Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 January 2013
Although scholarship in general and historical scholarship in particular claim to be universal and international in their scope and methodology, national traditions, methods, and foci have developed in many fields, including medieval history. These national patterns have done little to encourage mutual cooperation and understanding: On the contrary, they often have been a real hindrance. Such obstacles, already observable in the nineteenth century, were made even more insurmountable by European political developments in the twentieth century. Two world wars, with their attendant alliances and oppositions, have made their contributions to deepening divisions and to complicating understanding and collaboration. These divisions have been particularly operative in American and German scholarship on medieval Europe.
A century ago, medieval historical studies in America were dominated by themes and methodologies developed in Germany. This influence was part of the more general influence exercised by German universities on American scholarship. Regardless of field, American historians looked to Germany for training, for inspiration, and for models of historical interpretation. For a variety of reasons, the investigation of which would take us far beyond the topic of this book, these close contacts dissolved in the course of the twentieth century.1 World War I and its wave of anti- German sentiment in North America was certainly a major factor. So, too, was the general reaction in medieval German historiography against the integration of the social sciences into historical discourse, particularly in the 1920s and 1930s.