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Summary 1998(2)


Gerhard Ritter and the reconstruction of German historiography after 1945 (Christoph Cornelißen)

The development of German historiography after the end of World War II has attracted much interest in recent German historical research. This article deals with the German historian Gerhard Ritter who was one of the leading figures in reshaping the German historiography after the end of the "Third Reich". Soon after the end of the war, Ritter was elected president of the German Historical Association. As one of the few German historians who had put up resistance to the nazis, he was held in high esteem by many country-fellowmen in the early post-war years. In the beginning Ritter used this position to instil his views of a revised German historical understanding into a wide public. In his countless articles of a methodological nature he tried to pave the way for a more structural approach to political history. a field of which he was a major Champion. The concrete conditions of post-war political and academic problems, however, forced him into a defensive position more and more. Whereas, in a first phase, he tried to counterbalance all those writings which regarded Luther or Frederic the Great as the origins of the terror under the nazis, he tried to stem the tide against an uncritical reception of the Annales school as from the early 1950s. In this connection, the article highlights some of the major historiographical debates of the first post-war decade in Germany.

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