Georg Voigt  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Georg Voigt was a German historian who was born in 1827 in Königsberg in East Prussia. He died in Leipzig in 1891. Voigt was the son of the historian Johannes Voigt. Voigt belonged to the founders of modern research into the Italian Renaissance along with Jacob Burckhardt.

In 1860 Voigt was called by Sybel to the University of Rostock as professor of history. 1866 he became professor of history at the University of Leipzig, following the historian Wilhelm Wachsmuth. His research was into the topics of humanism in the 15th and 16th centuries and the history of the Schmalkaldic war. Unlike Burckhardt, Voigt described only the first century of a movement which came from Renaissance Florence and spread all through Europe. Burckhardt described all features of Italian society of the Renaissance. Their research methods were very different. Burckhardt was more a cultural historian with a historic-philosophical method. Voigt, in the methodical scholarship of Leopold von Ranke, worked more with a philological method. Voigt wrote Wiederbelebung des classischen Alterthums oder das erste Jahrhundert des Humanismus (Revival of Classical Antiquity or the First Century of Humanism). In Voigt's opinion Francesco Petrarca was the origin of Italian humanism. What was very important to him was the new relationship of man in the Renaissance to Classical antiquity especially to Cicero and his humanitas (humanity). Cicero's humanitas is the terminological origin of humanism in general. Despite the connection between Dante Alighieri and Roman authors such as Seneca, Cicero and so on, in Voigt's opinion he is not a typical Renaissance man like Petrarca and his successors, because Dante stood in the late mediaeval world and the corporatives structures. In recognizing his own self as a human in context with the studies of the Classical authors, Petrarca left the old mediaeval world and its corporative structures behind. The consciousness of being a human was the new quality. In the tradition of Ranke and Johann Gustav Droysen, Voigt used the term "humanism" for the description of a historical period.

Furthermore, Voigt wrote on Maurice of Saxony. Voigt's biography about the elector is the first, which is compare to the standards of an objective historical science. He realized within a postulate from the German historian Wilhelm Maurenbrecher.

The most important works

  • Enea Silvio de'Piccolomini als Papst Pius II. und seine Zeit, 3 Bde., Berlin 1856-1863.
  • Die Wiederbelebung des classischen Alterthums oder das erste Jahrhundert des Humanismus, 2 Bde., 3. Aufl., Berlin 1893 (Erstauflage in einem Band, Berlin 1859).
  • Moritz von Sachsen, Leipzig 1876.
  • Die Geschichtsschreibung über den Schmalkaldischen Krieg, Leipzig 1873.


  • Wallace Klippert Ferguson: Renaissance Studies. University of Western Ontario, London (Ontario) 1963 (Nachdruck: Harper & Row, New York 1970)
  • Wallace Klippert Ferguson: The Renaissance in Historical Thought. Five Centuries of Interpretation, Mifflin, Boston 1948 (Nachdruck: AMS, New York 1981)
  • Mario Todte: Georg Voigt (1827-1891). Pionier der historischen Humanismusforschung. Leipziger Universitäts-Verlag, Leipzig 2004 ISBN 3-937209-22-0
  • Paul F. Grendler, "Georg Voigt: Historian of Humanism", in: Humanism and Creativity in the Renaissance: Essays in Honor of Ronald G. Witt, hrsg. von Christopher S. Celenza und Kenneth Gouvens, Leiden 2006, S. 295-326. ISBN 90-04-14907-4

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