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Heinrich von Treitschke’s History of Germany


Writing the history of a country is not an easy task; many historians have tried to bring something of their own to the chronology of events. One such historian was Heinrich von Treitschke, who wrote many works, one of which was the History of Germany. This paper will present a comparison of this document and the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen,” a policy document of the French bourgeois revolution of the late 18th century. These documents are interrelated because they represent different views of conservatism – German and French. The two documents under consideration have many similar themes under discussion. Their comparison is a way of looking at the history of political philosophy from the perspectives of representatives of different countries guided by their nationalist interests. Both documents present the idea of the importance of changing political ideals.

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Background of the Two Documents

Before comparing the documents, it is essential to provide short backgrounds of these pieces. To begin with, the Declaration was issued in 1789 by the French National Constituent Assembly. The representatives of the French people believed that precisely neglect and ignorance of human rights was the reason for the prosperity of corruption, poverty, and other public calamities. Therefore, the purpose of the Declaration was to outline the sacred and natural rights of the French people and be the primary document to refer to when facing any issues. For example, the fifth article states that “law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society” (“Declaration of the Rights of Man”). The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen mentions the rights of religion, speech, freedom, ideas of liberty, and separation of power.

As for the presentation of German ideological views, Heinrich von Treitschke is an iconic figure for the German conservatism of that period. “His History of Germany in the Nineteenth Century, the first volume of which was published in 1879, was his major work. “The History of Germany” was a rather talented attempt to reconcile Prussian conservatism and the general German idea. Treitschke postulated the idea of a great, transcendent mission of Prussia to unify Germany and multiply its power. In the pages of this work, as in his other works, Treitschke presents himself as a monarchist, an unconditional supporter of the Hohenzollern dynasty (32). For him, however, the monarchy is not an object of affection but a guarantor of the transformation of Germany into an influential and globally respected power.

Comparing and Contrasting the Documents

The comparison of the two documents under discussion will start by talking about their similarities. Both documents discuss the need to change conservative political ideology. The “Declaration of Human and Civil Rights” emphasizes the popular sovereignty of France and the natural, inalienable human rights as its basis. The second article of the Declaration stated that any political union’s goal is to preserve natural and inalienable human rights” (“Declaration of the Rights of Man”). These rights are freedom, property, security, and resistance to oppression. Like Heinrich von Treitschke’s History of Germany, the French Declaration had great progressive and revolutionizing significance. The latter also proposed to change the conservative ideological order, in particular the attitude of Germans towards Jews and people of any other nationality.

Nevertheless, the statement of attitude towards other nations is the main difference between these two documents. The French Declaration focuses on the sovereignty of the people and on guaranteeing the rights and freedoms of the citizens of France themselves. At the same time, the story of Heinrich von Treitschke says a lot about the rights of Jews, whom the author does not consider a problem for the German population (35). He says that human rights must be respected regardless of their ethnicity.

The Significance of the Apparent Change in Ideals

As mentioned above, the extreme need for changes in the ideals of the nations is outlined in these documents. Though the Declaration of the Rights of Man is mainly devoted to listing the French people’s newly recognized rights and freedoms, this document also attacks the rules and traditions of the pre-Revolutionary monarchical regime. The latter was characterized by a robust system of privileges, numerous abuses of power by the king and the administration, and corruption. The new ideals recognized by the Declaration should have been based on individualism, separation of powers, equality, and social contract. The importance of changing the ideology described by Heinrich von Treitschke is to eradicate anti-Semitism to respect human rights and freedoms. This work presents an alternative vision of conservative ideas that excludes anti-Semitism from nationalism (Treitschke 36). Thus, von Treitschke moves political philosophy towards the equality of people from different nations.


To summarize, both historical documents suggest changes in conservative political ideology. Their comparison shows the views on policy liberalization on the part of representatives of different countries. The main differences between the documents are that one of them focuses on the rights of one nation within the country and the other on the rights of all nations in the state territory. Nevertheless, the study of both works is essential for understanding the ideological processes in the countries at the turn of the XIX century.

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Works Cited

“Declaration of the Rights of Man.” Yale Law School, 1789, Web.

Treitschke, Heinrich von. Treitschke’s History of Germany in the Nineteenth Century. Repressed Publishing, 2013.

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