[nee-boor; for 1 also Ger. nee-boor]
Niebuhr, Barthold Georg, 1776-1831, German historian, b. Copenhagen; son of Karsten Niebuhr. He served in the Danish and, after 1806, in the Prussian civil service, took part in the foundation of the Univ. of Berlin, and was (1816-23) Prussian ambassador to the Holy See. From 1823 to his death he taught at the Univ. of Bonn. Niebuhr's history of Rome (3 vol., 1811-32; tr. 3 vol., 1828-42) may be said to have inaugurated modern scientific historical method. Niebuhr related individual events to the political and social institutions of ancient Rome; he sought to recreate the past in terms understandable to the modern reader. An admirer of the Roman republic, he favored agrarianism as the basis of a well-balanced state. He regarded Prussia as a modern parallel of the Roman state and advocated Prussian leadership in the unification of Germany. His liberalism was antirevolutionary, and he was sympathetic to reforms instituted from above.

See his translated Collected Lectures (8 vol., 1852-53); A. Guilland, Modern Germany and Her Historians (tr. 1915, repr. 1970).

Niebuhr, Helmut Richard, 1894-1962, American theologian, b. Wright City, Mo., grad. Elmhurst College (Ill.), 1912, and Eden Theological Seminary, 1915, M.A. Washington Univ., 1917, B.D. Yale Divinity School, 1923, Ph.D. Yale, 1924. He was the younger brother of Reinhold Niebuhr. He was ordained (1916) a minister in the Evangelical and Reformed Church and for a short time was a pastor in St. Louis. Niebuhr then taught (1919-22 and 1927-31) at Eden Theological Seminary and served (1924-27) as president of Elmhurst College. In 1931 he joined the faculty of Yale Divinity School and in 1954 was named Sterling professor of theology and Christian ethics at Yale Univ. Niebuhr was early influenced by the work of Kierkegaard and Barth; later, however, he turned his attention to the personal nature of human relationship to God and advocated a reworking of Christianity in the light of the 20th cent. Among his works are Social Sources of Denominationalism (1929), The Kingdom of God in America (1937), The Meaning of Revelation (1941), Christ and Culture (1951), The Purpose of the Church and Its Ministry (1956), and Radical Monotheism and Western Culture (1960).

See biography by J. Diefenthaler (1986); studies by J. D. Godsey (1970), L. Hoedermaker (1971), and J. W. Fowler (1974).

Niebuhr, Karsten, 1733-1815, German traveler in Arabia. He was sole survivor of a party of five (of whom the best known was Peter Forskal, a Swedish naturalist) sent by Frederick V of Denmark to explore Arabia (1761-63). From Mocha, Niebuhr sailed for India, returning to Europe by way of the Persian Gulf and the Tigris River, through Palestine, Syria, and Constantinople (1767). He wrote several accounts of his travels.
Niebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971, American religious and social thinker, b. Wright City, Mo. A graduate of Yale Divinity School, he served (1915-28) as pastor of Bethel Evangelical Church in Detroit, where he became deeply interested in social problems. In 1928 he began teaching at Union Theological Seminary, becoming professor of applied Christianity in 1930; he remained in this post until his retirement in 1960. In the early 1930s he shed his liberal Protestant hopes for the church's moral rule of society and became a political activist and a socialist. A prolific writer, he urged—notably in Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932), Christianity and Power Politics (1940), and The Nature and Destiny of Man (2 vol., 1941-43)—clerical interest in social reforms as well as the beliefs that men are sinners, that society is ruled by self-interest, and that history is characterized by irony, not progress. After World War II, he dropped much of his social radicalism and preached "conservative realism." In his later works, such as Faith and History (1949), Niebuhr argued for balances of interests and defended Christianity as the world view that best explains the heights and barbarisms of human behavior. In A Nation So Conceived (1963) he analyzed aspects of the American character. He also wrote Man's Nature and his Communities (1965), Faith and Politics (ed. by R. H. Stone 1968), and The Democratic Experience (with P. E. Sigmund, 1969).

See biographies by R. H. Stone (1972) and R. Fox (1987); studies by H. P. Odegard (1956, repr. 1972), J. Bingham (1961, repr. 1972), N. A. Scott, Jr., ed. (1975); bibliography by D. B. Robertson (1984).

Niebuhr is a German surname.

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