Peter Frederik Suhm 1728-1798

Peter Frederik Suhm was destined from an early age to devote his life to studies and literary activities. Admittedly, his family belonged to the new Danish nobility, but he was virtually destitute. In 1751 he therefore left his home town Copenhagen and a promising career as a researcher to find a rich partner to marry to ensure the financial independence that could finance his studies in Trondheim!
His arrival must have been well prepared, because after just one week he was engaged to Karen Angell, daughter and sole heiress to the deceased merchant and councillor of state Lorentz Angell. The family economy was managed, however, by her uncle, Thomas Angell, and many years would pass before Suhm acquired the full right to do as he pleased with his wife's fortune.
At an early stage he entered into close cooperation with the historian Gerhard Schøning, and they prepared the parallel publications of their respective histories of Denmark and Norway. Another prominent man residing in Trondheim, Bishop Johan Ernst Gunnerus, joined with Suhm and Schøning in establishing "Det Trondhjemske Selskap" in 1760. This was the forerunner to the foundation of the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters (Det Kongelige Norske Videnskabers Selskab) in 1767. In addition to his own scientific work Suhm was a generous patron of the arts, paying for a number of works and publications by others, not least for his friend Gerhard Schøning.
After more than 14 years in Trondheim Suhm returned to Denmark to carry on his studies there, eventually coming to function as the Royal historian. Gerhard Schøning followed him to Denmark, and they continued their cooperation until Schøning's death in 1780. With his main work "Historie af Danmark" [The history of Denmark] (published in 14 volumes 1782-1828) and the rest of his work he stands out as one of the foremost Danish historians in the eighteenth century.
Recommended reading: H.I. Huitfeldt-Kaas: Det lærde trekløver i Throndhjem [The learned threesome in Trondheim]. In: Throndhjem i fortid og nutid [Trondheim in the past and the present]. 1897.

Author: Einar Rædergård