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The Göttingen Seven (German: Göttinger Sieben) were a group of seven professors from Göttingenmarker. 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 Göttingenmarker, 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 Confederationmarker. 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 Salic Law in force in Hanover, which barred females from ruling.

About one month after he succeeded to the throne, King Ernst 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 Göttingenmarker.

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 and 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 two of them, the Brothers Grimm, 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.

The bronze statues of the Göttingen Seven seen near to the federal state parliament in Hanover.

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.

See also


  1. Suzanne L Marchand Down from Olympus: Archaeology and Philhellenism in Germany, 1750-1970. Princeton University Press, 1996. ISBN 0691114781
  2. Margaret B. W. Tent The Prince of Mathematics: Carl Friedrich Gauss. A K Peters, 2006. ISBN 1568812612
  3. Fanny Lewald, Hanna Ballin Lewis A Year of Revolutions: Fanny Lewald's Recollections of 1848. Berghahn Books, 1997. ISBN 1571810994
  4. Christa Jungnickel, Russell McCormmach Intellectual Mastery of Nature: Theoretical Physics from Ohm to Einstein. University of Chicago Press, 1986. ISBN 0226415821
  5. Gregory A. Kimble, Michael Wertheimer, C. Alan Boneau, Charlotte White Portraits of pioneers in psychology. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. ISBN 0805821988
  6. Constance Reid Hilbert. Springer, 1996. ISBN 0387946748.
  7. Marshall Dill Germany: A Modern History. University of Michigan Press, 1970. ISBN 0472071017
  8. Hajo Holborn A History of Modern Germany: 1840-1945. Princeton University Press, 1982. ISBN 0691007977
  9. E. Michael Iba & Thomas L. Johnson The German Fairy Tale Landscape. ISBN 3980871487
  10. Donald R. Hettinga The Brothers Grimm: Two Lives, One Legacy. Clarion Books, 2001. ISBN 0618055991
  11. John Derbyshire Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics. Joseph Henry Press, 2003. ISBN 0309085497
  12. Klaus Hentschel Physics and National Socialism: An Anthology of Primary Sources. Birkhäuser, 1996. ISBN 3764353120



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