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Protestantism and Social Liberalism in Imperial Germany: Gustav Adolf Deissmann (1866–1937) and Friedrich Naumann (1860–1919)


  • The genesis of this article lies in a PhD seminar paper presented at the University of New England (New South Wales) in August 2006. The overwhelmingly positive responses it received there have encouraged its further development into the present, much revised and enlarged article. I am indebted to Dr. A. Bonnell (Brisbane), Prof. G.H.R. Horsley (Armidale), Dr. H. Ludwig (Berlin), Prof. J. Moses (Camberra), as well as the reviewers of the Australian Journal of Politics and History, for their kind help and valuable suggestions.


Adolf Deissmann was an internationally prominent German theologian, celebrated primarily for his groundbreaking contributions in the widely divergent fields of post-classical Greek philology, lexicography, the archaeological excavations of Ephesus, international conciliation and leading role in the nascent ecumenical movement. Less known — yet of considerable consequence — is his involvement with social liberal politics, especially his friendship with, and staunch backing of, Friedrich Naumann, a onetime Protestant pastor turned liberal career politician, pioneer of European integration and, ultimately, the first president of the German Democratic Party. This paper investigates to what degree these two men were intellectually indebted to each other in their mutual search to find a way forward to reconcile Germany's sharply divided class-society through Protestant-based social politics — and that in an era deeply troubled with seemingly insoluble conflicts over the form of the future German Reich.

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