Leesfragment: Free Access to the Past

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26 maart wordt in Spui25 Free Access to the Past. Romanticism, Cultural Heritage and the Nation gepresenteerd. Vanavond kunt u al de inleiding lezen van Joep Leerssen en uw exemplaar reserveren of bestellen.

Throughout Europe, nostalgia and modernization embraced around 1800: the rise of historicism coincided with the emergence of the modern nation-state. Poetical, cultural changes intersected with political, institutional ones: a Romantic taste for medieval or tribal antiquity benefited from a modernization-driven transfer of cultural relics into the public sphere. This process involved the establishment of museums, libraries, archives and university institutes, as well as the dissemination of historical knowledge through text editions, philological studies, historical novels, plays, operas and paintings, monuments and restorations. Antiquaries, philologists and historians produced a new past and rendered history a matter of public, national interest and collective identification.
This international and interdisciplinary collection explores the romantic-historicist complexities at the root of the modern nation-state.


List of Illustrations   ix
Notes on Contributors   xi
Introduction   xv
Joep Leerssen

Part One
The Appropriation of the Past

1. The Melancholy of History: Disenchantment and the Possibility of Narrative aft er the French Revolution   3
Peter Fritzsche
2. The Emancipation of the Past, as due to the Revolutionary French Ideology of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité   21
Marita Mathijsen
3. Modernising the Past: The Life of the Gauls under the French Republic   43
Anne-Marie Thiesse
4. From Bökendorf to Berlin: Private Careers, Public Sphere, and How the Past Changed in Jacob Grimm’s Lifetime   55
Joep Leerssen


5. Public Commemorations and Private Interests: The Politics of State Funerals in London and Paris, 1806–1810   73
Eveline G. Bouwers
6. Inventing Literary Heritage: National Consciousness and Editorial Scholarship in Sweden, 1810–1830   103
Paula Henrikson
7. Literature as Access to the Past: The Rise of Historical Genres in the Netherlands, 1800–1850   127
Lotte Jensen


8. Free Access to the History of Art: Art Reproduction and the Appropriation of the History of Art in Nineteenth-Century Culture   149
R.M. Verhoogt
9. Potgieter’s ‘Rijksmuseum’ and the Public Presentation of Dutch History in the National Museum (1800–1844)   171
Ellinoor Bergvelt
10. Singing of Conquest? Opera, History, and the Ambiguities of European Imperialism   197
Peter Rietbergen
11. Nineteenth-Century National Opera and Representations of the Past in the Public Sphere   227
Krisztina Lajosi
12. ‘Reaping the Harvest of the Experiment?’ The Government’s Attempt to Train Enlightened Citizens through History
Education in Revolutionary France (1789–1802)   247
Matthias Meirlaen

13. The Past as a Place: Challenging Private Ownership of History in the United States   279
Sharon Ann Holt
14. Impressed Images/Expressed Experiences: The Historical Imagination of Politics   291
Susan Legêne

