Beat Immenhauser. Bildungswege--Lebenswege: Universitätsbesucher aus dem Bistum Konstanz im 15. und 16. Jahrhundert. Veröffentlichungen der Gesellschaft für Universitäts- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte. Basel: Schwabe, 2007. 632 pp. EUR 68.50 (cloth), ISBN 978-3-7965-2286-4.
Daniela Siebe, ed. "Orte der Gelahrtheit"--Personen, Prozesse und Reformen an protestantischen Universitaten des Alten Reiches. Contubernium. Tübinger Beiträge zur Universitäts- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2008. 272 pp. EUR 45.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-3-515-09108-4.
Reviewed by Herman J. Selderhuis (Theologische Universiteit Apeldoorn)
Published on H-German (January, 2010)
Commissioned by Susan R. Boettcher
Recent Works on Premodern Universities
The three recent books on universities and students before the modern period reveal a variety of strengths and weaknesses. The "earliest" in focus is that of Hunt Janin, which will disappoint scholarly readers and is not suitable for general audiences, either. His book traces the growth of the larger medieval universities of Bologna, Paris, and Oxford, along with the universities of Cambridge, Padua, Naples, Montpellier, Toulouse, Orléans, Angers, Prague, Vienna, and Glasgow. The author gives a brief historic overview of these universities, which consists mainly of a discussion of a number of biographies of leading scholars who were associated with these institutions. In the last part of the book, Janin claims to describe the relationship between humanism and the medieval university, although once again he provides only biographical sketches of some humanist thinkers. The bibliography makes clear that no use has been made of Latin sources, nor of any German work on the history of the university. Moreover, the text of the book hardly reflects a useful exploitation of the literature that is mentioned in the bibliography. In his account, fundamental aspects of current research on the theme have been neglected. The most glaring error is the astonishing failure to mention even the name of the highly important University of Heidelberg, founded in 1386. More such examples could be mentioned.
The second title chronologically is Beat Immenhauser's Bildungswege-Lebenswege: Universitätsbesucher aus dem Bistum Konstanz im 15. und 16. Jahrhundert. In this fine study, based on intensive and solid study of a multitude of unpublished and published sources, the author investigates the careers of university students from the bishopric of Constance. The book asks how those attending university profited from their academic training. The focus falls on all students from the Constance area who attended some university between 1430 and 1550, a period that includes the fundamental transformation caused by the Reformation. Immenhauser finds 14,812 students, whose careers he traces collectively rather than individually. The book's second concern is how the areas in which these students eventually were employed were influenced by this academic influx. On this question, Immenhauser demonstrates a new and fresh approach to university history. He concentrates neither on the educational institutions nor on the social origins of the students, but rather on a larger geographic area in relation to the significance of the academy for larger society, a question that demonstrates the contemporary relevance of this work. His main conclusion is that an Akademisierung of certain professions--for example, of lawyers and doctors--is evident, albeit it in a limited fashion, though not as prerequisite for the professionalization of certain careers. The development of separate professions did not depend on the academy, but on the monopolization of a certain field of work by a number of experts. Immenhauser states that his results cannot, due to a lack of similar research at present, be compared effectively to other regions. However, this analysis, which is based on a wealth of data, gives the impression that developments in Constance were symptomatic of those elsewhere.
The final work under consideration is a collection of conference papers, edited by Daniela Siebe, that deals with the functions of German universities in the period between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries in social and political contexts. The new universities of the early modern period were mainly founded by territorial sovereigns, a state of affairs that meant they were more dependent on politics and the theology of the regional church than the medieval universities originally had been.
In his learned introductory essay, Matthias Asche defines the untranslatable concept of Bildungslandschaft as the intellectual, political, and social area and atmosphere in which universities functioned. The first social factor considered in the volume is that of the students. Through a careful reading and counting of students, Tina Leich draws conclusions about the numbers and origins of students registered in Jena between 1548 and 1648. Writing from a similar perspective, Simone Giese focuses on the motives of Swedish students who studied at Jena. Andreas Gößner also deals with students in his analysis of the both discipline among students and the disciplinary measures taken toward students.
A second social group examined is university faculty. Marian Füssel demonstrates how extra-university politics increasingly controlled the choice of rectors, thus taking away from the autonomy of the university. The phenomenon of the Gelehrtenfamilie is the subject of Julian Kümmerle's paper, which argues against the thesis that such families generally did not contribute much to the scholarly community. Autonomy is also the theme of Daniela Siebe's paper, in which she analyses discussions in Jena between the academy and the territorial sovereign over who held the authority to name professors.
The third group dealt with in this book is comprised of the broader university community around the professors and students. In this section, Carsten Lind describes the often underestimated importance of the University of Gießen's administrators in taking care of matriculation and financial matters. Several contributors concentrate on specific university reforms: Sabine Holtz deals with Tübingen, Eva-Marie Felschow examines Gießen, and Stefan Wallentin treats Leipzig. Although Tübingen and Gießen demonstrated little internal impulse for reform, sources from Leipzig reveal evidence of intra-university discussions on reform.
All of the studies in this collection are based on solid research in source material, and they typically correct widely- and long-accepted theses. The book also points to further directions for research in the field of academic history and suggests numerous topics that deserve further investigation. Conference collections such as this one clearly benefit the scholarly world. This one in particular serves as a direct reminder that the struggle for academic independence has a long tradition and can count quite a few successes.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-german.
Herman J. Selderhuis. Review of Immenhauser, Beat, Bildungswege--Lebenswege: Universitätsbesucher aus dem Bistum Konstanz im 15. und 16. Jahrhundert and
Janin, Hunt, The University in Medieval Life, 1179-1499 and
Siebe, Daniela, ed., "Orte der Gelahrtheit"--Personen, Prozesse und Reformen an protestantischen Universitaten des Alten Reiches.
H-German, H-Net Reviews.
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