Notwithstanding this rather dogmatic attitude of which, among other things, a sweeping rejection of “Woman Emancipation,” was one corollary, Riehl’s organic theory of society as explicitly stated in his Civic Society has a great and permanent usefulness for our time because of its thoroughgoing method and its clear-cut statement of problems and issues. The leader of the most advanced school of modern historians, Professor Karl Lamprecht, goes so far as to declare that the social studies of W.H. Riehl constitute the very corner stone of scientific Sociology. In this achievement, to which all of his scholarly endeavors were tributary, Riehl’s significance as a historian of culture may be said to culminate.
WILHELM HEINRICH RIEHL
FIELD AND FOREST
TRANSLATED BY FRANCES H. KING
The intimate connection between a country and its people may well start with a superficial survey of the external aspects of a country. He sees before him mountain and valley, field and forest—such familiar contrasts that one scarcely notices them any longer; and yet they are the explanation of many subtle and intimate traits in the life of the people. A clever schoolmaster could string a whole system of folklore on the thread of mountain and valley, field and forest. I will be content to invite further meditation by some thoughts on field and forest, the tame and the wild cultivation of our soil.
In Germany this contrast still exists in all its sharpness, as we still have a real forest. England, on the contrary, has practically no really free forest left—no forest which has any social significance. This, of necessity, occasions at the very outset a number of the clearest distinctions between German and English nationality.
In every decisive popular movement in Germany the forest is the first to suffer. A large part of the peasants live in continual secret feud with the masters of the forest and their privileges; no sooner is a spark of revolution lighted, then, before everything else, there flares up among these people “the war about the forest.” The insurgent rural proletariat can raise no barricades, can tear down no royal palaces, but, instead, lay waste the woodland of their masters; for in their eyes this forest is the fortress of the great lord in comparison with the little unprotected plot of ground of the small farmer. As soon as the power of the State has conquered the rebellious masses, the first thing it proceeds to do is to restore the forest to its former condition and again to put in force the forest charters which had been torn up. This spectacle, modified in accordance with the spirit of the age, repeats itself in every century of our history, and it will no doubt be of constant recurrence, always in new forms, for centuries to come.