Heinrich von Treitschke, 183496, German historian.

A fervid partisan of Prussia, he left Baden at the outbreak of the Austro-Prussian War (1866) and became professor of history at Kiel (1866), Heidelberg (1867), and Berlin (1874). He edited (1866–89) the monthly Preussische Jahrbücher and became Prussian state historiographer. As a young man, he was strongly nationalistic and liberal; as he grew older, his political views became more nationalistic and less liberal. Although a member of the Reichstag, he was not especially successful as a practical politician. His writings, however, reflected his political views, his deep hope for the unity and greatness of Germany under Prussian leadership, and his admiration for Bismarck and the Hohenzollerns. They also reflected his strong anti-Semitism. His theories had great impact on the new generation and in academic circles. Treitschke's histories, stirring and graphic and excellent in workmanship, are nevertheless distorted by his fanatic nationalism and his pernicious biases. His masterpiece is his History of Germany in the Nineteenth Century (tr., 7 vol., 1915–19). Among his other works are Politics (tr. 1916) and Origins of Prussianism (tr. 1942).

From Politics (1916)

The next essential function of the State is the conduct of war. The long oblivion into which this principle had fallen is a proof of how effeminate the science of government had become in civilian hands. In our century this sentimentality was dissipated by Clausewitz, but a one-sided materialism arose in its place, after the fashion of the Manchester School, seeing in man a biped creature, whose destiny lies in buying cheap and selling dear. It is obvious that this idea is not compatible with war, and it is only since the last war that a sounder theory arose of the State and its military power.

Without war no State could be. All those we know of arose through war, and the protection of their members by armed force remains their primary and essential task. War, therefore, will endure to the end of history, as long as there is multiplicity of States. The laws of human thought and of human nature forbid any alternative; neither is one to be wished for. The blind worshipper of an eternal peace falls into the error of isolating the State or dreams of one which is universal, which we have already seen to be at variance with reason.

Even as it is impossible to conceive of a tribunal above the State, which we have recognized as sovereign in its very essence, so it is likewise impossible to banish the idea of war from the world. It is a favorite fashion of our time to instance England as particularly ready for peace. But England is perpetually at war; there is hardly an instant in her recent history in which she has not been obliged to be fighting somewhere. The great strides which civilization makes against barbarism and unreason are only made actual by the sword. Between civilized nations also war is the form of litigation by which States make their claims valid. The arguments brought forward in these terrible law suits of the nations compel as no argument in civil suits can ever do. Often as we have tried by theory to convince the small States that Prussia alone can be the leader in Germany, we had to produce the final proof upon the battlefields of Bohemia and the Main.

Moreover war is a uniting as well as a dividing element among nations; it does not draw them together in enmity only, for through its means they learn to know and to respect each other's peculiar qualities...

The grandeur of war lies in the utter annihilation of puny man in the great conception of the State, and it brings out the full magnificence of the sacrifice of fellow-countrymen for one another. In war the chaff is winnowed from the wheat. Those who have lived through 1870 cannot fail to understand Niebuhr's description of his feelings in 1813, when he speaks of how no one who has entered into the joy of being bound by a common tie to all his compatriots, gentle and simple alike, can ever forget how he was uplifted by the love, the friendliness, and the strength of that mutual sentiment.

It is war which fosters the political idealism which the materialist rejects. What a disaster for civilization it would be if mankind blotted heroes from memory. The heroes of a nation are the figures which rejoice and inspire the spirit of its youth, and the writers whose words ring like trumpet blasts become the idols of our boyhood and our early manhood. He who feels no answering thrill is unworthy to bear arms for his country.