Clashing cultural nationalisms: the 19th-century Danish-German intellectual debate, the Schleswig wars (1848-1864), and some reflections on the cultural roots of National Socialism

Francesco La Rocca
Central European University, Budapest,

DOI number: 10.53604/rjbns.v7i1_5

Francesco La Rocca (2015), Clashing cultural nationalisms: the 19th-century Danish-German intellectual debate, the Schleswig wars (1848-1864), and some reflections on the cultural roots of National Socialism. RJBNS 7(1), 105-122. DOI: 10.53604/rjbns.v7i1_5.

This article represents the evolution of the contribution entitled “Cultural and Political Spaces in Conflict: The Danish-German Intellectual Conflicts and the Schleswig Wars (1848-1864)” presented at the 7th Annual Graduate Conference in European History “Historians in Space: Concepts of Space in Recent European Historiography” (Budapest, 25-27 April 2013). I am particularly grateful to Daniel Baric for his constructive advices and remarks on German cultural nationalism. I am indebted to Borbála Klacsmann and György Szőnyi for their comments and suggestions. I should also like to extend my thanks to the American Research Center in Sofia for the Pre-Doctoral Fellowship (Autumn 2014) which facilitated the preparation of this article.
The publication of this paper is supported by EEA Grants, contract no 4/22.07.2014.

Romantic culture, far from only being an intellectual phenomenon, was a pivotal element in the 19th-century nation-building processes experienced in Europe, and it ended up influencing and being influenced by contemporary political events. The wars waged between Denmark and the German Confederation (1848-1864) are a foremost example of it, as the political claims for the control of the duchies of Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg intertwined with the intellectual polemics between some prominent German scholars (Jacob Grimm, Karl Müllenhoff etc.) who intended to prove the German nature of the duchies’ cultural heritage and of Scandinavian cultures in general, and some Danish intellectuals (Nicolai Grundtvig, Rasmus Rask etc.) who strove to undo what they perceived as a politically-charged cultural aggression. The relevance of the Schleswig Wars and their related intellectual debate is not restricted to 19th-century studies, as some authors of the second half of the 20th century have suggested that the German-Danish intellectual conflict over the heritage of the Old North was actually a prelude to what would eventually be Nazi Germany’s totalitarian ideology. Unfortunately, little has been written so far on the relationship between the Schleswig Wars and the then-contemporary scholarly debate. This article is intended to be an effective contribution in this direction.

Cultura romantică, departe de a fi doar un fenomen intelectual, a constituit un element esențial în procesele de construire a națiunii care s-au desfășurat în Europa în sec. al XIX-lea și au sfârșit prin a influența și a fi influențate de evenimentele politice contemporane. Războaiele desfășurate între Danemarca și Confederația Germană (1848-1864) constituie un exemplu primordial al acestei afirmații, de vreme ce pretențiile politice pentru ducatele Schleswig, Holstein și Lauenburg s-au întrețesut cu polemicele intelectuale dintre câțiva savanți proeminenți germani (Jacob Grimm, Karl Müllenhoff etc.) care intenționau să dovedească natura germană a patrimoniului cultural al ducatelor și al culturilor scandinave, în general, și unii intelectuali danezi (Nicolai Grundtvig, Rasmus Rask etc.) care căutau să demonteze ceea ce percepeau a fi o agresiune culturală cu fundament politic. Relevanța Războaielor Schleswig-ului și dezbaterea intelectuală asociată acestora nu se rezumă la studiile cu privire la sec. al XIX-lea, iar așa cum au sugerat câțiva autori din a doua jumătate a sec. al XX-lea conflictul intelectual germano-danez asupra moștenirii vechiului Nord a fost de fapt preludiul a ceea ce va fi ideologia totalitară a Germaniei Naziste. Din păcate, s-a scris puțin despre relația dintre Războaiele Schleswig-ului și dezbaterea academică de atunci. Articolul de față își propune să-și aducă o contribuție efectivă în această direcție.

Keywords: Germany, Denmark, Schleswig Wars, cultural nationalism, National Socialism
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