Burr was fascinated by the debate between traditional historians who studied national laws and institutions and the new cultural historians who sought to provide a “panoramic” view of society and who studied ceremony, class, and small-scale local conditions – with special attention to non-elite groups. In a letter from Leipzig dated Oct. 30 1884, Burr wrote:

“Professor Maurenbrecher, the new Professor Ordinarius of History, called from Bonn to fill the chair of von Noorden, delivered his Antritts-Rede [inaugural class] in the aula [lecture hall] last Saturday, taking as his theme “History and Politics”. It was well-written, but, as it seemed to me, quite unnecessarily dogmatic in spirit, as well as very conservative in tone. He took occasion to parade his extreme Prussian and Junker sympathies, as well as to deliver a back-handed blow at “so-called Culturgeschichte” [which was addressed to a wider audience] in the best manner of the Fachgenossen [specialists writing for specialists]… He thinks that Culturgeschichte should be treated, but always as subordinate to political and as a part of national history; the State, as such, should always have the first place.” (14-17-22, box 1, folder 14).

[Wilhelm Maurenbrecher (1838-92) was an historian of Protestantism and the Catholic Reformation who was known for his “objectivity”. The goal of the Leipzig history seminar that he led was to train a select group of doctoral students in the methodologies of source criticism. The seminar had been founded in 1877 by Carl von Noorden.]