Wolfgang J. Mommsen

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Wolfgang Justin Mommsen (born November 5, 1930 in Marburg , † August 11, 2004 in Bansin ) was a German historian .

Live and act

Mommsen came from a famous family of historians. The ancient historian Theodor Mommsen was his great-grandfather, the Marburg modern historian Wilhelm Mommsen was his father and the contemporary historian Hans Mommsen was his twin brother. In Marburg he attended the secondary school and began studying engineering at the Philipps University of Marburg , which he soon broke off in favor of humanities studies. After moving to the University of Cologne , he initially worked primarily on art history with Hans Kauffmann , before moving to history under the influence of Theodor Schieder . With him Mommsen received his doctorate in 1958 with the work Max Weber and German politics 1890-1920 . He then spent a year with Asa Briggs at the University of Leeds in 1958/59 before he took up his position as Arbitrator's assistant. In 1961 he interrupted his work in Cologne for a few months and taught as an assistant professor at Cornell University . In 1967 Schieder completed his habilitation with an unpublished thesis on Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg during the First World War . In 1968 he received a professorship for Medieval and Modern History at the University of Düsseldorf , which he held until his retirement in 1996. Mommsen's academic students include Walter H. Pehle , Dirk Blasius , Gerd Krumeich , Gerhard Hirschfeld , Gangolf Hübinger , Stig Förster , Holger Afflerbach , Peter Theiner and Boris Barth .

From 1977 to 1985 Mommsen was director of the German Historical Institute in London , in the establishment of which he played a key role in 1976. From 1988 to 1992 he was chairman of the Association of German Historians . In the college year 1992/1993 Mommsen was a research fellow at the historical college in Munich. In 1973/74 he was one of the founders of the journal Geschichte und Gesellschaft . From 1993 onwards, Mommsen was in charge of the annual reports for German history as project manager . In spring 1999 Mommsen was a visiting fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in Wassenaar.

Mommsen's research interests focused on the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and in terms of content on three subject areas of this epoch: First, he published an international perspective on the history of imperialism , its theoretical understanding and the history of Great Britain in this epoch. Second, he concentrated on German history with a focus on the German Empire , for which he published a large number of essays, the most important of which he wrote in the volume The authoritarian nation state. Constitution, culture and society in the German Empire . He offered the great synthesis in two volumes of the Propylaea history of Germany : The struggle for the national state in 1993 and civic pride and striving for world power in 1995. Towards the end of his life he wrote mainly about the First World War , especially the role of intellectuals in war. Thirdly, he remained true to the topic of Max Weber's dissertation throughout his life. After his doctoral thesis, published for the first time in 1959, led to heated controversy, especially at the 1964 Heidelberg Sociologists' Conference, Mommsen was one of the initiators of the Max Weber Complete Edition , of which he remained co-editor until his death. In addition to his academic work, Mommsen emerged as Public Intellectual , “conflict-prone, an animal politicum through and through”, for which his contribution Neither denying nor forgetting freed from the past in the historians' dispute is exemplary. In 1990 he received the Premio Amalfi .

Mommsen had been married since 1965 and had four children. He died on August 11, 2004 while swimming in the Baltic Sea .

Fonts (selection)

