Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Dr. Karl Theodor Heigel. Andreas Hofer. Ein Vortrag (1875)

     Dr. Karl Theodor Heigel. Andreas Hofer. Ein Vortrag (1875) The title translates as Andreas Hofer: A Lecture, it’s the text of a talk given at a meeting of the M√ľnchener Volksbildungsverein, which I infer to be one of the many societies for popular education that flourished all over Europe in the 19th century. Heigel surveys Hofer’s life, and analyses the resistance to Bavarian and French occupation of the Tyrol. This occupation was a part of the messy transfers of territory during the Napoleonic wars. Bavaria got the Tyrol because Austria was defeated. Later, when Napoleon was finally defeated at Waterloo, the Tyrol reverted to Austria.
     Hofer was a Tyrolese patriot and fervent subject of the Emperor. One of the tragedies in his story is that Vienna didn’t feel strong enough to support his fight, even though he saw it as a struggle for the Tyrol’s rightful place in the Hapsburg empire. More at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andreas_Hofer.
     The lecture is quite readable, clearly composed to be heard by a non-academic audience. Heigel proposes two main theses, first that Hofer was a complicated character, with many virtues and faults, whose adherence to principle could be seen as stubbornness in the face of overwhelming odds; and second that his patriotism is a model for German nationalists.
     Apparently, at the time Austrians didn’t revere Hofer as they later did. I was taught that Hofer was an iconic Austrian patriot, a model for Austrian self-awareness. Heigel equivocates about his admiration of Hofer’s resistance to Bavarian authority, partly I think because he can’t very well defend a rebel against his own government, and partly because Hofer was merely a peasant. As a military leader, Hofer is notable as a wager of what we now call guerilla warfare. In the last few paragraphs Heigel slides into pan-German nationalism, and elevates Hofer from local rebel to national hero. Neat trick.
     The author, a professor of history and Bavarian State Archivist, wrote a number of works on German and Austrian history. Collections are available, but I don’t know whether or which collection includes this lecture. My copy is an original. I could not find an entry for it in the German National Library. German Wiki has a brief bio: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Theodor_von_Heigel
     Interesting and informative, despite its tendentious use of Hofer for Heigel’s pan-German ideology. **½

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