Friedrich Wilhelm IV's Tailor and Significance in Translation History

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


On 3 April 1849, after a year of revolution in Prussia, the Frankfurt parliament offered Frederick William IV of Prussia the imperial crown of Germany. He refused, saying that he could not “pick up a crown from the gutter” and would only accept it if offered to him by the German princes. Heinrich Rickert remarked that while this was a significant event in the political history of the nation, no one was interested in the tailors who made Friedrich Wilhelm IV’s uniforms. The historical significance of Friedrich Wilhelm’s tailor was then taken up and discussed by Eduard Meyer, Max Weber and later by Paul Veyne. Drawing on this discussion, this chapter reflects on how these ideas on historical significance might apply to the history of translation and how notions of significance in translation history can impact the way we select our materials and shape them into a narrative. I argue that it is important for translation and interpreting historians to reflect on their practice as historians, as well as translation and interpreting scholars. In as much as they engage in historical research, the theoretical and methodological issues they have to deal with are the same as those that historians have been debating for as long as history has existed as an academic discipline. Understanding historical significance, I suggest, can ultimately help make historical research on translation more interdisciplinary and more relevant to historians outside translation and interpreting studies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnsettling Translation
Subtitle of host publication Studies in Honour of Theo Hermans
EditorsMona Baker
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)978-0-367-68196-8
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2022


  • translation history
  • methodology
  • Translation Studies
  • philosophy of history


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