Autor w monografii przedstawia problem politycznego zaangażowania intelektualistów i moralnych pułapek, jakie się z tym wiążą. W realiach I wojny światowej bada postawy uczonych, którzy – zaangażowani w propagandowe kampanie na rzecz swoich narodów i państw – nie chcieli na ogół stać się zwykłymi propagandystami, cenili bowiem swój zawodowy prestiż. Mimo to angażowali się w „wojnę ducha", z wszelkimi konsekwencjami swych poczynań. Autor stara się ich nie oceniać, lecz zrozumieć.
Maciej Górny (2014)
Wielka Wojna profesorów. Nauki o człowieku (1912-1923)
The Polish historian Maciej Górny has set his sights on describing the involvement of Central-Eastern European and Balkan intellectuals in the First World War. His book, entitled Wielka Wojna profesorów (The Great War of the Professors), is devoted to this issue. As it turns out, historians have already given much attention to this so-called "war of spirit" („Krieg der Geister"); however, they have so far concentrated on the involvement of Western European scientists. Górny claims that there is a significant gap in this scope and the possibility to compare successfully intellectuals from the Balkans, Central Europe, and Eastern Europe makes this gap even greater. The scientific as well as social status of such intellectuals, related mainly to public respect, allows for such a comparative analysis.
This does not mean that all the elements of this process have their equivalents. As the author claims, different timeframes must be established. In the case of the West, this is limited to the period of the Great War. On the other hand, he adopts the year 1912, related to the beginning of the first Balkan war, as the initial point in time for his study, and establishes the year 1923–the end of the Polish-Ukrainian rivalry in Galicia–as the final.
The author's scope of interest includes scientific works and other texts, which were, however, expressed in the professional language of science. The range of the references is very wide, including Polish, Ukrainian, German, Austrian, Czech, Hungarian, Slovakian, Serbian, Romanian, Russian, Bulgarian, Lithuanian, and Albanian publications. One will also find references from French, British, and American works.
In the first chapter the author concentrates on the tradition of scientific characterology and its relation to 19th century racist ideology. In the second chapter, he describes the "Eastern front" of the spirit war. Subsequent chapters give a detailed look into statements made by representatives of the three academic disciplines: geography, physical anthropology, as well as psychology and psychiatry. In the last chapter, the author tries to describe the mechanism of including modern science into the logic of war. He also gives previous examples of such a union (The Franco-Prussian War).
The author emphasises that "it is idealism to perceive the political involvement of science as an anomaly" (288). Here he presents a rule. It is possible to assume the superiority of an "involved" science over an "uninvolved" one, for it also happens that ideological works on the superiority of one's own nation over other nations preceded and developed the scientific authority of the discipline.
The main part of the work focuses on the geographical, anthropological and psychological/psychiatric discourses which accompany the war. The selection of the three mentioned disciplines is legitimate (the author notes that mathematicians, physicists, philosophers, art historians, specialists in literature, and–most often–-historians were also involved in the war). Firstly, this makes it possible to analyse discourse on space (geography), body (physical anthropology), and mind (psychology and psychiatry) separately. Secondly, these disciplines were linked by the way in which a country and a nation were perceived as an organism. Geography described the body's form; anthropology established the proper shape of the skull and blood composition; psychology and psychiatry defined the spiritual specificity of the organism. Those common findings had enormous persuasive power and constituted a common knowledge at the time. Thirdly, at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, these three disciplines were still young. Discussions about their scope were being carried out; methodological and theoretical manifestos were being drawn up; the first textbooks were being written. Each of these disciplines were just starting to strengthen their hold, by institutionalising themselves and demonstrating their potential in the public sphere. The ongoing war was an excuse for taking up intensive research. That was the reason why, for example, funds were readily provided for projects carried out by geographers who claimed that Eastern Europe was an area of widespread land, inhabited by amorphous races. It should be noted that similar visions had been previously formed in the United States. Within their framework, almost the entire continent was a no-man's-land, designed for expansion and open to a mission to civilize.
The military conflict also gave new research possibilities to anthropologists. German and Hungarian researchers were the first to notice them; they studied war prisoners as early as 1915. They, in turn, constituted an interesting ethnic mix covering not only the whole of Europe and Russia, but also some areas of Asia and Africa. However, the most important task of the anthropologists was to develop negative characteristics of their direct enemies. Therefore, Russians, Poles, Germans, Bulgarians, Hungarians etc. were described as imperfect, sickly or even weird. At the same time, "anthropological panic" appeared, connected with the alleged threat of the "mongolizing" of European races by invaders from the East.
War broke out also on the pages of medical journals. First, enemies were accused of putting sick and mentally handicapped people on the front lines of battles. Then, entire nations were diagnosed, in all seriousness, with pathological syndromes such as psychopatia gallica.
It is characteristic that some themes of the "war of spirit" have their analogies also in contemporary discourses. The author gives the example of a thesis concerning the botanical bases for establishing political boundaries (Albrecht Penck, Eugeniusz Romer). Presently, we may find such themes in the political speech of Victor Orban, who points to the Carpathian Basin as the homeland of the Hungarians in terms of its geography, botany, and ethnicity. The nationalist scope of research is also returning, to some extent, exemplified by the following works which appeared at the same time:a popular book by the German ethnologist Hermann Bausinger  and a serious study by the Swedish anthropologist Åke Daun .
Wielka Wojna profesorów is certainly an ambitious study of wide scope. The author uses little-known sources; cites original texts written in many languages; draws attention to interesting issues. The greatest asset of the book may be the use of studies written in the languages of Eastern Europe and the Balkans.This makes it possible to supplement the already existing sources of knowledge, and to better understand the phenomenon of intellectuals getting involved in supporting military operations. However, the author's sin is his lack of discipline in advancing of the main theses, his organisation of the material, as well as his methodological reflection. As a result, it is quite difficult to read some of the fragments, and the reader has to guess at the criteria for selecting the authors and themes.
However, I have no doubts that Wielka Wojna profesorów is a study which is original and innovative. It opens new perspectives in researching relations between politics and science, the ideologization of science, and the types of involvement in a public debate. We still know too little about this topic. The reviewed book should be read not only as a historical study, but also as a warning, for the author's pessimism is justified–the majority of prejudice towards foreigners, backed by scientific arguments,tends to return in a cyclical manner. The great war of demagogues on immigrants is currently taking place right before our eyes.
 Hermann Bausinger: Typisch deutsch. Wie deutsch sind die Deutschen?, München 2000.
 Åke Daun, Swedish Mentality, trans. J. Teeland, Foreword by D. Cooperman, University Park 2000.Sposób cytowania:
dr hab. Waldemar Kuligowski: Recenzja: Maciej Górny: Wielka Wojna profesorów. Nauki o człowieku (1912-1923), 2014, w: https://www.pol-int.org/pl/publikacje/wielka-wojna-profesorow-nauki-o-czlowieku-1912-1923#r4416.