Ernst Moritz Arndt 

Portrait of Ernst Moritz Arndt

Ernst Moritz Arndt was a German nationalist historian, writer and poet. He was born on 26th December 1769 in Rugen, Swedish Pomerania and died on 29th January 1860 in Bonn, Germany aged 90.

Major Works

Versuch einer Geschichte der Leibeigenschaft in Pommern und Rügen” (An Attempt at a History of Serfdom in Pomerania and Rugen) (1803). 
“Vaterlandslied” (“Der Gott, der Eisen Wachsen Liess” (The God who let Iron Grow) (1812)
“Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland” (What is the Fatherland of the Germans?) (1813)
“Nebenstunden, Beschreibung und Geschichte der Shetländischen Inseln und Orkaden “(Description and History of the Shetland and Orkney Islands) (1820)
“Meine Wanderungen und Wandlungen mit dem Reichsfreiherrn Heinrich Carl Friedrich vom und zu Stein” (My Peregrinations and Metamorphoses together with Reichsfreiherr Heinrich Carl Friedrich vom Stein) (1858)

Biography Timeline

Ernst Moritz Arndt was born on 26th December 1769 in Gross Schoritz, Rugen, Swedish Pomerania, (Now an island off the German Baltic Coast). His father was an emancipated serf who owned a farm and his mother was from a prosperous yeoman family.

1787: The family move to Stralsund where he attends school at the local academy.

1791: He attends the University of Greifswald to study theology and history intending to go into the Lutheran ministry. After the completion of his university studies he returns home and becomes a private tutor for two years to Ludwig Koscgarten’s family who is the pastor of Wittow on the island of Rügen. He also assists Koscgarten in church services.

1793: He moves to Jena in Germany where he is taught by the philosopher Gottlieb Fichte.

1797: He ends his career as a cleric in order to travel through Europe for the next eighteen months. He visits Austria, Hungary, France, Belgium and Italy. On his return home up the River Rhine he is appalled by the sight of all the ruined castles which destruction he attributes to the French. He was originally a supporter of the French Revolution but was appalled by the Reign of Terror and the rise of the Jacobins.

1800: He settles in Greifswald where he becomes a Privatdocent (an assistant lecturer) of history. He publishes “Über die Freiheit der Alten Republiken” (On Freedom in the Old Republic). He marries his first wife.

1801: He publishes in six volumes “Reisen durch einen Theil Deutschlands, Ungarns, Italiens, und Frankreichs in den Jahren 1798/99” (Travels in parts of Germany, Hungary, Italy and France in 1798 and 1799).

1803: He publishes “Germanien und Europa” (Germany and Europe) about his views on French aggression and “Versuch einer Geschichte der Leibeigenschaft in Pommern und Rügen” (An Attempt at a History of Serfdom in Pomerania and Rugen). The arguments in the latter convinced King Gustav the Fourth of Sweden to abolish serfdom in 1806. 

1806: He is appointed to the chair of history at the University of Greifswald.

1808: He publishes the first part of his “Geist der Zeit” (Spirit of the Times) calling on his countrymen to rise up against Napoleon Bonaparte. Because of the popularity of this work he is forced to take refuge in Stockholm, Sweden to escape the French authorities. There he is awarded a government post and he continues to write pamphlets, songs and poems in a similar vein calling for German independence. He returns to Berlin in disguise in December.

1810: He returns to Greifswald University, but only for a few months and again sets off on his travels and meets the military men Leberecht von Blucher and August von Gneisenau amongst many others.

1812: He is asked to go to St Petersburg in Russia to assist in their struggle against France. He continues to write pamphlets and political poetry including the songs “Der Gott, der Eisen wachsen ließ” (The God Who made Iron Grow) otherwise known as “Vaterlandslied“ (Song of the Fatherland), and “Was Blasen Trompeten?” (What Blows the Trumpet?). They all become wildly popular.

1814: His song “Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland” (What is the German Fatherland) is performed in Berlin.

1817: He marries for the second time.

1818: He is appointed to the chair of modern history at the new University of Bonn. The fourth part of his “Geist der Zeit” is published in which he criticises the policies of the German states.

1819: His demands for reform offend the Prussian government and he is arrested during the summer and his papers confiscated.

1820: He is suspended from his post at the university and although found not guilty by a tribunal he is banned from holding a professorship. They do allow him to be paid a stipend and he spends the next twenty years in forced retirement where he continues writing. He publishes “Nebenstunden, Beschreibung und Geschichte der Shetländischen Inseln und Orkaden” (Description and History of the Shetland and Orkney Islands).

1831: He publishes an anti-Polish pamphlet describing their “barbarity and wildness”. He publishes “Die Frage über die Niederlande” (The Netherlands Question).

1834: His youngest son drowns in the River Rhine.

1840: He is reinstated at the University of Bonn by King Frederick William the Fourth of Prussia. He publishes his autobiography “Erinnerungen aus dem Ausseren Leben” (Recollections from the External Life).

1841: He is appointed as Rector of the University of Bonn.

1846: He publishes “Rhein und Ahrwanderungen” (Wanderings along the Rhine and Ahr).

1848: After the revolution of 1848 he takes a seat as one of the Deputies to the Frankfurt National Assembly. He is one of a group that offers Frederick William the Imperial Crown but when he refuses it Arndt is upset and retires from public life. His statement that “the Poles and the whole Slavonic tribe are inferior to Germans” causes controversy.

1854: He publishes “Pro Populo Germanico” (In Support of the German Population) which was originally intended to form the fifth part of the “Geist der Zeit”.

1858: He publishes “Meine Wanderungen und Wandelungen mit dem Reichsfreiherrn Heinrich Karl Friedrich von Stein” (My Travels and Metamorphoses with the Baron Heinrich Karl Friedrich von Stein).

1860: He publishes his “Gedichte” (Complete Poems).

Ernst Moritz Arndt died on 29th January 1860 in Bonn, Germany and was buried in the Alter Friedhof (Old Cemetery).