Schlözer, August Ludwig von

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Schlözer, August Ludwig von (1735-1809): German Historian.

Schlözer was a scholar and publicist of the German enlightenment, who had a practical impact on politics by publication of a critical periodical.

After Schlözer had studied theology in Wittenberg and Göttingen, he went to Sweden (1755-59) and then to Russia (1761-69), before he returned to Göttingen to become a professor at the faculty of humanities. In that position, he published widely for a large general audience. As a histiographer, Schlözer stood for the idea of constant progress, and he combined the view on universal history with a ‘statistical’ approach to contemporary history. The latter was realized especially in the Staatsanzeigen (18 vols, 1782-93), the first political periodical in 18th century Germany. It was a forum for Schlözer himself, but even more so for numerous anonymous contributors who praised enlightened reform and did not hesitate to criticise all kinds of shortcomings in the various German states. Thus, Schlözer heavily influenced public opinion and created pressure on governments. He enthusiastically welcomed the first phase of the French Revolution, especially the declaration of Human Rights. In 1794, the publication of the Staatsanzeigen was forbidden as it was too progressive.

Another life-long project for Schlözer was the history of Russia. He saw the community of Slavic peoples and gave an important impulse to the development of Slavic studies. He had a lasting positive influence on the image of Russia in the general public’s view and impressed other scholars by his critical philological method.

Further Reading:

W. Hennies, Die politische Theorie August Ludwig von Schlözers zwischen Aufklärung und Liberalismus, 1985.

Sibylle Plassman