Bibliography 317
Index 337
contents vii


Joep Leerssen

Throughout Europe, attitudes towards the past changed in the decades around 1800, rendering, in effect, history a matter of public interest. This process transfers historical sources and interest from private associations, collections, monastic communities, noble estates, and royal palaces (in short: from non-public enclosures) into the public sphere.
This change is part of the European modernization process. The shift from private to public occurred both in an intellectual and in a concrete- material sense, involving the establishment of museums, libraries, archives, and university institutes, as well as the dissemination of texts, documents, and historical knowledge by way of text editions, philological studies, historical novels, plays, operas, and paintings, monuments, and restorations.
Views of the past changed in the process, sometimes to the point of counterfactual (re-)invention. In their search for fresh sources, antiquaries, philologists, and historians produced a new past. Fragments, remnants, and ruins were cherished as irreplaceable connection points with a receding reality, and were reconstructed or reconfi gured into what should constitute a coherent and meaningful History. This rendered the past both accessible, a matter of tradition, continuity, and identifi cation, and foreign, exotic, colourful.
An important part of the great intellectual revolutions of Europe had always been played by libraries. The donation of Cardinal Bessarion’s codices to the city of Venice (where they formed the core of the city’s San Marco library) had been an indispensable element in triggering the Renaissance. The dissolution of the monasteries in England under Henry VIII had brought monastic manuscripts into the hands of antiquaries like Leland, Parker, and Ussher, thus contributing to the rise of antiquarianism in the early-modern British isles; and similarly, the secularization of monastic libraries on the European Continent resulted in a damburst of manuscript material on medieval literature which played a formative element in the rise of literary historicism around 1800. Paradoxically, the Enlightenment project, with its culmination in the French Revolution, brought a past into view that had been lost from memory. The secularized Jesuit library in Lisbon yielded its manuscript of the Cancioneiro da Ajuda; the texts of the Nibelungenlied, the Chanson de Roland, various vernacular versions of Reynard the Fox: all this was retrieved from holdings which until then were immune from public scrutiny and public access, and whose riches had slumbered in an ontological twilight, unread and as good as non-existent, on neglected out-of-reach shelves.
Thus an important portion of Europe’s cultural memory became publicly accessible and started to play a fresh role in public affairs.1 Even the rise of the historical novel, which so often begins with the conceit of the ‘manuscript found in an attic’, can be seen as a spinoff of the fact that in real life a great many manuscripts—even the building plans of the abandoned Cathedral of Cologne—were being found in attics. The process can be termed ‘productive reception’: the restoration and eventual completion of Cologne Cathedral being itself a prime example.
Public access to culture at large had for a while been on the rise in Europe. The art galleries and libraries of monarchs and princes were, in the course of the eighteenth century, increasingly opened up, at least for a day or two per week, for suitable members of the public. At the same time, the study of the past had become increasingly collectivized and non-idiosyncratic: from the Bollandists and the Benedictines of St. Maur, great church-historiographical and hagiographical endeavours were elaborating the rules of diplomatics and textual source criticism as they went along, with names like Mabillon and Muratori providing examples that shone across Europe. The pursuit of antiquarian learning was being pooled in the sociability of city academies like those of Göttingen and Cortona; and great manuscript collectors like Arni Magnusson in Scandinavia and Lacurne Ste-Palaye and the Marquis de Paulmy in France were slowly drawing dispersed manuscripts together into concentrated holdings.
Still, the decades around 1800 represent a ‘tipping point’ in this process, a speeding-up of developments partly as a result of the political disruption brought by the French Revolution and its many repercussions. Not only was the royal art gallery in the Louvre nationalized in 1793 (and re-stocked with the spoil of artworks looted from everywhere between The Hague and the Vatican), the decommissioned antiquities that lost their private ownership and value in the revolution were collected into Alexandre Lenoir’s Musée des monuments français (1795). Libraries like those of the Marquis de Paulmy and the Parisian monasteries were re-organized into the Bibliothèque de l’Arsénal, which became the treasure-chest and training-ground for every French Romantic historian since the Thierry brothers and Michelet; and similar de-privatizations were going on all over Europe in these decades. The libraries of München and Stuttgart were immeasurably enriched by the monastic holdings that flowed into them from Bavaria and Württemberg; these holdings were catalogued by a new type of professional, the state archivist or state librarian (a position occupied by almost every philologist and historian of note in these decades), and in the process medieval manuscripts came to light in previously undreamt-of numbers.
The European spread of historicism may be seen as a result of this development. The past became a point of identifi cation, and increasingly part also of the growing sense of nationality as the premier organizing criterion of the European landscape. We can trace this in the genres of history painting and historical drama, which have an important cultural presence dating from the mid-seventeenth century and are caught up in these developments.
History painting, the depiction of scenes from the past, had in European academic painting been rated as the foremost, most prestigious genre. The scenes were invariably drawn from Biblical or Classical antiquity or else rendered in that manner. From the mid-eighteenth century onwards, scenes from national history were increasingly thematized and, while Biblical or Greco-Roman scenes remained a stockin- trade of academic history painting, painters from the late eighteenth century began to turn also to their nations’ medieval and tribal roots as fit topics for the genre. The same nationalization occurred in the field of historical drama. Biblical and classical themes were complemented by the celebration of ‘national’ heroes—initially from a pan-European patriotic pantheon (Henry Brooke’s Gustavus Vasa, Schiller’s Die Jungfrau von Orléans) but increasingly, again, with a gravitational pull towards writers’ own national history. Similar processes affect the new, growing genre of the historical novel. Likewise the museums, once they become ‘national’ museums, and the various ‘national’ theatres that are established in the European cities, will start out drawing on a Europe-wide reservoir of cultural heirlooms and references but then slowly but surely exercise a pull towards a canonization of the nation’s own past. What is more, the generally moral-exemplary value of art and narrative from the past (as in, for instance, the Plutarchan celebration of the Lives of Great Men) becomes a predominantly national celebration of virtues that are increasingly constructed as representative of, or in the service of, one’s own nation, and demonstrating a continuity (in terms of growth and permanence) between the nation’s past and its present.
The general picture, then, is one of an increasing opening up of the public sphere (access to cultural institutions in public spaces, access to cultural heirlooms in the public sphere) which at the same time emanates from an ongoing modernization process accelerated by the French Revolution, and stands in opposition to it by identifying with the past and refusing to let it fall into oblivion.2

