Copyright © by Den danske historiske Forening.
The Arup Myth – apropos a new biography
Erik Arup (1876-1951) was professor of history at the University of
Copenhagen 1916-1947, well into the 1920s the only Danish university.
Accordingly, Arup and his two colleagues, Aage Friis and Knud Fabricius, were
the only history professors in the country and their mutual relations had
considerable impact on scholarly life. Arup was a controversial figure and the
historical community was rent with bitter strife in the inter-war period. Arup
himself saw the conflicts as so many attempts to suppress his supposedly new and
path-breaking way of interpreting and writing history, in terms of substance as
well as method, especially regarding his History of Denmark I-II (1925
and 1932). His opponents gave more personal reasons for the controversies. Thyge
Svenstrup’s new biography of Arup (2006) is based on Arup’s voluminous archive
and presents a thorough analysis of the many conflicts, convincingly laying the
blame on Arup’s complicated psychology. The present article draws on these
insights into Arup’s psychological profile to reinterpret some of the more
controversial points of Arup’s scholarship, such as: Was there a special Arup
methodology? Why and when did Arup’s famous History of Denmark achieve
its controversial form? The article also points to the role of Arup’s successor,
Aksel E. Christensen, in perpetuating the Arup myth.