Journal Article

The Sense of the Past in Reformation Germany: Part 1

C. Scott Dixon

in German History

Volume 30, issue 1, pages 1-21
Published in print March 2012 | ISSN: 0266-3554
Published online March 2012 | e-ISSN: 1477-089X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/gerhis/ghr121
The Sense of the Past in Reformation Germany: Part 1

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This two-part article is a study of the Lower Saxon Lutheran pastor-historian Johannes Letzner (1531–1613) and his efforts to write a history of the lands of Braunschweig-Lüneburg entitled the Chronicle of Braunschweig-Lüneburg-Göttingen. Although the work itself remained, and remains, in manuscript form, it is a valuable resource for modern historians, for not only does it demonstrate how early modern scholars began to piece together and conceptualize German history, it also reveals the extent to which the writing of that past relied on the efforts of local historians and regional antiquarians – the so-called ‘lovers of antiquities’ – whose collective efforts to recover and preserve the German past laid the factual and narrative foundations for the historiographical revolution that came with the Enlightenment. The study of Letzner and his Chronicle serves as a mirror of this process. In Part 1, the article investigates Letzner and his working environment, beginning with the vocational and the intellectual framework that facilitated his research. It then examines his approach to the German past and the blend of Melanchthonian humanism, confessionalized historiography, and tireless curiosity that made up his methodology. In a final discussion, it turns to the types of works that Letzner produced within this three-fold scheme, the main strand being the local histories and genealogies that imparted a moral message.

Keywords: German Reformation; Lutheranism; confessionalization; historiography; antiquarianism; history of books

Journal Article.  12651 words. 

Subjects: European History

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