The growth of a public sphere and of a ‘civic society’ dominated by middle-class values of civic virtue, patriotism, and love of the fatherland, has been well charted since the work of Max Weber, Jürgen Habermas, and Benedict Anderson. Such studies were, however, largely concerned with processes of modernization, and tend to disregard the conjunction between social modernization and the rise of historicism in the field of culture. The extent to which a collective, cultural memory formed part of this public sphere is therefore still something of a lacuna, and some interesting new perspectives are explored in this volume. In many ways, and in a variety of media and pursuits (a good few of which are surveyed in the following pages) a historicist conscience of the past was explored as a matter, not merely of antiquarian ‘curio’ interest, but of public relevance. This historicist interest was disseminated with all the means available in the context of societal modernization and as a result came to suffuse public opinion at large.
In exploring this process, the present volume also wants to redeem it from that infrastructural determinism so oft en encountered in social- historical studies of the period. It would be one-sided and superfi cial to say that the historicist cult of the national past was a mere propaganda instrument concocted by a new elite in order to bolster a loyalty to the nation-state; rather, the nation-state as it envisaged itself was from the beginning positioned in diachronic as well as synchronic terms. The nation was not only seen as a community of fellow-members in a given society, but also as a filiation of ancestors and contemporaries linked in a generational chain of cultural and mnemonic continuity. This could lead to cross-purposes: the rationalization campaigns of Napoleon were strenuously resisted by traditionalists like Savigny, for instance, although both cherished an ideal of national cohesion, one synchronically, the other diachronically. But the conservatism of Burke, Savigny, and Fichte is in the final analysis as much part of the emergence of the nation as premier human category as is the democratic thought of Rousseau and his followers.
This is what makes it possible for national historicism to emerge both within, and in opposition to, post-revolution France, and to survive the collapse of the Napoleonic regime aft er Waterloo. The restored regimes of post-1815 Europe will undertake important historicist projects like the foundation of the Ecole des Chartes and of the Monumenta Historica Germaniae, the restoration of the French dynastic abbatial church of St Denis, the Prussian headquarters of the Teutonic Order at the Marienburg, and the Dutch Muiderslot, and thus carry the new paradigm across the fault lines of the many regime changes that occurred in Europe between 1790 and 1815. The celebratory historicism that thus takes root was to have far-reaching ramifi cations and important consequences in erstwhile monarchies like Scotland, Bohemia, Hungary, and Poland, as well as in the other national minorities of Europe’s multi-ethnic empires.
As a result, various types of memory cultivation coexist in one and the same society.3 Each new French regime will have to adapt the commemorative column on the Place Vendôme to its particular iconography, as if the triumph of a given constitutional system must be projected into the public spaces that commemorate the past. The street plan of Paris, including the various technological achievements of the modernizing nineteenth century such as bridges and metro stations, reads like an accumulation of glories from different constitutional epochs: from Merovingian (Tolbiac) to Napoleonic (Austerlitz). In 1840, the corpse of Napoleon was presented to King Louis-Philippe and accommodated with a commemorative shrine of its own in the Invalides, next to the graves of the great generals of Louis XIV. Thus the irreconcilable enmity between succeeding regimes was subsumed under the transcendent ideal that each in their day had manifested the glory of a transhistorical, notional ‘France’. History curricula and museums would proclaim a similar Hegelian Aufhebung: all struggling oppositions of the past are encapsulated and reconciled in a sanctuary that both abolishes and commemorates them.
That type of Aufhebung was not unlike the standard ending of a historical novel in the Walter Scott mode, which generally thematized confl icts in the nation’s history in order to show their reconciliation as the natural progression of a history of ongoing national integration and ‘ever closer Union’. (The use of that phrase in the Treaty of Maastricht indicates that the model is still operative in the European mentalité and now adopted, at least by its proponents, for the project of European integration).
More problematic was the relationship between Church and State. The re-building of Cologne Cathedral in the Prussian-dominated Rhineland was not only a gesture of power—a fist brandished westward in the general direction of France, much like the monuments of Waterloo, 1826, and Koblenz, 1897; it was also part of a complex accommodation policy of the Prussian monarchs vis-à-vis their Catholic Rhenian subjects. That policy foundered in the Cologne crises of the 1840s over mixed-marriage legislation and was to break down completely in the days of the Kulturkampf between Bismarck and Pius IX’s ultramontanism. Other examples of the intractability of Catholicism to the nation-state project abound4—in the Netherlands, in England, in the Swiss Sonderbund wars, and in the struggles over French secularism involving the apparitions at Lourdes and the building of the Sacré Coeur cathedral.
An example of the close and uncomfortable cohabitation of inimical memory cultures in one and the same society is given by the fact that the celebration of Voltaire’s centenary took place on the birthday of Joan of Arc, leading to considerable clashes and to the drive to have the Maiden of Orléans canonized as a saint—and ultimately, one is saddened to add, as the icon for extreme right-wing politics as exemplifi ed in Le Pen’s Front National.5
Most public places in European metropolises can evoke contradictory historical memories. The Royal Palace on Amsterdam’s Dam Square started as the City Hall of what was at that time virtually an independent city republic. The monuments and brasseries on the battlefield of Waterloo continue French-English rivalry in contemporary real-estate. The Terror museum in Budapest has one fl oor dedicated to fascist, one to Communist oppression, the two occupying the same sinister headquarters in Andrassy Street. Rome in various spots glorifi es either its papal-ecclesiastical or its Italian-national status. Europe, it may be concluded, is one vast time-share arrangement for the simultaneous remembrance of different layers and strands in its past. Indeed, so crowded is this past that one and the same point of remembrance may become invested with an increasing number of historical memories, become historically multi-functional as it were, as a result of what Ann Rigney has identifi ed as the ‘scarcity principle’:6 there simply are not enough signifi ers to cater for all the historical references that are in circulation.
As this volume investigates with reference to various concrete manifestations, the development of Europe’s public spaces and of its public sphere involved, from the beginning, their investment with a past that became, by the same token, public. A past that from ca. 1800 was becoming widely and publicly accessible functioned as the rearview mirror to the developing public sphere, in a process that resulted from new channels of mass dissemination and trans-local communication, and that affected (as the essays and articles collected here demonstrate) the development of museums, funerary monuments, the editing of older texts and the writing of new narratives, opera, and political rhetoric. Formative as these developments were for the nation-building processes of nineteenth-century Europe, they were, as some articles in this collection demonstrate, not restricted to that continent and period. On the contrary: the attitudes that took shape in Romantic Europe are still with us, in any part of the world where civic entitlement and cultural memory are brought in conjunction (in whatever processes of identifi cation or contestation). In our present- day usage, the concepts of identity, tradition, and heritage have become almost interchangeable, both within and outside Europe. The past and its memorabilia have ceased to belong to people and instead have become something that those people belong to.

