SAECULUM. Jahrbuch für Universalgeschichte

Volume 69 (2019), number 2


Benjamin Allgaier/Katharina Bolle/Nikolas Jaspert/Konrad Knauber/Ludger Lieb/Evelien Roels/Rebecca Sauer/Nele Schneidereit/Kirsten Wallenwein: Gedächtnis – Materialität – Schrift. Ein erinnerungskulturelles Modell zur Analyse schrifttragender Artefakte
Over the last three decades, the field of Cultural Memory Studies has brought forth a large number of ground-breaking contributions. Yet, although scholars are increasingly becoming aware of the fact that memories are usually conveyed by concrete, tangible things, questions of materiality have been virtually absent from their discussions. This article therefore aims at providing a material and thus novel approach to memory studies.
We believe that the specific materialization of a given inscribed artefact (producers’ perspective) and the way future generations deal with it (recipients’ perspective) are closely connected, but not necessarily identical. An artefact’s targeted recipients will likely commemorate its shape and contents as anticipated by its producers if it is carefully crafted and made of durable and precious materials. However, this is not necessarily the case: in some instances, the artefact and its inscriptions might fall into oblivion; in others, the assemblage might be rediscovered or appropriated for entirely different purposes. By the same token, artefacts that were not originally intended to trigger remembrance might turn into media of commemoration when charged with memories at a later date. The article discusses possible correlations between the functions fulfilled by these artefacts, the material they were made of and the writing applied to them. By focusing on questions of materiality, it reveals hitherto disregarded dynamics of production, reception and memory. In a first part of the article, a number of theoretical considerations are developed which are then put into practice in eight case studies from various scholarly disciplines.

Michael Weichenhan: Panbabylonismus. Der „furor orientalis“, die Metrologie und die Suche nach der Harmonie der Welt
Panbabylonism was a trend of assyriology at the beginning of the 20th century, postulating that the ancient Babylonian culture was the common origin of human culture. Since it was older than the cultures of Greeks, Hebrews, and Egyptians, Babylonian culture was attributed global influence. The paper focuses on the reconstruction of the Babylonian metric system according to the principles of Panbabylonism: Historians such as Carl-Friedrich Lehmann assumed that all historical systems were based on it. In contrast to the “système métrique”, however, it was not treated as a purely conventional system, but was regarded as naturally founded. In addition, the significance of the sexagesimal is examined and Panbabylonism is presented as a school that tried to find a common natural basis of diverse cultural traditions in numbers, measures, and astronomical entities.

Joseph Lemberg: Wachstum denken im 13. Jahrhundert. Ökonomie, Mission und die sozionaturale Logik der Saatmetapher
How did people in the 13th century speak about processes of growth that can be traced back to human action? In this paper, I address medieval conceptions of anthropogenic growth across three areas: (1) the awareness of agrarian growth in manorial and conciliar sources; (2) perceptions of missionary growth in the works of the Franciscan theologians Bonaventure and Peter of John Olivi; (3) Olivi’s interpretation of capital growth. I argue that 13th-century religious and economic discourses on growth shared similar semantic and symbolic means. In both discourses, medieval speakers used metaphors which epitomized the socionatural structure of premodern acting and thinking. A key term was semen (seed) and seminare (to sow). The metaphor of the seed or of the sower was embedded in a set of conditions ruled by a God who acted through nature. The socionatural logic of the seed metaphor consisted in the intertwining of the human labour of enhancement and the anonymous processes of growth that were traced back to God’s divine plan. As such, the seed metaphor induced its users to understand processes of growth relevant to the community (be it food production, mission or commercial activity) within an overarching framework of natural-divine contingency.

Werner Kogge/Lisa Wilhelmi: Despot und (orientalische) Despotie – Brüche im Konzept von Aristoteles bis Montesquieu
To this day, the concepts ‘despot’ and ‘despotism’ play a significant role in the discourse on political theory, especially with regard to contexts that address an East-West dichotomy. Our critical assessment of the history of the concepts explores the validity of what we refer to as the “thesis of continuity”. This thesis alleges that the concept of ‘oriental despotism’, as part of an unbroken tradition of Western political semantics, can be traced all the way back to the writings of Aristotle. It gets invoked with regard to a Western identification through delimitation, in particular, and often cites Richard Koebner’s authoritative 1951 study Despot and Despotism. Vicissitudes of a Political Term as supporting evidence. Contrary to his implication of continuity, we use a reconstruction of significant steps in the history of the terms to highlight transformations and breaks in the transmission of the concept. This illustrates that the concept was not fully developed until the writings of Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu: It was only as a consequence of these processes of transformation that he was able to establish the concept of ‘oriental despotism’ as a new political tool – a tool that he employed with great skill, filling the modern concepts ‘despot’ and ‘despotism’ with the specific connotations that are still in effect today.
From a methodological point of view, we also aim to show with this rebuttal that it is significant and relevant for the reconstruction of the history of a concept to evaluate the theoretical systems that give rise to a particular concept or to aspects of a concept and to put them into relation.

Gebhard Löhr: Max Plancks ‚Weihnachtsartikel‘ (1930) – ein Schlüssel zu seiner Haltung zur Religion?
Max Planck is usually considered a physicist who practiced Christianity and who believed Christian faith to be compatible with the physical world view of his time. However, a short article published around Christmas 1930 raises serious doubts. In it, Planck characterizes a life dedicated to science as a viable alternative to a more conventional religious life, because science can fulfill, or so Planck argues, all essential functions usually associated with religion. These functions, it is argued here, can be interpreted as elements of a basic, existential attitude below the surface of Planck’s publicly avowed Lutheran faith. The exposure of Planck’s ‘real faith’ helps to explain seemingly contradictory statements on his religious beliefs in personal documents from his last years of life.