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Johannes von Müller (January 3, 1752 - May 29, 1809), Swiss historian, was born at Neunkirch, near Schaffhausen, where his father was pastor. In 1760 the family removed to Schaffhausen.
In his youth his maternal grandfather, Schoop (d. 1757), roused in him an interest in the history of his country. At the age of eight he is said to have written a history of Schaffhausen, and at eleven he knew the names and dates of all the kings of the four great monarchies. His ardour for historical studies was further stimulated by Schlozer, when Müller went (1769) to the university of Göttingen, nominally to study theology. In July 1771 he undertook a sketch of Swiss history (no detailed history of Switzerland having so far been written) for a publisher of Halle, but his theological studies and the preparation of a Latin dissertation on the Bellum cimbricum (publ. in 1772) prevented much progress.
In April 1772 he passed his theological examination, and soon after became professor of Greek at the Collegium Humanitatis. Early in 1774, on the advice of his friend Charles Victor de Bonstetten, he gave up this post and became tutor in the Tronchin family at Geneva. But in 1775 he resigned this position also, and passed his time with various friends in Geneva and Vaud, engaged in carrying his historical scheme Into effect. Having accumulated much material, he began the actual composition of his work in the spring of 1776, and the printing in the summer of 1777. But difficulties arose with the censor, and matters came to a standstill.
In 1778-1779 Müller delivered a brilliant set of lectures on general history, which were not published till 1839 under the title of Vierundzwanzig Bücher aligemeiner Geschichte. In 1780 the first volume (extending to 1388) of his Geschichten der Schweizer appeared, nominally at Boston (to avoid the censor), though really at Bern; and it was well received. In 1781 he published at Berlin, in French, his Essais historiques. He was on his way back to Switzerland when the landgrave of Hesse Cassel named him professor of history. He stayed at Cassel till 1783, publishing in 1782 his Reisen der Päpste, a book wherein certain leanings towards Romanism are visible.
On his return to Geneva (1783) he accepted the post of reader to the brother of his old patron, Tronchin, and occupied himself with remodelling his published work of 1780. In order to improve his financial position, he accepted early in 1786 the post of librarian to the elector-archbishop of Mainz, who bestowed many important offices upon him and obtained his elevation to nobility from the emperor in 1791. In June 1786 he issued vol. i. (reaching to 1412) and two years later vol. ii. (to 1436) of the definitive form of his Swiss history, which was received with great praise. In 1787 he issued an important political tract, Zur Darstellung des Fürstenbundes. But in October 1792 Mainz was taken by the French, so that Müller had to seek for another post. In February 1793 he entered the service of the emperor as an imperial aulic councillor.
At Vienna he spent many years, becoming chief librarian. of the imperial library in 1800, and in 1795 he issued vol. iii. (to 1443) of his Swiss history. In 1804 he became historiographer, war councillor, and member of the Academy at Berlin. In 1805 vol. iv. (to 1475) appeared. But in 1806 he became strongly inclined towards Napoleon, by whom he was received in audience (Nov. 1806), and from whom he accepted (end of 1807) the office of secretary of state for the kingdom of Westphalia, exchanging this position early in 1808 for the posts of privy councillor and general director of public instruction. At the end of 1808 he published vol. v. (to 1489) of his great work. He died at Cassel on the 29th of May 1809. His Swiss History now possesses a literary value only, but it was an excellent work in every way for the 18th century.
Müller's works were published under the care of hir brother at Tübingen, in 27 vols. (1810-1819), and re-issued, in 40 vols., at Stuttgart (1831-1835). The Swiss History was re-issued at Leipzig and Zurich, in 15 vols. (1824-1853), with continuations by Glutz-Blozheim (to 1517), Hottinger (to 1531), Vulliemin (to 1712), and Monnard (to 1815). A French translation of the German edition (as above) appeared, in 18 vols., at Paris and Geneva (1837-1851).
See the biographies by Heeren (1809), Daring (1835) and Monnard (1839); also in G. v. Wyss's Geschichte der Historiographie in der Schweiz (Zurich, 1895), pp. 305-311, and in the Festschrift der Stadt Schaffhausen (Schaffhausen, 1891), pt. v. pp. 83-99. F Schwarz's pamphlet, J. von Müller und seine Schweizergeschichte (Bale, 1884), traces the genesis of the History. Müller's letters to F?sslin (1771-1807) were issued at Zurich (1812), and those to Ch. Bonnet, etc., at Stuttgart (1835). Those addressed to him by various friends were published by Maurer-Constant, in 6 vols. (Schaffhausen, 1839-1840); and those written to him (1789-1809) by his brother, JG Müller, appeared, under the editorship of E Haug, at Frauenfeld, in 2 vols. (1891-1892).
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.