Meinecke, Friedrich

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Meinecke, Friedrich

Friedrich Meinecke (frē´drĬkh mī´nĕkə), 1862–1954, German historian and intellectual figure. Educated at the Univ. of Berlin, he became a professor there in 1914 and directed (1893–1935) the Historische Zeitschrift. In 1948 he was made rector of the Free Univ. of Berlin. During the Nazi era his humanist views led to official disfavor and his withdrawal from active teaching. Meinecke was both a nationalist and a traditionalist; his early historical works, many of them on Prussia, reveal his belief that the state, besides functioning as the repository of power, must serve cultural values and promote individualism. In Weltbürgertum und Nationalstaat (1919, 7th ed. 1928) he wrote with approval of German unification through power at the necessary expense of cultural cosmopolitanism. However, shocked by World War I, Meinecke sought in his masterful Idee der Staatsraïson in der neueren Geschichte (1924; tr. Machiavellism, 1957) to expose irresponsible power in the frame of intellectual history. Die deutsche Katastrophe (1946; tr. The German Catastrophe, 1950) reflected on the rise of National Socialism and the extent of German guilt.

See R. W. Sterling, Ethics in a World of Power (1958) and R. A. Pois, Friedrich Meinecke and German Politics in the Twentieth Century (1972).

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