  • Max Weber and German Politics 1890–1920 , Mohr, Tübingen 1959.
  • The age of imperialism. Frankfurt a. M. 1969 (= Fischer Weltgeschichte , Vol. 28), ISBN 3-436-01216-5 .
  • Theories of imperialism. 3rd edition Göttingen 1987, ISBN 3-525-33533-4 .
  • Nation and history. About the Germans and the German question. Munich 1990, ISBN 3-492-11115-7 .
  • The authoritarian nation state. Constitution, culture and society in the German Empire. Frankfurt a. M. 1992, ISBN 3-596-10525-0 .
  • The struggle for the national state. The founding and internal expansion of the German Empire under Otto von Bismarck 1850 to 1890. Propylaen, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-549-05817-9 .
  • Great power position and world politics 1870–1914. The foreign policy of the German Reich. Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-548-33169-6 .
  • Bourgeois culture and artistic avant-garde 1870–1918. Culture and Politics in the German Empire. Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-548-33168-8 .
  • The challenge of bourgeois culture by the artistic avant-garde. On the relationship between culture and politics in Wilhelminian Germany (= writings of the historical college. Lectures , 41). Munich 1994 ( digitized version ).
  • Civic pride and striving for world power. Germany under Wilhelm II. 1890 to 1918. Berlin 1995, ISBN 3-549-05820-9 .
  • Imperial Germany 1867-1918. Politics, Culture, and Society in an authoritarian State. London et al. 1995, ISBN 0-340-59360-1 .
  • (Ed.): Culture and War. The role of intellectuals, artists and writers in the First World War (= writings of the Historisches Kolleg . Colloquia , 34). Munich 1995, ISBN 978-3-486-56085-5 ( digitized version ).
  • 1848. The unwanted revolution. The revolutionary movements in Europe 1830–1849. Frankfurt a. M. 1998, ISBN 3-10-050606-5 .
  • Max Weber and the German Revolution 1918/19. Heidelberg 1998, ISBN 3-928880-17-9 .
  • as editor: The unequal partners. German-British Relations in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-421-05287-5 .
  • Civil culture and political order. Artists, writers and intellectuals in German history 1830–1933. Frankfurt a. M. 2000, ISBN 3-596-14951-7 .
  • The great war and the historians. New ways of writing history about the First World War. Essen 2002, ISBN 3-89861-098-5 .
  • Was it all the fault of the emperor? Wilhelm II and the Prussian-German power elites. Propylaea, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-549-07169-8 .
  • Max Weber and German Politics 1890–1920. 3rd edition Tübingen 2003, ISBN 3-16-148480-0 .
  • The great catastrophe in Germany. The First World War 1914–1918 (= Gebhardt. Handbook of German History , Vol. 17). Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-608-60017-5 .
  • The First World War. Beginning of the end of the bourgeois age. Frankfurt a. M. 2004, ISBN 3-596-15773-0 .

Complete edition Max Weber


Web links


  1. On the relationship between the twin brothers, cf. M. Rainer Lepsius : The social-liberal coalition is alive. For the 70th birthday of the historian brothers Hans and Wolfgang Mommsen . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , November 4, 2000; Christoph Cornelißen : Germany's history, shared fraternally: Criticism of tradition as a family heritage: On the 70th birthday of the historians Wolfgang J. and Hans Mommsen . In: Die Welt , November 4, 2000.
  2. Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study: Mommsen, WJ. In: https://nias.knaw.nl . Accessed August 9, 2019 .
  3. See e.g. B. Wolfgang J. Mommsen: “A wonderful catastrophe”. The so-called great war was initially seen by many writers and artists as an opportunity. On the cultural origins of the First World War . In: Frankfurter Rundschau , July 31, 2004. Mommsen advocates the following thesis: “The at least conditional affirmation of war not only for national but also for aesthetic reasons was initially absolutely predominant in the circles of intellectuals and with them the visual artists and writers . ”The title of the article is a quote from Max Beckmann .
  4. DIED Wolfgang J. Mommsen . In: Der Spiegel . No. 34 , 2004, pp. 150 ( online ).
  5. Wolfgang J. Mommsen: Neither denial nor forgetting frees from the past. In: Historikerstreit. Documentation of the controversy about the uniqueness of the National Socialist extermination of the Jews. Piper, Munich 1989, pp. 300-321.
  6. Cf. Anne Munding: Review of: Cornelißen, Christoph (Ed.): History in the spirit of democracy. Wolfgang J. Mommsen and his generation. Berlin 2010 . In: H-Soz-u-Kult , March 1, 2011, and the conference report by Silke Fehlemann and Anna Lienau: History in the spirit of democracy. Wolfgang J. Mommsen and his generation. Conference in memory of Wolfgang J. Mommsen (1930–2004). October 29, 2010 - October 30, 2010, Marbach . In: H-Soz-u-Kult , February 28, 2011.