chapter  4
18 Pages

The Professors: Guardians of the Citadel

ByConstance L. Benson

The professors—especially in the social sciences and humanities—were the vanguard of an elite class of cultural leaders or "mandarins" also comprised of doctors, lawyers, artists, clergy, government officials and secondary school teachers. Although a professor at the University of Berlin since 1825 and seventy-five years old when German unification took place, Leopold von Ranke continued to labor for another sixteen years. In the face of growing nationalism, militarism, and urban blight, the majority of Germany's novelists and poets chose to flee into "inwardness". Although pioneering work continued with Ranke's historical critical method and similar intellectual achievements, the professoriate increasingly conformed to and legitimized government opinion whenever addressing political issues. Ernst Troeltsch's emphasis upon the state as the vehicle and sustainer of Geist is characteristic of German idealism. Troeltsch was both an academic and a Protestant theologian. The fate of academic freedom in the Second Reich illustrates how the professoriate increasingly functioned to legitimize power.