Gerlach Archive

Rohrbecker Archive / Raumer Archive

About the Archive

Ernst Ludwig von Gerlach

The Gerlach Archive contains the estate of the politician and high court judge Ernst Ludwig von Gerlach (1795-1877) in a volume of approximately 17,000 documents, including various subsidiary archives.

The holdings, acquired for the Friedrich Alexander University in 1954 by the historian and religious scholar Hans-Joachim Schoeps and now supervised by the Division Intellectual History at the Institute of Political Science, also include the correspondence of the leading von Gerlach family, associated with conservatism, from the 18th and 19th centuries with numerous outstanding personalities in the political history of Prussia, the history of the church, law and science, and European cultural and intellectual history in general.

Ernst Ludwig von Gerlach was one of the leading theoreticians and practitioners of an old-establishment pietistic political conservatism. He played a decisive role as co-founder of the conservative party in Prussia and of the “Neue Preußische Zeitung” (New Prussian Newspaper), which, under the name “Kreuzzeitung,” was to remain the leading opinion paper of the conservative spectrum until 1933. His confidant Otto von Bismarck, who in 1848 had still been part of the entourage of the highly conservative Gerlach, increasingly developed into his opponent with his turn toward the Kleindeutsch national liberals, which finally culminated in the sensational mutual invectives of the 1870s.

The estate documents the direct political expression of classical-natural law, “old European” political ideas and of an understanding of politics based on them in the political practice of the 19th century. It includes rich materials on the political history of Prussia, on theology and church history (neo-Pietism), on the history of law, and – thanks to the brothers’ friendships with renowned scholars of the time and with well-known artists of the Romantic period – on the history of German science, art and culture of the 19th century.

Content and Holdings

„The four brothers von Gerlach“ Drawing by Fr. Meier (1785-1815) approx. 1810 (WI01269, Extract)

In particular, the collection, also known as the “Gerlach-Rohrbeck Family Archive” or “Rohrbeck Archive”, contains Ludwig von Gerlach’s extensive correspondence (approx. 15,000 letters from almost 9,000 correspondents) and countless official and private documents, as well as his diaries (1815 – 1877). In addition, the archive includes larger partial estates of, among others, his father, Carl Friedrich Leopold von Gerlach (1757-1813), the first Lord Mayor of Berlin, and his brother, General Leopold von Gerlach (1790-1861).

The Gerlach archive is one of the largest of the relatively rarely closed and largely completely preserved family archives of the 19th century and contains important documents on all major issues of the time with its serious political, economic and social upheavals. It allows revealing insights into the socio-cultural backgrounds of the everyday and family life of the people who formed the estate. It documents the political, administrative and ecclesiastical history of the 19th century in unusual detail.

The “Rohrbeck Archive” is supplemented by extensive source materials of other family members and branches as well as by several special archives from the political-religious environment of the von Gerlach family. In particular, the smaller family archive of the Erlangen branch of the von Raumer family (Raumer archive) should be mentioned here, whose archival records date in part as far back as the 17th century. In addition to the unprinted source materials, the Gerlach Archive has a reference library containing both printed editions of sources and relevant secondary literature on Prussian history.

Redevelopment in the DFG project

Letter from Otto von Bismarck to Ludwig von Gerlach from March  26, 1848 (ER00118; Extract)

The original state of indexing of the archive was not sufficient for the purposes of systematic scientific processing and evaluation of the materials, as it had only been indexed by a name index and a catalog of fascicles. For this reason, the entire collection was computerized and indexed according to current scholarly standards between 2011 and 2015 as part of the project “Indexing and Digital Capture of the Gerlach Archive,” which was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

The goal of this project was its first comprehensive indexing, including all ancillary archives, and the creation of an electronic index of estates. In the course of the project, more than 3,300 catalog records were created, with which a total of a good 17,000 letters and documents were recorded according to authors, dating, and location, and in some cases also according to condition and content.

Since the completion of the recording project in spring 2015, the archive’s holdings have been fully cataloged in the Kalliope Union Catalog for Autographs and Bequests. An abridged version of the archive catalog will also be available via this page in the future.


The archive is open for scientific purposes upon request. Use is free of charge, copies and photographic reproductions can be made by arrangement and for a fee. Interested scholars should contact the chair to make an appointment.