Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe

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Historical societies : Luxembourg

  • AssociationsHistory-writingLuxembourg
  • Cultural Field:
    Society
  • Author:
    Kmec, Sonja
  • Text:

    The recognition of Belgian independence by the Dutch king in 1839 saw the split of Luxembourg into a Belgian province and a grand duchy in personal union with the Dutch Crown and with a consolidated Orangist rule. Orangists had developed a concept of a specifically non-Belgian Luxembourg nationality in the 1830s, invoking the medieval glory of the House of Luxembourg and the perceived “particularism” of the duchy during the Old Regime. This was the guiding idea of the mid-century Société pour la recherche et la conservation des monuments historiques dans le Grand-Duché de Luxembourg (“Society for the research and conservation of historical monuments in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg”).

    The Société archéologique was founded in 1845 by thirteen men from different professional backgrounds: six secondary school teachers, including one priest, four trained lawyers, two physicians and one tradesman, among them two members of the government. According to article 10 of the founding charter dated 2 September 1845, Grand Duke William II was to act as “protector” of the Society, a function which has devolved to his successors until this day. As far as their historical methods were concerned, most founding members were steeped in rationalism and German positivism. However, scientific ambitions did not preclude Romantic Nationalism. While members grew increasingly aware of their role in forging national consciousness, the society, renamed Section historique (“Historical Section”), gained scientific credentials after its incorporation into the Grand-Ducal Institute in 1868.

    For Jean Engling (1801–1888), speaking as president of the Historical Section in 1874, the prime goal was to bear witness to the Luxembourg fatherland, nationality and civilization. He defined national unity as commonality of origins, religious beliefs, habits and character. This national character was best expressed in people’s traditional loyalty towards their lawful sovereign and their love of the fatherland, which in turn justified its independence. The first semi-professional historian to have joined the Section historique, Nicolas Van Werveke (1851–1926; he had studied for a while at the University of Bonn in the early 1870s), painstakingly revised the source editions compiled by his predecessor and mentor François-Xavier Würth-Paquet, and provided analytical inventories for a number of private archives. As a promoter of women’s education and defender of secular school reform, Van Werveke antagonized many of his colleagues, most notably the Catholic Arthur Herchen (1850–1931), whose textbook Manuel d’histoire nationale had been used in advanced secondary education since 1906. The Grand-Ducal Institute itself, however, did not become involved in higher education.

    The Historical Section maintained links with the Académie nationale de Metz and the Gesellschaft für Rheinische Geschichtskunde (“Association for Rhenish History”); it has been issuing historical scholarship in its book series, the Publications de la Section historique (PSH), from 1845 until today.

    In 1895 a less restrictively exclusive association was founded, aiming at a broad membership: the Verein für Luxemburger Geschichte, Literatur und Kunst (“Association for Luxembourg History, Literature and Art”), launched by the Catholic priest and author Martin Blum (1845–1924). Its journal, Ons Hémecht (“Our Homeland”), sought to “awaken and promote the sense of national history, literature and art among all sections of the population” and outlasted the association, which folded in the 1920s. Much space was devoted to the linguistic heritage, and increasing importance was given to the question of historical justification of Luxembourg nationality. A special issue of Ons Hemecht appeared in 1930 to counter the Belgian centennial celebrations. In the following decade, however, Belgian annexationism ceased to be the main concern and Luxembourg particularism came to face, rather, German geocultural hegemony. Following the Nazi occupation, Ons Hémecht re-emerged as a purely historical journal in 1948, renamed T Hémecht (“The Homeland”); it has continued since then to play a role in the strengthening of national topoi.

    Word Count: 614

  • Article version:
    1.1.1.3/a
  • DOI:
    https://doi.org/10.5117/9789462981188/ngXE1T16jYETkIkYQXQT5Ewh
  • Direct URL:
    http://show.ernie.uva.nl/lux-9
  • Goedert, Joseph; “De la Société archéologique à la section historique de l’Institut Grand-Ducal: Tendances, méthodes et résultats du travail historique de 1845 à 1985”, Publications de la section historique, 101 (1987), 1-539.

    Maertz, Joseph; “75 Jahre «Hémecht»: Gründung und Entwicklung des Vereins und der Zeitschrift «Ons Hémecht»”, Hémecht, 22.3 (1970), 307-340.


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    All articles in the Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe edited by Joep Leerssen are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://www.spinnet.eu.

    © the author and SPIN. Cite as follows (or as adapted to your stylesheet of choice): Kmec, Sonja, 2022. "Historical societies : Luxembourg", Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe, ed. Joep Leerssen (electronic version; Amsterdam: Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms, https://ernie.uva.nl/), article version 1.1.1.3/a, last changed 23-03-2022, consulted 04-06-2023.