Cologne: Böhlau 2005, pp. 23–40. Cf. also Peter Baumgart : Absolutism a myth? Enlightened absolutism a contradiction? Reflections on a controversial topic of contemporary early modern research. In: Journal for historical research 27 (2000), pp. 573-589.

Web links

Commons : Wilhelm Roscher  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Wilhelm Roscher  - Sources and full texts