Manchester Digital Collections


The Heinrich Simon Papers

The Heinrich Simon Papers

The Heinrich Simon Papers Heinrich Simon
Engraving of August Heinrich Simon (1805-1860)

The Heinrich Simon Papers chronicle the life and achievements of August Heinrich Simon (1805-1860), the Prussian lawyer, civil servant, independent legal author, reformer, revolutionary of 1848, and, in Swiss exile, entrepreneur. While the 1848 Revolution in Germany has been extensively researched, as have the lives of its leaders, among them Robert Blum, Heinrich von Gagern, Friedrich Hecker and Johann Jacoby, Heinrich Simon’s life and contribution have attracted limited scholarly interest. This relative inattention can be reasonably attributed to the location of the most significant tranches of his papers outside the German-speaking world, at The University of Manchester and the University of Birmingham. Simon’s trajectory as a civil servant who joined the opposition in neo-absolutist Prussia is exemplary for the study of the emergence of revolutionary opposition from within a power structure which possessed limited capacity for reform.

The Heinrich Simon Papers consist principally of letters, most of them exchanged within the Simon family, diaries and other documents relating to the various stages of his life, from his childhood in Breslau, the capital of the province of Silesia, to his final years in Zurich. They paint a vivid picture of life in the Simon family as Prussian Jews who converted to Protestantism, from the siege of Breslau during the Napoleonic occupation and the ‘Wars of Liberation’, through the insolvency of Herrmann Simon’s business and the family’s reduced circumstances during his later years as a broker. Nonetheless, the Simons found the means to support their elder son Heinrich’s education (though not to the same extent that of their other children) as a boarder in Brieg, then as a student of Law in Berlin and Breslau. In Berlin he enjoyed the support of his uncle, also August Heinrich Simon, a senior lawyer in the Prussian civil service, who introduced his nephew to his circle of friends, prominent among them leading politicians, academics and lawyers of the age, Carl Friedrich von Beyme, Friedrich Schleiermacher and Friedrich Carl von Savigny. As Heinrich Simon pursued his own career in Law, the papers address his growing concerns, among them the independence of the judiciary, the reform of the Prussian legal system, education theory and practice, the status and role of Jews in Prussian society and the culture of the duel, of which Simon had first-hand experience.

With the generous support of the Leverhulme Trust, the Heinrich Simon Papers, as they are presented here in the Digital Edition by Stephen Parker (Cardiff and Manchester universities) and Eva-Maria Broomer (Cardiff University), have been brought together from the two separate deposits that the Simon family left in Manchester and Birmingham. Furthermore, the two deposits, comprising in all 2,540 items, are presented separately as individual collections in digital form, organised according to the classification of the material by the Simon family before it was passed to the two institutions.

The project team is grateful to the Director of the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham for making the Heinrich Simon Papers available for digitisation and publication. The work of the project team has been ably supported in Manchester by the staff of the John Rylands Research Institute and Library and Manchester Digital Collections (MDC). John Hodgson, Associate Director of the John Rylands Research Institute and Library, has long provided support and encouragement. The digitisation of the papers was led by the Imaging Manager Gwen Riley Jones, while the photography was undertaken by Project Photographer Jo Castle and Senior Photographer Tony Richards. The major task of assembling and processing metadata was handled by the Digital Metadata Specialist Ourania Karapasia, a member of Kathryn Sullivan’s team. Jane Gallagher, Head of Digital Special Collections and Services, oversaw the creation of the Digital Edition and the two associated collections, with the support of the MDC Digital Content Co-ordinator Charlotte Hoare and the Senior Software Developer Tom Higgins, a member of Ian Gifford’s team.

Again with the support of the Leverhulme Trust, a biography of Heinrich Simon is being prepared by Stephen Parker, in collaboration with Eva-Maria Broomer and Matthew Jefferies (University of Manchester).