Although the Historische Zeitschrift cannot be called the first scholarly historical periodical without extensive qualification, it was the first in ways that count. The first to realize fully the modern concept of the scholarly historical periodical, it represented a quantum leap forward over its predecessors and exerted enormous impact on those that followed it. Its first fifty years, during which it defined its role in the profession and thus to some extent defined the role for all subsequent scholarly historical periodicals, were crucial to the discipline of history. Since then, the HZ has remained a leading scholarly historical journal, but by inspiring the creation of others that have also achieved success it has lost its unique commanding position.
In 1859, when the first issue of the HZ appeared, history lacked only a means of communication to be a mature profession. Perhaps most basic, a core of professionally trained individuals existed to provide the periodical's intellectual base, contribute to it, and be its audience. Several generations of students had studied history, and many were now productive scholars.
In Germany, history was by 1859 a recognized academic study. A student could obtain professional instruction in any one of several universities. Ranke had been at the University of Berlin for more than twenty years and had trained many scholars in his seminar. His former students, men like Georg Waitz, Gustav Droysen, and Heinrich von Sybel, were now professors at various German universities and were training students in the mold of the professional historian.
Important to the advancement of historical scholarship, but outside the university system, was the Monumenta Germaniae Historica (MGH). It had been founded in 1819 by Freiherr vom Stein, the Prussian leader during the period of the Wars of Liberation, who hoped it would contribute to German nationalism. The MGH was an enormous collecting and editing project that published medieval manuscripts of the kind essential as sources for professionally trained historians. It was a valuable supplementary training ground and a source of employment for many young historians who served an appren