Johannes Christoffer Hagemann Reinhardt Steenstrup (1844-1935)

Professor of Nordic history 1882-1917, MA law 1869, son of Japetus Steenstrup.

Johannes Steenstrup was a conservative historian and a friend of the botanist Eugen Warming. As prominent university professors they both defended conservative views and Christian values against academics inspired by positivism and radicalism. Steenstrup engaged in the Darwinian debates with several articles in the conservative newspaper Dagbladet in the 1880s, two of which were included in his popular work Fra Fortid of Nutid – Historiske Skildringer for Alle [From Past and Present: Historical Descriptions for Everyone] (Copenhagen: Rudolph Kleins Eftf., 1892). As early as July 1883, Steenstrup wrote a historical article on the reception of Darwinism in Denmark pointing out that Charles Darwin was known and that Darwin’s theory of descent was discussed long before the translator J.P. Jacobsen entered the stage in 1871. The reason for Steenstrup’s intervention was that the literary critic Georg Brandes and the writer Otto Borchsenius had postulated that it was Jacobsen who made Darwin’s name known outside scientific circles in Denmark. In the German highbrow journal Deutsche Rundschau, for example, Brandes had claimed in May 1883 that Jacobsen had written the first articles on Darwin in Scandinavia. Steenstrup’s myth-busting of Brandes and Jacobsen, whose originality Steenstrup questioned, was part of his conservative campaign against the radical-liberal views advocated by the Brandes circle and against what he regarded as dangerous positivist and atheist tendencies in the Copenhagen intelligentsia.

Hans Henrik Hjermitslev

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