Journal Article

The Sense of the Past in Reformation Germany: Part II

C. Scott Dixon

in German History

Volume 30, issue 2, pages 175-198
Published in print June 2012 | ISSN: 0266-3554
Published online June 2012 | e-ISSN: 1477-089X | DOI:
The Sense of the Past in Reformation Germany: Part II

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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. In this second part of the article, which follows on from the earlier discussion of Letzner’s working environment and the historiographical foundations of his work, the analysis takes up Letzner’s unsuccessful efforts to complete his massive Chronicle, and it demonstrates the extent to which he was unable to reconcile the second of the historiographical paradigms—namely, that of a confessionalized, or Lutheran, reading of the past—with the historical evidence that he was uncovering in his research. Ultimately, Letzner could not balance the evidence with the preconceived paradigm, and this proved one of the main reasons why his Chronicle remained unpublished at his death. Its impact did not end there, however, as the manuscript was quickly deposited in numerous Lower Saxon libraries where it was continuously consulted by historians over the course of the next century and a half, eventually becoming itself one of the foundation sources for the long-awaited history of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, a project taken up by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who also tracked down and consulted portions of Letzner’s Chronicle in the course of his own research.

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

Journal Article.  13189 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: European History

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