Below, Georg Von

Below, Georg Von

 

Born Jan. 19, 1858, in Königsberg; died Oct. 21, 1927, in Badenweiler. German historian. Professor in Münster (from 1891), Marburg (from 1897), Tübingen (from 1901), and Freiburg (1905–24).

Below took an active part in the work of the Pan-Germanic Union; he was a proponent of the preservation of the leading role of the Prussian Junkers in the political life of Germany. In his writings of the 1880’s and 1890’s he criticized the patrimonial theory of the origin and development of the medieval city. (He linked its origin to the village commune.) He also criticized the notion of the complete dominance of natural economy in the Middle Ages. However, these and other correct observations did not receive a satisfactory scientific interpretation in Below’s general system of ideas; he tried to prove the absence of upheaval in the socioeconomic relations of the early Middle Ages and the alleged stability of the social position of the free peasantry. Below was one of the first prominent German historians who consciously adopted the methodology of neo-Kantianism and who considered it necessary to reject the idea of law-governed development and progress in history in the battle against Marxism. In his book The German State in the Middle Ages (1914) he developed the idea that throughout the Middle Ages there existed an unchanging German principle of public law which determined the basic content of German history. In his articles on the history of economy, Below reinterpreted the economics of the medieval cities in terms of modern capitalism and embellished the historical role of the Junkers in Eastern Germany. Below considered the Reformation a purely religious movement which brought to life the idea of a “great German state,” whose realization provided, according to Below, the meaning of the history of Germany in modern and contemporary times. Thus, Below historically supported and justified the expansionist policy of German imperialism in the 20th century.

WORKS

Territorium und Stadt. Munich-Leipzig, 1900. Second edition: Munich-Berlin, 1923.
Die deutsche Geschichtsschreibung von den Befreiungs-kriegen bis zu unseren Tagen, 2nd ed. Munich-Berlin, 1924.
Probleme der Wirtschaftsgeschichte. Tübingen, 1920. Second edition: Tübingen, 1926.
Gorodskoi stroi i gorodskaia zhizn’ srednevekovoi Germanii. Moscow, 1912. (Translated from German.)

A. I. DANILOV

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