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Barthold Georg Niebuhr

Niebuhr, Barthold Georg (bärˈtôlt gāˈôrkh nēˈbŏr) [key], 1776–1831, German historian, b. Copenhagen; son of Karsten Niebuhr. He served in the Danish and, after 1806, in the Prussian civil service, took part in the foundation of the Univ. of Berlin, and was (1816–23) Prussian ambassador to the Holy See. From 1823 to his death he taught at the Univ. of Bonn. Niebuhr's history of Rome (3 vol., 1811–32; tr. 3 vol., 1828–42) may be said to have inaugurated modern scientific historical method. Niebuhr related individual events to the political and social institutions of ancient Rome; he sought to recreate the past in terms understandable to the modern reader. An admirer of the Roman republic, he favored agrarianism as the basis of a well-balanced state. He regarded Prussia as a modern parallel of the Roman state and advocated Prussian leadership in the unification of Germany. His liberalism was antirevolutionary, and he was sympathetic to reforms instituted from above.

See his translated Collected Lectures (8 vol., 1852–53); A. Guilland, Modern Germany and Her Historians (tr. 1915, repr. 1970).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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