The first explanation for the rapid decline in interest in the German Middle Ages in American academe is fairly straightforward and superficially convincing. Medieval Germany was essential in American universities until the first decades of this century, but the anti-German atmosphere of World War I ended that trend along with interest in all things German. In other areas of German studies, interest in Germany revived with the great wave of refugee scholars from Germany and Austria in the 1930s. However, because the medieval historians who arrived in the United States as refugees from Germany in the 1930s were cultural or intellectual historians and had never taught or researched German history as such in this country, this period of German history did not undergo the same renewal that later German history has. In sum, according to this line of argumentation, the aftermath of the two wars, combined with Americans‘ well known and lamentable ignorance of foreign languages, especially German, has meant that medieval German history has never recovered in the United States.
There is much that is true, although partial, in this version of the story. German history in general and medieval history in particular did enjoy a privileged place in the birth of scientific history in the United States. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, German scholarship was venerated in progressive American institutions such as Johns Hopkins as the pinnacle of scientific study, and universities and colleges eagerly sought German or German-trained professors while trying to emulate German seminar methods. The historian most closely associated with Johns Hopkins in those years, Herbert Baxter Adams, had obtained his doctorate in Heidelberg. Columbia University 3
3 Later he recalled the profound impression that Bernhard Erdmannsdörffer‘s (1833– 1901) medieval history seminar on Otto of Freising had made on him. In the 1880s, Adams even advised a prospective student in Dresden not to abandon his studies in Germany for the