tradition and the editor of
, was uneasy about the prevailing German tradition of textual edition rather than interpretation and devoted himself to the history of ideas after his departure from Germany.43 Both scholars were, in a way, typical of the émigré medievalists. While émigré modem historians focused on German history in order to understand what went wrong in Germany‘s recent past, medievalists abandoned Germany altogether for a broader view of pre-national or pre-nationalist European culture and unity. German history became largely irrelevant to them and their students.
Because Germans would not ask the kind of sociological and economic questions that interested Americans or the French, and because Americans, even those trained by German émigrés, would not research the particularities of Germany, the gap that opened at the turn of the century continued to widen. German history in America has largely meant pre-history of the Nazi period. If medievalists have had different agendas, they have had to pursue them on different terrains.
Can we learn anything about this past that will be of relevance for the future? First, the experiences of the germ theory and the interpretations of the eastward expansion should warn us not to look to German history to find easy parallels to our own. If we Americans are to take German history seriously, we must be producers, not simply consumers. Second, if American scholars are to devote themselves seriously to the study of German history, it must be done in a way that respects the integrity of the
subject. The history of Germany is more than
history and must be accepted as such. Finally, Americans who study German history cannot try to do so as if they were Germans. We live in a different culture that begs different questions and arrives at different kinds of answers.
Lerner, "Ernst Kantorowicz and Theodor E. Mommsen," 201–202.