1 Generally for what follows: Peter Burke, Circa 1808: Restructuring knowledges (München: Akademie der Bildenden Künste, 2008); Joep Leerssen & Dirk Van Hulle (eds.), Editing the Nation’s Memory: Textual scholarship and nation-building in 19th-century Europe (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2008); Joep Leerssen, National thought in Europe: A cultural history (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 20062) [of bestel het e-book]; Anne-Marie Thiesse, La création des identités nationales. Europe XVIIIe–XXe siècle (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1999).
2 Cf. Peter Fritzsche, Stranded in the present. Modern time and the melancholy of history (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004).
3 This is the driving insight behind Pierre Nora’s project on Les lieux de mémoire (7 vols.; Paris: Gallimard, 1984–1992), although the social or intergenerational contestation of memory sites has not always been adequately thematized in its many spin-off projects in other European countries.
4 A magisterial Europe-wide overview is given in Owen Chadwick, A History of the Popes, 1830–1914 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1998).
5 Gerd Krumeich, Jeanne d’Arc in der Geschichte: Historiographie, Politik, Kultur (Sigmaringen: Thorbecke, 1989). For another example: Ann Rigney, ‘Divided Pasts: A Premature Memorial and the Dynamics of Collective Remembrance’. Memory Studies 1.1 (2008), 89–97. Generally on memory culture as a social phenomenon: Aleida Assmann, Erinnerungsräume: Formen und Wandlungen des kulturellen Gedächtnisses (München: Beck, 1999).
6 Ann Rigney, ‘Plenitude, Scarcity and the Circulation of Cultural Memory’, Journal of European Studies 35.1 (2005), 11–28.

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