Ludwig Riess was born at Deutsch Krone, Preussen, Poland, December 1, 1861. Deutsch Krone was a small town with the population of about 6,000 and he was educated at school there till 14. Ludwig Riess was the youngest of five children. His father was a manufacture and dealer. Riess liked math and physics when he was a student, so his parents wanted that he would be an engineer or an architect in the future like his uncle. However his schoolteacher advised Riess to read more because his brother had many books.
When he was 8, he read through the world history written by Werther several times and learned most of it by heart.
Sometime he wrote about the Trojan War, quoting Werther's phrases without making any mistakes for his homework. His teacher was surprised at his good memory.
Riess often would go into the wood in the suburb and loved to catch beetles, and he was nicknamed " a philosopher " by his friends when he was small.
After finishing his elementary education he entered a gymnasium but during his gymnasium he did not attend the class because of his suffering from tympanitis. He transferred another gymnasium after he recovered from the ear disease.
In 1880 he passed the final examination of the school and decided to enter university. Then his parents and friends recommended him to major in engineering or medical science but against their advice Riess made up his mind to study history through his life, so he entered Berlin University, where a lot of renown historians had been on the staff of.
When he was in the senior of the university he became assistant of Leopold von Ranke, father of historical science by a recommendation of a person. Though Riess' job was only to rewrite the great historian's manuscript, he was greatly influenced by Ranke's personality and works despite Riess met him only twice. He continued to admire Ranke through his life. Lanke, 90 had been raised to the peers.
In 1884 Riess traveled Britain and Ireland for the purpose of collecting materials to study and returned home with many rare ones. After he presented " the vote of the British Parliament in the medieval ages" to Berlin University and received the doctor 's degree when he was 24.
In 1885 he passed the examination of teaching in the gymnasium but he did not take up the post because he hoped to major in history at university.
In February of the year he made his second visit to Ireland and Scotland to investigate and returned to Berlin in June.
At the beginning of 1886 he made his third visit to Britain to collect the materials of German history and the Hanseatic League. In May Ranke passed away at the age of 92.
In 1887 Riess was invited to teach in Japan by the Japanese Government when he was 26 and at first the East was beyond the boundary of his study. In February he became a teacher of the history department of Tokyo University. At first he contracted with the term of three years. After that he signed until 1906 with the contract renewed every three years. Then Kumezo Tsuboi was a lecturer of the history department and after his three years' studying in Europe, he became the first professor of the department.
In 1889 Kouki Watanabe, president of the Tokyo University established the department of the Japanese history on Riess's advice and Riess also recommended Yasutsugu Shigeno to have the History Society as well as the historical journal.
In 1893 Riess returned to Europe temporarily on the leave given by the Japanese Government and brought back many old books published in the seventeenth century.
In 1894 the Sino-Japanese War broke out and European people gradually became interested in Japan and Japanese people. Riess contributed his articles about Japan to German newspapers and magazines. Riess also wrote "the German Modern History", "The study of historical sources on the basis of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71)","the Constitutional History in Britain" and "the Revolutionary History in France".
Among Riess's students were Shigetomo Kouda, Katsuro Hara, Naojiro Murakami, Kenko Murakawa and so on. N.Murakami said, "Mr.Riess may have been the best of history teachers. At first I had a difficulty in hearing his lecture because of his German accent English but gradually I became accustomed the pronunciation. S.Kouda said, " Mr.Riess had his peculiar way of stammering a little, but once he began to talk, he would speak fast. One time when Kouda was asked what Riess had taught in the class before, Kouda could not answer because he had forgot that. Mr.Riess told me that it was the worst weak point for the students of history to be forgetful."
In 1899 the Japanese Government gave Riess an order in honor of his great achievement in the academic field. In 1900 Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Natur und Volkerkunde Ostasiens also conferred him the honorary membership.
In 1901 he lectured " the Taiwan History", "theEuropean Modern History"," the British Constitutional History"," the Western Old History".
In 1902 the Japanese Government did not renew the contract with Riess. The reason why was that a number of Japanese teachers were bred by foreign teachers and some students returned home after studying abroad and became teachers at universities. In addition, foreign teachers' salaries were too highly paid.
In 1888 Riess married the daughter of Outsuka, a cook, who had lived with after an apprentice to cooking. After that Mr. and Mrs. Riess had one son and four daughters.
About that time he sometimes contributed his essays and Japanese news to German newspapers and magazines. He reported that there had been a fire at Hongo near Tokyo University in 1890, which had burned down a theater called Okudaza.He also reported that the Otsu Incident, which a police man had injured Nicolai, Prince of Russia during his stay in Tokyo in 1991.
In 1896 Riess said at the meeting of Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Natur und Volkerkunde Ostasiens that Portuguese and Dutch merchants had exported gold from Japan in the Edo period. In 1898 he said at the meeting how Williams Adams and the British East India Company had played a great role in the relationship of Japan and Britain. Riess was interested in Japanese politicians, men of letters,scholars and folklore.
In 1901 Genpachi Mistukuri became a professor of the history department of Tokyo University after returning from abroad and Riess was discharged from the post bestowed the pension of \ 500 annually. Given Riess's family, Riess wanted to stay in Japan for good but in 1902 he went to Germany to be a lecturer of the Military Academy with his son.
A farewell party was held at a hotel with many celebrities participating for honor of Riess' achievement in the academic circle. Yasustugu Shigeno said," We had two foreign historians who had contributed to raise the standard of Japanese historical science. One was Shushunsui, a Chinese historian and the other was Mr.Riess."
In 1904 when the Russo-Japanese War broke out he wrote about Japan and Japanese people in German newspapers and made Germans inform of the situations then. He published the "Allerlei aus Japan" including his experiences during Japan's 15 years.
In 1922 he became a ausserordentlicher Professor and wrote "Basis of Modern Europe" and in 1926 he visited Springfield, Ohio, U.S. as an exchange teacher. Soon after his arrival of Springfield, he could not help returning home because he suffered from heat fever. One day he was stung by a harmful insect when he was taking a walk with his elder sister and all of sudden he passed away on account of it. He was 67.
Rudwig Riess was one of unforgettable people for Japan.