Ronald Asch#

Short laudatio by Jürgen Osterhammel#


Ronald Asch, born in 1953, graduated from the University of Tübingen in 1978, majoring in History and Latin. He then spent a year at the University of Cambridge (Clare Hall) where he came under the formative influence of Professor G. R. Elton. In 1982, he completed his doctoral studies under the supervision of Professor Volker Press, at that time one of the most inspiring teachers of early modern history. For two years, Ronald Asch trained as an archivist before taking up a research fellowship at the German Historical lrrstitute London. From there he moved, in 1988, to the University of Muenster where he was "Assistent" to Professor Heinz Duchlrardt. He passed his "habilitation" in 1992 and was subsequently appointed "Hochschuldozent" (Senior Lecturer) at the University of Munster. In l996, he was appointed to the chair of early modern history at the University of Osnabrück. Since April 2003, he has been a holder of the chair of early modern history at the University of Freiburg, succeeding upon the illustrious Professor Wolfgang Reinhard.

Ronald Asch is an enormously productive historian. So far, he has six monographs to his credit, two of them written in English. Another major work, comparing monarchies and court societies across Europe, is in the making and is likely to be completed by 2011. Apart from writing books, Ronald Asch is a regular contributor to leading academic journals and to edited collections of articles. His personal bibliography rarely includes shorter pieces. Most of his scores of articles are fully developed research pieces, hardly ever intersecting with the books. In sheer quantitative terms, Ronald Asch stands out as one of the most prolific members of his generation, certainly not only in Germany.

Like all German early modernists, Ronald Asch is a historian of the German lands. His PhD dissertation was devoted to a topic from "Landesgeschichte", and he has been teaching German history continuously as part of his duties as a university professor. His main field of interest and research, however, has been England during the Tudor, and, especially, the Stuart periods. It is probably no exaggeration to say that Asch is one of the leading authorities world—wide for Charles 1. and his time. A second major subject at the heart of his interests is the Thirty Years War on which he wrote one ofthe most perceptive surveys, putting a special emphasis on the European nature of the conflict. His analysis is strongly coloured by his supreme understanding of the working of early modern states and of the normative and legal issues involved.
\ In recent years, Ronald Asch has broadened his scope to include cultural and social history in a very wide and complex sense. He has also been extending his temporal reach backwards and forward to encompass the entire early modern period. His present focus is on the history of the nobility in Europe. Several articles and a general overview of the subject give an indication of his approach and foreshadow the emerging big book on the subject. Even more than before, the scale is pan-European, including also "small" countries. It should be mentioned that Asch has always shown a special concern for Ireland and Scotland.

Professor Asch enjoys a reputation for impeccable mastery both of the sources and of the secondary literature. What impresses him above all is another aspect of Ronald Asch’s work: He has developed into a supreme comparatist. His penchant for comparative history is displayed in his recent contributions to a study of nobles in Europe. More than that, everything Asch writes is so clearly stamped by systematic thinking and the use of sharply defined and smoothly handled categories that it can easily be discussed within even wider comparative contexts. Thus, Ronald Asch has been involved in the preparation of a conference comparing monarchy in Europe and China - a line of inquiry he is apparently willing to pursue in the future.

In sum, Professor Ronald Asch is a cosmopolitan historian of relentless productivity and unabated originality. He has extremely strong ties to Britain, especially to Cambridge. At the University of Freiburg, he engages in all sorts of cooperation with historians of other periods, with literary scholars, sociologists, philosophers and ethnologists.

Ronald Asch has also been extremely active in promoting academic interchange and scholarly collaboration at all levels.

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