Surprisingly enough, Fritz Kern (1884-1950) has never been studied closely despite his work being well-known among countless medievalist scholars. Across the English-speaking world, but also in Italy, Spain, Scandinavia, Russia and many regions beyond, Kern is a familiar name in the history of the Middle Ages. His position within the history of human sciences, however, is less known.
Next to Friedrich Meinecke, Kern was among the principal initiators of the historiographical innovation which came to be known as Geistesgeschichte, a German version of the History of Ideas based upon the specific circumstances and images of the German Zeitgeist around 1900. Later, Kern turned towards a universal history approach, but his distinguished status and the great influence and international repercussion which he realized stems from his early medievalist works introducing the new patterns of Geistesgeschichte into the international constitutional historiography of the Middle Ages. Among other achievements, he thereby conceptualized and established the legendary doctrine on the good old law.
Although titled with reference to the good old law, this short and easily readable study, written in German, is not primarily focused on legal historiography, aiming instead at explaining the thoughts and work of Kern on a larger scale. By comprehensively examining his intellectual approach and its targets for a first time, the volume aims to explain the impressive and international success of Kern’s thinking.