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GERMAN HISTORICAL INSTITUTE WASHNGTON, D.C. ANNUAL LECTURE SERIES No. 8 - page 29 / 46

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27

tion in the hearts of the German people to recover these lands from the Slavs, the resolute, though often ruthless way in which the event was achieved, is one of the most stirring stories in the annals of history.... The only thing comparable to this achievement in modem annals is the history of the expansion of the American

people westward rivers and across common people

from the Atlantic seaboard over the Alleghanies [

], down

the great plains. In both instances the work was the work of

and

independent

of

governmental

initiative,

the

work

of

the the the

pioneer and the settler subjugating the forest with the ax, the fields and driving the Slav or redman, as the case may be, before him by arms. What the New West meant to young America that the New medieval Germany.34

with the plow, his prowess in East meant to

The whole second volume of Thompsons book was devoted to this eastward expansion, which he saw as the culmination of medieval German history. An outdated racist justification for the study of German history had been replaced by a more modern one.35 The eastward expansion of Germany may well have been one of the most salient characteristics of medieval German history. Robert Bartletts recent comparative study of European expansion on the Slavic, Celtic, and Islamic frontiers suggests that it was characteristic of much of Europe.36 However, the way that Thompson presented and glorified this expansion was more in step with Weimar

than anyone today could accept. Nevertheless, his work received scant praise in Germany. In his review of Thompsons work in the

,

34 35 Thompson, 2 vols. (New York, 1928; repr. 1962), vol. 1, xviii. On German scholarship on eastern Europe between the wars, see Gerd Althoff, "Die Beurteilung der mittelalterlichen Ostpolitik als Paradigma für zeitgebundene

36 Geschichtsbewertung," in and notes 210217. Robert Bartlett,

(Darmstadt, 1992), 147164

  • (London, 1993).

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