Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)

Degree Level





Daniel E. Sutherland

Committee Member

Randall B. Woods

Second Committee Member

J. Laurence Hare


Social sciences, American Civil War, Atlantic history, Forty-eighters, German unification, Schleswig-Holstein


My dissertation explores the experiences of a group of separatist nationalist from the Dano-German borderland with special emphasis on the 1848 uprisings in Schleswig-Holstein, the secession crisis in the United States, and the unification of Germany. Guiding this transnational narrative are three prominent members of the Schleswig-Holstein uprising: the radical nationalists Theodor Olshausen and Hans Reimer Claussen and the liberal nationalist Rudolph Schleiden. Their perceptions, actions, and writings in the years leading up to 1848 and during the first Schleswig-Holstein war (1848-1851) advance the understanding of separatist nationalism during this period in general and the Schleswig-Holstein uprising in particular. Following the failure of the Schleswig-Holstein uprising, the three men came to the United States, where the two radicals settled down as U.S. citizens and Schleiden joined them as diplomat of a German state. While they had been secessionists in Europe, they looked down on the threats of southern secessionists. Faced with the slavery-based southern nationalism, these men sided, like many Forty-Eighters, with the North against the oppression of slavery. Their decision was in disregard of the many similar arguments used by southerners against northern oppression and violations of southern constitutional rights, which mirrored those used by Forty-Eighters in Europe. During the American Civil War, Olshausen and Claussen once again relied on their radical experiences and challenged the Lincoln government during its greatest crisis, because the government had abandoned liberal principles. The three Schleswig-Holstein Forty-Eighters continued to look to their homeland and took interest in its fate. When the Schleswig-Holstein question reemerged in 1864, Schleiden and Olshausen returned to Europe. Their separatist nationalism had not suffered during their stay in the United States, despite their opposition to southern secession. They once again supported the independence of Schleswig-Holstein. This dissertation illustrates how the language of secession and nationalism was shared during the mid-nineteenth century but also how secessionist movements failed to cooperate with one another. This study shows how complex and multifaceted the experiences of Forty-Eighters were.