The Göttingen Seven (German: Göttinger Sieben) were a group of seven professors from Göttingen. In 1837 they protested against the abolition or alteration of the constitution of the Kingdom of Hanover by Ernest Augustus and refused to swear an oath to the new king of Hanover. The company of seven was led by Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann, who himself was one of the key advocates of the unadulterated constitution. The other six were the Germanist brothers Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm (famed fairy tale and folk tale writers and storytellers; known together as the Brothers Grimm), the jurist Wilhelm Eduard Albrecht, the historian Georg Gottfried Gervinus, the physicist Wilhelm Eduard Weber, and the theologian and orientalist Heinrich Georg August Ewald.
The constitution that Ernst Augustus later opposed came into effect in 1833, while the later King was still heir presumptive to the Hanoverian throne. Historian and politician Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann, who later contested Ernest Augustus' plans to change the constitution to his liking, contributed to the constitution's framing. Additionally, Dahlmann existed as the representative of the University of Göttingen, in the second chamber of the noble court.
The death of King William IV on June 20, 1837 had a great impact on Hanover's political positioning, relations, and union with the group of constitutional states in the German Confederation. With William's death, the personal union between Hanover and the United Kingdom ended, and William's brother (Ernest Augustus) took over as ruler of the kingdom of Hanover. Augustus' niece Victoria acceded to the throne of the United Kingdom, but could not inherit Hanover due to the provision of Salic Law in force in Hanover, which barred females from ruling.
About one month after he succeeded to the throne, King Ernest addressed the matter of the Constitution. He stated that he was not bound by it, as his consent had not been asked to it. He also indicated that it would have been different, or perhaps even non-existent, had he been in power at the time of its composition. He declared that it was his aim and ambition to make the necessary changes to the constitution and rewrite it to reflect his values.
Hearing this, Dahlmann, made an attempt to persuade his colleagues at the University of Göttingen senate to disapprove of the king's intent to change the constitution, and take some form of action. None of his over 40 different colleagues were willing to support Dahlmann's view and possibly cause public confliction or unrest during ongoing festivities of the 100 year anniversary of the Georg-August University of Göttingen.
Protest and aftermath
On November 1 of the same year, Ernest Augustus annulled the constitution. This move was met with political criticism from some German states. The move also provoked Dahlmann to again appeal to the university, and compose a protestation in regards to opposing Augustus' decision. This time, he received a better response, six other professors were now willing to sign as opposers. These six, plus Dahlmann, would become known as the Göttingen Seven. Dahlmann's document was published on November 18 and it met with an explosive influence — the students at the university produced many hundreds, or even thousands, of copies and disseminated them across Germany.
The protest's impact forced the king to take action, and the seven defiant professors were questioned before the university court on December 4. Ten days later, the seven were relieved of their posts at the university, and three of them, Dahlmann, Jacob Grimm and Gervinus, were given three days to leave the country. The university recalled the dismissal as a great loss to the university; confirmed in writings about the event during the time.
While the actual, direct effects of the protest were limited, public sensation and media interest that occurred in Germany and much of Europe was high, and the seven were popular among the general public. While each of the seven had their own personal reasons for defying the king, the fact that they had done so was the central catalyst for the media and public attention. The efforts of the Göttingen Seven outlived each of them, and the impact they caused on German politics at large can be, in some part, attributed to the creation of a liberal republic in Germany.
- Donald R. Hettinga The Brothers Grimm: Two Lives, One Legacy. Clarion Books, 2001. ISBN 0-618-05599-1
- Suzanne L Marchand Down from Olympus: Archaeology and Philhellenism in Germany, 1750-1970. Princeton University Press, 1996. ISBN 0-691-11478-1
- Margaret B. W. Tent The Prince of Mathematics: Carl Friedrich Gauss. A K Peters, 2006. ISBN 1-56881-261-2
- Fanny Lewald, Hanna Ballin Lewis A Year of Revolutions: Fanny Lewald's Recollections of 1848. Berghahn Books, 1997. ISBN 1-57181-099-4
- Christa Jungnickel, Russell McCormmach Intellectual Mastery of Nature: Theoretical Physics from Ohm to Einstein. University of Chicago Press, 1986. ISBN 0-226-41582-1
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Gregory A. Kimble, Michael Wertheimer, C. Alan Boneau, Charlotte White Portraits of pioneers in psychology. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. ISBN 0-8058-2198-8
- Constance Reid Hilbert. Springer, 1996. ISBN 0-387-94674-8.
- Marshall Dill Germany: A Modern History. University of Michigan Press, 1970. ISBN 0-472-07101-7
- Hajo Holborn A History of Modern Germany: 1840-1945. Princeton University Press, 1982, p. 28. ISBN 0-691-00797-7
- Hans-Christof Kraus "Die Gelehrten und der cholerische König" [The scholars and the cholerical king] (in German). In: Damals, vol. 45, No. 5, 2013, pp. 40–41.
- John Derbyshire Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics. Joseph Henry Press, 2003. ISBN 0-309-08549-7
- Klaus Hentschel Physics and National Socialism: An Anthology of Primary Sources. Birkhäuser, 1996. ISBN 3-7643-5312-0
- See, Klaus von (October 2000). Die Göttinger Sieben. Kritik einer Legende (The Göttinger filters. Criticism of a legend) (in German). Universitätsverlag Winter. ISBN 978-3-8253-1058-5.
- Hunger, Ulrich (2002). "Die Georgia Augusta als hannoversche Landesuniversität. Von der Gründung bis zum Ende des Königreichs (The Georgia Augusta as hanoverian national university. From its establishment to the end of the kingdom)". In Denecke, Dietrich; Böhme, Ernst. Vom Dreißigjährigen Krieg bis zum Anschluss an Preußen - Der Wiederaufstieg als Universitätsstadt (1648 - 1866) mit 32 Tabellen (in German). Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. ISBN 3-525-36197-1
- Lampe, Jörg H. (2002). "Politische Entwicklungen in Göttingen vom Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts bis zum Vormärz (Political developments in Goettingen of the beginning 19. Century up to the Vormärz)". In Denecke, Dietrich; Böhme, Ernst. Göttingen: Geschichte einer Universitätsstadt (Goettingen: history of a university town) (in German). Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. ISBN 3-525-36197-1
- Fulbrook, Mary (1997). German History Since 1800. Oxford University Press US. ISBN 0-340-69200-6.